I know a few things about bad reviews. Two months before my first (and only) book came out, I received this review on my Goodreads page:
Horrid, horrid, really no words to describe it.
With those words, what was left of my innocence — both literary and otherwise — was lost forever. At the time, I didn’t think any bad review could hurt as much as this one. But what I learned with each subsequent bad review, and there were many of them (Kirkus referred to my book as “a string of embarrassingly unfunny one-liners…which rely on penises”), was that they always felt like a not-quite healed scab being chiseled from my skin. (author’s note: You like that goddamn immaculate simile work? I’ve got a book for you.)
But as painful as bad reviews are—and Jesus Christ are they painful—they are an inevitable byproduct when anyone shares their creative vision with the world. Movies are reviewed, books are reviewed, restaurants are reviewed, and even people are about to be reviewed. Recently, I’ve even done a bit of the reviewing myself, though I’ve tried my darnedest to not be unduly harsh about it.
While most people accept their negative reviews with grace, dignity, and pillow-muffled sobbing (author’s note: My one-liners about penises were gold! Gold, I tell you!), some brave/misguided/anger-mismanaged folks have attacked their detractors at the source. The results of this have ranged from terrible to Vincent Gallo and terrible, but this hasn’t stopped Mark Nery from Onefold in Denver, Colorado from giving it a try.
When Yelpers began leaving poor reviews for his restaurant, Mark retaliated by leaving negative reviews for those same customers on the restaurant’s Yelp page. And is so often the case in an impromptu bout of poop flinging, the results are both difficult to look at and too entertaining to ignore.
Here are a few highlights from Mark’s responses:
Not recommending this place to your friends is a purely hypothetical situation. First you will probably need friends then second you will have to be likable enough for them to visit you in Denver. I hope we can survive without your theoretical friends visiting our establishment.
Over all your review was way too long and boring to read the whole thing, have a good weekend :)
Elder Abuse (the woman he’s addressing is 74):
I have grandparents that are much older than you and they would never resort to using their age as an excuse [to] act like an asshole, asshole.
On The Writing Talents Of A Very Prominent Yelper (this is the interaction that is bringing this story to the forefront):
Hey mike , sorry tldr; most of it. You can review our restaurant but I can’t review your writing? You do write with a prose that reminds me of a high school valedictorian that try’s way too hard to sound intelligent. However that’s my opinion just like your opinion of our congee. To be fair I would like to review your visit as well, I won’t make it as long and boring as yours. Creepy guy walks in, creeps out workers and customers. Asked for wifi password ducked behind computer, other customer walked up complained that you may be watching PORN confronted you and verified told you to turn off, you tell me how important of a food critic you are and write a bad review after you demolished all of the food I gave you. Verified with other restaurant friends of mine how creepy you were on your visits to their establishments and how you requested special treatment because you are a “food critic”. Btw you were not watching normal porn, however I am sure the fbi will catch you soon. You creepy pervert.
And here’s a rant on veganism in its glorious entirety:
Lol…Our whole menu is gluten free except for the burrito / crepes. if you want garbage cooked in cheap vegetable / corn oil go else where we use duck fat and that won’t change. We don’t market ourselves as vegetarian as we cook everything in duck fat (clearly stated on website and menu) A little reading goes pretty far, glad you will not be returning. Also sir we cook all of our eggs in a separate pan so there is a zero percent chance that you got bacon grease on your eggs as they were cooked on olive oil. You probably just smelled our delicious bacon while you were eating them. Btw Starbucks is right up the street and probably has more palatable coffee for you, since you like trashing local roasters in all your worthless Yelp reviews.
For your enjoyment:
As much as I sympathize with Mark’s misplaced artistic rage, he is in the wrong (also, he’s starting to veer toward sociopathic). Because even though Yelp and Goodreads and other review sites have given everyone a platform to critique artistic works (both edible and otherwise), people have always been critics. These reviews used to be shared at water coolers and dinner tables with friends and family, and not over the internet with millions of strangers, but the basic principle remains the same:
The artist creates the art or the food or the criminally under-appreciated novel. The public experiences and then judges those creations. If you didn’t want to be judged, you would only cook for your family and tuck your really legitimately brilliant novel in a desk drawer.
No matter how much they deserve to be judged, the artist should never judge their reviewer. Not just because it undermines the artistic process, and not just because critiques, no matter how harsh, can lead to growth, and not just because reviews, no matter how stupid, are an expression of free speech, but because (as Mark Nery has so clearly demonstrated) attacking your critics makes you look like a dick.
And if I know anything about art and creativity, I know this: if you can’t have critical or financial or even “adequate health insurance-ial” success, sometimes the best you can hope for is not being a dick. That’s what I tell myself, at least.