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bilrus

Criticizing the Critics

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Nothing frustrates me more than when people post legitimate (in their eyes at least) comments and get criticized for making the comments.

Not criticism for the content of the comments, mind you. That is completely fair game. And so is asking for more substatiation than the "This place sucks" comments you see from time to time.

But when someone on here, or eG or Chowhound or anywhere else, has a comment about a restaurant, be it praise or criticism, that comes up in a legitimate discussion, and they are able to substantiate it somewhat they should be given the benefit of the doubt that they aren't out to hurt the restaurant. Of course, they are open to having their opinon challenged.

But they certainly shouldn't be scolded for making the comment in the first place. Either from other members or a chef or member of their staff.

Edited to add - forgive the rant. It is not entirely about this thread or the recent posts, but a tendency I've seen creeping up all over lately.

Edited by bilrus

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Edited to add - forgive the rant. It is not entirely about this thread or the recent posts, but a tendency I've seen creeping up all over lately.

Your point is well-taken Bill, but if someone were to publicly criticize my livelihood, I'd be all over them, too. Who can possibly blame the chefs for coming to defend themselves?

But they certainly shouldn't be scolded for making the comment in the first place. Either from other members or a chef or member of their staff.

Referring back to Gillian Clark's posting here, I see Waitman being vigorously challenged, but not insulted on a personal level or even scolded. What is wrong with this?

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What about the person that complains after only one visit? Surely first impression are important and everyone cannot afford to try places multiple times, but what if it was an off night?

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I hear you Bill, and appreciated your comment towards my questioning of Woodley about her criticism of CK. My response it that I think its ok to question the commentator when that person seems to have a personal issue/vendetta against a certain place. This does seem to pop up with certain restaurants.

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[before this thread spirals out of control, please remember to err on the side of restraint and courtesy in all postings. Thank you! :lol: ]

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What about the person that complains after only one visit?  Surely first impression are important and everyone cannot afford to try places multiple times, but what if it was an off night?

I think there is some repsonsibility on the part of the reader to know that there is the possibility that it was an off night, or a bad waiter, or the poster was in a foul mood the night they went to the restaurant, or the air conditioning was broken that night. They can take or leave the poster's comments based on that.

But if report after report comes in about a place and the reports repeat the same complaints, maybe there is something to them.

As I said, my rant wasn't specifically about Colorado Kitchen, although that is the thread it was originally in. The criticsms of Blacksalt in Tom's recent chats come to mind here as well. Thier front desk staff came under a great deal of criticism for rude or unprofessional behavior. We've had two people (in the last week alone) post that they felt rushed at CK.

We can choose to ignore those opinions. We can take them to heart. We can assign it all to a conspiracy against the restaurant. Or the restaurant could see that maybe they do have at a minimum an image problem among some and possibly some legitimate service issues. And the readers here can use that information as a factor in deciding where they want to go, if they so choose.

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I hear you Bill, and appreciated your comment towards my questioning of Woodley about her criticism of CK.  My response it that I think its ok to question the commentator when that person seems to have a personal issue/vendetta against a certain place.  This does seem to pop up with certain restaurants.

I certainly wouldn't defend that.

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What about the person that complains after only one visit?  Surely first impression are important and everyone cannot afford to try places multiple times, but what if it was an off night?

I think that depends on the nature of the complaint. There are a number of restaurants that I've had bad experiences with that still had some redeeming qualities. I make note of them in my posts, even if my experience was poor at that venue. But there's the potential I'd try them again, particularly if others can relay to me that my experience was out of the norm.

There are others, though (Chef Geoff's), where I feel the comedy of errors is so blatant and across the board of food, service, courtesy, etc., and touches every nerve, that I'd never go back, even after one visit.

Fact is, I rely upon this place to help set me straight on knowing that my mileage may vary. Thank you all for being the check to my balance. Now, maybe if you could help me balance my checks, I'd have more of an opportunity to eat out.

