Monday, November 19, 2012

Disclaimer

I started doing restaurant reviews on my personal blog, Fertile Ground Zine, seven years ago as a way to deal with how awful it was to dine out in restaurants with my young children. At the time the monkeys were both under three, and the only thing I cared about was getting in and getting out without major incident. The reviews focused mostly on the service and the cleanliness of the restrooms, and usually included an in-depth, often exaggerated description of the hijinx that ensued during the meal. My reviews were popular enough that when someone I suggested I dedicate an entire blog to them, I did.

Seven years later, Dining with Monkeys has evolved into an award winning blog, and I am often recognized as "The Dining with Monkeys lady." Now that my kids are older, and I have several years of freelance writing under my belt, my reviews are more polished and food-centric, but my overall goal is still to simply point families in the direction of good dining experiences by arming them with pertinent information.

If I have a bad experience, I try to write the review in a way to help others avoid my mistakes so that they may have a good experience. If I go somewhere that is truly not appropriate for children, or adults for that matter, I typically err on the side of just not writing anything. I am not here to put anyone out of business. Just the opposite is true. I love promoting local businesses.

Notice that there isn't a single ad here? That's because I don't do this blog to make money. And although I do often write about food for the Flyer, the CA, and Edible Memphis, this blog is not affiliated with any of those publications. It's 100% independent and all of the opinions expressed are my own (or those of the guest reviewer). I am not compensated in any way before, during, or after writing a review.

I just wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page because I had a really unsettling experience on Friday. I was verbally assaulted at a local cafe and refused service based on a review I had written two years prior. I have never had anything like this happen, and was totally shocked. One of the owners, who yelled at me for a good ten minutes, seemed most upset about two things: First, that I had written my review after he had been open for only three weeks, and second, that I had posted a picture of my son frowning in his restaurant. He didn't want to listen to what I had to say, so I will say it here.

There used to be a rule that newspapers would not review a restaurant until they had been open for three months. Well, the internet changed that, didn't it? These days it almost seems like there is a race to get to a restaurant and be the first one to review it. I am definitely guilty of this. I get excited when new places open, especially if there is a lot of buzz about them.

When I go to a new restaurant, I definitely take their newness into consideration and do my best to give a fair review. (I try to be fair in all of my reviews!) I have been known to offer criticism, but especially in the case of new restaurants, I try to make it constructive. There is a comments section after each post for people, including owners, to express their own opinions, or question mine. My email address (stacey@fertilegroundzine.com) is also in my profile.

As for the picture of Satchel frowning over his lunch, well, all I can say is, "It isn't about YOU." Kids are moody and they don't always like their food. Sometimes dining with kids sucks. End of story.

I'm not out to get anyone. I'm just a writer and a mother who enjoys dining out. If you think I'm being unfair, or if you have something to say, feel free to say it here, or email me. I definitely prefer that to being torn a new asshole in public.

I hope that those of you who have found my reviews useful will continue to read and enjoy this blog.

Thank you!

34 comments:

jamie said...

uhh... it wasn't even a bad review... I happen to love your blog, btw. and I live in ohio!

bridgmanpottery said...

Stacey, Gary and I talked about this on Saturday. I consult DWM before we head to any new-to-us restaurant in Memphis. You're fair, you're entertaining, and we generally agree with your assessments. If a business can make your monkeys happy, they can make our monkey happy. Keep up the good work.

Divers and Sundry said...

i just re-read the old review, and they were all hot-and-bothered over that? i agree with jamie: it wasn't even a bad review.

that said, a bad review won't stop me from trying a restaurant. knowing they threw such a drama-queen fit and refused you service for sharing your opinion will.

why didn't they just ask you to come back and revise your opinion after they'd been open for a while?

i get a kick out of your reviews.

Colville Clan of TN said...

We've been in Memphis for 2 years now and I always check your blog before trying a new place, especially since I have two boys under 4. If an owner can't handle to have anything potentially negative said about them, they really shouldn't be working in any way with the public, you can't please everyone. If you can't take a negative and use it to improve, then get out. I think you're doing great and look forward to more reviews!

Wendy said...

As I told you yesterday, I've had "worse" reviews that I took as compliments and proudly hung on my wall.

I think you do an amazing job of championing local restaurants (and other businesses), and have most certainly made Memphis a better place to live and be a parent. Keep on keepin' on!

Anonymous said...

Stacey, I love your blog and enjoy reading about your experiences. I love dining vicariously through you and your family. All I can say is keep doing what your doing and "Shake the Haters Off."

