Restaurant owners slam 'Reviewer Card'

Don't Waste Your Money

If you own a restaurant, there are few things as harmful as a bad review. It can hurt business, and send customers elsewhere.

That's why many restaurant owners are upset with a new restaurant review program, that some call a form of extortion.

Little Black Card Lets You Make Reviews

Going out for a meal isn't cheap, and we all want good service.

But now there's a little black card that says "treat me well or else," according to many restaurant owners. And some, like Joe Santorelli, are worried.    

He co-owns the Cincinnati mainstay, Arthur's pub on Hyde Park Square.

"I think that's the scariest part of it," Santorelli said. "If I don't take extra special care of a guest, how is that going to come back and hurt me in the future?"

He's talking about something called the "Reviewer Card."

According to the California entrepreneur who conceived it, it will pretty much guarantee you better service and even freebies, because it tells the restaurant staff you're going to write an online review.

Blogger Says Easier Ways to get Good Service

The card is far from free: it'll cost you $100 to become a "reviewer." But that's not why the restaurant industry worries.

Ilene Ross, a former chef who now runs a food blog called "513 {eats}" doesn't hold back about how she feels.

"It's basically a form of extortion," she said. She's wonders why anyone would pay $100 for the chance to be a reviewer.

"Who's the fool? The guy that started it or the people who are going to pay him $100 for that?" she asked.

While some restaurant owners are calling the card a threat to their business, Forbes magazine just calls it a terrible idea.   The Los Angeles Times calls it "wrong."

Joe Santorelli agrees.

"You just don't have someone saying, hey give me some freebies," he said. "I think when people go out to dine they expect good treatment, because that's the nature of the business, but I don't think theres a need to force the issue or demand that kind of stuff."

Want good service? Ross says you don't need a card: she says you should just look your waiter or waitress in the eye and put down the cell phone.

"Don't expect to shove a card in someone's face and say I deserve something that other people don't," she said.

Reviewer Card Could Impact Other Businesses

Cardholders may not just take these cards to restaurants, however. Salons, spas, even the dentist may soon see them, with the holder again announcing that they will be writing an online review.

Another reason to worry about this card: If a reviewer flashes it and gets a free meal, they will write a great review. If they don't get freebies, they may write a bad review.

Real newspaper and travel blog reviewers never announce their presence, so that they can observe a restaurant as an "average customer."

So take those user-posted reviews with a grain of salt.

As always, don't waste your money.
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