Those tricksters at Craigie on Main [from Boston Board]
From a mostly negative review of Craigie on Main posted on OpenTable's user feedback area:
"There was also a black board at the back of the room where the wait staff kept score on certain orders which indicated to me that they were being bonused for pushing something."
This, of course, is the 86 board, in plain sight of all diners, which tells servers which menu items are running low or the kitchen is out of. (They also hated how the paper tablecloths curl up at the edges.)
Oy. This is one reason the industry hates amateur reviews.
Everyone has an opinion. Before I will lend credence to your opinion, tell me why you have that opinion. You like that resto? Why?? You hated it? Why??
I don't really care about your qualifications (well not really) but I want to know your reasoning. You don't like the Mexican resto because everything tastes of cumin and cilantro, spices which you hate? I like those two spices - maybe your negative is a positive for me.
Way back when I was a kid there was an adage "They couldn't print it if it weren't true" It was not true then and now it is even less true now. You have to figure out what is worthwhile and what isn't!
gotta watch out for those tricksy bartenders too...stirring drinks with a spoon instead of using a good old blender...slipping bitters into the drink when they think you're not looking...using weird housemade ingredients and potions to save money...no sprite or vodka, or PBR, or beernuts...accidentally setting drinks on fire, even, it's an outrage they let those people behind the bar
"This is one reason the industry hates amateur reviews."
Ah-men to that! As a cook (Not affiliated with Craigie on Main) I really appreciate a professional reviewer pointing this out.
If they were simply ranting on their blog or speaking to their friends about their 'negative' experience, it really wouldn't be a problem. When people are able to take into account someone's personality or previous track record with recommendations/complaints, unreasonable rants are usually seen for what they are, and rarely go beyond a few friends. As soon as it's posted on a reviewing website though, it has the potential to cause some real damage to the business. The well known brands cultivated by many of these websites and publications give gravity to the user reviews. Some readers, especially if they're not experienced internet users or diners, simply aren't savvy enough to know whether these amateur reviewers are providing quality information or not.
That said, I firmly believe that empowering the voice of the people is via the internet is the biggest leap forward that our society has made in a long time. It's just incredibly frustrating (though obviously completely necessary) that this power is made equally available to unreasonable people who will abuse it.
When you're really busting your ass for 12+ hours per day and someone (professional or not) comes along with totally legit complaints about what you're doing, it can be incredibly disheartening. It's also invaluable information that helps you make changes and improve your game. When you read a review that was written by someone that obviously just had a bad day at the office and needs someone to take it out on, and you realize that (on many websites) you're completely powerless to stand up to their slander, it really makes you want to hang up your apron and get a job doing something more uplifting like pushing ripoff timeshares on the elderly.
For the past few years I've a fantasy about combining my current and previous careers (IT) setting up a site that lets industry folks review yelp users. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em... no?
I've got to say... even though you're going to have at least a couple 'characters' on any board, chowhound consistently has the highest quality amateur reviews of any sites that I regularly lurk. As a cook and a diner, thanks you and keep up the good work folks.
There is a fair amount of bitterness in the Boston industry towards Chowhound, though I agree with you, muscles: I think it's got the fairest and best-educated group of amateurs among the local user-generated-content sites.
The big objection seems to be that the industry isn't allowed to respond to amateur posters here, but I have a hard time imagining how that could work. The value is in the back-and-forth between consumers, not the back-and-forth between industry and consumers that would result if the mods didn't weed out the pros and shills.
There are posters who are unreasonable, ignorant, vindictive, and so on, but by and large, I don't think that small minority justifies the introduction of the voices of industry and its PR/marketing people here. I suspect that for every industry response that correctly set the record straight on behalf of a restaurant, you'd have 20 self-serving posts that unfairly attacked the amateur poster: it's easier and cheaper than fixing the problems that the customer has raised.
I think in particular of one restaurant owner who routinely sends me (pretty hilarious) hate mails: my criticisms of his restaurant's food are not only fair and defensible in my book, but shared by a large number of other customers. His response is to slaveringly attack my integrity, never acknowledging that there might be a wee problem on his side. I can imagine a lot of similar responses here were those voices allowed in.
It's a thorny issue, but on balance I think the Chowhound approach works, thanks to assiduous moderation.
As an amateur who occasionally reviews restaurants on this site and uses it all of the time to get the scoop on places I haven't yet visited, I think there's nothing wrong with the system the way it is.
There will always be critics, and there will always be fans, and there will always be an in-between. If a potential Cragie diner goes to the OpenTable board and reads that review, he or she will most likely scan the other reviews, see a number of mostly positive words about the place (I can only assume), and disregard the guy who didn't like the tablecloths.
That said, I agree that the average intelligence of Yelp users seems about 30 points below that of CH users. Yelp is all about quantity, i.e. number of reviews, how fast you can bang 'em out and get ranked or whatever it is they do over there, whereas CH is mostly about quality. There is no ranking system so there is no reason to say anything unless you actually had a particularly great or horrible experience.