Ask the Critic: The perils of blind e-mails
I get a lot of e-mails from marketing people. A lot. Amid all the tales of bad service offered by people who demand that I tell their stories to the world and ads for discount Vicodin through the mail are pitches from boutique marketers blindly pimping their clients -- many of which are bands, flooring installers or caterers, not even proper restaurants.
And every once in a while, I receive a pitch that rises above the level of the ordinary, workaday annoyance -- one that gets under my skin or pinches me in some way that I find less than pleasant. I got one of those today. I've removed the names to protect the dumb, but here it is in its entirety:
Attn: Jason Sheehan
Hello Jason, I was wondering if you might be able to review the following restaurants: 1515 Restaurant in LoDo, Las Brisas Restaurant in Greenwood Village, Trattoria Stella on East Colfax and T-WA Inn on South Federal Blvd.
Let me know if there is anything more I can help with.
Signed, Brain-Dead in Denver
On the surface, this doesn't seem like anything special, right? But that's the thing: It's never the obvious ones -- the come-ons, the pleas, the blatant attempts at bribery -- that make me itch. It's always the less obvious ones.
The trouble here? For starters, I've already reviewed all those restaurants. In some cases, twice. I did 1515 years ago, back when it was still Olav Peterson and the late Ben Alandt in the galley, then did it again a few years later when I felt it was time for an update. Trattoria Stella? Loved it back when it was Cafe Star, loved it only a little bit less when the chef who made the place, Rebecca Weitzman, bailed for NYC; when the address changed to another Stella outpost I wrote about that and even wrote about the original over on West 32nd Avenue. Las Brisas had its moment a couple of years back.
And T-Wa? Oh, T-Wa....There have been ups, there have been downs. But I will always remember that place fondly because it was one of the first places I reviewed upon arriving in this city, and one of the last places that my predecessor, Kyle Wagner, reviewed before leaving Westword for the Denver Post.
In the restaurant world, marketing and PR people are a necessary evil. They walk point for their clients, introducing them around like girls at a cotillion and trying to make the most of every little success and the least of every crippling failure. This town has some good ones (you know who you are, and Allah's blessings be upon you), it has a lot of bad ones, but even the rookies know that their primary job -- the single most important thing they can do -- is try to make some sort of connection with knuckleheads like me who occasionally live and die by their press releases. They have to understand the job that I and my ilk do, know the kinds of things we write about, what we like and dislike. At the very least, they have to actually know what the fuck we've already done, which might require, I don't know... a little poking around on the web to see whether or not I've already written exactly what they're asking for.
Oh, and I know. What this guy wants is some new ink for his clients. I get that. But sorry, not your bitch. Which was why I was also bothered by the tone of the e-mail itself. Asking me to "review the following restaurants" and then running me out a list? Buddy, not even my boss can get me to review the restaurants she wants me to review (if you don't believe me, call her and ask--I dare you), and she signs my paychecks, so what kind of chance do you think you've got?
Finally, a restaurant PR person ought to be at least a little bit up on what's going on in his or her industry. And not for nothing, but I'm a part of that industry, so this fella ought to have known that I am already half out the door -- pulling up stakes and heading West. It hasn't been the biggest news in the world, but it's been out there. It's no secret. And the last thing in the world I'm going to be doing for the last couple of weeks I have in town is the bidding of some careless flack who thinks that some three-line e-mail delivered out of the blue is going to get any response from me even on my slowest of days.
Oh, and one final thing? "Thank You" is two words. Words are my business. I believe they matter. Try and get at least most of them right, huh? Because whoever follows me into this job is probably going to care about words just as much as I do. And maybe like marketers even less.
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