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So much for my Yelp revenge
October 28, 2013 10:24 AM   Subscribe

When the men's clothing retailer author D. Foy contacted about purchasing a suit was unresponsive, Foy took to Yelp to post a negative review about his experience. The retailer responded with a threat of retaliatory feedback directed at Foy's upcoming novel.
posted by The Gooch (86 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
Since the conclusion is to be "Yelp brings out the worst in humanity", I agree with this piece, despite it raising my blood pressure along the way.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 10:32 AM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Da fuh?

It's like Diamond Age's notion of competing corporate/individual turfs.
posted by odinsdream at 10:32 AM on October 28, 2013


Gosh, I sure am glad everyone acted like grownups about it.

The thing I find weird is that businesses are scared of Yelp. I understand that bad reviews are unfortunate, but do they really break your business in half? This suitmaker responded to the negative Yelp review like it was an existential threat.
posted by Fraxas at 10:37 AM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


"The man from the shop, in other words, may as well have threatened to maim my bride-to-be or, if I had a child, to kidnap it. My book, returned after all these years with a smile behind its scraggly beard, was born of me as surely as a baby."

The author feels this way about his book, but can't imagine that someone else might feel the same way about his business? When he wrote the negative yelp review, his intent was to ruin the tailor. The tailor was just paying in kind.

(I hate yelp).
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 10:39 AM on October 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I feel like he really overreacted. They both did.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:40 AM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm not a Yelp user; can you not post reviews anonymously?
posted by Brocktoon at 10:43 AM on October 28, 2013


*Oppose Violates WP:POINT and WP:HOUND. ~~~~
posted by stbalbach at 10:45 AM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


BuddhaInABucket: "When he wrote the negative yelp review, his intent was to ruin the tailor. The tailor was just paying in kind. "

His negative experience actually happened. And a negative review ≠ "ruin." The tailor was threatening to take revenge against him by having his staff post lies about the author's book. Not the same thing.
posted by zarq at 10:49 AM on October 28, 2013 [47 favorites]


The author feels this way about his book, but can't imagine that someone else might feel the same way about his business? When he wrote the negative yelp review, his intent was to ruin the tailor. The tailor was just paying in kind.

No, not really. The author criticized the business because he felt that the customer service was terrible. The business owner was going to give the book negative reviews, not because they didn't like it, but because "Fuck that guy". He'd decided, ahead of time, to give negative reviews, for reasons that had nothing to do with the quality of the item being reviewed.

That said, I'd like to hear the business owner's side of it. Perhaps the author was not the polite and enthusiastic prospective customer he claimed to be.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 10:51 AM on October 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


I would flag this post but now I'm scared!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:51 AM on October 28, 2013 [12 favorites]


The shop owner's inablity to attend to simple email inquiries makes me extremely skeptical of the organizations ability to carry out his stated threats. Furthermore their inability to attend to simple customer inquiries in a predictable fashion leaves me questioning the business' ability to call of the hounds set to be released.
posted by humanfont at 10:52 AM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


So he didn't actually do business with the retailer - in fact, he decided to take his business elsewhere - yet he decided to leave a shitty review anyway? No money changed hands, and he only suffered a day or two of indecision over whether or not to take his business elsewhere?

Obviously the tailor dude is also a dick but wow, writer dude is a hypersensitive overreacting vindictive man-baby.
posted by elizardbits at 10:52 AM on October 28, 2013 [30 favorites]


I was 100% positive this was satire until I got to the link to the (all too real) Washington Post article. The author is just so whiny and entitled, I couldn't believe it.
posted by kjh at 10:53 AM on October 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


"The author feels this way about his book, but can't imagine that someone else might feel the same way about his business?"

The book was innocent. The business was directly related.
posted by mystyk at 10:53 AM on October 28, 2013


Also now I am wondering if all the positive yelp reviews that were read were actually falsely posted by employees.
posted by elizardbits at 10:54 AM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


“And besides,” my friend said, delivering the final blow, “do you really want to carry all this anger around for the next six months? You really want to wake up every day fantasizing about revenge? It’s not worth it, man.”

I think that comment from his friend is really fantastic, a sentiment that shows a lot of maturity. I know I (and also many other people) could really stand to learn to "Just let things go."
posted by lelandbatey at 10:55 AM on October 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


I feel like the author has now guaranteed reprisal from the business. It doesn't take much detective work to figure out who they are, now that the story is on Slate. (I'm not going to say who it is, because it's clear his review was fair.)
posted by justkevin at 10:55 AM on October 28, 2013


I'm more surprised by the author's shock at the quality of online commentary. I'm glad he learned that ignoring it is the best option, but he questioned the tailor's internet familiarity while giving the appearance of oblivion of comment vitriol. An odd self-presentation.

Also, I love this passage:

"'Yep,' he said. 'I eagerly look forward to your book coming out. Going to make sure it’s flooded with scathing reviews.'"

