Best Of MenuPages Reviews: How To Detect A Shill

We may not do reviews at MenuPages, but our legions of users are all over that. Here are three of interest.

Yesterday, we laid out our policy on shill reviews, which is zero tolerance. But it’s not like people put an n.b. at the end of their review saying “oh by the way, I’m the owner.” (Actually, sometimes they do.) Instead, we look for certain tell-tale signs of malfeasance in the language of the reviews, via IP addresses, user names choices, etc. Here, now, are some reviews from the past week that we believe to be shills, and how we made that determination. We should note that it’s possible they aren’t shills after all, but we err on the side of caution in deciding what not to validate.

On 10/9, “Dan” (scare quotes extra-emphatic in these cases) wrote in about Shanghai Inn:

This little family-run business understands quality. The owner and her husband wait tables and answer phones and are both nice as can be. And the food is among the best Chinese in town. My favorites are their egg drop soup, egg rolls, and either the Sesame Beef or Green Pepper Beef.

I love having this little gem in our neighborhood!!

Okay, here are the clues: 1) inside info on restaurant ownership 2) calling a place “the best” 3) relatedly, a 5/5/5/5 rating 4) no criticism/balance 5) use of the word “gem” 6) two great reviews for the same place on the same day. Now, any of these things could be coincidences. But taken together, we’re suspicious enough to axe it. Next!

Just today, “Rosa” weighed in on Baba Pita:

I highly recommend this great place. The atmosphere is cozy and the service is the best. We once catered from them, for a church gathering and the delivery was just splendid. Their food is EXCELLENT, I recently took a trip here for my Birthday!! I give them a two thumbs up.

The clues: 1) “church gathering” is a weird construction 2) who goes to a little falafel joint for their birthday? 3) two special events named in one review 4) 5/5/5/5 rating 5) “’a’ two thumbs up” is just illiterate 6) no restaurant gets more shills than Baba Pita. If there is a real life Rosa who went to BP for her birthday, our condolences.

Yesterday, “anon” wrote a paean to Rajun Cajun entitled, “embrace it for what it is…”:

…not for what it never tried to be in the first place. not every restaurant can or should be a five star dining experience. i think it is an amazing feat to install a thriving fusion of fast food and healthy food, of soul food and home-style indian food, of cafeteria formatting and courteous, generous service in the heart of chicago’s south side. the patronage is as diverse as the neighborhood it calls home. there is a high sensitivity to vegetarians and vegans, which should never be taken for granted. the owners are exceptional people who make an effort to make everyone who walks in the door happy.

the food is great. you can get combos, where they put together a meal for you with a little bit of many things, and that can run between 8 and 12 dollars. or you always have the option of getting whatever you want, in whatever sizes you want - many people walk out of there with a yummy, filling lunch for under 5 bucks.

the very sweet woman who makes the samosas has been doing so for 16 years. you can say hi to the nice lady who folds the to-go boxes around lunch time. ask the owners how their son is doing, or what the effects have been of the businesses across the street being kicked out of their building.

everyone is welcome at this lovely restaurant.


someone who’s worked there and misses it every day!

Okay, sometimes it is this easy. We feel sympathetic for this reviewer, because “anon” was honest in intention, and the review seems reasonable. We couldn’t let it on the site on principle, but hey, he/she got a mouthpiece on the blog anyway. By the way, an anonymous user alias is no more suspect than a simple, capitalized first name designed to lull us into a false sense of security. That’s right, shillers: we are on to you!

Shanghai Inn [MenuPages]

Baba Pita [MenuPages]
Baba Pita [Official Site]

Rajun Cajun [MenuPages]


Best Of MenuPages Reviews: How To Detect A Shill