Brad Newman, who calls himself a "lifelong entrepreneur," has taken online review shakedowns to an entirely new level, David Lazarus at the L.A. Times reported.
Newman's latest idea is the ReviewerCard. For $100, customers get a black card that says: " ReviewerCard: I write reviews."
Not everyone can get it, explained Newman. Applicants are apparently screened to limit cardholders to reliable, prolific reviewers.
Just flash the card at any store or business, and it's supposed to open new worlds of above-and-beyond customer service.
Newman claimed that his card is "not hurting anyone."
Except, of course, for Yelp users reading reviews written by people using it for their own personal gain. Or businesses who get a negative review because the cardholder didn't get special treatment. Or the other customers who don't get the same treatment as the person issuing the thinly veiled threat of a bad review.
Newman told the Times that "it's a way to get the service you deserve." But he also related the time he went into a Geneva hotel, showed his card to the clerk at the desk and asked for 50 percent off, saying that he'd write a positive review on TripAdvisor. It apparently worked.
Newman said that when he writes a review, he doesn't disclose that he used his status to get preferential treatment.
"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," wrote Lazarus.
It "takes extorting restaurants to a new level," flashed a headline on Eater.
But the practice is apparently legal, as long as the person doesn't make any explicit threats, according to lawyers. Thus, showing a ReviewerCard likely won't attract any legal attention.
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