The email has the delicious tone of a dismissive small-town mechanic:

"Look son," he says, gesturing to mostly-empty clothing racks, "as you can see, I've got a lotta suits to tailor, so I have room for exactly zero shits in my schedule until that fancy book of yours is released. Then you'll hear from me."
posted by Turkey Glue at 10:57 AM on October 28, 2013


elizardbits: Also now I am wondering if all the positive yelp reviews that were read were actually falsely posted by employees.

I have long been skeptical about shops with just a few glowing reviews. Unfortunately, in smaller communities, some businesses have no reviews or one 5 star review, so it's a crapshoot any way you go.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:57 AM on October 28, 2013


elizardbits: "So he didn't actually do business with the retailer "

So?

Seriously, if someone treated me disrespectfully when I was trying to buy something from them, then I'd certainly consider writing a review explaining what happened.
posted by zarq at 10:58 AM on October 28, 2013 [36 favorites]


If you are opening or running a business in this day and age and not considering how vital of a role online reviews are going to play in the future and health of your business? That's your fault. Be prepared for anyone and everyone to smear your joint online at the drop of the hat. Especially in New York city. Then, conduct your business accordingly.

It sucks, and believe me, I'm the first to complain about wannabe amateur hour fake "foodies" smearing great restaurants in my neighborhood on Yelp because a waitress looked at them funny or because "they've been to Japan and this ramen is HARDLY authentic" (or some other such petty bullshit). But thems the breaks now.

If you run a business and you want to ignore your customers, or be racist or disrespectful or carry yourself in an unprofessional manner then be prepared for some shmo to bitch about it online. If you are not prepared then you suck at running a business, also you're stupid and out of touch, the end.
posted by windbox at 10:59 AM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


So he didn't actually do business with the retailer

"This retailer treats business inquiries so shoddily that I took my business elsewhere" is a review I'd find useful as a consumer.
posted by immlass at 11:00 AM on October 28, 2013 [39 favorites]


While the customer service was indeed poor, I find the lack of empathy astounding. Maybe the guy is bad with email/doesn't check the phone, has limited tech resources, or is just too busy at the moment. It's not a good business practice, but maybe he operates best/only in person.
posted by Turkey Glue at 11:02 AM on October 28, 2013


I'm really not sure who I like less in this exchange.

I mean, I guess it's good that Foy learned something about ego and the self and letting go in the end, but reading about adults learning such basic bits of cognition so late in life is sorta hard for me to get congratulatory over.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 11:03 AM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


If before I’d had any doubts as to the man’s soundness, they were herewith dispelled forever and a day.

For whatever reason, halfway through reading this article, I started hearing it in the voice of Frasier's Gil Chesterton.
posted by MoxieProxy at 11:04 AM on October 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


He should've called the guy on it. I mean how much time do these employees have to write bad reviews? Are they really going to work nights and weekends to pen dreadful screeds that betray an utter lack of familiarity with the book? Have at it!
posted by Mister_A at 11:04 AM on October 28, 2013


Seriously, if someone treated me disrespectfully when I was trying to buy something from them, then I'd certainly consider writing a review explaining what happened.

Me, I'd let it go unless I thought it was motivated by misogyny or homophobia or something more than "this was a weird random bad interaction". There are lots of people who are happy to take my money. I really dislike the idea that we're all reporting on each other now - it seems to tend to turn into an arms race/entitlement race. On the one hand, the tendency to report more and more trivial things (whenever I read reviews of places I've visited multiple times, I'm struck by the petty lunacy of half the complaints) and on the other the tendency to believe that your staff must grovel like serfs in front of any fool with a dollar in his pocket. The boutique hotel near my office (where we put up guests of the office) has this ridiculous spiel that the reception staff have to give when they pick up the phone - it makes me nauseated that grown adults are made to act this way in fear that I'll whine on the internet about how they're insufficiently servile.

It's like now that the cold war is over we've decided to create our own capitalist secret police with more reach than Stalin could have dreamed.
posted by Frowner at 11:05 AM on October 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Yeah, but the tailor didn't "disrespect" him. Being an inefficient business owner is not disrespect. It's being an idiot who can't get their shit together long enough to transact business. A month after Foy had already take his business elsewhere, he decided to email the tailor again because he felt entitled to an explanation. When he didn't get the explanation that he felt suited (lol suited) the situation, he left a sort of cryptic review that didn't say "this guy never got back to me so we never did business, and that sucks".
posted by elizardbits at 11:05 AM on October 28, 2013 [16 favorites]


This is just a warm-up for when guys realise they're being reviewed Yelp-style on Lulu.
posted by colie at 11:05 AM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah, D. Foy starts out as a vindictive man-baby, but eventually corrects himself with a little help.

The suit-shop man appears to have done the same (his threat followed by his offer to D Foy of a tailored shirt, gratis.)

Readiness to find fault with others (and to be insulted), plus the anonymity and safety of the Internet, and away we go.

