“Hey Jeff, were you working last Saturday night?” asked one of my more regular customers.
“Sure was,” I answered, realizing in a second that I had also worked the previous 50 Saturday nights as well.
“I think you were on Yelp, then,” he said with a grin.
Yelp is the website where people are given the ability to voice their opinions anonymously online about local goods and services. Later that night-actually very early the next morning-such is the glamour of the bartending world, I logged on to my computer, poured myself my latest cocktail creation and checked it out. It was not good. The anonymous poster said that they and a friend had arrived 15 minutes before the restaurant closed, tried to order an appetizer, but were refused, then they were “forced” to pay for their drinks and leave. Add in some ranting about how businesses should better appreciate their customers, an “I normally complain’s” and an “I don’t usually write these kinds of letters, but…” and you have the whole picture.
Now, I wait on a lot of people in the course of a week, so sometimes it takes a bit of a memory jog for me to remember a specific person, or event. But as it so happened I did remember these two “anonymous” posters.
First let me say that I think the Internet is a great tool. It gives “access to information” a whole new meaning. It also gives a voice to people who might otherwise not have a platform for their views. But one thing for sure, it is not unbiased journalism.
Journalists usually have some sort of training, an ethics class or two, and most importantly editors. Editors sometimes protect journalists from themselves. They are the filters that tell them that they have gone too far. That perhaps they might want to rephrase that, add this, or even scrap the whole thing. Even opinion articles get edited, it is just the way the business works.
Websites are different, especially websites that deal in anonymous postings. In many cases they aren’t edited at all, or only edited for profanity, or length. As a result people sometimes publish things that are not very truthful and sometimes, things that can get them into trouble.
Witness the lawsuit filed by the chiropractor who sued a patient for posting damaging reviews of his services. While it one thing to post an opinion on services rendered, it is quite another thing to deliberately lie, or accuse someone in print of committing a crime. If said statements are found to be knowingly untrue and cause damage to the individual mentioned. A crime has actually been committed. That crime is libel (slander is the spoken form), and you can be sued for damages.
I thought back to that Saturday night. I remembered two people coming fifteen minutes after the kitchen officially closed. I remembered specifically because the kitchen serves the employees a “family meal”, (that night consisting of nachos), after they close.
I also remembered that there had been no other customers at the bar for nearly half an hour when they sat down. I know that because I had already had one plate of nachos and was just beginning my second one when these two anonymous people arrived.
My late arriving twosome asked about appetizers and I explained that the kitchen was closed, but they insisted that I check, anyhow.
I offered them a drink explaining that we were in the process of shutting down the whole restaurant.
They ordered a bottled beer and a water, an expenditure of nearly $5. Seeing their disappointment I lobbied one of the cooks for a last order, but he was going to miss his bus, so he raised his hands in the universal sign for “I can’t do it”.
I told the couple that they were welcome to the plate of nachos that I had so carefully assembled for my own meal. They quickly snapped them up.
Twenty minutes later I mentioned to them that they were the last people in the building and I needed to close up. They ignored me twice, and then presented a credit card, which was declined, followed by another credit card that was also declined. When their third card finally went through, it took an additional 10 minutes for them to sign the receipt.
Nearly an hour after they came in, they finally left, which considering their $5 expenditure left us about minus $5 for their patronage (my hourly wage, plus the wholesale cost of the drinks equaled about $10).
Which wouldn’t have been so bad except for their anonymous posting on Yelp, which omitted most of the salient facts. After reading their post I had several thoughts about the whole experience.
1) When reading online reviews I often ignore any that begin with “I normally don’t write these kinds of letters”, because it has been my experience that the people who do write those kinds of letters almost always begin them like that. Ditto any that mention of “my experience” or “I normally don’t complain, but…”
2) I also disregard any gushing reviews because I also know that many restaurants have their managers or employees go on to these “anonymous” sites to post positive reviews of their own establishments. They are anonymous after all.
3) Nachos at midnight often result in a restless night, for myself and anyone else who might have had them, which might have been the root of the problem all along.
4) Finally regarding my two “anonymous” posters, they can go [deleted by editor].