I received a sweet email back from the owner of The Disheveled Pluot. I was fairly civil in my descriptions, and thorough; I may have said that a small contingent of chimps could have handled the floor of her café better than her staff, but was otherwise kind. They were in the midst of several caterings, plus staff changes, she replied. All the problems I listed she was aware of and attempting to address. At least this was the gist of things. The sort of rambling nature of her email and proclamations of her "mission" to contribute to healthy food options in her area made me picture her thus: in her office sipping a long-ago cold cup of coffee, some unfinished paintings in the background, a long skirt tucked under her, with a sleepy cat stretched across the desk, paws poking on the keyboard as she typed her response; A dreamer, slightly disorganized, trying to figure out the day-to-day workings of a restaurant. She was a person, ultimately, behind whatever oddness I'd experienced.
And this, my friends, is why Yelp blows chickens. While it sucks for servers to have to read something unfair about themselves on Yelp, what it is really to them? A nick off their pride? To an owner, their restaurant is literally their baby, except they paid a few hundred thousand dollars to conceive it. Everything is riding on peoples' perceptions of their restaurant, a perception that can be skewed but a few angry poo-faces on Yelp. Typically, Yelp brats have never themselves know the weight of ownership and are committing what amounts to graffiti, an act of vandalism, to get their jollies off.
A restaurant owner explained to me how, 10 years ago, people would tell him to his face if they had a problem. He could bring them a couple glasses of wine on the house and make it right. Now everyone is so socially incompetent they wouldn't dare risk a confrontation with the owner over their too-salty food; they'd rather sulk about the experience, then write a "review" with some petty insults tossed in about the staff too.
I once watched a boss lady turn into a puddle of mush after all the pressures of ownership started getting too intense. She wasn't always the best at what she did; disorganized (perhaps in the same way as the owner of the Pluot) and aloof, customers were frequently left scratching their heads after interactions with her. "Your hostess is terrible," I'd hear from tables as she was working the front desk. She was all too aware of the whispered criticisms around her, and, with mounting financial and life pressures, she just sort of toppled off the deep end mentally. Everyone assumed this boss lady didn't care, but the thing is, she actually cared too much. I've never had a boss who genuinely gave more of a shit about her staff, and that included worrying about making payroll so they could feed themselves. The last thing she wanted to think was that she was hopelessly bad at her job.
Yelp as a means of bitching is a last resort to me. I use the site to make general recommendations about what is special at a particular business, or offer praise about outstanding staff members. But if I went on Yelp and blasted a place to smithereens, I would be assuming the owner doesn't give a shit. I did assume that at first in the case of the Pluot, but on speaking with her over a couple emails, it was clear that she does care. The service at her café definitely needs tweaking, but I will continue to have the respect in the future to address those issues in private.