This whole episode reminded me of R Carver's "A Small, Good Thing" [PDF] and I wonder how differently that might have played on yelp and twitter.

The Emerson quote near the end is nice:
And I really do have faith in the power of self-recovery, and in our ability to change in the face of truth perceived anew. Nor am I the first to hold as much, nor was Emerson, who said, “Every personal consideration that we allow ourselves costs us heavenly state. We sell the thrones of angels for a short and turbulent pleasure.”
posted by notyou at 11:06 AM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


immlass: "This retailer treats business inquiries so shoddily that I took my business elsewhere" is a review I'd find useful as a consumer.

Perhaps, but I feel the author was a little unwilling to give the benefit of the doubt. Electronic communications break down really easily. Emails can be diverted by a spam control system or missed in a flurry of requests, voicemail systems can eat messages, etc. A second reply can be a non-sequitur because the same email system is read by five employees and the one who replied first isn't around. Assuming 'feigned ignorance' and 'supercilious evasion' at the "How can we help you?" message is fairly insane. That's also the kind of reply you get from someone when half of your messages have gotten lost and they have no idea what's going on.

Yeah, the business is probably not the greatest at online communication, but the writer lacks perspective on a level previously unseen in mankind.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:07 AM on October 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm really not sure who I like less in this exchange.

Why choose?
posted by Kitteh at 11:07 AM on October 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yeah, they are both ghastly.
posted by elizardbits at 11:09 AM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


While the customer service was indeed poor, I find the lack of empathy astounding. Maybe the guy is bad with email/doesn't check the phone, has limited tech resources, or is just too busy at the moment. It's not a good business practice, but maybe he operates best/only in person.

Oh, FFS. The guy's in business, with a website crowing about his "unparalleled service." We're supposed to believe he doesn't know how to answer and email or return a phone call? If you can't be arsed to get back to people who contact you, you're not delivering "unparalleled service," you're wasting people's time. I'd be very interested in knowing not to waste my time trying to get a response from a place like that. If the shop was too busy, it would have taken them 30 seconds to write back and let him know. That wasn't the case. And the thuggish response to the yelp review is just disgusting. Save your empathy for someone who deserves it.
posted by Dasein at 11:09 AM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Ron Charles, a fiction editor at The Washington Post, wrote, “You have fallen into a Seinfeld episode!”

The one where Jerry criticizes a tailor on Yelp:

KRAMER: Jerry, you gotta watch out for those tailors on Yelp. One wrong word and [blows raspberry while drawing a finger across his throat].

JERRY: [Blows raspberry while drawing a finger across his throat]?

KRAMER: That's right, Jerry! [Blows raspberry while drawing a finger across his throat] And then it's [makes explosion sound].

JERRY: Kramer, I have learned my lesson. Next time I'm renting a tux.

KRAMER: That's good thinking, Jerry, because otherwise [JERRY and KRAMER simultaneously blow raspberries and draw fingers across their throats.]

KRAMER EXITS APT. ELAINE EXITS JERRY'S BATHROOM.

ELAINE: What's up with Kramer?

JERRY: I think his pants are on fire.

[INSTRUMENTAL]
posted by octobersurprise at 11:11 AM on October 28, 2013 [19 favorites]


Yeah, they are both ghastly.

The thing is that when I read the article, I felt like the author 'got it' at the end. But the more I think about it, the more I think if he got it, he wouldn't have written about it.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:17 AM on October 28, 2013


I don't have Foy's full review to consult, of course, but going off the excerpt available, that little valediction stuffed with scare quotes and umbrage, the tailor's response makes a cruel sort of sense to me.

"So guy think he's a novelist, huh? Let's see ya novelize your way out of this one, Thackeray."
posted by Iridic at 11:23 AM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


That’s the other part of this charade. I’m a novelist whose debut, “Made to Break,” is forthcoming next year from the indie publisher Two Dollar Radio. The other part of the other part is that I’m a 49-year-old novelist who, though I’ve written numerous books over the course of more than 20 years (“Made to Break,” in fact, I penned in ’98) has labored in the shadow of perennial, if utterly cliché, obscurity and lack.

Which he's apparently trying to change by inflating a minor Yelp dust-up into a Story. "Charade" indeed.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:23 AM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have long been skeptical about shops with just a few glowing reviews. Unfortunately, in smaller communities, some businesses have no reviews or one 5 star review, so it's a crapshoot any way you go.

This is silly. I run a shop in Toronto and it only has 7 reviews visible, two 4-star and the rest 5-star. The shop has been around 35 years. Some of my competitors have been around 5 years and have 10 times as many reviews.

