Yelp reviews are like dick pics. No one wants them, but douchebags still feel entitled to send them out into the world and expect everyone to be impressed.
I’ve been working in bars for over eight years, and I’ve never read a Yelper’s takedown of a bar or restaurant that couldn’t be boiled down to one of the following:
- “My unvocalized expectations were not met, and I’m disappointed in the staff’s lack of telepathic abilities.”
- “I am infallible. Everything that went wrong was their fault.”
- “My issue would have been easily resolved. Instead, I opted to complain on the internet.”
Ever wonder what happens to a vicious Yelp review once it’s posted?
If it’s a bar or restaurant, a manager will often reply to the comment and seek to make amends. Occasionally an employee is spoken to directly.
But usually, the staffers pass around your bad review and laugh at you.
We’re not sorry.
“My favorite Yelp nag included the line, ‘The staff look like they want to kill themselves and walk around like zombies,’” says friend and colleague Kristen Asklund. “Not for nothing, serving people who write Yelp reviews has that effect on people.”
Look, I don’t hate Yelp because of the negative reviews I’ve had written about me (though, to be fair, asking me “what’s good” when I’ve got 25 people trying to order is, like, Asshole 101). I hate Yelp because dissertations could be written about its corrupt business practices, and the narcissism and entitlement it enables are mind-boggling. But mostly, I hate Yelp because it fuels the myth that if an establishment isn’t to every guest’s liking, it’s doing something wrong.
Sure, it’s undeniable that there are establishments that aren’t serving quality products. And of course there are bartenders and servers out there who aren’t good at their jobs. But generally, Yelp is a litany of small and subjective offenses that somehow merited laughably verbose write-ups.
Here are the four types of Yelp review(er)s every member of the service industry laughs at without shame. Friend, in these cases, it’s not us — it is 100 percent you, and we will wear those one-stars with pride.
People Who Can’t Read the Room
Sometimes a drink is totally not what you thought it was going to be, and you’re disappointed. I’m sorry, and I mean it. Spending time and money on something you didn’t enjoy is a bummer.
If you’re not interested in gin, maybe don’t go to Whitechapel, a bar in San Francisco that specializes in gin. If you’d like a raucous night of dancing, Death & Co, a very small, very busy cocktail bar in Manhattan’s East Village, probably isn’t the right choice. This ought to be straightforward to anyone who can read.
And yet people still feel justified in criticizing places for being exactly what they advertise themselves to be.
If your Tinder date’s profile were full of pictures from five years ago before they got a swastika tattooed on their face, running away in horror when you meet in person is totally justified. But if you see the tat and still swipe right? That’s on you, babe.
People Who Complain About Something That Has Nothing to Do With the Establishment
Do you know what will have absolutely zero impact on how good your food or drink is, the level of hospitality you experience or the overall quality of a bar or restaurant?
The personal appearance, country of origin, gender identity or sexual persuasion of the staff (or, you know, if your bartender happens to be pregnant).
“When I was pregnant, this woman came in and made some really bizarre comments,” Andrea Pentabona, general manager at Variety Bar in Somerville, Massachusetts, tells me. “I can’t even remember what she said — you hear so many unnecessary and inappropriate things about your body, people speculating about your personal life, just being a woman behind the bar. But the fact that she took to Yelp to write a negative review about having a pregnant woman serve her was just… I mean, are you serious?”
For a while, Yelp refused to take the inappropriate review down. “We asked for months before they did anything,” Pentabona says.
How about a bartender’s speech patterns? Unfair to drop stars over that, right? “I once got a negative review about my accent,” says James Lamont, a Boston-area bartender from the U.K. “It still riles me up now. Fuck you, I’m speaking English, I am English and even if I wasn’t, that’s never an okay thing to complain about.”
People Who Don’t Know How Food Works
Just the other day, I was at work (brunch, everyone’s favorite), and for a Saturday afternoon we were fairly busy. Two men came and sat down, ordered food — fried-chicken sandwich and a double cheeseburger, medium-well — and began catching up.
Ten minutes after they’d ordered, I felt eyes on me as I was building a Bloody Mary. I looked up.
“Friends, everything going all right?” I asked the man who was, sure enough, staring a hole in my head.
“What?” he responded. “Well, we’re waiting, aren’t we? What else are we supposed to do? Why is this taking so long?”
Anything under 15 minutes for a ticket time is well within reason at any restaurant. Anything under 20 minutes for a medium-well-done burger, and that burger is not actually cooked medium-well.
“Well, sir, it will take some time for that burger to be cooked through as well as you’d like it, but I’ll go check with the kitchen.”
This guy didn’t take to Yelp to complain. He did, however, yell at my manager when the burger did not arrive two minutes later, explaining how I should box up his leftovers like he was teaching a toddler how to tie his shoes — but hey, that’s another story.
Fact is, the number of people who write one- or two-star reviews about the time it takes to get a meal that requires longer prep time is astounding.
Another personal favorite? The woman who complained about food allergies. Wait — bear with me.
I know many food allergies are not only real but extremely serious. This is exactly why every server will (or should, anyway) say, after you’ve ordered, “Any food allergies we should know about?” This way, just in case there’s some sneaky shellfish or gluten element in the dish you’ve ordered, you don’t end up in the ER.
Taking to the internet to complain (like this woman did) that you “shouldn’t have to give your medical history to your server,” then knocking the employee for doing her job, is doing a disservice to everyone.
Like, you know, the person with a nut allergy who doesn’t happen to know what orgeat is and may not ask.
People Who Are Racist, Sexist, Bigoted or Terrible in Other Ways
Along similar lines as judging your bartender’s voice or appearance: simply being an asshole.
Sometimes I have to tell a guest that their lewd, threatening and/or sexist comments aren’t appreciated. Sometimes they listen. Sometimes I have to call the manager. Sometimes they threaten never to return.
Let me be clear on that last part: If you are racist, sexist, homophobic or are unable to respectfully interact with people who hold a different worldview, please, please don’t ever come back.
My all-time favorite type of Yelp reviews (and in-person comments, to be honest) are those in which people threaten, “Well then, I guess I won’t be coming back here.” I daydream about responding, “Thank you, that’d actually be great!”
A friend and bar owner in Portland, Oregon, did just that when he received this review:
So let me start by saying…. the female bartender is a TOTAL MAN HATER!!! Makes you not want to come back here and less desirable. Secondly, it’s a total gay hang out! Now, I’m fine with that but I think it’s something people should know.
The owner’s reply:
It’s unfortunate to hear that our environment wasn’t for you. We’re inclusive of people from all walks of life here, and I assure you that our bartenders harbor no ill will against anyone. It’s unclear from your review what might’ve led you to that conclusion. We wish you all the best in the future.
Negative Yelp reviews may once have had a Mafia-like hold over managers and bar/restaurant owners — but thankfully for people like me, the power is shifting.
My friend Kim Offenberger says it best:
“I hate that these sites have given people a sense of power that they use and abuse. I have had too many times to count situations where people ‘jokingly’ threaten a review. At first, I would laugh along awkwardly. Now, I just tell them my name again so they get it right.”