Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Having Opinions Gets Me Free Stuff?

I've been using yelp.com for a couple years to decide on restaurants, hotels, attractions and the like.  It wasn't until I went to a restaurant and had a truly terrible experience that I started actually writing reviews as well.  I started to get into it.

At first, I just wrote negative reviews for all the places I hated the most.  It was incredibly cathartic.  You want to make me wait 20 minutes for a glass of water?  Boom: one star review beeyotch.

Then, like always happens with me, I started getting feedback from other users, and it went to my head.  Just like Pinterest, where I was completely disinterested until someone re-pinned something I pinned, and that feeling of specialness sent me into a pinning frenzy, likewise, someone on yelp called one of my reviews 'funny' or 'cool' and thus began reviewing madness.

I tried to boost the stars of the places I liked; I tried to downgrade the stars of the places I hated or found mediocre; and I started mentally evaluating every place I went.  I felt it was my duty to give an honest and well-written opinion of everywhere I went, and it seems to have paid off.

Two days ago, I got an email from the Providence yelp head honcho.  I don't know if she's someone who gets paid by yelp (she must), but she's certainly someone who reviews EVERYTHING.  Some of her most current reviews include Alamo Rent-a-Car and the Miami International Airport (which I've flown into and out of, and I was more unimpressed than her).  She said that she wanted to feature one of my reviews on the yelp homepage, but I needed to update my picture first.
Lovely foliage, but disappointing restaurant/coffee selection

Since I'm all about glory, I updated right away, and found out that not only would my review be featured on the homepage, but I was awarded elite status!  What that means, is that local business hold parties where they show off what they do, and they invite yelpers to come along so they'll give them (hopefully) favorable reviews.  There's one in April that's for yelp elite only and a +1, and it includes free feed and drink!

Similarly, the pizza place near my house that's always giving me free pizza, sent out an email recently asking people to review them on google reviews.  Everyone who did so, received a coupon code for free pizza.  You might think this a bit unethical, but certainly people on their email list were already fans, they just put it in writing.

All in all, it's not a bad racket.  I like writing, I like sharing my opinion, I like holding businesses accountable and I like helping consumers make an informed decision.  The fact that I'm now getting (potentially) free stuff, is just the icing on the cake.  Of course, these events may be very similar to those time-share seminars you get talked into at the airport in Orlando (note: even if they offer you $500 cash, do NOT waste your time with one of those things--just walk away).  If that's the case, I haven't really lost anything anyway.

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