We've all experienced the mild fear of a waiter potentially spitting in our food after we've angered them in some way -- but would you ever for a moment think a restaurant owner would go so far as to start a full online harassment campaign against you?
As reported by The Ottawa Citizen, Marisol Simoes, owner of Ottawa's Mambo and Kinkis restaurants, was found guilty this week of libelling a customer for posting a negative review online. Simoes had created a false online dating profile for Elayna Katz, and had sent a sexually explicit letter to her bosses, using Katz's identity.
But perhaps the most surprising part of this story is that it's hardly the first time a person in the restaurant business has attempted to personally contact those who don't like their restaurants. Food sites and mainstream news outlets abound with stories of owners who hunted down phone numbers for people who weren't fans of their spots, virtually guaranteeing a lack of repeat business.
Chefs, who are often known for their volatile personalities, have in turn started speaking out against what they perceive to be unfair reviews on websites. As The Grid reported on a comment they felt was likely to have come from chef Matt Blondin on Toronto Life's website:
“I’d love to see any of you fucktards spend one day in the shoes of a chef! You’d shit your pants and go home crying to your computer screen, in hopes of someone reading your pathetic comments. Do us all a favour and drop off the face of this earth. Stop eating in restaurants, stop going out, stop even browsing through the pages of Toronto Life and other magazines. No one here, or in this industry gives a fuck about you, or your sad attempts at ridiculing the hard working people that go out of their way to give YOU a meal at their restaurants.”
A new program, called 'Talk to the Manager' was recently released in an attempt to skip over the public, negative step of posting a bad review online -- restaurants sign up with the company, customers text a number that goes directly to a manager, and in an ideal world, the issues (which are assumed valid) get fixed.
However, as Cliff Stein, head of Reputation Changer, a reputation management company, said to Digital Journal, it's not always about making things better. "The simple reality, though, is that not all restaurant patrons are interested in being constructive. Some might be so frustrated by their bad experience that they simply want to enact their vengeance on the restaurant. That’s why they turn to a site like Yelp; it’s also why so many of the reviews on Yelp tend to be unreasonable or unconstructive.”
So we're wondering -- how do you feel about online restaurant reviews? Do they ever help you choose where to eat, or are they just bitter diatribes written by unhappy customers? And should chefs get a chance to respond? Let us know what you think in the comments below.
Related on HuffPost:
The ex-governor has racked up over 100 reviews--a mixture of criticism, jokes, and jobs-- and has an overall 1 1/2 star rating on <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/sarah-palin-wasilla-4#hrid:buy5ydsL1w4_dGmEo35DDA">Yelp</a>. "I would like to thank you from the bottom of my heart for ensuring Barack Obama's landslide victory," writes Matt R.
Porn And Cheetos
"A great combination? Or the GREATEST combination.. ? Cheetos can be yummy... sometimes, and porn can be fun... the right kinda porn that is," says Izzy N. in the Yelper's four-star review. The consensus? "Wash your hands first," Yelpers <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/porn-and-cheetos-hayward#hrid:Agm8BH7z-V-U7nk37qo1Tg">agree</a>.
The Moon, located '238,855 miles from Earth,' has its own Yelp entry. I love the moon! FIVE BIG ASTRO-STARS!" raves Kristina R. <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-moon-no-title">B.K.W. says</a>, "I squint and squint, but I have never been able to see the man in the moon. When I was a kid, my parents used to tell me the moon was made of cheese. That'd make it sort of more useful, I guess, cheese mining. Even if it was true though, cheese stinks. And I'm lactose intolerant."
Blondie, a stripper in Atlanta, gets rave reviews from Yelpers. "Poet, comic book super hero, stripper extraordinaire, Blondie is faster than a speeding Jager shot, more powerful than an aluminum beer can," <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/blondie-atlanta">Ivan S. says</a> ."A true Renaissance woman, if Leonardo da Vinci crushed beer cans with his breasts."
Something 'smells funny,' agree the <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/clown-farts-san-francisco-2#hrid:4cHdSWzxNxgV7J1HZx6NlQ">Yelpers</a> who've reviewed 'Clown Farts.' "They are aromatic and sometimes acrobatic. Many of them can fit in a very, very small car...some are silent and some are loud, some come out in a deadly cloud," Todd E. writes.
