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Skip Yelp, text your terrible experience right to the restaurant

TalkToTheManager.com / Today

Sometimes it's easier to grouse on a site like Yelp about a crummy restaurant than to let the restaurant itself know about a problem. Not all restaurant owners check Yelp — but many of them pay for the consequences of lousy reviews without getting a chance to address the reviewers' complaints. A new program, Talk to the Manager, lets you text gripes right to those in charge at the eatery, with the philosophy behind the program being, "Help us before you Yelp us."

"Talk to the Manager" works like this: Say you find the restaurant's bathrooms filthy. While you're at the restaurant, you don't even have to get up from your table to complain, or hope that your waiter or waitress will pass your concerns on. You text a message to the number on the card on your table (example shown above). The message goes to the restaurant manager and to the owner. One of them responds, sending an apology and saying the restrooms will be cleaned up (and then, presumably, following through).

The result (in an ideal world): "The customer is impressed by your outstanding service and tells more people about you," says TalkToTheManager.com.

John Washam, CEO and founder of the service, which launched in March, said it costs $15 a month per establishment. "That covers 500 messages — most small businesses will never come close to that — and 1.5 cents each message over that," he said in a email interview with TODAY. "Businesses with more than one location can put all of them on the same account. Each establishment gets their own unique phone number."

Washam sees TalkToTheManager as something that could work for other service-oriented businesses, too, including "hotels, spas, salons, retail. The list goes on."

Foodbeast.com, which writes about food news, has mixed thoughts about the program. People are already spending too much time on their phones at restaurants as it is. Writes Geoff Kutnick:

One of the main problems we foresee is the continued encouragement towards customers to connect with others via various digital devices rather than communicate with people live at the table or in the establishment. We’ve all seen the table of four, each individual with the glowing spectrum of light emitting from their smartphones — tweeting, Instagramming, texting and the like. Do we really want to encourage more of this?

TalkToTheManager.com, though, says the benefits of the program include retaining customers restaurants otherwise might have lost, creating positive buzz and improving online review ratings "by fixing issues while the customer is still there (before they become bad reviews)."

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