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This thread sucks :lol:

It's a problem on a lot of boards that certain topics (in this case restaurants on others certain DC United soccer players) become sacred and any criticism is immediately shouted down. But as long as our complaints are serious, thought out, and constructive, I would hope that restaurant owners and restaurants goers can learn from them. In this board's case, I would hope that A) restaurant owners can learn about what we receive during the "restaurant experience" and strive to make that experience even better and ;) Us restaurant goers get a full appreciation of the ins and outs of running a restaurant, which I think we are all learning is a bloody hard undertaking.

At the very least it makes for good reading (esp. from Chef :P )

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Your point is well-taken Bill, but if someone were to publicly criticize my livelihood, I'd be all over them, too. Who can possibly blame the chefs for coming to defend themselves?

Referring back to Gillian Clark's posting here, I see Waitman being vigorously challenged, but not insulted on a personal level or even scolded. What is wrong with this?

Like I said, my rant wasn't specifically about the CK thread and, in this case, Chef Clark did respond to some of the specific criticisms that waitman (and Woodley before him) brought up. Good for her.

If the chefs or staff want to be involved in the discussion then more power to them. That is one of the things that initially drew me to eG and I missed there as their participation started to wane. We've still got that here and I wouldn't want to lose it.

But if they have a thin skin, then they should either avoid reading the posts about their restaurants or accept that sometimes the people posting here have legitimate things to say even if they aren't praising their food.

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First off, I think it's great that a discussion like this - and the parallel discussion on CK - can take place. Diners and restaurant staff both can learn a little, vent a little, and even if there's still disagreement at the end, we all can understand a little more what its like to be in the shoes of the other. It's healthy and I think this is an appropriate forum for that kind of discussion.

 
One thing that I want to point out is that in any service industry, there will be customers who experience difficulties. There are genuine service lapses in the best restaurants. There are many more in crummy restaurants. The true test is how an establishment deals with problems when they surface, how they focus on creating systems to minimize those problems and how quickly and willing they are to make changes to those systems as time goes on.

 
Even luxury hotel companies (something I know a little about) - usually have customer satisfaction scores of 70, 80, even 90% (I can't be too specific here). Those are amazingly high numbers in the hotel industry. But there are still - at very best - 1 in 10 people who are dissatisfied. That's a lot of people. Hotels would kill to have a low score such as 5% of their guests experiencing difficulties. It's usually much higher. But that means -at very best - there are still 1 in 20 guests who do experience difficulties. Sometimes people have unrealistic expectations. Sometimes genuine mistakes happen.

 
My point is, in the service industry, you can't make everyone happy all the time. Good service professionals are the sort of people who go to work every day to attempt to make every guest happy - even fully knowing that it's an impossible chore. I hope we all patronize and support establishments that do this - and many in this city do. And - god willing - those sorts of places stay in business and the crummy ones fall by the wayside in time...

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Nothing frustrates me more than when people post legitimate (in their eyes at least) comments and get criticized for making the comments. 

Oh yeah. You are spot on Bill.

An example - try mentioning a subpar meal at Palena and see how far you get. dry.gif

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The bane of anyone's existence is the folks who cannot be satisfied and are thoughtless to boot. Their name is legion. It is astonishing how much criticism is levelled on people who are clearly doing their best, for money or not, by folk who have no clue. I'm going through this now, and it isn't about a restaurant but, rather, a volunteer project. Fortunately, the goodwill outweighs the negativity by a LOT. And yet, and yet, the clueless are the ones who make you grind your teeth.

Edited by Barbara

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Although this thread isn't fun reading, I'd like to thank DR for giving it space on this board. Orwellian boards would wipe any evidence of this type of exchange swiftly and efficiently.

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Although this thread isn't fun reading, I'd like to thank DR for giving it space on this board. Orwellian boards would wipe any evidence of this type of exchange swiftly and efficiently.

 
Rockwell vs Orwell

Brings up an interesting question-- any relation, DR?

