Are you someone who spends hours on the Internet assisting your fellow man by guiding his tastes through online reviews? If so, I bet you feel tired of working your fingers to the bone typing and not getting paid. At the very least you deserve some sort of preferential treatment from the places whose business you surely increase tenfold through your posts on Yelp.
Well, you’re in luck. Reviewer and entrepreneur Brad Newman has invented the ReviewerCard, a small black card with the words “I write reviews” definitively printed on the front. By merely presenting this card at restaurants, hotels or other venues you can be sure to receive special treatment from businesses that are worried enough about you writing a bad review that they’ll honor your implicit threat. Or at least that’s the theory.
Before you get too excited, the ReviewerCard does have a couple caveats. For one, the card costs $100 and not everyone can buy one. In order to become a member of this elite squad of reviewers, you must prove yourself an avid and constant reviewer by submitting links to online reviews you’ve written.
According to the the ReviewerCard website, casual reviewers are not eligible for the card. But don’t worry: the website makes no comment about evaluating your submissions based on merit. They value quantity over quality, so even if your reviews are poorly written, full of grammatical mistakes or barely coherent, if you are persistent in your efforts you, too, can become a “special” reviewer.
I’m not going to extensively evaluate the reasons why the ReviewerCard is foolish and immoral because I think it’s fairly obvious from the card’s description. Kudos to Newman, however, for inventing and then actually convincing people to buy a product that’s entirely pointless. As of a Jan. 24 Forbes article by Tim Worstall, Newman had already sold 100.
Any person who goes to a hotel which has access to an Internet connection and has basic writing skills is capable of writing and posting a review of their experience. Everyone knows this, including businesses. So when you wave that shiny black card under your waiter’s nose, you’re not asserting power or even telling them anything they don’t already know. You’re really just announcing, “I’m obnoxious!”
With all of the negative backlash it’s already received, I honestly expect (or rather I hope) that people won’t take this card seriously. Aside from the moral issues of tacitly threatening people to get better service, the card could potentially damage the integrity of reviews, both amateur and professional. Who’s going to trust reviewers if they begin trading their reviews for A-list treatment?
What concerns me most about the ReviewerCard, though, is that it seems to stem from a notion propagated by our culture that we all deserve special treatment. People who buy this card honestly believe that because they often post reviews to websites like Urban Spoon that include the words “palette” and “complexity,” they’re practically L.A. Times’ Jonathan Gold and are entitled to preferential treatment.
In a society that values the individual, everyone demands to be made to feel special. The customer service industry, which forces salespeople like the girl selling me shoes to become my new best friend for the 15 minutes we spend together so that I’ll feel “special” and “personally valued” as a customer, only reinforces this notion. I’m not saying that all salespeople should spit in their customer’s faces, but I am concerned with an attitude some people have that they should be treated with special consideration when they’ve done nothing to deserve it — like these reviewers.
Hopefully my description of the preferential treatment possibly provided by a ReviewerCard won’t encourage anyone to apply for one. Though, if you do and you get rejected, remember that you don’t really need it. You can theoretically get the same effect by loudly announcing to your hostess as you enter a restaurant, “I write reviews!” And the rest of us will glare at you with the mixture of hatred and pity you deserve.
Sierra Hale is a senior in English. Please sent comments to [email protected].