Reader gbw passes along this LA Times story on what looks to be the ultimate addition to the ‘Do You Know Who I Am’ toolkit: ReviewerCard.

They’ll sell you a card that certifies you write online reviews, and you can use that card to signal to service providers — hotels, restaurants, what have you — that you’re likely to write a review about them so they’d better treat you well.

Granted, that’s not how Newman, 35, would put it. He sees ReviewerCard as a way to enhance the relationship between amateur reviewers and the hotels or restaurants they visit.

“I’m going to review them anyway,” Newman said, “so why not let them know in advance? It’s not hurting anyone.”

…”It’s not a threat,” Newman insisted. “It’s a way to get the service you deserve.”

…Thus came his epiphany: “Why can’t waiters, hotel workers, concierges know that people are reviewers? If that French waiter had known at the beginning that I write a lot of reviews, he’d have treated me like Brad Pitt.”

To boost one’s chances of Pittness, ReviewerCard charges $100 for a black card that says, “ReviewerCard: I write reviews.” Flash your card, and the world’s your oyster.

I’m not sure exactly how that move would work, when do you throw down the card and how can you do it in a way that seems natural (and doesn’t make you come off like an absolute douche?).

And if you’re going to pull that, I’m not sure what value added a card is, especially since any given hotel or restaurant isn’t likely to know the third party certification element of ‘ReviewerCard’ which is to say why is it not a card you could have just created yourself? And why do you even need the card as opposed to just mentioning you’re going to review the establishment?

Perhaps it’s no less gauche than printing out your Klout score to access Cathay Pacific’s lounge in San Francisco (although the ‘how’ of that transaction is easier, since they were the ones telling you to do it).

Even the ‘How it Works’ page doesn’t really shed light on how to finesse the ‘pay me off because I’m a reviewer’ conversation. It’s more like an underpants gnome description — “Display Reviewrcard” … “Enjoy Premium Service” (Profit!).

A tip I’d swear I first heard from Frugal Travel Guy but that was also mentioned in the New York Times Frugal Traveler column last week (that I’ve never tried) is to wear a TripAdvisor baseball cap at checkin. At least that one is a little more subtle, there’s no need to throw it into conversation.

The author of the LA Times piece focuses the bulk of his moral outrage on the idea that the person using such a tactic is effectively blackmailing the establishment. But in most cases I imagine that a hotel or restaurant would want to know about the likelihood of a review and that this meaningfully affects their likelihood of handling service situations differently.

The real outrage I think is the bias in reviews. Presumably undisclosed, the reviewer doesn’t say “and I flashed my ‘ReviwerCard’ and they did _______.”

In other words, the ReviewerCard signals that the person using it can be bought. And what’s more, they can be bought cheap.

And of course the ReviwerCard can be bought. For $100. Really, then, it’s the card’s creator who wins….

  1. Frequent Flyer University said,

    Better yet, be like Chris Christie and get a Governor Fleece but just replace Governor with Trip Advisor Reviewer. Image -> http://assets.nydailynews.com/polopoly_fs/1.1204035.1353262498!/img/httpImage/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_635/article-snl-1118.jpg

  2. wwk5d said,

    Nah, it’s a threat. I’d much rather we get a bad review that’s based on an objective experience. After all, if I don’t have the card, why would I want to spend money on an establishment/airline that only offered good service because they were blackmailed into it?

  3. Walt K said,

    @wwk5d “why would I want to spend money on an establishment/airline that only offered good service because they were blackmailed into it?” That is Gary’s point (I presume) in stating that the main problem isn’t the threat. The hotel doesn’t care. It is the blog bias that is larger problem. Unless the reviewer publishes that he is a Review Card carrier and that he used his card to get treatment, as a reader you won’t know why the hotel/restaurant/what have you was good. You’ll rely on the review thinking you’ll get good service, but won’t know you really need to carry this lame card.

  4. TravelBloggerBuzz said,

    A giraffe pic would look really good on the card!

  5. Tenmoc said,

    I particularly go out of my way to NOT have the establishment know I’m going to review them.

  6. limelight said,

    Ain’t it a beautiful world…

    But seriously, the Reviewer Card?

    ‘Do you know who I am?’ (flashes Reviewer Card)

    (long silence)

    ‘Yes, sir, precisely. No-one of consequence.’

    Oh to be a fly on the wall when someone tries that at Per Se…

  7. D Wonderment said,

    I’m not sure what the process is other than paying 100 dollars is to obtain the card.
    However if every turkey with no credibility of being a consistent and credible fair reviewer exists I’d be humiliated to present one even free of charge.

