Yelp reviewers accused of 'Animal Planet feeding frenzy'

March 23, 2011 at 4:42 PM ET

Piranha 3D /
"We're gonna need a bigger serving tray."

A recent letter sent by Yelp administration reprimands the user review site's "Elite Squad" for "rabid ferocity" likened "to an Animal Planet feeding frenzy." And it makes us wonder …

A.  Just what in the name of Great Grant Achatz  is going on over at the user review site, and …

B.  How can we get on board?!, the food blog that recently broke the news that Yelp added "hipster" to its restaurant and bar ambiance types, obtained "a totally insane email sent to New York City's Elite Yelpers — the frequent reviewers Yelp invites to special, free events."

As's Paula Forbes summarizes, "It seems a Yelp staffer witnessed absolute, abject terror in the eyes of a waiter' at a recent event who was 'traumatized by the rabid ferocity with which certain guests attacked his plate of hors d'oeuvres.'"

Yelp, turns out,  is unfamiliar with "Free Food," that ugly phenomenon that debases even the hoity-toitiest of joints into Whole Foods on a Sunday, where humanity's hordes battle to first blood over cubed cheese and pineapple chunks. And speaking of Whole Foods, Yelp has "hipster" in its ambiance descriptions. What caliber of "Elite" reviewers was it hoping for?

This "rude, and honestly embarrassing" behavior, as described in the reprimand, runs counter to most of the qualities required to become a member of the Yelp Elite Squad, described on the user review site as  "a way of recognizing the most passionate Yelpers that makes our community so funny, useful and cool! Yelp Elites get a nifty annual badge on their Yelp profiles, and have the opportunity to get invited to exclusive local events and parties hosted by Yelp, where you can meet fellow Yelpers."

Indeed, such behavior is "funny" to those of us learning these antics third hand (really funny), but useful and cool? Not so much. Further, there's no telling if the perpetrators are even members of what the Yelp letter describes as "the deserving connoisseurs of the NYC nightlife and dining scene." It seems some Elite Squad members are not above bringing an entourage, or offering up event invites on the open market. Among the stricter guidelines called out in the reprimand, Elite Squad members are told, "Do not auction off your RSVP and/or your +1 to the highest bidder."

Other new Dos and Don'ts of Elite Squad special events:

  • In the interest of everyone's enjoyment, please do not camp out wherever food might be emerging, and fight tooth and nail to snatch multiple samples before the rest of the crowd is able to try even one.
  • If you are truly that hungry, please take our advice and eat something prior to the event.
  • Please do not inform us two hours before the event starts that your entire extended family is in town and you will now be requiring a +4.

To be fair though, the letter does offer up more than a few apologetic shout-outs to "the many, many Elites out there who have been unfailingly polite." And truly, wouldn't society be better if we all observed such basic guidelines — be it our next buffet-based wedding reception, holiday office celebration or any gathering of five or more – "Elite" or otherwise?

More stories about the annoying way we live now:

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