Why? My clientele is older and not as tech-savvy. It's as simple as that. My average customer age is probably 45; theirs is 20. There doesn't have to be anyone gaming the system, even though it looks that way.
posted by dobbs at 11:24 AM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


I only look at Yelp for the pictures.
posted by srboisvert at 11:34 AM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


It doesn't matter what we think. He's got the name of his novel into the eyeballs of many thousands of people, a feat of starkly greater magnitude than any moral lesson or degradation depicted therein.
posted by Devonian at 11:35 AM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Frowner: "The boutique hotel near my office (where we put up guests of the office) has this ridiculous spiel that the reception staff have to give when they pick up the phone - it makes me nauseated that grown adults are made to act this way in fear that I'll whine on the internet about how they're insufficiently servile.

It's like now that the cold war is over we've decided to create our own capitalist secret police with more reach than Stalin could have dreamed.
"

I don't know, I'm kind of skeptical that the kind of excessive servility that you describe here, which I likewise find deeply oppressive, has any sort of roots in the rise of online reviews. I also don't think the secret police metaphor really holds up: something like a Yelp review has much less sway over an institution's fate than the secret police had over an individual's, and, if anything, the time before online reviews matches the contours of how secret police operate more faithfully, since you could liken the chains of word of mouth about establishments to something like the informant networks in East Germany. That's obviously an absurd parallel, though, and that fact kind of makes me doubt the one you've made here. If online reviewing has introduced perverse incentives, then the incentives in question are probably more oriented towards gaming reviews rather than forcing employees to be even more chipper than before, a trend that I think is probably mostly independent of the technologies we use to communicate our evaluations of businesses to other people.
posted by invitapriore at 11:36 AM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


★★★★☆ WOULD SELF PROMOTE AGAIN
posted by benzenedream at 11:36 AM on October 28, 2013 [8 favorites]


Writer guy should have picked up the phone. Peoples' comfort with email varies widely and not everybody is able to put across exactly what they mean to communicate. I prefer email more than anything, but if I have a goal beyond maximizing my perturb then I either stop by or I call to get it done.

The tailor shop did not use email best practices. That's a misdemeanor, not a capital crime.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 11:36 AM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


Writer guy should have picked up the phone.

He started the process by leaving voicemails.
posted by rtha at 11:39 AM on October 28, 2013 [7 favorites]


The tailor shop did not use email best practices.

Stopping in the middle of an email discussion is rather different from "not us[ing] email best practices."
posted by Etrigan at 11:41 AM on October 28, 2013


The Emerson quote near the end is nice

AARGH. I wanted to leave this article a blustering one-star Yelp review just for banalizing a complicated passage from one of his most complicated essays into a fortune-cookie truism at the end there. That sentence isn't even about egotism (as Foy takes it) in the first place; the "personal consideration" Emerson means is unjust kindness toward one's friends, not oneself.
posted by RogerB at 11:44 AM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think this guy should be free to make negative reviews on Yelp so long as they are accurate, but man is he annoying. I will not be reading his novel.
posted by Area Man at 11:45 AM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I feel the author was a little unwilling to give the benefit of the doubt.

That's as may be, but that doesn't negate the potential value of reviews where the customer didn't actually complete a business transaction. Dude may be a jackass (and his writing in Salon suggests his novel won't do it for me) but he found the business wanting after dealing with it and that's a valid thing to post on Yelp.
posted by immlass at 11:49 AM on October 28, 2013


That's obviously an absurd parallel, though, and that fact kind of makes me doubt the one you've made here. If online reviewing has introduced perverse incentives, then the incentives in question are probably more oriented towards gaming reviews rather than forcing employees to be even more chipper than before, a trend that I think is probably mostly independent of the technologies we use to communicate our evaluations of businesses to other people.

I mean, in fairness, yes, a Yelp review won't get you dragged off to the gulag - but I was thinking about the psychic intrusiveness of both secret policing and the self-reporting/other-reporting of the internet - the fact that as under a regime of secret policing, we always-already have to assume that we could be reported and for our own safety, we need to be aware that we're always potentially being watched. And that internet reviews have a lot of authority - how many metafilter posts have been about "patron complains about [stupid thing] and lowly service person is fired"? To someone who is financially vulnerable and employed in retail or less-skilled service, that shit is a big deal, and it's easy for a business owner to throw a low-level staffer to the wolves to defuse an outcry. That's another place where, in a weaker form, the secret policing angle struck me - the ease of false accusations made for social gain, the power of trivial accusations, the belief that a trivial problem (a single incompetent waitress, say) indicates rot at the heart of the business/ideological impurity.

The reason Stalin would adore Yelp is that it gamifies ratting on people, something that he only managed to do in the broadest sense. And it makes ratting on people very much part of our self formation or even something to be proud of.

Of course, you could also say that it's part of a neoliberal social breakdown thing, where we don't actually have functioning government regulation or community organizations, all we have is our own individual ability to shout on the internet.

Either way, yuckers.
posted by Frowner at 11:56 AM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


kjh: "I was 100% positive this was satire until I got to the link to the (all too real) Washington Post article. The author is just so whiny and entitled, I couldn't believe it."

