It was a good week for the Red Pencil Diaries. We got a new professional comrade over at the Orange County Register, someone who knows a great deal about food (though Neapolitans, like all Italians, eat pizza with a knife and fork and don't have to worry about droopy slice tips); I was excited for the future of food writing in Orange County, right up until it was time to drill into the festering bum of dining reviews.
It's truly amazing how little self-editing goes into Yelp reviews, and truly horrifying how many people think of Yelp as some kind of deals site where they get “paid” in free food for publishing their mental spack.
Welcome to OC, Brad A. Johnson; you've got nothing to fear from your Yelp competition.
Robert G.'s 5-star review of Total Wine & More:
It's one thing to read a funny or quirky review, and a little zing here and there makes for light and memorable reading. Writing like you just came from the auditions for the reboot of “Silence of the Lambs”, though, is just plain creepy. “A puppy stranded in an Egyptian pyramid made of regurgitated dog food”? “Born 9 months prematurely”? What on earth are you talking about?
Blake K.'s 2-star review of Tustin Roadhouse:
This is the good Yelp review for the week. Yes, it's a negative review, but the complaints are specific, substantive, and addressable. No smoke ring? That's a sign of fake barbecue. Beers sitting so long the heads dissipate? Bad service. Caked-on barbecue sauce? No barbecue joint ever pre-sauces meat unless they have have something to hide. Now, complaining about lackluster performance of menu alterations is a cheap shot and not allowed in professional reviews, but this is not a professional review. Let's hope the management actually takes the time to respond to this one.
Jan U.'s 3-star review of Doner-G:
What was the point of this? Half the review is a quote of someone else's review–and, Jan U., just so you know, it's considered good form to actually give credit to people when quoting their work. You also commit a typical Yelp sin of hubris, which is to assume that you have followers who know of your quest for the Holy Doner Grail. Pro tip, and one which I learned painfully years ago: you are much less famous than you think you are.
Sandy V.'s 4-star review of Full Moon Sushi:
Similar, then, is this "re-review” style review of a popular sushi restaurant. You'd think this would be referring to a previous review, except I couldn't find any previous reviews. If you're searching Yelp and you come across this, it's completely meaningless. What experience? Always, always assume the reader knows nothing; you don't have to reiterate every single thing, but you do need to at least provide a link to the backstory; otherwise, you end up sounding like a Quentin Tarantino film.
Chris T.'s 4-star review of Pho Thang Long:
"Downsides – No check in offers.”
In other words, you went into this pho shop, identified yourself as a Yelper, and asked for free food. Didn't your mother teach you that it's incredibly rude to ask for gifts?
This right here is why professional reviewers–who have to submit receipts to prove they paid for the food they're writing about–will never be replaced by crowd-sourced review sites like this. If you ask for free food, you have zero integrity. If someone identifies you as a Yelper, and you care about your integrity, you need to decline anything that wouldn't be given to a regular guest. Free birthday dessert? That's normal. Free appetizer because your main courses will take a long time to make? That's good service. Free food given to you because you might write something and give the restaurant publicity? That's whoredom.
Learn where the ethical lines are and don't stray from them.