Online Review Social Awkwardness

Writing online reviews has not yet become part of our regular culture (in the USA). Ask any local small business owner (or manager) and you’ll discover that very few people write online reviews of businesses, even though the selecting of businesses based on reviews, has shown a dramatic increase during the past few years.

Ordering a Mai Tai while in Honolulu Hawaii provided a perfect example to demonstrate the social awkwardness local businesses currently face when it comes to asking for online reviews. Take a look at what came with my bill.

15 percent gratuity15% Gratuity in Five Languages

Correct me if am wrong, but I believe the languages are Japanese, French, Spanish, English and Chinese. I assume they all generally say “Quality Service is customarily acknowledged with a 15% gratuity.”

I incorporated the photograph in my PowerPoint presentation for a local search and review session I did during PubCon Paradise. I asked the audience if anyone would have been offended after being presented with that piece of paper. Nobody stated they would be. In fact, one participant stated that local businesses include information on tipping with bills and receipts, because the practice of leaving a gratuity is not customary in some cultures visiting the island.

In Japan for example (60% or more of the people I saw visiting Honolulu appeared to be from Japan), tipping is not part of the culture. I was told that some may even consider the practice of tipping to be offensive. As far as I know, tipping in China, France and Spain, is not customary either. Tipping in the US however, is a widely practiced social custom. So how is educating various cultures on leaving a gratuity different from educating customers about online reviews?

quality service rewarded with reviewsQuality service rewarded with a review

Is suggesting to patrons that it’s okay to reward quality service with a positive online review inappropriate? As a consumer, would you feel uncomfortable seeing this note along with your bill or receipt? Can you see adding logos and/or shortened URLs with locations to where those reviews could be written? Would you find that offensive?

Who would’ve thought ordering mai tai’s in a hotel bar could be so productive? Local is a 24-hour job.


  1. What I see a lot of here in L.A. are stickers on or near the entrance telling people to check-in using foursquare,yelp, or gowalla. If I mention to a business owner that I found them via yelp, they usually ask me to write a review.

    Maybe it’s just a west coast thing.

  2. Interesting, I’ve got to visit more local businesses in the LA area and document some stickers.