Yeah, that's me . . . surfing the web . . . . . . . . Why? . . . . . . What's so funny?

 
Like many people I spend an inordinate amount of time on-line, checking out sites, blogs, clips and the like.  I am critical of others with poor cell phone and text etiquette, but to be fair, I’m probably just as much of a media junkie in my own way.  I routinely bore others with things I have discovered on YouTube. I describe the clips terribly and tell whomever is politely listening that they just “have to check it out”. Then I give them the obscure subject matter to type into the search bar. Sometimes I even write it down for them, because the random idiocy that I find entertaining and amusing must be shared. Cookie Monster making cookies with Martha Stewart, giggling husbands giving dutch ovens to their poor wives, and Beaker flipping Scrooge the finger in The Muppet Christmas Carol. Check them out, they’re awesome!
 
Another site I frequent is Yelp.com.  When you think about it, it’s a strange name for a website.  A ‘yelp’ is a cry of pain or a noise an animal would make.  Seems an odd name for a site that posts reviews about stores, restaurants and bars. Maybe I should start a public review site called “Ewwwww.com.”  It could be a site for miserable little turnips like myself to rant and rave about whatever is annoying or disturbing them on any given day. Misery does love company.
 
Yelp is designed to be the ideal resource where one can find the right place to grab a perfect pint of Guinness in any particular neighborhood, where the spicy Thai food is, and where the bartenders are “hot but really unfriendly.”  I’m such a major attention and ranting ho, that I have written many a review on Yelp.  I want others to enjoy and frequent the places that I like and to boycott and stink bomb the various bistros and diners where the waitress might have rolled her eyes at me, or where it took 3 minutes and 42 seconds to get me the mayonnaise I had to ask for twice. (Yes, I am embarrassed to admit that I do, on occasion, time these things)
 
Another interesting phenomena are the “Yelp Haters.”  You’ll be browsing Yelp looking for the best eggs benedict in Goat Testes, Oklahoma and you’ll come across a place with 4 and a half stars. You begin to check out the reviews.  “Loved it!”  “Best I’ve even had!” and…then, like a cockroach on a wedding cake, there will be a 1 star review. Yelp doesn’t have a no stars rating (and believe me, many of us wish there was, and far too often preface our Negative Nancy reviews with “I wish Yelp had a zero stars rating”)  You click on the review and it’s entirely too long, but you dive in anyway. There are different varieties of the Yelp Hater Reviews. Some people had their evening ruined by getting a cup of coffee without a saucer, and dammit, someone is going to pay.  Other haters feel the need to preface their diatribe with a 5 page essay on how “I was on my cell phone y’know, and the hostess like totally told me to move in a snotty way, so I like asked to see the manager, and she was like “oh really? and I was like “yeah really”, so the manager came and he was like. “Can I help you” and I was like Um YEAH”…”
 
Yelp is also a source of many interesting contemporary social statements if you read between the lines.  People want their concerns and grievances to be heard and addressed. In the modern age, companies (especially major corporations) don’t give an ounce of monkey puke about the concerns and issues of their customers.  If they did, a human being would answer their phones and resolve things in a timely manner rather than having to press one for English y numero dos para español.  “Your call is very important to us.” is the new “The check’s in the mail”.  The check was never in the mail and our call is of little to no importance to the company or to “Mary” or “Bob” in India, despite what they tell you.
 
Yelp shows us what is important to the modern man.  It also goes to show what is important to nearly everyone and what matters to a select few.  Sure there are plenty of us poor folks out there, but isn’t it just a little petty to take the time to inform John Q. Public that if you walk 6 blocks east and 18 blocks up town to Bar X that you get 10 buffalo wings to an order instead of the life changing insult of 9, and that the Heineken is .25 cents cheaper, plus the bartenders are really hot and friendly.
 
Of course I am something of a pro with various insights into most areas of the service industry.  I can differentiate between the legitimacy of scrambled eggs taking 40 minutes and ripping on some poor wage slave because my water glass wasn’t refilled 67 times.  I’ve cooked, schlepped drinks and waited tables before. I have a love/hate thing with the Yelp Haters.  Part of me recognizes them as “my people”, and I want to look them up, give them a hug and take them out for some decent Pad Thai…another part of me wants to hunt them down and handcuff them to a Starbucks or McDonald’s counter until they develop an appreciation for what service industry workers must contend with 40 or more hours per week.  It has been said many times before that everyone should spend a year working in restaurants so they’d know how to behave in them.  6 months in the kitchen and 6 more months on the floor.  I suppose the same could be said for many jobs. The general public unleashes their frustrations indiscriminately after all, but I simply refuse to spend 6 months being a meter maid.  I’d prefer to assume that it’s a tough job, yet that meter maids regularly eat their young.
 