  8. Zz said,

    WHy not talk to your generous friends at Chase. They could issue a credit card called the “Ultimate ReviewerCard”. The card would be part of the natural checking process or purchase at any place. You wouldn’t come across as a douche.

  9. jfhscott said,

    OMG. I just could never use this without feeling like a complete douchebag. Can you imagine anything so awful as waiting upon a self important “Reviewer Card” holder?

  10. German Expat said,

    Just design your own credit card and slap a reviewer logo on it :-)

    http://www.capitalone.com/credit-cards/image-card/

  11. Tech Trainer said,

    The world is pleased that I don’t work in the service industry. If I was a waiter and someone flashed that thing at me I’d do something unpleasant with their food. Like let it get cold. Or maybe I’d act all impressed and see if I could get a better tip out of it.

    Does someone using this card have any sense of shame? It would be fun to bring as many employees as possible over to the table and get them to fawn all over the reviewer. Gosh, do you have Gold status on Yelp? Are you a “contributor” on Tripadvisor? Can I have your autograph? Will you be my friend on Facebook?

  12. jfhscott said,

    I predict some upcoming Yelp reviews from Reviewer Card holders reporting a soupcon of flem in their lobster bisque.

  13. Acker said,

    Reminds me of the NYT article over the weekend. Guy wears “Trip Advisor” cap when he checks into a hotel.

  14. MarcC said,

    This fails because it is a separate card. If Yelp, Tripadvisor, etc offered co-branded credit cards, with special versions noting elite members, the same message could be sent in a much more natural context. The card might offer some form of restaurant or hotel rewards and specials and automatic checkin but would also subtly imply a customer more likely to write a review, especially if when used at a restaurant or hotel the transaction would trigger a record of the visit in their yelp or tripadvisor account which would lead to a prompt to review. All this could bias service though and make reviews less accurate.

  15. Mofessor said,

    Hahahaha… this has to be one of the most fake looking cards I’ve ever seen. Even the website makes the entire thing look like a sham.

    Having worked both in the service industry and as a freelance writer, I can guarantee no legitimate writer would ever show this card. “I write reviews”? It screams fake.

    Kudos to the person who invented it, though. Hundred bucks a card? And he’s already (supposedly) sold a hundred? Now that’s a great scam. (especially since you can custom order them online for about $12)

  16. Travis Swanson said,

    I thought the whole purpose of writing a review is to get the same level of service everyone else gets. Am I mistaken?

  17. joe said,

    This card should definitely upgrade you to the outhouse out back.

  18. ZippyPam said,

    That is definitely a breach of ethics in my book. If the establishment were to take you seriously, it would change the service level at the least and perhaps get the person a freebie at the most. We have a posted ethics statement and have a serious policy against that type of behavior.

  19. Gary said,

    @Acker I linked to that article in the post :-)

  20. Tommy said,

    ahhhh hummm Does that Klout still work for the lounge access?

  21. Robert Hanson said,

    That’s silly, I have no need for that card. When checking in, I just wear my View from the Wing baseball cap, my One Mile At A Time logo jacket, and my MommyPoints tie, and I find I get upgraded every time. :D

  22. Chase said,

    This sort of thing is nothing new. I used to work on cruise ships and some guests would post a sign on their cabin door that said “I write reviews on cruisecritic.com.” If I was cleaning their cabin, I’d think, “so what?” But obviously these people are doing it to try to get “better” service than any other standard guest would receive. It drove me nuts every time I saw one of those signs.

  23. Boraxo said,

    BTW I am one of those guys who has been wearing my TA hat for years and I can tell you I have not seen any improvement in service. I don’t think TA reviewers have much clout when a property has 100s of reviews. Yelp, OTOH is very influential particularly with local service providers.

    I don’t see a real ethics issue. Many times restaurants identify reviewers and adjust service accordingly – nobody questions the credibility of the reviewer and the reason is that the person has already established a reputation for veracity. There’s no blackmail involved unless you are demanding free stuff, upgrades etc. If your product is good, you get a good review. If it’s not, you don’t. If you were planning to provide me with a crap room or waiter and now decide to give me a good one, so what? Inevitably someone else will have a bad experience and write about it.

    And let’s be honest: if a restaurant is understaffed, the service isn’t going to change when you flash your card. Ditto for the food. If things aren’t right, they will get a bad review. And vice versa.

    The bottom line is that some rooms (and some tables) are better than others, but the price is the same. If you can increase your odds of getting the better one, why shouldn’t you? In fact they aren’t randomly assigned – a politician might get priority. Why is that a more desirable outcome?

