Sunday, June 8, 2014

Everyone's A Critic

Photo by Anne

The ice cream shop was an independently-owned gem in the back of a strip mall, offering a dozen homemade offerings like espresso fudge swirl and vanilla praline crunch. A curved glass case showcased hand-dipped chocolate truffles and butter creams, and the aroma of warm caramel mingled with the smell of fresh coffee. My son zeroed in on neon blue bubble gum ice cream, which a young woman at the counter generously scooped into a homemade waffle cone.

Tantalizing bags of candies dangled from wall hooks at kids’ eye level—French burnt peanuts, powdery lemon drops, gummi cola bottles and malted milk balls.

Amidst this confectionary fantasyland was a hand-written warning sign taped up near a display of hand-crafted lollypops:

Never mind the distracting lack of punctuation—the foreboding message felt jarringly out of place in the charming little shop. For someone whose middle name is Kluttz with a capital K, I was nervous as I nibbled my mint chocolate chip cone. “Don’t touch anything!” I hissed at my son. We maintained a five-foot space bubble between ourselves and the lollypops as we left. Was this why we hadn’t returned to the shop for two years? Perhaps.

Last week we needed refreshment on a hot afternoon, though, so I did a quick Yelp search to see if the store was still open. There I found something interesting.

A Yelp reviewer had complained about the sign, and the owners had personally apologized and removed the stern warning.

We returned to the ice cream shop, and sure enough, little bags of Bit O’ Honey bars now obscured the tape marks where the Nazi sign had once hung. The place was packed with customers and we ate our cones without fear, sweeping recklessly by the lollypops as we exited.

Before the days of online reviews, consumers didn’t wield such power. We relied largely on professional critics to pronounce judgments on our restaurants, books, movies, wines, politicians and just about everything else. If we were unhappy with a company we might type a letter or make a phone call, but such a singular effort often fell on deaf ears.

Today we live in the modern, social, sharing, digital world of the Twenty-First Century, where an Amazon customer recently posted these words about my cookbook, 101 Things To Do With Bacon:
“These are just recipes....perhaps I didn't read the description too closely just saw "101 Things to do with Bacon" and thought it was creative mistake...if you're looking for 101 recipes, you'll probably appreciate this book...”

My friends were quick to respond when I posted a link to the two-star review on social media. One reader peeked at the critic’s easily-seen Amazon review history and mocked her angry rants about a folding laundry basket (“piece of crap!") and a $30 dog bed ("NOT High-end!”).

Others speculated about the sorts of "things to do" my reviewer had hoped to find in the book: 

“Wrap a sprained ankle with bacon when you’re out of Ace bandages.”
“Bacon air freshener!”
“Weave bacon strips to make potholders.”
“Bookmark (laminate bacon first)”
“Bacon bikini?”

A writer friend was more serious: “Maybe you should have named your book ‘101 Things To Cook With Bacon,’ to avoid confusion,” she suggested. Never mind that my book is part of Gibbs Smith’s longstanding, bestselling series of similarly-named titles; I still felt as if I had somehow led astray those readers seeking 100+ bacon crafts, pastimes and alternative uses.

Around this time I found myself in a customer service skirmish with a company that hadn’t returned my money—even though my order had been cancelled several weeks prior. I decided it was time to get in touch with my inner critic.

Photo by Ann P.
“If you process my refund in the next 24 hours, I won’t share my experiences with your company on the online review sites,” I wrote. Guess what? My payment was credited pronto, just from the mere threat of voicing my opinion online.

I celebrated my victory with a scoop of strawberry cheesecake swirl in a sugar cone, and picked up a bag of little Bit O’ Honey bars for the drive home. Then I sat down at my computer to write a five-star review about my favorite ice cream shop.

Eliza Cross is the author of seven books including her latest, 101 Things To Do With a Pickle, which will be released by Gibbs Smith this July. She blogs at and and is the founder of the bacon enthusiast society BENSA, which—unlike Mensa—welcomes members of all intelligence levels. She is currently working on her second novel.


Sue Coletta said...

Eliza, I loved this post! I especially enjoyed the part about the reviewer, and what she thought you meant by 101 Things To Do With Bacon. I'm still laughing!

Eliza Cross said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Eliza Cross said...

Thank you, Sue. I'm still scratching my head (and more than a little nervous about possible misunderstandings with my next book "101 Things To Do With a Pickle!")

Anonymous said...

I'm obsessed with the picture of the bacon bra.

Irene said...

So glad you show the bacon bra. That should keep the hapless reviewer happy. Looking forward to pickles in July. Could we talk pickles on my radio show?

Peter Hogenkamp said...

Like my bacon, I prefer mu posts crispy, and you succeeded greatly. Crisp post!

Eliza Cross said...

Irene, I'd be honored to pontificate about pickles on your radio show. I'll e-mail you privately.

Unknown said...

Love this! Our son the chef is a bacon fanatic--we had bacon jam--delish!

Eliza Cross said...

Coming from a talented writer and fellow bacon lover, that is very high praise. Thanks, Peter!

Eliza Cross said...

Thanks, Jan. I haven't tried bacon jam, but how could it not be good?

Mitch Luckett said...

Not so hot on bacon but looking forward to next book. One of the best songs I ever wrote was inspired by a note from my girlfriend stuck to my frig door that read; "If I come over tomorrow can we make some more of those sweet pickles . . . or whatever that was."

Eliza Cross said...

Ha! That sounds like a great song, Mitch. Ever written any legume lyrics? After pickles I'm writing a book on beans!

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