Monday, February 13, 2012

Reviews/comments: Who's judging who?

John Kessler from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes today here about how sometimes, folks commenting about restaurants may be a bit more than just casual readers wanting to share a personal opinion. He judged a place "Fair" (sample line: "Everything else I try is just kind of eh. It would be eh at half the price, but it’s eh with a head scratch and a “wow, that’s expensive” as served."). He expected that commenters might differ. But in recognizing the email address of one dissenter, he found -- surprise! -- an employee of the PR firm the restaurant had hired locally. (The commenter wasn't "Anonymous" but had an online nickname.)

He proceeded to point out the connection in the comment thread. So fun! (Sample line: "Okay, so this is the private and anonymous you who just really likes the joint, as opposed to public you who gets paid to promote the place? I, um, get it…")

He wishes commenters would be more transparent about any connections. I agree: That'd be nice. I've had one chef and more than a few restaurateurs admit to posting a comment to my blog as "Anonymous." (Our blog system does not allow us to see the email addresses of commenters, even with screen names, unless they specifically share them.)

It won't happen.

Equally worth noting: Some area websites offering restaurant reviews are run by folks otherwise in the business -- restaurant real estate, for example. Nothing wrong with that, and often there's news to be found from people on an inside track -- but it's not always obvious to the casual reader who's working with whom.

So, dear reader, bear in mind that commenters sometimes have connections to restaurateurs, sometimes are restaurateurs and all the time must be taken (just as you do reviews) with a fat grain of French sea salt.


Anonymous said...

The phrase "everybody's an expert" has never been more true. Interesting that this is one post that no one has commented on :)