ReviewerCard Gives Yelpers 'Legitimate' Status for Blackmail

This might sound like a parody, but it's real

While getting preferential treatment at a restaurant might be a nice way to feel superior over everyone else, this business takes it a bit too far.

The Los Angeles Times reports that a new company called ReviewerCard focuses on getting online reviewers better service than regular customers. Owner Brad Newman first thought of the idea after receiving rude service from a waiter

"Why can't waiters, hotel workers, concierges know that people are reviewers? If that French waiter had known at the beginning that I write a lot of reviews, he'd have treated me like Brad Pitt," he told the Times.

While all of this might sound like a parody of Yelpers gone bad, the thing is real. The little black card is meant to give legitimacy to online reviewers, warning servers and owners that if they don't bend over backward for these reviewers, their Yelp score might plummet. In one instance, Newman offered a five-star review on TripAdvisor for a reduced hotel rate. Not a threat, Newman said. "The threat would have been that if I didn't get the rate, I'd write a one-star review. I was offering a five-star review." 

Cardholders must apply and pay $100; according to the Times, applicants must show their numerous reviews on a number of sites. One hundred cards have been issued to seekers, while 400 were given gratis to travelers, bloggers, marketers, and journalists Newman found worthy.

Surprisingly, the whole thing is legal, David Lazarus reports. "As long as a reviewer isn't making explicit threats to harm a business, the implied shakedown of presenting a ReviewerCard probably won't get anyone in trouble with authorities," he writes. Watch the advertisement below, which might not seem out of place in a Portlandia sketch.

ReviewerCard from Brad Newman on Vimeo.

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Let's be honest. Can you imagine a high profile place not doing everything in their power to get good reviews in a widely read mag, which probably includes kissing up to the critic and eating up the paper bill themselves after (s)he is done eating. Not saying that it is justified here just cos it is practiced elsewhere and is accepted practice, but those food critics aren’t going to say, “Hey, there might be a conflict of interest here because Free Food!”

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