The View from My Kitchen

Benvenuti! I hope you enjoy il panorama dalla mia cucina Italiana -- "the view from my Italian kitchen,"-- where I indulge my passion for Italian food and cooking. From here, I share some thoughts and ideas on food, as well as recipes and restaurant reviews, notes on travel, and a few garnishes from a lifetime in the entertainment industry.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Total Morons On Yelp Who Are Guiding Your Decisions

Don't Whine, Don't Whimper, Don't Cry. And, Above All, Don't Yelp
Anybody who drops by here knows I don't have a lot of use for Yelp and other social media outlets of the sort.  The reason is simple: too much democracy. It's the same reason the Founding Fathers chose a democratic republic for our form of government. In theory, at least, under a republic, ordinary people choose educated and qualified individuals from among their ranks to represent them in the decisions that will affect them. In a true democracy, it's every man for himself. Just throw it all out there and see what sticks. Social media “review” sites operate the same way. Rather than allow qualified, educated critics, reviewers, and guides to provide information on where to go, what to eat, what to see, etc., many people opt, instead, to “Yelp,” thus putting themselves at the mercy of legions of absolute idiots.

I mean, before you go calling me an elitist snob, think about it: how many ordinary people do you know whose advice you would trust implicitly in making an important decision? Oh, sure, some of your trusted friends and maybe a few family members are pretty hip and cool, and they'd be alright to ask. But among the people you meet in the store or pass on the street, how many? The spiky-haired dude on the subway who has so many piercings he looks like he fell face first in a tackle box? The girl with the tattoo of a snake coming up out of her cleavage and wrapping around her neck? How about the redneck biker who lives down the street and blows you out of bed revving up his Harley on Saturday morning? Or the airhead you got behind in line at the supermarket who had to pull out the calculator on her phone to total up the two items in her cart? Are any of these total strangers – emphasis on “strange” – folks you would want giving you opinions on matters of taste? If you're a Yelper, they already are.

CNN recently compiled a bunch of Yelp “reviews” that perfectly illustrate my point. Here are a few of the more mind-numbing ones for your consideration.

A Yelper visiting the Louvre: "Each to their own I guess, but paintings and sculptures just hold little or no interest for me." Then why did you go to........oh, never mind. Same question for the brain trust who went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and commented, “I refuse to pay any amount of money to see antiques collecting dust.” O-o-o-o-k-a-a-ayyyy!

Speaking of experts in antiquities, I really appreciate the opinion of the learned gentleman from Florida who went to see the Colosseum in Rome and came away with this brilliant observation: "Yes, it looks great at night but put some lights up on that abandoned GM Assembly Plant in Detroit and you'd have about the same thing without any long visitor lines.” He's obviously been to a few of Florida's main cultural icons.

While we're in Rome, there's this highly educated “review” of some minor artist named Michelangelo: “After seeing so many other free churches' beautiful ceilings, I was disappointed with the Sistine Chapel's ceiling.” Thanks for the tip, pal. I'll definitely avoid this blatant tourist trap.

You see where I'm going here? These people are amazing!

Boredom is everywhere for these jaded sophisticates. Especially drop-dead dull places like Yellowstone, as described by a Maryland Yelper: "I want to tell you that I am not some nature hating guy. I take my kids hiking. I rock climb. The problem with the place is that it is dull. [But] If you are in the area for some reason it is worth dropping by.” Three million visitors a year and this guy says “it is worth dropping by” if you happen to be in the area with nothing more exciting to do. He's right up there with the guy from Colorado who had a great suggestion for improving the “wow” factor at the Grand Canyon: “As amazing as the views are it is really kind of boring. Every 500 ft a new vantage point of the same thing: a really big hole in the ground...What would [be] nice is segway rentals.” Yeah, that would perk it up for me. People on segways trying to do Evel Knievel. The boredom these jaded reviewers feel even extends to war memorials. Witness this witless wonder from Philadelphia's opinion of the Vietnam War Memorial: “It's a wall with a bunch of names on it. I mean NO disrespect but spice it up a bit. It's kinda boring.” How can it be boring? There are segway tours around there, after all.

I feel like a proctologist. Assholes everywhere I look.

I guess I'm just being unfair because my standards aren't high enough. Obviously, aristocratic people from elite Alpharetta, Georgia who say the Eiffel Tower is "crowded, overrated, and ugly from up close” operate on a totally different plane from the rest of us lower beings. That would be the same plane upon which the San Francisco Yelper lives who offers this sage comment about another Frenchman's work, this one standing in New York Harbor: “As a proud American I wanted to love this, but was grossly underwhelmed... Old Lady Liberty is just that... old.”

And then we come to my favorite Yelpers; the restaurant “reviewers.” The ones who bring their elevated palates all the way from Arcadia, California to Copenhagen to dine at Noma. Of a place with two Michelin stars that has been ranked as the best restaurant in the world four times by Restaurant magazine, our California critic had this to say: “One of the courses literally made me gag but in NOMA, spitting into your napkin would be a like crime so I swallowed it like a bitter pill.” OMG! Somebody tell René Redzepi, International Chef of the Year in 2008 and one of TIME magazine's “100 Most Influential People in the World” in 2012. He'll be devastated.