MandySue said...

I LOVE your blog and like many other Memphians like to read your reviews before checking out a new to me place. I like how you are always honest and give restaurants the benefit of the doubt when you have a less than positive experience. I too think it's important to support locally owned businesses but I've never even heard of this place and now I will be sure to NEVER go there; if they can turn you away they must be doing super well and don't need my money either - I only spend my hard earned dollars where it is appreciated.

Anonymous said...

This is depressing. Always wanted to try this place, but anyone that would take something so innocent that close to heart makes me not want to give them a shot anymore.

I crave bagels and Lox. Guess I'll just have to stick with Republic.

Keep doing what you do!

Ashley said...

I enjoy the shit out of your blog.

Chip Chockley said...

I imagine Sharon's got some business from the exposure in the initial blog post, and I imagine that they just lost the business of everyone who has ever read DWM.

Wendy said...

What Chip said!

MamaJolley said...

I agree that it was not a bad review. What's wrong with this chick? I definitely won't be trying this place out - unless and until she offers you an apology.
Your reviews are always positive - so I am sure that if you have something bad to say - you don't say anything. I enjoy your reviews - and look forward to each and every one! Keep doing what you do! You rock!!!

Anonymous said...

I enjoy reading your blog and frequently check your review before trying someplace new to me. As a parent of two children, I appreciate reading a review that does more than simply tell me if the food is award worthy. Thank you for your dedication to this blog.

And, as others have said, I will make sure to avoid this restaurant because of the owner's attitude. There is a right way and a wrong way to express disappointment to a person, and this restaurant chose the wrong way.

Anonymous said...

Whatever place blasted you has just as much right to do so as you do to blast them on your award-winning blog. It's called freedom. I feel sorry for fellow diners who are subjected to your children. And as for not being compensated for your blogging-I bet you save all those receipts and try to write off all those meals. You are not the victim as your proclaim. Real writers don't mind being controversial.

Divers and Sundry said...

anonymous wrote, "Whatever place blasted you has just as much right to do so as you do to blast them on your award-winning blog."

first, that review did not "blast them". it wasn't even a bad review. sheesh, people are awfully tetchy...

and of course they have a right to "blast" her, but actions have consequences.

in this case, because the blogger gets treated without any respect and is refused service, she can write a post describing a much more negative experience than her actual review did.

the shop owner has a right to treat customers like dirt, but that doesn't mean it makes good business sense.

i'm not likely to go to a place where there's a risk i'll be made a public spectacle of because of some perceived fault.

i'm just thinkin' a business owner could get better press using a response more like, "oh, i recognize you. i'm sorry your last experience wasn't fantastic and hope you'll enjoy yourself more this time. thx for giving us a second chance."

Anonymous said...

I agree that it wasn't a bad review of his restaurant and that he seems strangely out of line in the level of overreaction to it. Your food blogging has never even come close to being perceived as serious food writing, so in a way I think its kind of a compliment that such a redneck as he would take your writing to heart. If you played this correctly, you may have finally found an audience worthy of your talents.

Anonymous said...

irst, that review did not "blast them". it wasn't even a bad review. sheesh, people are awfully tetchy...

The owner perceived it as a blast or poor review. And you are right Ms. Greenberg isn't a professional restaurant reviewer nor a professional journalist.

What was your second point since you used "first"?

Stacey Greenberg said...

Ok people, this isn't the Commercial Appeal. Move along with the anonymous hating.

Laura said...

I have known Sharon for about 5 years now, from her days selling at the local farmers markets, before she had her own shop. I have always known Sharon to be nothing but lovely and kind, and am shocked and saddened to hear about what her husband said to you. I stop into her shop every few months to buy truffles or take a pizza to go and we have a friendly chat about family and what's new and she always remembers what we talked about the last time, even if months have gone by. I agree with other posters, I find nothing offensive in your review and in fact feel that your comments then still hold true today. I also agree that I have never read any review by you of any restaurant that is out of line or offensive. As someone who has known Sharon and her husband for a while now, I believe that this behavior is not the norm. And I hope that there can be resolution and forgiveness from both sides. And that maybe his behavior can be chalked up to having a really bad day.

Anonymous said...

I've been enjoying your blog for a few years now. I've never found one of your "reviews" to be overly negative - including the one in question here.

I will say that I'm still going to give Sharon's the benefit of the doubt - because I still want to try them.
Maybe the guy was just having a horrible day. That doesn't give him the right to lash out at you. But I would hate for a person to lose business over a one-time mistake - even though it was a terrible mistake.

