Unethical Website of the Month: Eater.com

I would not have been able to resist giving the the Unethical Website title to Gizmodo [see previous post] unless there was a more typical candidate (as in “not criminal”) available. Thanks to a tip from Ethics Alarms quote-maven Tom Fuller, I give you Eater.com. It hasn’t stolen anything. It just sold out the interest of its own readers—lovers of fine foods and patrons of excellent restaurants—for a splashy feature destined to attract a flood of traffic, and to stick a knife in the backs of its competition.

In a post called “Anonymous Restaurant Critics: A Field Guide,” the website chooses to reveal the identities, complete with photos and quirks, of the major food critics who like to judge the fare, service and amenities of big city restaurants while sampling it incognito. Not all critics do this, but those who do have a good reason: their job is to report on what the typical customer will experience, not the typical food critic whose review can make or break the establishment. Never mind, decided Eater. So what if revealing this information will guarantee that the critics won’t be able to know if they are getting typical food and service? So what if they are forced to undergo painful plastic surgery or wear uncomfortable disguises and fat suits to avoid tipping off their prey? Who cares if some critic’s readers pay exorbitant prices for  sub-par meals, because am Eater.com photo prompted a desperate owner  to summon the house’s greatest chef to the kitchen, though he had retired years ago? Why should the website worry that the loss of anonymity could lose critics their jobs, plunging them into depression and addiction, and their families into poverty and homelessness?

Well, okay, it might not be that bad.

Still, the outing of the critics was irresponsible and unfair. Why did Eater do it? Well, if nobody can trust the critics to get objective reviews, then food-lover mayl have to go by the restaurant reviews on…Eater.com!

Unless, of course, they don’t like rewarding unethical business conduct. We’ll see.

[I highly recommend this sarcastic “open fan letter” to Eater by Tim Carmen. He’s got some other gripes about the site, as well as this one.]

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