I thought it was satire too! A piece on how blogs encourage us to make every little thing that happens in life sound like epic tragedy. But it kept going, and going... And the WP mention was real!

Now I'm waiting with bated breath for the sequel where he accidentally microwaves a potato with foil on it and quotes extensively from Ozymandias.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:57 AM on October 28, 2013 [4 favorites]


If revenge is your thing, you might as well lean into it.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:01 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


It took me a good five minutes of asking myself "What is a men's clothing retailer author?" before I figured out the first sentence of this post. I'm slow.
posted by shesdeadimalive at 12:05 PM on October 28, 2013 [15 favorites]


Hopfully Mr. Foy has someone in his life that can gently explain to him what a friggin' tool he is.
posted by humboldt32 at 12:33 PM on October 28, 2013


This is the company he attempted to do business with: Bindle & Keep

This is how it works: To schedule a fitting, at home, office, or place of your choosing, email [email] or call [number]


I've read and re-read the email exchanges, and I can't find anywhere discussing possible times for fittings, except in the exchange where Bindle&Keep offer a free shirt but author freaks out about them knowing his address. Despite the fact that a fitting can clearly be arranged at "home, office, or place of your choosing". In hindsight I guess they should have replied to his "how does this work?" with a "you schedule a fitting at home, office, or place of your choosing just like we say on the website"....

This is their current Yelp page. The one star reviews are plenty.
posted by dabitch at 12:55 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've read and re-read the email exchanges, and I can't find anywhere discussing possible times for fittings
I called the number on the site and left a voicemail.

“Hey there. My name’s D., and I’m stoked at the possibility you guys can make me one of your fancy suits! I’d love to have a conversation with you about this and look forward to hearing from you.”
posted by radwolf76 at 12:59 PM on October 28, 2013


Does he mention a time when he's available there? This is where I think the miscommunication happens. Just offering this observation. How about "Hi I'm D and I would like to be measured, I have wed next week and thursday open, or friday X date. My number is [XXX]" He's not scheduling a fitting, he's calling to say he's psyched.
posted by dabitch at 1:02 PM on October 28, 2013


Holy crap is this guy a terrible writer.

I kind of resent the idea that reporting your opinion of a business to the public is a sign of societal decline, though. As I understand it, "ratting" is taking someone's private behavior and making it public. But the way you act toward your customers is public behavior. I mean, what kind of honor-bound contract did I enter into with a restaurant owner that obligates me to keep my opinion of his food a secret?

(Or maybe I'm just bitter that there weren't any negative reviews on Yelp to warn me about the tailor who told me he'd have my pants back in two weeks and ended up keeping them for more than four months. I think I was getting bumped to make room for more lucrative alterations that came in after mine -- the guy also does wedding dresses, etc -- but obviously I have no actual evidence for that.)
posted by ostro at 1:07 PM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think the takeaway from all this is crystal clear: if you write a negative Yelp review, don't use your real name.
posted by zardoz at 1:29 PM on October 28, 2013


I think the takeaway from all this is crystal clear: if you write a negative Yelp review, don't use your real name.

Should we use the name of a terrible novelist?
posted by Strange Interlude at 1:37 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


See: Amy's Baking Company for advice how not to handle "online bullies" really "Poor Reviews"
posted by NiteMayr at 1:42 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


The one star reviews are plenty.

As are the five star, to be fair. Of the one star, first three I see are dated either 10/27/2013 or 10/28/2013 and are from Jersey City, Seattle WA, and Beverly Hills CA. (Don from Seattle writes simply: "These people allegedly spend more time threatening reviewers than they do tailoring, and probably should not be trusted with your business.")

Not that it's my place to question his champagne wishes or caviar dreams, but from the look of the guy, he's got a body that can go pretty much straight to off-the-wrack, so he can drop the bespoke dream right there. Once you've done that, there are plenty of places in NYCity where you can by quality suits (alterations included) for decent money.

The whole story reads like self promotion to me, which can lead people to do some pretty regrettable things.
posted by IndigoJones at 1:46 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I generally agree that they both seem ridiculous, and I don't question that the business seems not to have its act together or that the threat of negative reviews of the novel was silly.

But why didn't he post the content of his Yelp review, which he later removed? What exactly did he say? I can't tell whether the teeny clip in the Charles piece is the whole thing or not.

Because yes, answering his voice mails would have been better, but not getting calls back is a thing that happens sometimes in the world, and with a business you haven't ever done business with, it's not exactly a monstrous wrong. And when they told him what to do, he wouldn't do it. "Give us an idea of your availability; our process starts with an in-person appointment," is what they told him, in effect. "Let's chat generally on the phone instead!" is what he replied. That doesn't mean they didn't get back to him; it means he didn't like their process. I also find his transcripts of his e-mails to them rather snide and glib, and by the time he gets to "Well, sir, I must say I trust you've had an emergency," I wouldn't have answered him either.