One Yelper explains, "Morning Wood is an erection that is the result of total stimulation and blood flow into the male penile region during REM sleep." It's got a four-and-a-half star rating. <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/morning-wood-san-francisco">Joel H. says</a>, "It's like an arrow giving directions.. Normally saying nothing more than 'get up' but sometimes pointing the way to heaven."
People Who Can't Spell The Word Definitely
So when these idiots sound it out... they actually settle on definATely?" writes <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/people-who-can-t-spell-the-word-definitely-civilization">one reviewer.</a> "Definitely idiots. Definitely." <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/people-who-can-t-spell-the-word-definitely-civilization">Kristina R. says</a>, "Ive probobly mispelt alot of words and definitely is definately one of thems. I now its' unacceptible and embarassing, but its' accidentil, and I beleive its' changable. It somtimes wieghs heavy on my conscince, and Im comitted to fixing it with alot of dicipline. "
San Quentin State Prison
"I have read all the reviews and it looks like most people have a tourist or second-hand perspective of this place. Well I'm here to tell you what it's like from the inside," <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/san-quentin-state-prison-san-quentin">Scott D. says</a>. "This is not a place you wanna end up. Not all big bad & scary like the movies make it, but cold,damp and miserable with really sh*tty food."
Location: "The Salty Sea." Pirates get a four-and-a-half star ranking on Yelp. "Yo ho ho!!!!! Pirates are awesome," says <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/pirates-san-francisco#hrid:mwITXCZeU_bukNO4LQju7w">Grace Y.</a>. "Anyone who thinks they are not can walk the plank! (That's why they are getting such a high score, I'm afraid!!!!)" The 28 reviews for "Pirates" include a length, imaginary dialogue between Anderson Cooper and Blackbeard.
The Oprah Winfrey Show
The Yelp post on Oprah's show is a mixture of love and hate. <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-oprah-winfrey-show-chicago-2">Justin M. says in his four-star review</a>, "Oprah The God walked on stage, and you think Brad Pitt just took his clothes off! Women were crying, screaming, yelling, fist-pumping in excitement...UNREAL!!! I was like WTF CALM DOWN!!!" A one-star review quips, "Oprah, quite frankly you scare me."
Piedmont Park's Robot Bathroom
<a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/piedmont-parks-robot-bathroom-atlanta">Ivan S. says</a>, "Once the door is closed, the disembodied robot bathroom voice informs you that you have ten minutes to do your business. Programmed as such, no loitering or heroin fixes here. No sex either, but only because I wouldn't know what to do with the other eight minutes."
The Emerging Gap Between Yelp Review Writers and Talk Culture
This "meta" review references the politics of Yelp reviews. The reviewers want to be super serious and are generally not accepted by the ever so welcoming Talk thread community, probably because they are so busy writing reviews that they have no idea how to assimilate into such internet culture. Thus the gap," explains <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-emerging-gap-between-yelp-review-writers-and-talk-culture-san-francisco">Grace Y.</a>. "No one wants to be a stuffy stoic review writing snob, and no one wants to be an immature and pretentious yelp talk hoodlum." <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-emerging-gap-between-yelp-review-writers-and-talk-culture-san-francisco">Irish MASMS M. says</a>, "[facepalm]."
7th grade gets a measly one star on Yelp. "A sniping, catty, judgmental, nasty, dream-squashing, ego-popping, painfully awkward year of attitude, resentment, and bitterness...not unlike a bad day on the Yelp talk threads," explains <a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/7th-grade-san-francisco#hrid:fu0EqQGboZZ2fVcNBfzv1Q">Kristina R.</a>."I call it "The Awkward Years" because for some reason, you look all funky and out of proportion from all the hormones coursing relentlessly through your body."
Best Yelp Review EVER!!!
<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Jeff_Swearingen"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://external.ak.fbcdn.net/safe_image.php?logo&d=5d93b5d8d8f8af28f09e489a4cbe3a08&url=http%3A%2F%2Fprofile.ak.fbcdn.net%2Fprofile5%2F1494%2F117%2Fq21205050_2726.jpg&v=5" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Jeff_Swearingen">Jeff Swearingen</a>:<br />Can we say too much information?