It is a truth universally acknowledged that Google Reviews, Yelp, and other crowd-sourced reviewing platforms probably do not have the best interests of small restaurants in mind.
The list of documented issues with user-driven platforms is long—fake reviews, delivery platform cuts, racism, algorithms that prioritize negative feedback over positive feedback—though sometimes the issue with reviews is as simple as a customer with a vendetta. (As Anthony Bourdain once said: “You open a restaurant, you struggle for a year to put together the money, you work your heart out, and then 10 minutes after opening, some miserable b—— is tweeting or Yelping, “Worst. Dinner. Ever.”)
This was the case this past April, when diners came into the Carrboro location of Luna Rotisserie and, when they were asked to wear masks, became combative. Afterward, they posted a one-star review of the restaurant on Google Reviews.
“We had some folks that came in intentionally to harass us,” Luna owner Shawn Stokes told the INDY over the phone. “It was pretty clear that they had come in with the intent of making a scene. It was during the first mask mandate, before the vaccines, and the staff just wasn’t having any of it. We have outdoor seating as well and they were insisting on eating indoors, even though the weather was fine outside. It was clear that they were there for the sole purpose of making a point that we were somehow infringing upon their freedoms.”
The review, posted by the patrons after they left, takes some left turns.
“This place is full of satanic activity,” it reads. “As free breathing humans, we were discriminated against, the wait staff refused to serve our laughing, smiling faces. I cannot believe the treatment we received here, as if we were “below” them. If you like freedom, go elsewhere!!”
Stokes says that although customers have by and large been supportive of mask mandates, working with the knowledge that an irate, unmasked customer could walk in at any moment has put a toll on employees, over the past eighteen months.
Originally, he made the shirt—designed by Chip Hoppin at The Merch in Carrboro—for staff and family, but soon, customers began requesting them as well. And when Skyler Jay, an employee at the restaurant, posted a picture of the shirt on Twitter in mid-October, it received thousands of likes and retweets and a flood of online orders.
As of last night, the marigold-colored T-shirt is also available for order online.
“When I saw the [review] that said, ‘There’s a lot of satanic activity going on here’ it was just a gem that I couldn’t pass up,” Stokes says. “The world must see this and how ridiculous it is.”
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