They both behaved badly, but only one of them is asking to be congratulated, it seems to me.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 2:44 PM on October 28, 2013 [9 favorites]


As are the five star, to be fair.

Oh yes, that's what I mean, the one star reviews are all clearly done after some people have read his Salon piece. I reported the most obvious ones because I'm a dork who finds Yelp actually useful when not filled with meh and revenge-spam.
posted by dabitch at 2:58 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, radwolf76, I totally misread you earlier and missed my edit window. Sorry.
posted by dabitch at 3:06 PM on October 28, 2013


The fact that the author conveniently leaves out the text of his Yelp review tells me a lot. For the record, it was:

“This is not ‘24-7 white glove service. This is not ‘unparalleled service,’ nor anything close. Contract this ‘business’ at your own risk, ladies and gentlemen.”
posted by suedehead at 3:29 PM on October 28, 2013


Also -

Maybe it's because I've been dealing with a lot of contractors, craftspeople, artists, and makers lately, but I can't help but feel like the writer is being entitled, or confused.

A store that sells existing commodities isn't selling products, they're selling the service of providing products -- being a middleman. As such, they're going to have excellent 'customer service', because that's what they do. On the other hand, Someone who creates, manufactures, fabricates, isn't going to be by their phone or email all day. To me, it's a little bit laughable that he left voicemails and didn't follow up.

When we buy pre-made objects off the shelf, we're looking at objects that have been perfected by the market -- they've been designed, re-designed, QAed, mass-manufactured, packaged, photographed, branded, shipped, stocked, with a warranty, service plan, etc. For the average consumer, you walk up, you pick it off the shelf, and you pay money for it, and then you leave. That's it.

Obviously, objects aren't born that way. When you commission a project, or ask for a service, there's very little of that, since the product doesn't exist in the first place! A month isn't long, it's barely 20 business days, a blip off the radar if you consider shipping, turnaround, weekends, etc.

Lately I've been feeling that the expectations that commodity culture sets up is unfair to independent producers, where demand and projects may fluctuate, and one month you may be inundated with orders; another month, you might be sitting on your hands, waiting.

Which isn't to say, "deal with it". Clearly, the shop owner's response was out of line, also. But my response to this is: The service you are used to is primarily possible with big business, economies of scale, mass production, and big box stores -- exactly the things that you are not getting with a small, independent, bespoke tailoring service. Keep that in mind, and consider that the service you may get may alter accordingly.
posted by suedehead at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Why does anybody believe anything posted to Yelp anymore? If I had ANY professional enterprise, I'd consider planted Yelp reviews to be the easiest and cheapest advertising I could get (plus the opportunity to damage the competition? YES!)
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:48 PM on October 28, 2013


I think Foy's pal the fiction editor at the Washington Post who decided this needed to be an article deserves some of the eye-rolling here, too.

Linda_Holmes: I also find his transcripts of his e-mails to them rather snide and glib, and by the time he gets to "Well, sir, I must say I trust you've had an emergency," I wouldn't have answered him either.

Yeah, from the very first "I’m stoked at the possibility you guys can make me one of your fancy suits!" and escalating to subject lines with exclamation points like "I want you guys to make me a suit!" his entire tone seems more obnoxious than "excessively enthusiastic." I can see a tailor who takes his/her craft seriously deciding to avoid dealing with him. No excuse not to reply, but Foy's own self-quotes make him seem off-putting throughout.

I mean, look at this exchange:

“How can we help you? Do you have any specific questions about our clothing or fitting process/philosophy? Let us know and we’ll do our best to answer them.”

That’s it? I thought. “How can we help you?”


Er, yes, "How can we help you?" is indeed the proper response there. Instead of sending along whatever questions he had about the clothing or fitting process or tailoring philosophy or whatever, Foy gives us this gem of language:

Something in the dullness of this reply, in the man’s feigned ignorance of my previous communications and his lack of apology for failing to respond, inherent to which seethed an air of supercilious evasion...burned me to the core...

How else was I to take this “How can we help you?” as anything but, “Go away, little worm, and don’t come back”?


Good lord. That's fucking insane. Just ask your damn questions already. Unless you were more interested in a fight, which the tailor (in a line Foy edited out of his quoting) clearly seems to recognize in his response to the Yelp review:

I was just made aware of your Yelp review. We wanted to answer your questions but felt you were more interested in a fray. When your book comes out on Amazon, I will personally make sure our entire staff reviews in kind.”

The threat of bad reviews is awful and despicable and deserves scorn forever and a public apology from the tailor, for sure, but I dunno; Foy replied "I wanted service, Daniel, and that’s all I requested, very, very politely besides," but there's nothing about his emails that sounds polite to me. They read snide and insincere in their snarky fake politeness and it's tough to find any sympathy for him here. Or for his pals at the WaPo who actually thought this garbage was worth amplifying.
posted by mediareport at 4:03 PM on October 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


He begins leaving the following voicemail Hey there. My name’s D., and I’m stoked at the possibility you guys can make me one of your fancy suits!

