ReviewerCard: "$100 for a lifetime of preferential treatment" [VIDEO]

ReviewerCard: Shameful? Or really, really shameful?
ReviewerCard: Shameful? Or really, really shameful?
Via ReviewerCard Facebook page
Last month local critic and Bizarre Foods host Andrew Zimmern discussed the user-generated review forum Yelp on his podcast Go Fork Yourself. He heavily criticized the website's exploitative nature, saying,"Yelp has become dangerously unstable, because clearly they have people abusing the system, who are using the Yelp name to go out and graymail and blackmail restaurants." Though he said his initial stance on the concept was softer, Zimmern now places himself firmly in the hater camp. "Yelp is on my shit list,"  he says.

Perhaps your personal feelings about Yelp are more ambivalent, but when it comes to ReviewerCard, the latest service/gimmick/torture device being marketed to amateur reviewers, food industry professionals from Eater writers to LA Times columnist David Lazarus to local restaurateur Stewart Woodman are understandably all riled up and weighing in with their reactions. 

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ReviewerCard is the recently unveiled contrivance of Brad Newman, a self-described "lifelong entrepreneur" who tells the LA Times he was inspired to create ReviewerCard after a trip to France, where his experience in a restaurant was less than satisfactory. Newman insisted that if his waiter would have known that he frequently travels and writes reviews he would have "been treated like Brad Pitt." Overblown egos and expectations aside, the basic premise of Newman's service is that you pay $100 for the card, a piece of plastic that looks like a Dining Club Card but reads simply "I write reviews," you flash it at restaurants, and preferential treatment follows. Newman believes that small businesses will benefit from knowing a Yelper or other amateur reviewer is dining in their restaurant by avoiding a potential bad write-up and claims that ReviewerCard is not intended to be a threat to restaurant owners. 

According to lawyers consulted for the LA Times story, it's all perfectly legal, but the idea of patronizing an establishment, openly threatening them, and then demanding discounts and special "perks" is essentially the definition of a shakedown.

Chef Stewart Woodman, owner of Uptown restaurants Heidi's and Birdhouse, wrote a response piece in the Twin Cities Daily Planet suggesting a card with an opposing concept. "It occurred to me that I should create a discount card, say 5% off when you announce to a restaurant that you are not an online reviewer or amateur critic," says Woodman. You can read the full article here, but first check out the unbelievably bad re-enactments and rather bold claims made in ReviewerCard's marketing video.

ReviewerCard from Brad Newman on Vimeo.

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