Alibi V.23 No.12 • March 20-26, 2014 

The Mouthful

Songs for Yelpers

The Supper Truck’s Amy Black has a unique response to online criticism

Sage and Jared’s Happy Gland Band.
Sage and Jared’s Happy Gland Band.
youtube

The internet review service Yelp has revolutionized the way people search for and share information about local businesses. The site, which allows users to post their own reviews and ratings, has become a huge factor in the promotion and marketing of restaurants, and a series of bad ratings can sink an establishment as quickly as a scathing review in the traditional news media. Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever read through YouTube comments can attest, crowdsourced commentary is not always insightful or fair.

No wonder, then, that restaurant owners have become both very sensitive and responsive to the kinds of comments that get posted on the site. Some owners take to the site themselves to argue against negative reviews, some contact the reviewer and offer them another meal gratis, and others have been known to enlist the aid of fraudulent “reputation” companies who bury the bad reviews beneath an avalanche of positive, but fake, commentary. And some, like Albuquerque’s own Supper Truck, choose to go a whole other route.

“It was our first one-star review, and all of our others are four or five stars, so I thought a lot about it that night ... and I just felt so bad,” says Black. “I wrote to Vero P. via Yelp, and I never heard back, which was kind of a bummer ... So I decided that I had to do better than just write a letter and give up.”

When a Yelper by the name of Vero P. posted the food truck’s first and only one-star (out of five) review (full text: “Wholy [sic] waste of $30 and an hour to get my food”), owner Amy Black took it hard.

“It was our first one-star review, and all of our others are four or five stars, so I thought a lot about it that night ... and I just felt so bad,” says Black. “I wrote to Vero P. via Yelp, and I never heard back, which was kind of a bummer ... So I decided that I had to do better than just write a letter and give up.”

Choosing to approach the criticism from a creative angle, she enlisted the aid of local folksters Sage and Jared’s Happy Gland Band and wrote Vero P. a sweet and tuneful request to give her truck another chance.

“I just thought it would be fun to write a song with Sage [Harrington] and sort of embrace our one-star review while still offering a genuine and fun apology to Vero,”says Black. “I’d still love to win Vero back. That would be amazing.”

Sage and Jared’s filmed performance of the song is now up on YouTube and gaining national attention from sites like Eater.com and even “Good Morning America.” It’s an infectious little number, and in my opinion it’s impossible to watch without rooting for Vero P. to come back and try the shrimp and grits one more time.

Does Black worry that her response may generate more one-star reviews from Yelpers who want their own song? “Many people have mentioned that,” Black laughs. ”But no, this is a one-time deal.”