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Rockwell vs Orwell

Brings up an interesting question-- any relation, DR?

 
Nicely done, Mike.
Heather, there shouldn't be any sacred cows here. Reasoned criticism is good. Drive-by shootings are bad.

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Nicely done, Mike.

Heather, there shouldn't be any sacred cows here. Reasoned criticism is good. Drive-by shootings are bad.

easy for you to say. But last time I was at Citronelle it was...

OK, spectacular.

But, dammit, I'll drive-by your place sooner or later. I just need to eat there a couple more times...

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The bane of anyone's existence is the folks who cannot be satisfied and are thoughtless to boot.  Their name is legion.  It is astonishing how much criticism is levelled on people who are clearly doing their best, for money or not, by folk who have no clue.  I'm going through this now, and it isn't about a restaurant but, rather, a volunteer project.  Fortunately, the goodwill outweighs the negativity by a LOT.  And yet, and yet, the clueless are the ones who make you grind your teeth.

 
I agree with Barbara, here. It seems there are tons of people out there who are just waiting for a small mis-step--a table in the back, a burger medium instead of medium-well, tomatoes on one's salad when they were requested to be held, asking about peanuts in a dish because of an "allergy" (sarcasm on that last one, folks)--to launch into a diatribe about horrible service and to gripe about how they're "there to be served." Granted, you pay for both food and service when you dine out, but you're not entitled to a vassal for lashing.

There are things that can go wrong at a restaurant, but look around. There are dozens of people having their meals, too. It really is nothing personal if the chef or your waiter makes a mistake. Restauranteurs and their staffs aren't robots, which is good because robots have a hard time distinguishing from chicken fried steak and seared foie gras. Who knows what has gone on in a chef or server's day. They are there trying to make a living and--hopefully--serve us food they have dedicated their time and labor toward in order to make us happy.

All I know is that the only person you can control is yourself, and it's really easy to let something slide, and move on with your day; no one likes a high-maintenance whiner. If you have a genuinely horrible experience, chock it up to bad planet alignment, or the humidity, or--my favorite--Congress. Then come back sometime later because the waiter could have just had an off day or the chef may have come into her own and discovered her flair for something truly inspired and delicious.

Thanks to DonRocks for the board and to everyone for the great contributions, here's to a lot more.

Adam Bailey

PS: Just split the check evenly, it's SO much easier.
PPS: Apologies to any robots I may have offended.

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Heather, there shouldn't be any sacred cows here. Reasoned criticism is good. Drive-by shootings are bad.

 
Sure, but to have your reasoning and motivation questioned just because you have the nerve to take a stab at a sacred cow is tiresome. I had that happen re BdC on eGullet, and didn't want to get into it about a restaurant that seems to be Nirvana for a majority on the board.

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Sure, but to have your reasoning and motivation questioned just because you have the nerve to take a stab at a sacred cow is tiresome. I had that happen re BdC on eGullet, and didn't want to get into it about a restaurant that seems to be Nirvana for a majority on the board.

 
I think part of the problem here--both generally and in relation to the CK posts--is that people have different views on what blogs like egullet and DR are for. Are they forums for reasoned criticism in the broad sense of the term, which includes negative as well as positive assessments of restaurants? Are they places to vent bad experiences while the good ones are not considered "newsworthy" ("if it bleeds it leads")? Are they forums for neighborhood- or restaurant-specific cheerleading, in which case criticism is branded "negativity"? I think it's possible to detect all these purposes operating on sites like this at any given time, and a person might even switch from one to the other occasionally. In any case, this ambivalence of purpose can lead to crossed wires and therefore controversy; my first posts on egullet taught me that lesson early on. I'm not suggesting this problem can or should be resolved, but it should be kept in mind.

Whatever tack one chooses, however, it seems to me that two things must always be avoided: unsubstantiated trashing of a restaurant ("drive-by's") and snide or ad hominem comments designed to rob another poster's comments of reason or legitimacy. It is the latter fault that has bothered me in reading some of chef's posts in the CK thread.