Many people are simply unaware that the drink they felt was weak or the beer that was warm is very often not the fault of the bartender, but that of an owner going through their monthly “I’m being robbed blind” tirades. As I have mentioned before in another piece, the servers often suffer financially at the hands of a slow or disorganized kitchen staff. I have taken pains to avoid this with elaborate lies about the chef going into labor while placing the parsley garnish on their catch-of-the-day.
 

 

"V for Veal Parmesan! . . . that was slightly over cooked"

In a weird little way, writing reviews on Yelp is wielding power that some of us simply aren’t ready for. It’s like Peter Parker said in regards to being Spiderman “With great power, comes great responsibility”.  People can get fired over these reviews,  Others income can change drastically. In addition to this, one’s reviews say a great deal about the reviewer.  I certainly have no interest in hanging out with someone who 1 stars every pizza parlor in Lower Manhattan. They just don’t strike me as an upbeat kind of person. I once looked back on my reviews on Yelp and saw far too many negative ones. I didn’t want to be that guy. Surely there were places that I liked. I bounced back on Yelp and banged out some 4 and 5 star gushing reviews about my favorite places. They deserved it every bit as much as the falafel joint on Avenue A that never gives me enough tahini and skimps on the napkins. Then, being the mildly obsessive fool that I am, I felt my reviews were too polarizing. Too many 4 and 5 stars on one side and too many one star (I wish they’d let me give zero stars) reviews on the other side. That made things difficult for me, as I had to think of the many places I’d been where things were mediocre. I eventually came to the conclusion that mediocrity shouldn’t be reviewed. It simply isn’t deserving. Mediocre places need to commit to excellence or sucking.

 
I have learned the hard way that people don’t take the incessant bitching of miserable people very seriously. “Beware the fury of a patient man” is a favorite expression of mine. It’s true. I will listen to my positive friends complaints and grievances more seriously than those of the Grouchy Greg variety. Grouchy Greg, never has anything good to say.  If someone is a generally positive person and they felt the need for griping, then there must be some legitimacy there.
 
So my advice to Yelpers all across the land…pay no attention to the single bad review among the many positives. Then write to the grump in question and tell them to use Yelp more responsibly.  I have done my best to wield the Yelp scalpel wisely. Sure, I have made a few digs at people who got my goat.  Last week I noticed that two of the places I have rubbished in scathing reviews came to a bad end. One place burned down (No, I didn’t do it. I will write nasty reviews, but generally draw the line with arson)  One must carefully consider when they are in the hospitality industry when they rip a rival place a new one.  If someone or more accurately some place went above and beyond the call of douchebaggery, I will ask my friends to hop on Yelp and tear into them.  Some owners and managers keep a close eye on their Yelp reviews and even contact negative posters. It’s a good way to do business to my way of thinking. The owner of the place that burned down, to his credit, contacted me almost immediately and asked to meet with me.  It was a nice touch I thought, however he never addressed the issues I took with the restaurant, instead blaming a perfectly pleasant hostess with poor command of the English language. It would be too easy for someone to read a hatchet piece of mine and turn the tables on me at my job.  The anonymous medium of the internet brings out the desk top tough guy, but some people deserve to be ripped on, so on special occasions I will ask a friend to inform the general public about various culinary sewers who have not treated me in a way befitting a customer or more often an applicant.
 
I also have to admit that I have used Yelp in a purely selfish manner. I have reviewed myself as the greatest thing waiting tables since Flo twanged “kiss mah grits” on Alice.  It’s strictly precautionary I assure you. Something to offset the inevitable one star reviews I will get when I inform a customer that they have my restaurant confused with one of those places where the customer is always right.
Comments
  1. Martha Stewart really seemed annoyed with the cookie monster for a minute there.
    There are hot bartenders in the city that are nice? I’ll be right back, I must go to Hell to see if the lake is freezing over.

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