Saturday, December 03, 2011

A Conspiracy of Three

A lot of you know about my 30+ year relationship with the very local Free Wheeler Pizza.  A few of you might have also read my post a while ago about a group of people who have been holding a 10 year grudge over their dismissal, and their harassment of the main people at Free Wheeler over the last year.  Up until now, other than that one post, I’ve stayed out of the fray since I have no first hand knowledge of what happened back then and, frankly, it’s none of my business.

Until I found out that someone has been orchestrating an effort to ruin the reputation of this business that has been a part of my life since I was a teenager.

You probably read the reviews I posted here last month.  I was seriously curious as to whether or not they were as obviously fake to someone on the outside as they are to me.

Well, I didn’t get my answer, but I’ll make my pitch anyway:


Online review sites.  Any schlub, under the darkness of anonymity and ‘usernames’, can post a review on a whole plethora of things.  If you can name it, you can probably find a site to review it.

Problem is that if someone is really ticked off at you, they can sign up under multiple usernames and pass off a diatribe of personal vindictiveness as authentic reviews of your business. 

This is what’s happening to Free Wheeler Pizza, and after reading a slew of these reviews on a dozen different sites I’ve decided there are some definite signs that a group of reviews (positive or negative) are, for the lack of a better word, a conspiracy.

  • Are these the reviewer’s only reviews? In all of the reviews I identified, this was their first and only review. Individually, this means nothing, every reviewer has to start somewhere. But when all of them are first-time reviewers (with newly created pseudonyms), you have to wonder.
  • Do the reviewers fixate on a common theme? Again, by itself this could just be caused by a problem that everyone is noticing. But, are they problems that most businesses would work to correct? Like in the case of a restaurant, are they the kind of problems the Board of Health would easily notice and close you down for? Such as rotting food in the cold tables and enough mice scurrying around that customers can see them.
  • Do they comment on the same petty things, things that are more of a pet-peeve than a serious problem? Things that most people wouldn’t harp on, such as a lack of uniforms and dirty clothing in a kitchen. (Food service is a messy business, you wouldn’t expect the same level of cleanliness in a kitchen as you would in a shoe store.)
  • Does the review come to a reasonable conclusion, or do they admit to reacting irrationally? Did they take just one bite of the food and then throw it out the window, or did they bring it back and demand a refund? Did they get a case of explosive diarrhea and call the Board of Health to report it, or just write a review?
  • Finally, do the reviews have a similar ‘voice’?  Could you tell where one ends and the next one starts if there were no breaks in the writing?

The main thing to ask yourself when reading any review is “Does this sound like the person is simply trying to inform me or do they sound like they need you to believe the way they do?  Do they sound angry or simply unhappy; fawning or just satisfied by the product?”  And if ever in doubt, go check it out for yourself.

Once again, thank you for listening to my venting.


Lisa Shafer said...

Why, Max! We'll make a literary analyst of you yet! These are the same kinds of complaints and observations people make about book reviews and the trolls that go around posting bad ones.
Well done. :)

And sometime you'll have to tell me this story about these people who've held a grudge for 10 years.

Max said...

A literary analyst? Next thing you know, you'll have me writing books about teenagers and cars. :)
Thanks for the compliment!
Although I would have guessed that the same kind of people did that crap on other kinds of review sites, it's good to hear it first hand.
There's nothing wrong with a bad review, not everyone likes the same kinds of books, cars, computers and I doubt there is any customer service business that doesn't have the occasionally bad day and deserve reprimanding for it. But to parade around hiding behind the anonymity of the internet as an honest customer (or multiple customers) simply to bad mouth something for your own gain (be it monetary or personal revenge), that's a load of crap.
Next time we go photo shooting or home repairing, I'll tell you the story. I don't know all the details, but I've had enough personal experience with these people to have developed some valid opinions about what really happened.

Karen S. said...

Oh boy Max, you let out your entire heart on this post. Bravo! I so hope those bad-evil reviewers can read this...and will they feel ashamed, probably not, but one day they will. There are two things I hate most about reviews, when they are written by the enemy, or the competition in hopes of destroying somebody, and the reviewer that uses reviews to unleash their hatred to (well mostly about themselves) you can always pick these two reviewers out...

Max Sartin said...

Thanks for the positive note:
"you can always pick those two reviewers out..."
I wasn't sure if it was obvious to me just because I was on the inside and knew what was going on. Thanks for confirming that, even if I don't get to rebut all their reviews, most people will be able to tell they are bogus anyways.
And I think you're spot on about the "mostly about themselves".

Alexia said...

Some wise and pertinent comments here.

If I can write about an analogy: my husband was a High School principal for many years, and always insisted on personally reading and signing every school report before it was sent home. In his view, "teachers' comments, especially the negative ones, often revealed far more about the teachers than about their students."

Well done, Max!

Max Sartin said...

Thanks. And regarding your analogy - that's why I like to wait a day before writing notes home about bad behavior in my class. Pull back a little bit so the emotions of the situation don't rule as much.