I have never met Brad Newman. It’s entirely possible that he is friendly and genuine. He might volunteer his time to help the needy. He might have rescued several dogs from a shelter. He might bake pies and deliver them to elderly neighbors.
Or he might be the tremendous douchebag that I imagine him to be after reading this story in the Los Angeles Times.
Newman is the founder of ReviewerCard, a company that sends out IDs to high-volume reviewers of sites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. The idea is that the cardholders could then show the card, which reads “ReviewerCard, I Write Reviews” on it, at whatever restaurant/bar/hotel they visit. Subtle, right?
“I see it as letting the restaurant know that they should treat me good because I’m going to be writing a review.”
Newman’s thinking is that by showing the card, the reviewer is being upfront with the business about his or her intentions and that the restaurants will be more than happy to provide top-level service (and maybe some freebies) in exchange for a good review.
Of course, I see it as a good old shakedown. Sure, you can pretend to buy the glorious positivity of Newman’s rationale, but what’s really going on is the implication that a negative review is coming your way unless you meet some demands.
For instance, Newman brags about getting his request for half-off a hotel room when he mentioned that he would be writing a review of his experience. He also mentions that he was able to skip a long line at a Chicago restaurant by whipping out his ReviewerCard.
Not only does that reek of “Don’t you know who I am?” but it’s flat tacky. Newman probably smacks his gum at funerals.
The real problem here comes when Newman rationalizes why cutting the line was acceptable. “I see it as letting the restaurant know that they should treat me good because I’m going to be writing a review.”
This was the part of the story when my eye really started twitching. A food/drink/hotel review is only helpful to others if it follows the basic guideline that the reader will be treated to the same experience as the writer.
That whole premise goes out the window when the writer tells the establishment that he’ll basically be holding it hostage.
A review is only helpful to others if it follows the basic guideline that the reader will be treated to the same experience as the writer.
The only way for that kind of experience to be replicated is for another tool to come in and flash a card. Besides that, the whole enterprise is ethically bankrupt.
A movie reviewer can be upfront about his intentions, because no matter his opinion, that movie is set in celluloid and can’t throw in another explosion or love scene just because Roger Ebert is there taking notes.
You know what would happen to a professional reviewer that demanded free services or food and drinks in exchange for his or her seal of approval? The rest of the community would shame that person as a shill, a charlatan and a plant. The trust would evaporate.
Newman says he doesn’t mention the card in the reviews he writes, making it morally destitute on both ends. The whole thing is built upon an altered reality, a deck of cards made up of blue and green suits with hieroglyphics on them. Oh, and he charges $100 for the card.
Perhaps the worst part of this whole bailiwick of bulsh is that the mere presence of the ReviewerCard has the potential to poison the well of reviewers. There are legitimate reasons to dislike Yelp and its relatives, but there are also many amateur reviewers who take the role seriously and work to make sure that what they put out there is worth the reader’s time.
But now, who knows what to believe — particularly because Newman targets those types of reviewers as potential cardholders.
So, please, don’t buy this card. Don’t even apply for it. If you hear of a friend contemplating taking the steps toward the darkness, pull them back from the banks of the Styx and smack shame into them. There are far better ways to leverage your soul than on free quesadillas and the hatred of everyone wherever you go.