Authors, beware: Bad reviews don’t suit you!

August 16, 2013
Brooklyn writer D Foy just wanted a nice suit. (Credit Snorri Sturluson)
Brooklyn writer D Foy just wanted a nice suit. (Credit Snorri Sturluson)

Authors have always faced a tough path: chronic rejection, no job security, low pay (if you’re lucky). But there’s a new threat to add to that list of old perils: the online revenge review.

Today’s parable concerns a struggling Brooklyn writer named D. Foy. After years of working as everything from a ditch digger to an organic farmer, Foy recently sold a novel, “Made to Break” (March 2014) to the indie publisher Two Dollar Radio. And better yet, in September, Foy is getting married.

Long entranced by the bespoke suits at a certain New York men’s shop, Foy decided it was time to spruce himself up for the wedding. “I contacted them with the hopes they’d make me a suit as cool as everyone else’s,” he writes via e-mail. “What with everything they say about themselves, and the prices they tout, and such, I thought I’d be getting myself into a nice fix.”

Alas, it was not to be.

After several failed attempts by phone and voice mail to make an appointment, Foy described his frustration on Yelp and left this final judgment: “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.”

That finally elicited a personal response. Someone at the tailor named Daniel almost immediately sent Foy an e-mail: “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.”

Yes, Foy had fallen into a “Seinfeld” episode, and he refused to button up.

“Wanted a fray?” he answered the tailor. “I wanted service, Daniel, and that’s all I requested, very, very politely besides. And you know it. So will anyone else who sees the correspondence I put on Yelp, word for word. But if you feel you need to throw your little tantrum now because you’re not able to take responsibility for your actions, go right ahead. There really is such a thing as karma.”

To which Daniel instantly replied:

(Courtesy of Two Dollar Radio)
(Courtesy of Two Dollar Radio)

“Yep. I eagerly look forward to your book coming out. Going to make sure it’s flooded with scathing reviews. . . . Deluge of awful reviews unless that post comes down. Going to make it a top priority.”

Clearly, this is a tailor who knows how to cut on the bias.

“The author’s life has very much changed,” Foy observes. Indeed. Try to imagine Hemingway telling Fitzgerald, “My tailor flamed me on Amazon because I panned him on Yelp.”

Fortunately, this story has a better ending than most social-media brawls.

Foy decided he wasn’t “comfortable knowing that that sort of mojo is on the loose out there.” He deleted his negative Yelp review. And asked me not to mention the business’s name in this story.

And then — what do you know — the tailor offered to make him a free shirt.

Let the wedding bells ring!

@RonCharles

Ron Charles is the editor of The Washington Post's Book World. For a dozen years, he enjoyed teaching American literature and critical theory in the Midwest, but finally switched to journalism when he realized that if he graded one more paper, he'd go crazy.
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