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Food

ReviewerCard Could Skew Online Reviews And Harm Readers

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Photo via ReviewerCard on Facebook
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Want to wine, dine, and jetset while getting the perks of an A-lister? Well, an L.A.-based entrepreneur is hoping his ReviewerCard will help you do just that. Brad Newman's card gives powerful amateur critics access to even more perks, and warns establishments of their presence in an attempt to "empower reviewers" and "protect businesses." The only problem is, it does neither.

Newman's idea isn't inherently wrong, as the headline of the LA Times story might lead you to believe. AAA Auto Club cards do the same thing, as do certain credit cards. The real issue here is that these reviewers would be getting discounts and preferential treatment because of their clout. And by default, their reviews will be skewed and totally biased.

Said critics wouldn't be getting the genuine experience that their readers would be receiving, and could hold businesses to disingenuous standards that reviewers portrayed in their accounts. How is that at all empowering?

Newman says he screens applicants for the card to make sure they've got digital cred before they shell over the $100 for the card. Then, the world is their oyster, giving them "reviewer protection." But who's going to protect their readers?

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Newman tells the LA Times that he got the idea for the card on a trip to France when a waiter was rude to him, explaining, "If that French waiter had known at the beginning that I write a lot of reviews, he'd have treated me like Brad Pitt."

If these new cards do indeed take off, the Food Blog Code of Ethics should take note. But for now, there's nothing illegal about it.

Says the Times:

This is, of course, wrong on many levels and is an example of how the culture of amateurism that was once one of the Internet's more endearing qualities has become a free-for-all unburdened by any thought of ethics or moral integrity. But it's apparently legal, lawyers tell me. As long as a reviewer isn't making explicit threats to harm a business, the implied shakedown of presenting a ReviewerCard probably won't get anyone in trouble with authorities.

Here's the sizzle reel for the company, which is almost as comical as Actors Read Yelp. Except it's not a joke. Or it's not trying to be, at least.

ReviewerCard from Brad Newman on Vimeo.