Ok , this is it folks. Cracking the seal. Watch and read as the words flow forth…
Well, that didn’t work.
Apparently, my prose is indeed, not bottomless either. If it were, perhaps I would have posted once in the last 7 months. Actually, let me be totally honest about my silence. I had plenty to say. But we’ve been so freakin’ busy that there was little time to do things like, hang out with my family or go to the grocery store (not that I cook anymore). So, blogging had to take a back seat. Waaaaay back.
Not that there haven’t been a few moments where I was shamed by my absence. While we were hiring staff last summer, an applicant showed up at our truck in the middle of the rush. While enumerating her many skills over the din of our controlled chaos, she mentioned that she writes and blogs, which would be very helpful to us as our “last blog post was more than two months ago.” Yeah yeah yeah. That would be very helpful if I actually allowed someone else to write our blog. But I don’t. Our blog is written by me. But not lately.
Then awhile back, we had a new customer at TruckStop. He outed himself as a newbie and told us it was the blog that brought him to our truck (I have a reader! Woo!). I giggled and said something really clever, like, “Really? Cool! I haven’t posted in months!” To which he responded, “Yes, I know” in a way that made me realize that I was kind of blowing it. So, I went home and wrote a post I was hell bent on posting asap. And this is the piece. And yet, I never posted it. WTF?!
Now I am captive on a 5 hour flight that actually has wi-fi. Even better, my usual cross country guilty pleasure Bravo addiction isn’t happening. I’m really not all that picky. If I can’t watch 5 hours of Heidi, Tom and Padma or Tyra, I will tough it out with mental illness or millionaires. But even I have my standards. And I may be from the Garden State but I pride myself on having never seen the housewives and I am not about to start now.
But now that I am reading what I wrote here, I think I know why I didn’t put it up right away. For one, it didn’t have any hyper-links, which I have since remedied. But the real reason is because it’s about Yelp. And how I have a love-hate relationshipwith Yelp.
To be fair, I think Yelp is a brilliant idea. Allow people to review local businesses, uncensored. When I travel, I use Yelp all of the time to help me find restaurants, local sights and shops, etc. In fact, I used to post reviews, before we started the truck. But I am a creature of another era. I am fairly polite (no, really, I am) I would never, ever be rude when it comes to someone else’s work. In fact, I wrote very few 1-and 2-star reviews because I prefer to take my complaints directly to the people in charge. Which is what business owners want you to do – give them a chance to earn your business. I understand that some people are conflict-adverse. Hell, I am married to someone who would never send a meal back in a restaurant. But he would also NOT go home and write a snarky Yelp review because he didn’t advocate for himself at said restaurant. Why? Because he is also polite. And he understands the destructive power of the written word.
Case in point: this post. I mean here I am going on and on about Yelp and the majority of our reviews are great! Yes, there are some not great reviews where customers just didn’t like our food. And that’s fine. We don’t expect everyone to love us. And we do want constructive feedback about our business. But you can be constructive without being mean. The mean reviews are like little mind worms; they get inside your brain and eat away at your confidence until you want to just give it all up and stop making Cubans altogether. I know I am not the only one who feels this way.
There are a few things about Yelp that drive some people crazy. There are Yelp haters all over the internets. Not all that long ago, there was this whole brouhaha about Yelp advertising. And then there is that wacky filtered review alogorithm (why is it always the positive ones that get filtered???) However, it’s the uncensored aspect of Yelp that I find so troubling. It gives people with an axe to grind a really sharp stone. It is incredible what some people will write. Here are a few of my favorites from around the country:
“Seriously now, what’s the deal with everyone loving this place? Everytime I drive by it’s a long line. My boyfriend will leave the house to go get some ________ (3 minute drive) and it takes him an hour. He comes back with food items that are barely recognizable underneath a mountain of brown sludge that I’m told is ‘chili’.”
“It is hard to see how anyone besides parents of bratty kids and pedophiles would enjoy eating in this place.”
“I warn you, do not eat at ______ people it’s not sanitary. I ate here and I ended getting diarrhea afterwords in two separate occasions. I repeat, eat here at your own risk.”
This one is my favorite not because it is rude but because the comments are so ludicrous and hilarious and straight out of a hipster comedy. Only, it’s really straight out of a 2-star Yelp review.
“Our head waiter was very good…however when it came to some of the dishes he seemed to not know the answer one too many time. I am not talking about specific ingredients or wine pairings, but simple questions like where the butter came from or how many counts in the espresso.”
That people are rude on-line is not breaking news. A local parenting blog had to create this, after a particularly virulent attack by internet trolls. People will event attack grieving parents. So, I don’t know why I am so surprised when someone posts something nasty. I guess it just comes back to the fact that I would never do that. Since we started the truck, I don’t post reviews anymore. In the past, the only times I ever wrote a negative review was if I could not get my complaints rectified. But I kept those bad reviews factual and was never, ever uncivil.
Oh, sure, everyone tells us to ignore anything negative. But I can’t. In fact, I respond to every one, apologizing, asking for a second chance. But it’s rare that a negative reviewer ever replies back. That removes some of the anonymity (and the safety that comes with it) somehow. And let’s be honest – when I am checking out any user-review site to determine if I want to try a new business, I always (ALWAYS people) read the negative reviews. Admit it, you do too, right? So, why wouldn’t a potential customer of ours?
Don’t get me wrong. Yelp is incredibly invaluable to us. We’ve gotten tons of catering jobs because we have consistently good Yelp reviews. We’re always thrilled when we get a new good review. But it’s the personal face-to-face feedback we get at the truck that makes us buoyant. People frequently come back to the truck to tell us how much they love our food. We hear “best.sandwich.ever!” all the time. Those folks make all of our efforts worth it. While we encourage them to Yelp about their experience with us, very few do.
On the other hand, we get daily positive tweets and Facebook posts. Love that and the customers who interact with us! In fact, the loyalty of our customers is kind of mind blowing. It’s the highlight of my day reading and responding to everyone. But tweets and posts are ephemeral. Yelp reviews last forever.
One of the nice things about blogging is that it’s a little like therapy. I talk. You listen. I resolve some issues. Writing this, I realized that Yelp meets at the intersection of two of my weaknesses: positive feedback whore and hater of, well, haters. I think now that I have come to terms with this, I can make peace with Yelp. Because some of my favorite people are Elite Yelpers.
How about you? Love Yelp? Hate it? Use it? Lose it?