Illustration by Brett Willis
It’s Friday! I’m taking the day off. Today, I have the great pleasure of introducing you to Brett Willis. Brett is a writer from away but a native Mainer at heart. He currently works at The VIA Agency writing ads for clients like Welch’s and 1800 Tequila. Outside of work, you can find him either hidden among a stack of books or typing away at his computer in the beautiful wilds of Maine, sometimes both.
More important, Brett is also the author of Drunch. Drunch is a blog where restaurant reviews meet fiction. Every Wednesday a new review, filled with wild and esoteric detail, appears. Drunch, in short, is a blog of restaurant reviews made for reading. I highly recommend checking it out, http://drunch.it/.
And, if you’re lucky, Brett will post here again. Please help me twist his arm.
Yelp.com, for those unaware, is an incredibly helpful website on which you can search for the best restaurants in nearly any town in America. The site compiles user-generated reviews which range from 1-5 stars — with the ability to add commentary if reviewers so choose.
To be clear, when I say “user-generated” I mean just that. Any person with a computer, a mouse and a general understanding of language can review any restaurant they so choose.
Essentially, Yelp is word of mouth. And, as happens with word of mouth, whose mouth you hear the words from tends to matter more than the words themselves. Meaning, some people are just terrible at reviewing restaurants.
On the whole, this is OK, since most Yelp reviews simply have to boil down to a 1-5 star rating. This is a tried and true method, similar to a census, wherein a broad enough sample shows, generally, how good a restaurant tends to be. However, when you look to the words of individuals for individual experiences things start to get dicey.
That is why, here and now, you will find the seven most frequent and unhelpful types of Yelp reviews currently on display.
- The “Hyperbolizer”
- Dog food. Puke. Poison. These are the favorite nouns of the Hyperbolizer. Embellishment is the name of their game. More specifically, horrible, flimsy, unimaginative embellishment. “The beans and rice weren’t cooked AT ALL.” Yes, the restaurant took dry rice out of a bag, scattered it on a plate and then ladled cold beans onto it. I’m sure that’s exactly what happened. “I asked for medium rare and what I received was literally a burnt hockey puck.” You’re correct, sir. They took an actual rubber hockey puck, grilled it and then put it in a bun. This is what they did. “I told the waiter no mayo and my sandwich was literally covered in mayo.” Yes, as is the French tradition, the chef finished your sandwich by Shaq-dunking it into a vat of mayo. The amusement gained through these trumped up reviews is almost worth the brain cells lost while reading them.
- The “Server Issue.”
- Normally beginning with words like: “worst,” “literally,” “Sooooo,” or “OMG,” this review will focus, single-mindedly, on describing an episode of terrible, horrible, egregiously awful service. Reviews like these are often typed up by first-time Yelpers, looking for a way to get back at the server who had the nerve to ruin their perfect afternoon/evening/morning. Frequently un-mentioned in these reviews are: the quality of the food, the ambience, the price, or, generally, anything helpful. As a general rule, if the service is actually bad once, give the server a pass. If the service is bad twice, you’ve found a trend. If the service is bad three times, stop going altogether or, as in most things in life, it’s your own fault.
- The “Great Expectations”
- This one normally involves a highly rated restaurant and begins with the phrase, “Everyone I know said it was amazing, so I decided to check it out…” Somehow, someWAY, these high expectations are completely and utterly shattered. A cruel world, you say, letting these exuberant diners get egg on their exuberant faces! Unfortunately, that’s not the case. What normally follows the “this was SUPPOSED to be the best restaurant ever,” setup is usually a laundry list of hyper-specific complaints such as, “The mac ‘n’ cheese was way too cheesy,” “They forgot to refill my water,” or “The line was so long we didn’t even go.” If your experience was terrible at a generally highly reviewed place, either give it a pass and try it again, or maybe, just possibly, it’s not the restaurant that’s bad.
- The “Conspiracy Theorist”
- The bartender skipped you three times at peak hours — not because it was busy — because you’re not a local. The service staff was laughing at you and not a normal, funny joke. You weren’t allowed into a bar — not because your ID had expired — because they obviously don’t serve “your type.” In each of these reviews, you will find a roiling cloud of self-esteem issues obscuring all semblance of a review. Scroll on, dear friend. Scroll on.
- The “Food Restrictions”
- By far the most prevalent. Goes something like this, “I went to a place that serves X, I can only eat Y but I decided to stick around because I was STAAAAARVING.” Simply writing this sentence into a text field on Yelp should suspend your internet access for a week. This is like going to a farmer’s market and complaining that there weren’t any Big Macs. If you have dietary restrictions that keep you from enjoying the full breadth of what’s on offer, possibly temper your review to meet that expectation. Every restaurant cannot serve every thing. That is a bad world and one I do not want to live in. If memory serves me, it was Ben Franklin who once said, “the world owes you nothing, so stop reviewing restaurants like an entitled dingus.”
- The “Bad Hair Day”
- Hair, most people have at least a bit of it. Is it gross when it’s in your food? Certainly. However, if you enjoyed a restaurant’s food multiple times and, just once, found a single hair in your meal, a one-star review is not the answer. So, let’s say you find a long, pink hair in your spaghetti. If the server is contrite and the meal/dish is put on the house, no harm no foul. If the server is surly and the dish is only discounted, OK, that’s a star off the ultimate score at least. If the server produces a cordless trimmer and slowly shaves their head onto your plate without losing eye contact with you the entire time, a one-star rating would be reasonable. It’s hair. We are adults.
- The “Lone Star”
- A frightening combination of every bad reviewer previously mentioned, the Lone Star sounds like what they are: people that give out one star reviews. Don’t get me wrong, I am not against giving a restaurant a single star. Some restaurant experiences have left me yearning to have both my money and time back. However, the Lone Star, by and large, rarely makes it in for a single full meal. “I left before we were even served,” “I only had fries,” “I made a reservation, got there late and was turned away,” these are the cries of the Lone Star. Rarely do they experience the restaurant at all. The Lone Star, most often, is simply someone with some anger to get off their chest and no other avenue than giving a single star to an eatery on a crowd-sourced restaurant website. The saving grace of the Lone Star is that their reviews are normally the most hilarious of the bunch. However, unless a site has consistent single star reviews with consistent complaints, it’s best to read any one star review with about a handful of salt.
There you have it, the least helpful Yelp reviews. If you’re one of the culprits on the list, please, don’t feel bad. Simply take it as a primer in delivering better reviews next time. Thanks and goodbye.