The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2010

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FROM THE EDITOR Yelp Is on the Way It’s With convenience and elegance, the TorkScrew™ screw cap wine opener allows for proper opening and presentation of virtually any bottled beverage, including corked bottles and Champagne. incredibly difficult to make a living running a restaurant, and the past two years have required a super-human effort on the part of restaurateurs just to stay afloat. And now it appears the landscape has become even more treacherous. Websites that feature user-generated comments about various subjects are all over the internet now. The organized extension of the chat room, some of these sites focus on movies or music or video games or travel or shopping or wine (there are lots of these) or restaurants. In a perfect world, these websites can be useful and often amusing. In this age, when “authorities” are mostly ignored, reading commentary provided by “real” people—those with a “civilian” perspective that can be quite refreshing—resonates with people who often recognize something of themselves in these amateur critics. But this isn’t a perfect world, and these websites can be manipulated. Chicanery can be used by malevolent competitors to tarnish an unsuspecting rival. This form of unscrupu- lous trickery is, unfortunately, all too common on restaurant sites. Restaurateurs are always in feuds with each other, and a well-placed negative review is better than hurling a fire bomb into an establishment. It involves no danger, is virtually untraceable and can be just as devastating. But there is even worse mischief afoot. According to a recent story in the L.A. Weekly, a large number of businesses across the country are accusing one of the most powerful websites——of extortion and of using shakedown tactics. A lawsuit has been filed in California in which a number of merchants, many of them restaurants, claim that Yelp offered to relocate or remove negative reviews in return for buying advertising on the site. One merchant claims he called Yelp when a suspicious negative comment appeared on the site. The very next day a salesman contacted him and explained that if he paid Yelp up to $1,000 a month, he could choose the information a Google search would unearth. “What I was told,” he says, “is I was paying for protection.” A restaurateur in Massachusetts who is suing Yelp says: “They’re the modern- day Mafia. Maybe they’re not holding a gun to my head, but they’re playing the same game.” This is very discouraging news for restaurateurs who are fighting just to get by. For more details visit Wholesaler, reseller and winery pricing available A product | Made in America US and worldwide patents pending What should you do if you get suspicious negative reviews online? Keep a record of them and if someone contacts you to buy advertising or a “membership,” call your lawyer. PHOTO: CATHY TWIGG-BLUMEL

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