  24. anan998 said,

    This is just like the people who put a police sticker in their back window or the thin blue line sticker. And when asked….”oh I’m a police supporter” This thing is a must have accessory for the arrogant, self-absorbed douche. Get yours today!

  25. Acker said,

    Oops. My bad, Next time I’ll read your (entire) post before commenting.

  26. Mary said,

    Sounds like a great scam for the guy who is collecting $100 for each card. I do my best NOT to be recognized and NOT to ask for anything special. It’s not fair to my readers if I get special treatment and give the place a great review based on that. Plus I would feel like a creep, flaunting my site’s popularity in the face of working people at hotels and restaurants.

  27. iahphx said,

    A couple of years ago, TripAdvisor sent me one of their caps. I gave it to one of my kids. I noticed that she was wearing the cap on a recent trip to Hawaii and I said, “Hey, come with me to the registration desk with the hat and lets see if it gets us anything.”

    We did this at 3 hotels, and best I can tell we got NOTHING for the effort.

    On the other hand, I have had success getting upgrades by looking wealthy/fashionable. I think your odds that way are better than with a tripadvisor hat.

  28. D Wonderment said,

    Wait I have some Trip Advisor luggage tags
    That should get me the Royal Suite certainly!

  29. ed said,

    @MarcC Sounds like a great way of producing a new service. The yelp/tridadvisor branding IS less douchy and the review could automatically indicate that the reviewer was biased. If lots of people did it, the review sites would be enhancing an accountability and buy-in that they are looking for, and constructing a relationship with the chains. That implementation seems like a positive new norm, not a DYKWIA. Isn’t that the aim of laws, rules, transparency, etc?

  30. ed said,

    On second thought… it doesn’t solve the problem that service staff have little vested interest in success of the chain. Would still need a way for them to earn differential pay for their superior service.

  31. Richard said,

    i skimmed the comments so maybe i missed it but this would be the EASIEST thing to flash at a checkin…

    You just ‘accidentally’ hand it over when they ask for ID or credit card. “Oh sorry about that, wrong card. that’s my reviewer card. I write reviews for xyz website online. It’s a real cool gig, yadda yadda” while taking it back and handing over the card you ‘meant’ to hand over.

    still lame and douchy, though…

  32. jim006 said,

    Anyone who wears a baseball cap outside of a baseball diamond is a douche as far as I am concerned. A card is far less douchy. But what self respecting CSR or employee would give a damn if you are a reviewer or not?

  33. Xandrios said,

    Why would you make it obvious that you are reviewing?

    If you get bad service, clearly, the establishment does not deserve a good review. Youre not there to get the best service, youre there to write up what regular people can expect when they visit.

  34. Robert Hanson said,

    @Mary “I do my best NOT to be recognized and NOT to ask for anything special” @Xandrios “youre there to write up what regular people can expect when they visit”

    So, do you then not join the member programs, since Elite status is definetly going to get you better service and benefits than a non-status person?

    This is a problem I have with hotel reviews by Gary and Lucky. Not a criticism, they are doing nothing wrong, and in their postition I would do the exact same thing. In fact, their reviews are quite relevant for Elites in that hotel’s program.

    But the rooms and service they get as Royal Ambassadors, Hyatt Diamond, etc is way beyond what I’m going to get. Gary even decided not to maintain Hilton Diamond status because it didn’t get him sufficient benefits over ordinary Gold membership. The whole point of Elite status is to be treated better than “ordinary” folks.

    If you read TA reviews of hotels, often half the reason there is such a spread of 1 and 5 star ratings is that the average person ends up in a unrenovated room serviced by unmotivated employees. And the Elite member is upgraded to the Executive Lounge floor, which is serviced by more competent employees.

    So the Reviewer card, TA cap, etc are just inept attempts by ordinary people to get the level of benefits that Elite members get automatically. But it won’t work, since as several people commented, the service workers could care less what sort of review the hotel or restaurant gets. They do, however, care about how management grades their level of service to Elite members. At least management hopes they will…

  35. Mary said,

    @Robert Hanson, You have a point re: some bloggers who have top-level status with certain chains. Their views are valid but I agree that their reviews may be most useful to people with similar status.

    Personally I always join frequent stay programs — why not, might as well earn points for free stays, get free internet, etc. However, despite spending over 100 nights a year away from home, I only have basic (lowest level) status with the various chains, because I mostly stay in non-chain hotels that don’t have frequent stay programs. I almost never review chain hotels.

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