Anonymous said...

I can't stand you and your family because you seem so needy and desperately self-promotional.
I agree 100% that the guy overreacted to your 'review' as it were. SHAME ON HIM.

Stacey Greenberg said...

See, Anon, that just makes me want to kiss you/buy you a drink/go out for lunch. Good one.

Poot Whistle said...

You have to be kidding. “Verbally assaulted” is such a loaded, useless phrase. It’s obvious you’re trying to trump up the seriousness of what went down. It’s their business; they didn’t want you in it; they don’t have to give you a reason why. He was candid about the reason to your face, just like you asked him to be in this “disclaimer,” but what did you do? You ran back to your blog to publicly throw the restaurant owners under the bus and get your little peanut gallery of friends to coddle you and your damaged pride.

If you must post a “disclaimer,” which this current blog post clearly is not, make sure it outlines the intention of your blog. Your current disclaimer is blatant tattling about the event, and your desired result is to have your readers boycott the restaurant. A disclaimer for your blog should state that you do not follow the standard criteria of journalistic restaurant reviews, and this blog is merely a vehicle to promote yourself as some self-prescribed, local personality who’s entitled to special treatment upon recognition.

Stacey Greenberg said...

Good grief, Poot Whistle. I have at no time asked anyone to boycott this business. I did not ask for special treatment. I simply ordered lunch.

Anonymous said...

"Good Grief, Poot Whistle!" is my new catch-phrase.

Anonymous said...

I read the original review and found it innocuous- certainly it wouldn't have deterred me from trying the restaurant, but I didn't think twice about it. Now, however, I've shared the story of the extraordinary actions of the owner with at least a dozen people.

The fact that the owner clearly felt that it was okay to harass a customer- any customer- speaks for itself. I look forward to reading the inevitable news of their closure.

(As an aside to Stacey, I'd request from Blogger & log the ISP addresses of the extraordinarily hateful commentor above. They pretty clearly originate with the angry owner, and might be useful if he continues to harass you. Good grief poot whistle, indeed!)

Poot Whistle said...

You guys are giving Stacey and her blog's power entirely too much credit...

bumhorn said...

and you are giving poot whistles a bad name...

Mark Bourland said...

Much ado about nothing from where I sit. I started reading your blog a couple years ago and have enjoyed it. I agree most of your "negative" comments are constructive. I am childless but think many of the characteristics of "family friendly" restaurants are also desirable to those like me...good service, adequate space, clean restrooms, fair prices, etc. Please carry on.

Poot Whistle...you need to lighten up.

godawgs said...

Hey Stacey,

I have been reading your blog for about 2 years now. No kids but my husband and I love your insight. I'm sorry you had a bad experience at Sharon's, I only went there after your review and it has since become a favorite. I've met Sharon and her husband many times since and they're a nice couple. I'm surprised that neither you nor Sharon and her husband took the high road in this matter. Just as they have a 'right' to refuse service due to a perceived slight, you have the 'right' to cause their business some amount of harm from the 'disclaimer' review with their names highlighted. But an "eye for an eye, makes the whole world blind' - Ghandi.

I'm going to continue visiting Sharon's and continue reading your blog. I hope you both can find forgiveness and move on.

Divers and Sundry said...

"I'm surprised that neither you nor Sharon and her husband took the high road in this matter."

she was publicly embarrassed and refused service because they didn't like a review from -what was it- 2 _years_ ago. Goodness!

her response after being kicked out is this post about the experience, telling of her shock at the treatment. these days, are businesses surprised when their actions are discussed online?

i think she _has_ taken the high road! what would you have had her do?

btw, if you google "good grief, poot whistle" this post is the sole search result. nice! :)

Anonymous said...

I just read the original review as well. I can't believe they thought that was a bad review. It's very sad that they chose to behave that way toward you - whether they liked the review or not. You would think they would want an opportunity to prove you wrong, if that's what they really thought! It seems as if they have a few issues....

I'm glad that you chose to write about your experience. I know I will not spend my money at a business with owners that choose to treat their customers (even a reviewer) that way.

Your reviews are always pleasant and you never criticize harshly. Keep up the good work!

Queen of the Kitchen said...

Somebody needs Prozac. That is all I can surmise after reading your review.

Anonymous said...

The owners of Sharon's are particularly paranoid and sensitive which I think inhibits a lot of what they are capable of. Having been on the other side of the counter (for a very short time) I can attest that they are not particularly customer service oriented or business-minded.

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