Negative review site gives New Yorkers a place to kvetch
Pita Grill, a Turtle Bay business negatively reviewed on AvoiditNYC.com, contacted the commenter and used the experience as an opportunity to improve. The chain's COO Juan Manuel Perez is shown. (Photo: Brian Driscoll)
There’s no shortage of cynics in Gotham, and one New Yorker, particularly disgruntled after a bad visit to the dentist, has created a place for them to flock.
Brett Birman launched AvoiditNYC.com primarily for negative reviews of businesses after his dentist delivered the news that he had nine cavities. (A second opinion revealed he had only one.)
“I thought, ‘Where can I share this with people?’” said Birman, 23, who works in finance sales and lives on the Upper East Side. “I can’t put it on Yelp because it’ll be overshadowed.”
AvoiditNYC.com invites New Yorkers to post their bad experiences — from cold food at restaurants to rude bouncers at bars — and allows others to agree or disagree on comments with a thumbs-up or thumbs-down. The format ensures complaints don’t get buried in compliments, Birman said of his brainchild.
It also lets the business owners see what they’re doing wrong. They can contact users and reconcile the situation with them, a practice Yelp instituted only last year.
Pita Grill’s Turtle Bay location took advantage of this feature, apologizing to an AvoiditNYC.com user who posted a bland-food complaint. The entry on Pita Grill now displays a form message saying the business has looked into the concern. The restaurant vowed to do better for the customer in the future.
“Every review for me is important, good or bad,” said Pita Grill’s chief operating officer Juan Manuel Perez, 31. “When we have a managers’ meeting, I can say, ‘Guys, this is how we’re doing.’”
AvoiditNYC.com has had about 8,000 unique visitors since its January launch, and Birman stresses interaction is key. He hopes to expand the site down the road with member profiles and Facebook Connect, letting users log in with the social networking site.
But isn’t it a bit negative to have a Web site just for bad reviews?
“People have said that to me a few times. I said, ‘No, I think this is positive, because consumers can get this off their chests and businesses can improve,’” Birman said. “I don’t look at it as cynical at all because you’re looking at consumers feeling better and businesses performing better.”