The days of restaurant critics donning fake noses and elaborate costumes to conceal their identities from restaurateurs are long gone. The LA Times reports that a Manhattan Beach, Calif. entrepreneur named Brad Newman has started distributing something called the ReviewerCard that lets prolific reviewers (or at least Yelpers) highlight their influence when they visit a restaurant.
The all-black card includes the phrase "I Write Reviews" on the front, just below the all-caps title "REVIEWERCARD." The "critics" using these cards assumedly hope that restaurants will give them discounts and free perks in exchange for good coverage.
If there were a Huffington Post vertical called "HuffPost We Hope This Is A Hoax," we'd file this story there. The card has already attracted scorn from Consumerist, Eater and restaurant critic Ryan Sutton of Bloomberg.
But alas, the ReviewerCard looks fairly real. It has, in addition to the imprimatur of a major newspaper, a slickly-designed website with an elaborate application process. Newman told the LA Times that he had approved 100 applications from reviewers he deigned qualified to use the cards, who paid $100 to acquire it. (He also gave 400 others for free to writers and reviewers he'd identified in advance as influencers.) The RestaurantCard website includes user's testimonials of the power of the card.
"Designer and avid traveler" Kim Friedman, for example, raved that getting a ReviewerCard has made his "obsession with writing reviews even more worthwhile."
"I show my membership card at appropriate venues and basically guarantee myself VIP service," he continued. "I find myself constantly pulling it out, because who doesn't want better experiences and people knowing the impact you can have."
(Note: this testimonial ended with a period, rather than a question mark, the affirmative answer "no one" being so manifestly obvious to its writer that he or she felt it necessary to create a new syntactical form beyond the rhetorical question.)
Yelpers and other small-time restaurant critics have been known to resort to some pretty annoying tactics to extract benefits from restaurateurs, but the ReviewerCard seems like a new low. It's so blatant!