Meet Seattle’s Elite Yelp Reviewers

Craig Fukutomi recalls his first Yelp review with the loving clarity of someone telling the story of how they met their spouse. We are in the Black Bear Diner in Redmond in 2007. The women of the world are still suffering from the autocratic regime of low-rise denim and “Fergalicious“Tops the charts. Inside the diner, however, the air is said to have been sub. reachedzero temperatures.

Craig and his family huddle together, trembling and hungry, no caring waiter in sight. The kitchen is made up of “most things” and someone has to get “pop” from the grocery store for the beleaguered customers. Craig and his family are forced to stare at their food, which is out of reach on the heating shelf – until Craig takes matters into his own hands. He fetches the provisions himself so that he and his relatives don’t should die of the cold. Give up all hope that you enter here because they keep an eye on the thermostat and the bang runnet dry.

This harrowing experience inspired Fukutomi to post their first Yelp review.

More than a decade later, Craig F. – as he is called in the Yelp naming conventions – rose to a prominent position in the site’s hierarchy. He is a member of the Seattle “Elite Squad”,, a handpicked collection of influencers who have been rewarded for their productive reviews with swag and (at least before the pandemic) exclusive parties from local restaurateurs. Some Elite Squad members have thousands of reviews under their belt and treat yelping as a side job. Their motivations vary, but as restaurants and other small businesses struggled to survive the pandemic, the power of these few elite reviewers became more apparent than ever.

So much so that recently two business owners from Seattle launched a podcast entitled “Dear Elite Reviewer” that reflects the impact of online reviews – and enables operators to respond. “It’s really easy to get behind a keyboard and troll people,” says co-host James Lim in the pilot.

“I am not what I am. This is not the yelper type I am, ”says Craig F. He is a daytime Boeing engineer and sees his involvement with Yelp as a public service that helps small business owners hone and perfect their craft. He just wished they didn’t take things so personally.

NoSeattleites plagued by freeze motorists could hardly be blamed for this With a platform that rewards avoidance with shiny digital badges and IRL charcuterie boards.

He remembers a food truck owner who confronted him via DM after posting a negative review. Craig F. defended himself, “I just want to let you know that people don’t like it when their fries taste like fish.” The truck is now closed. “I would like to think that if he’d followed the advice of others and me, he might still be there.”

While Craig F. may not be the yelper type to dangle the prospect of bad review over the head of a restaurant to secure a table by the window, his elite opinions have a huge impact. This is ensured by Yelp’s proprietary algorithm, the cryptic “Yelp Sort”. It sends elite reviews to the top, where they stay anchored even when reviews come in from smaller yelpers.

Craig F. takes his elite responsibilities so seriously that sometimes he doesn’t even post a negative review, but instead approaches the manager or owner of a facility directly. But the notoriously frost-ridden Seattle supporters can hardly be blamed for choosing a platform instead that rewards avoidance with shiny digital badges and IRL charcuterie boards. Or maybe it’s because Yelp makes its users feel empowered in a very calculated way that they don’t do anywhere else in their lives. Especially at a time when so many of us feel helpless and isolated. Is it reasonable to say that for many users, Yelp is an outlet for opinions that the world might otherwise be indifferent to?

“Yes. That’s exactly it, it’s a valve,” says Craig F ..

The selection process Sounds purposely vague to these superstar reviewers, at least as Seattle Elite Community Manager Lauren P. puts it. Yelpers usually nominate themselves, then “an elite council in Yelp HQ makes the final decision on the nominees.” But the community that emerges from it can be very real. Lauren P. and her husband met their child’s godparents through Yelp, and during the pandemic, coastal resident Marie Beltran (better known as Yelp Elite nom de plume Marie B.) considered it her “primary connection to humanity”, which is why she is not just a “stingy included”.

Marie B. believes her years as a pastry chef lead to fairer reviews.

“A lot of people think, ‘Oh, it’s like that’ glamorous. It’s not Food Network, it is Not Top chef… If you stay in it for a long time, it is for love. It’s a brutal industry. “Bad or badly informed reviews leave you amazed.”W.he don’t you walk in the shoes of the people who serve you or prepare your food? “

In 1983 she moved to Seattle to attend the University of Washington, and has seen the city’s culinary scene explode over the past few decades – she sees herself as a true ambassador for the city.

When I called to inquire about her position as an Elite Yelper, she was sitting on a deck in Lynnwood with traffic buzzing in the background. She came from Shoreline to try Seoul Hotdog, curious what all the fuss about these “Asian Hotdogs” is like. Your subsequent review will be the availability of parking and the The challenge of comparing it to a similar place in Chinatown – International District. In that moment, she said to me she enjoyed her dog, but that “it was nothing to write home about per se.” But write home, she will do it.

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