There's the California girl who one-starred a restaurant after a five word “review:” “Could use some vegan options.” My GOD! How shortsighted! How dare this restaurant not anticipate her personal dietary preferences? I'll bet they didn't offer “gluten-free” options either, the swine. This place should be forced out of business and the owners covered in tofu and ridden out of town on a rail. It's obvious that one star was generous.

I'm inordinately fond of “reviews” like the one put up by somebody who looked at the menu posted in the establishment's window and opted not to eat there because “the food didn't look good.” Or the ones that trash an eatery because the “reviewer” didn't like the décor.

And I liked the one slamming a Kosher place in Boca Raton. The Yelper got all exercised over the fact that the “bacon” wasn't really bacon and the “American cheese” wasn't really cheese. They accused the owners of dishonesty and when the traditional Jewish nature of the place was explained to them, they huffed and puffed about going to a restaurant, not a synagogue and finished their one-star “review” with an asinine comment: “Since when is it a sin to go to a restaurant, be a Christian, and expect to get the food you ordered? I WILL NEVER RETURN. FOR GODSAKE PASS THIS ON TO THE FOLKS YOU CARE ABOUT!!!”

And then there was the brilliant Yelper who one-starred a Jewish restaurant for being closed on a Jewish holiday.

I've written my fair share of negativity regarding Olive Garden, but the “review” posted by a Yelper from Cerritos, California truly humbles my best effort: “A while back, our little family went with our $50 gift card to the Cerritos Olive Garden, had some piss-poor salad, some pasta that tasted like ass, some meat that tasted like ass, and some bread that was probably good when it was baked, but had gone tough in the last billion years and now tasted like ass. The service was actually really good, and I felt bad for the young man who had to carry that shit around and pretend it was anything but ass. 'Excuse me, sir, how was your serving of ass? Did you enjoy the ass tonight? Would you like me to box the leftover ass to take home?' Poor guy. Don't nobody give us another Olive Garden gift card. I'll fucking kill you.” Definitively proving that the only ass involved here was the one writing the “review.”

And Yelpers often write helpful “reviews” aimed at assisting the common folk who eat at fast-food places. Like this one for Wendy's: “This place is BAWLIN' yo. Chicken nuggitz be crispy like you never SEEN. I tasted one and I was like 'WHAAAAT! Are you serious Wendy?' Mean girls workin the friers, tho. This one chick wouldn't even let me holla. I was like 'please you ugly anyway.'” That just says it all, right?

Coffee shops get “reviewed,” too. “Hmm… Where to start. The joint’s cool until I got banned for making a pass at one of their barista. Apparently asking their co-worker if she (the intended) was gay, was a big no-no in their java world. Oh, and I asked their Asian-looking chick, if she was Asian. That too; was a violation. Yawn !!”

Yelp gets millions of such submissions a month. These educated, erudite, intellectual paragons of taste are the people to whom you are turning for guidance and advice. I can't wrap my head around it. It's like giving millions of children boxes of crayons and telling them to create fine art. A few might get close, but the vast majority will turn out stuff of a quality you won't even want to display on your refrigerator much less in a gallery or a museum. Substitute a computer keyboard for the crayons and you are essentially allowing the same group of people to dictate where you're going to go, where you're going to stay, what you're going to eat, and what you're going to see.

I recently stayed at a nice hotel where I enjoyed a long weekend. The only negative came from a couple of selfish idiots ensconced across the hall with their duo of yapping little mutts. The hotel staff was practically apoplectic with apology and did their very best to ameliorate the inconvenience, which only lasted until the selfish miscreants checked out after one night. The little critters were quiet during the overnight hours and the time I was subjected to their yodeling and yapping was brief because I didn't spend a lot of time in my room other than overnight. No harm, no foul. The management offered to relocate me to another room. They tendered generous discounts. They apologized incessantly and were extremely grateful that I had brought the matter to their attention. All because they feared I was going to be one of “those people” who would take to the Internet and trash the entire hotel because of an isolated act of ignorance on the part of a pair of fellow travelers. Hey. The management called their cellphone. They knocked on the door of the room. And when they finally caught up with the cretins, they told them to control their dogs. What else could they do? Call in the local animal shelter's SWAT team with tranquilizers and cages? So, no, I'm not going to go on Yelp and trash the hotel. There was nothing wrong with the hotel. Just with some of the idiots in one of the rooms. But unfortunately, Yelp brings out the worst in petty whiners and empowers them to express their footling concerns to the detriment of businesses already struggling in an uphill battle to please an increasingly demanding public. The results are often higher prices and scaled back services as owners and managers strive to provide the least risky options directed at the lowest common denominator. Thanks a lot, Yelp.

Bottom line, as everybody in the service industry will tell you, if you've got a problem with a hotel, a restaurant, or an attraction, bring it directly to the attention of management. Don't whine, don't whimper, don't cry. And, above all, don't Yelp.

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