Mr. Foy we are fine tailors not a surf shop. We do not make "fancy suits". There is no possibility that we could possible allow you to be seen in one of our ensembles.
posted by humanfont at 4:56 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


humanfront, are you referring to this?
posted by gorestainedrunes at 5:36 PM on October 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Yeah, I own a small business. One of the few negative reviews we've received was from a pair of knitting hipsters who insisted in sitting in the middle of a walkway, and could not be dissuaded from that decision. After telling them for the nth time that eventually that someone carrying other people's food was likely to trip over them, and, you know, you've been sitting on that one beer for a good few hours now, maybe you'd prefer to do whatever it is you're doing at your own place? Oh the responding vitriol delivered online. Polite questions can so easily become stinging invective for the aggrieved.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 6:23 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's a douche, but when you're spending that sort of money you're buying the 'experience' of a bespoke suit. He was kind of within his rights to complain about that experience even if no suiting was ultimately involved. If I was interested in buying a Rolls and the salesman kept calling me 'bud' I'd be pissed too.
posted by fingerbang at 6:50 PM on October 28, 2013


I just can't help imagining what this guy's e-mails must have been like.

"Dear Sir: Despite the lack of any riposte to my telephonic ventures towards your emporium thus far, I yet find myself nonetheless enamored of your sartorial virtuosity, and I am quivering, nay, throbbing with enthusiasm over the possibility of adorning my body with the same! Needless to say, I have many questions about the process and procedures this will entail - in the age of the internet, what, indeed, is a suit? Is it only something one wears, mere dross draped over flesh, or a means of identifying, even defining, oneself as a being separate from other beings? And if a suit qua suit can be viewed as an expression of the soul, then how is it possible that such a thing could be measured, valued, enumerated, or (and especially) cut or sewn? I look forward to a hearty discussion of these and other matters once you deign to contact me. Sincerely, etc."
posted by kyrademon at 7:00 PM on October 28, 2013 [5 favorites]


kyrademon, I read that in the voice of Phil Jupitus making fun of Stephen Fry.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:10 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


He's a douche, but when you're spending that sort of money you're buying the 'experience' of a bespoke suit.

The company in question here has deals for $595 which is close to an "off the rack" price. A bespoke suit would be about ten times that.

I'm assuming they're selling MTM (made to measure) suits, like Indochino or Suitsupply-- suits that can be customized within certain parameters and cut to your measurements.

In that case, you're not paying for a high-end experience, you're paying for an inexpensive tailored suit. It may be a nice suit that fits well, but at that price the "experience" is them having a web site with good pictures.
posted by justkevin at 9:00 PM on October 28, 2013


Why does anybody believe anything posted to Yelp anymore? If I had ANY professional enterprise, I'd consider planted Yelp reviews to be the easiest and cheapest advertising I could get (plus the opportunity to damage the competition? YES!)

Nice try, Yelp competitor.
posted by ctmf at 9:51 PM on October 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Those suits look terrible!
posted by dave99 at 12:39 AM on October 29, 2013


He begins leaving the following voicemail Hey there. My name’s D., and I’m stoked at the possibility you guys can make me one of your fancy suits!

And honestly, that's not a business inquiry that the tailor could do anything with; that's wasting their time.
posted by MartinWisse at 1:33 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really get all the scorn being heaped on the author here. He learned a lesson. He might have seemed awful to some of you, but he sounds like he's interested in improving himself. I'd hate to read some of your Yelp reviews! : )
posted by orme at 4:58 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


MCMikeNamara:
The thing is that when I read the article, I felt like the author 'got it' at the end. But the more I think about it, the more I think if he got it, he wouldn't have written about it.

That's a very odd decision... He learned his lesson in life, so there's no way he'd relate his story to others?

I think he's taking a really decent jab at himself for being such a jerk. Yes, he behaved "ghastly". But he got better. We've ALL behaved as badly as anyone in this story, at some point in our lives.

This guy at least got off his high horse and walked somewhere useful.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:12 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm wondering if what we're seeing here is a business failing to understand that Ask vs. Guess culture differences can sometimes make communications problematic, especially when two guessers from unrelated tribes are in a chicken match with each other, each waiting for the other to blink first.

Then the situation is further complicated by the fact that despite advertising both a phone number to contact the business at, and also advertising "unparallelled customer service," they seemed blind to the fact that this potential customer prefers phone to email:

Guy calls, leaves voice mails. Then emails, pointing out that his voicemails have not gotten any return calls, but would really like a suit. They email back wanting to know how they can help. He replies to that email by telling them exactly what help he's looking for: to conduct business by phone call.

That's three times where they could have picked up on "this guy wants to do his scheduling by phone" but instead, they keep on continuing to expect him to email them with his availability. Now he did throw them a curveball when he told them in his first email that contacting him back by email or by phone is great (when clearly he was looking for that phone call), but luxury services that make the customer experience a talking point in their advertising need to be able to read a customer better than that, figuring out what they need, even if the customer themselves doesn't fully understand it themselves.