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Its funny how people have the Cojones to slam a restaurant in a relatively anonymous forum. Yet, they can't seem to make a peep when they are at the actual restaurant, when the incident has just happened.

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Oh yeah.  You are spot on Bill.

An example - try mentioning a subpar meal at Palena and see how far you get.  :lol:

Or Rays the Steaks...

I have to say that I did feel personally attacked simply because of my opinion on a restaurant where I clearly said I loved the food, but did not enjoy the atmosphere. I love that the "Chef" responded directly to me about my experience at Colorado Kitchen, but what was not cool was the personal attack I had from other people on this board that seemed to believe I was criticizing the restaurant simply for fun.

I am not a professional writer/critic on food. And I don't think that anyone else here is either. I am just a regular chick that likes to go out to eat from time to time.

I think that there is no value, NO VALUE, in criticizing a poster for saying somthing negative about a joint when you adore it. A lot of people here would kill for the food at Firefly...

Me: Not a fan.

So I would urge everyone to "easy does" just a bit when making personal attacks. This includes chefs at restaurants as well.

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what was not cool was the personal attack I had

[Looking down from the crows nest, it isn't always easy for me to interpret things the way others might. If anyone, ever, feels that they've been unfairly dissed, please alert me.

Also, please suppress the urge to engage in personal squabbles within the forum. They always come across as petty, and are best suited to PM or Email (I deleted a couple of postings here that fell strongly within that category.)

Everyone here is free to voice their opinions, but once again, anonymous criticism of a restaurant without supporting detail is fair game for closer scrutiny. Sometimes I read things and wonder to myself, "how much does this person actually know?" Nevertheless, this is not a criminal trial, where someones character and background should be called into question.

Democratically,
Nebuchadnezzar.]

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I couldn't agree more that there are restaurants, both here and at eG (for all practical purposes, this difference is irrelevant by now), that have built a sacred cow reputation. Example: Palena, Komi, RTS. They have built that reputation by cooking fantastic food and delivering a great dining experience to many of us time after time. The sacred cow reputation doesn't just fall out of the sky. It is typically grown and cultivated very carefully. When that reputation has been attained, a restaurant is typically forgiven small missteps that would be dissected much more carefully for a new arriver on the scene.

It's the same in sports. Does Michelle Kwan get overscored from time to time? Sure she does. No one wants to diss the legend. But she did not find her legend dog tags under her pillow one day. I don't think so. She got them after winning championship after championship (Michelle Kwan for Gold in 2006!!!) with terrific skates and sportsmanship. So I don't care if she is given a break that younger skaters are not, yet. She earned it.

Having said this, I do think it's unseemly to treat someone like "you are a bad person because you don't like the place I like" just because they happen to feel that way. As long as the critical comment is couched in factual, straight terms - and not in our very own DR.com's brand of Foodie Ventworm Nut Sarcasm , it should and does have a place here.

How do I feel when someone criticizes Komi, a place where I would gladly eat every Friday night and some Saturdays? My heart objects. My mind says, oh well, different strokes for different folks. I'm not going to call someone a jackass because they don't like what I like or have a different experience from me, which most diners do at Komi anyway (thanks to Chef and Fab Seb.) Neither am I going to fault a chef for taking critical comments too close to heart. Hell, all chefs are crazy. They wouldn't go into business if they weren't. They are there to do what they do, which is to cook and serve food. And we are here to do what we do, which is talk about it. As long as everyone operates with a supersize helping of courtesy, reason and good humor, World Peace shoud prevail.

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What about the person that complains after only one visit?  Surely first impression are important and everyone cannot afford to try places multiple times, but what if it was an off night?

Aren't first impressions vital in this industry? What if it is a splurge for the diner(and remember one person's splurge is another's regular hangout) and they don't get to give a restaurant a second chance?

When is it fair to criticize a restaurant on a forum such as this?

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