You’re not Yelping

That (title) is a title from a South Park Episode.

As usual, Parker and Stone the creators, were spot on with their satire and critique of the social media review of restaurants that is Yelp! in the West, and in Singapore, HungryGoWhere.

I’ll not rehash their brilliant (and entertaining) critique.

I was reminded of that episode when I was trying to decide on a nice place to have a meal on Friday July 22.

Z had a vaccination appointment, so PL and I took the day off. It was also two days after our 3rd anniversary, so we thought we could have a special meal somewhere.

I was thinking of Tenkaichi, a Japanese restaurant that offered wagyu beef. It looked good, and there were some good reviews.

But not on Facebook.

On Facebook, there were quite a few negative and even nasty reviews. One reviewer seemed to be on a vendetta or crusade. Takeaway: If someone constantly spams the review page of a restaurant with the same posts, you should probably ignore his opinion. Probably nuts. Or has some mental health issues.

He was not the only one. But there was a mix of very good reviews, and very bad and nasty reviews. It was beginning to seem like a visit there would be a crap shoot. So in the end, I decided against it. And so the nasty reviewers won. (For now.)

Then we decided we had to give my mom a farewell dinner before her trip to Canada to visit with my brother. She would be there for 2 months. I had previously brought her to London Fat Duck, and she liked it. So I suggested going to a London Fat Duck outlet that was more central. But when we looked at the reviews on HungryGoWhere (HGW), it was mixed. There were some very good reviews. And then some very bad and even nasty ones. Again, we allowed ourselves to be persuaded by the reviews. Or at least be warned off.

Well, I also asked around, and based on a colleague’s recommendation, we settled for Swatow Teochew Restaurant. Again, when I check HGW, the reviews were mixed. There were good reviews, and then there were very bad reviews. But there was not much time, and this time I chose to ignore the bad reviews. I was beginning to suspect that reviewers may be vindictive and/or unreasonable.

So I got PL to make the reservation, and over the phone, the staff rather sheepishly informed us that there would be a Teochew Opera that evening and asked if that might be a problem for us. Perhaps they had a bad review by someone who was incensed that they had to “suffer” through a Teochew Opera during dinner. At a Teochew restaurant! (The audacity!)

Well, no time to change, and well, that would be a unique experience. So we went ahead to book. I then message my brother and sister and told them that… there would be a “cultural performance” during dinner. And that reservations have been made.

If they asked, I would of course tell them that it was a Teochew Opera. Which is a cultural performance. I didn’t lie!

Anyway, the food was good, the Teochew Opera was… fascinating to Z, who gazed intently at the stage, the elaborately made up actors, the extravagant costumes, and the very loud falsetto singing (characteristic of Teochew Operas and in fact all Chinese operas).

The service was good, and we had a good time. The singing was not too distracting, and we enjoyed watching Z “absorb” the cultural performance.

So I did not see how they would deserve a bad review.

I would like to go there again.

And because we had scuttled the London Fat Duck dinner for my mom, PL and I went to London Fat Duck for lunch. At Punggol Waterway Point (where I had brought my mom previously). And had good food, and good service.

So that was our belated Anniversary lunch.

But on Wednesday (July 20), We had this for dessert for dinner: Chocolate Lava Cake.

It oozed, as planned.

Anyway, I am a little disillusioned and distrustful of food reviewers. I am beginning to suspect many of these reviewers are being very unfair to the businesses. There is no call for posting essentially the same comments over and over again. That smells of desperation, vindictiveness, and a personal vendetta.

I think some Singaporeans when given the power of social media becomes corrupted by power. They feel empowered, and then they feel entitled. And they in effect are attempting to extort or blackmail the business (much like the Yelpers in the South Park episode). The power of social media is exactly the same as the power of democracy: one vote per person. Trying to over-represent your opinion is cheating.

The other thing about reviewers is, people who do not cook, do not know how to cook, are often the most unreasonable and most unforgiving of reviewers. And I do believe there are more and more Singaporeans who do not know how to cook.

So I am going to read reviews with a jaundiced eye. To be suspicious of negative reviews. If the reviews are all consistently bad, I think I will give more credence to them. If there is one persistent review or commenter who seems to be on a vendetta, I would discount that opinion. I already discount the vague or unspecific comments. Often, “the service was terrible”, with no elaboration might well be the unreasonable expectations of the customer could not be reasonably met by the staff. Or the restaurant was short-handed that day. Of course if ALL the reviews said the service was bad, that would be given more consideration.

So I am going to re-read the reviews of Tenkaichi, and see if I would like to try it.

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