And while I get that people who actually make stuff are busy making stuff, the tailor is not the only person at that business; there's even a threat at one point that all the employees will be leaving bad reviews on the upcoming novel. If they've got time to write revenge reviews, maybe they could have had time to call this guy back?

But going back to ask vs. guess, here's a guy getting ready for a wedding, and also trying to get a book published later in the year. The tailor, not knowing any of that, sends back that first email reply, requesting the times he's available. Want to know why he didn't send back "I'm available x, y, and z next week", and instead, wanted them to call him? Because there's degrees of availability, and he's already had to wait on a reply from them once.

If he commits to keeping an afternoon or three open, and then they don't get back to him, he's held open those blocks for no reason. He doesn't want to ask for a time if he doesn't know for sure the answer would be yes. Likewise, the tailor's staff didn't want to run down a listing of all the open timeblocks if they don't know he's going to say yes to one of them. Had the phonecall happened, perhaps the verbal cues would have been enough for one side or the other to pick up on the Guess Culture signalling. At the very least, it's the mode of communication that the author seemed more comfortable with.

Of course, none of this excuses the rudeness on either side, but aside from scare quotes around the word business in his original yelp review, I thought it was a fair, if undetailed assessment of his experience.
posted by radwolf76 at 7:01 AM on October 29, 2013 [5 favorites]


Bindle & Keep understands that shopping for menswear has become an unnecessarily stressful experience. Consequently, we offer full pricing transparency in an effort to focus on unbiased advice to our clients.

Yet for some reason there's not even a hint of a price list in any of their web posts.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:44 AM on October 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not a Yelp user; can you not post reviews anonymously?

You can set your "real name" to be whatever you want, but Yelp apparently only shows first initial of last name. They might have figured out who he was from his endless messages. (or he posted it elsewhere in his profile)
posted by getawaysticks at 7:46 AM on October 29, 2013


radwolf76, that is a really insightful analysis. Following a similar line of thought of this incident being mostly a failure of these people to understand one another, I can sort of relate to both parties as someone who is both an occasional consumer and also someone who makes his living working in sales (albeit in a completely unrelated industry).

When I'm looking to make a fairly expensive purchase, I don't like to feel pressured and it is important to me to feel like I am in control of the experience. When I read the "Let us know your availability and we'll send a tailor out to measure you" response from the store, I cringed a little, because it reminded me of the "Just come on down to the lot and we'll make you a deal" response one might expect when calling or emailing a car dealership to get a general idea of pricing/availability. I know for myself, having a tailor come visit me before I've really had a chance to talk to the shop or had a decent back and forth email communication with them would make me uncomfortable because it would feel like I had already committed myself and gotten in over my head.

The flip side though, is that as a person who has spent nearly 20 years working in sales, I've learned to develop a pretty good ability (though not perfect) to gauge fairly early on in my communication with a potential client whether or not they are a genuine buyer or more of a "lookie-loo". Virtually all of Foy's communication with the shop, with his over-the-top enthusiasm bordering on obnoxious and tendency towards high-drama, would indicate to me someone who was not a serious buyer. I can't help but think that toning down his novelistic impulses and simply writing or calling the shop with a simple, "I'm getting married on such and such date, this is the type of suit I'm interested in having made..." would have resulted in a better experience for Foy.

Also, at the risk of being "THAT guy" (and I didn't bring this up earlier since I didn't want to derail my own thread), one thing that made it difficult for me to sympathize with Foy was his use of the term "Asperger's" as a pejorative to describe a personality trait he didn't like in the shop owner. It seems rather tone deaf of the author to make such an incredibly insensitive comment in a piece that seems mostly aimed at showing, "Look at what a jerk this other guy was".
posted by The Gooch at 7:50 AM on October 29, 2013 [6 favorites]


A couple of years ago one of my friends ordered a bunch of artisanal cheeses online and had them delivered to her office (Midtown Manhattan). She was meeting friends for dinner at Heartland Brewery the night that the cheese arrived, so she brought it with her to take home afterwards. After dinner, however, she forgot about her cheese and left it one of the chairs at their table.

The next day she was in a panic because 1) she'd spent quite a bit on that cheese and 2) she really likes cheese. After deciding she probably hadn't left it on the subway, she called Heartland Brewery thinking that surely the cheese had been stolen or thrown away. However, the staff had found her cheese while cleaning up and had stuck it in their fridge. She retrieved her cheese, to the applause of the Heartland Brewery employees who admired her good taste in dairy products.

I told her she should write a Yelp review to the effect that, of all the places in Manhattan to accidentally leave your cheese, Heartland Brewery is the place to do it. I think this is excellent information for the restaurant-goer. I don't think she ever did, unfortunately.
posted by orrnyereg at 4:41 PM on October 29, 2013 [4 favorites]


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