Continuing with the gangster theme, mobster hacks are using the Internet to collect points.
The Sacramento Bee reported a few days ago that restaurant owner Sonny Mayugba was given an offer he almost could not refuse two weeks ago.
Not by a local gangster, but by a user of a popular online review site, Yelp.com.
Mayugba said the user threatened to blast the Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar at 2718 J St., which Mayugba co-owns, on Yelp because he believed he and his party got food poisoning from their meals.
Mayugba said it was impossible to prove whether the man got food poisoning from the restaurant but offered to give him a $60 gift card to a restaurant of his choice. The man said he deserved $100. If the restaurant did not pay up, he said he would write a bad Yelp review and report him to health authorities.
Is what happened to the Red Rabbit Kitchen an isolated case? Or has the growth in popularity of restaurant review websites – which allow anyone to write and rate restaurants from one to five stars – created a new way for some people to get preferential treatment.
Restaurant owners say online websites have changed consumer behavior as many people rely more on citizen reviews than on reviews of professional critics or advertisements. Yelp had a monthly average of more than 71 million unique visitors and 27 million reviews worldwide this year from January to the end of March, the company said.
In the end, Mayugba said, he refused to give the man anything and is not sure if the man posted a review on Yelp. But he said the experience made him rethink the value of Yelp and websites like it, which he said he loves.
"I was so upset," Mayugba said. "He was taking something that was inherently good to use it as a tool to extort a restaurant. It was just so wrong."
Kristen Whisenand, public relations manager for Yelp, said in an email that the website allows for users and business owners to flag reviews that violate the website’s terms of service. If it is determined the review is fake, biased or malicious, it will be taken down.
"More people trust citizen reviews these days," said Mayugba, who started a social networking website for the restaurant industry in 2007.
"Social media is a wonderful thing for the world, but when its integrity is compromised, what is it worth?