Comps and Compromised: Reviewers and “Power”

We’ve talked about comps and how reviewers can abuse the system for their own benefit before. I believe thise NYPost Page six item illustrates this point rather well (login: password:hedonist)

After the wine-y critic was seated, Morfogen visited his table to confirm that everything was satisfactory. Given another opportunity to vent, Passmore obliged.

“The food is great, however, I didn’t like my treatment at the door,” he said.

Morfogen said he was dumbfounded. “Food writers come in unidentified,” he said. “You never know they’re in the room. This guy did everything the opposite. I’ve never seen anything like it. It was surreal.”

Things only got worse when Passmore was presented with a check at the end of the meal.

According to Morfogen, Passmore growled, “I do not pay when reviewing a restaurant. If I pay this check, I will write an unfavorable review about Philippe.”

“I’m not going to pay for a review,” Morfogen said he replied. “My policy is that I don’t comp for reviews.”

For better or worse, comps are part of the food industry. The ethics for taking comps is a matter that certainly lends itself for interesting discussions, but it doesn’t change the fact that comps exist.

However, some people have forgotten that comps are short for “complimentary”. They are a bonus, an addition, nothing more. Anyone who requires a comp to do their job has missed the point of food writing. Anyone who demands a comp is abusing their position and the privilege of that position.

However (and I’m only putting this out here to not convict Mr. Passmore outright), if I had a new restaurant in New York city and wanted to get noticed, what better way to get publicity than to manufacture an episode that paints their location as a victim while putting any review of the place by a specific critic under the category of “compromised and biased”?

It’s a cynical thought to be sure, but one that should at least be acknowledged, even if only to dismiss it as “too contrived”. Personally I tend to believe the restaurant’s story, if only because it’s the one more likely to happen. As Occams Razor states: Given two equally predictive theories, choose the simpler. A critic acting like many humans act when they have presumed “power” is far more likely than my own conspiracy theories. But innocent until proven guilty, I suppose.

If you want to read the entire article, I’m posting it below the jump, as I have no idea on how long the link above will work.

Technorati Tags: Food and Drink, Food Writing, Ethics


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