All is fair in love and Zagat.
The Myrtle Avenue Business Improvement District is offering local caterer Jive Turkey assistance in the three-and-a-half-year-old business’s bid to get listed in a new Zagat guide.
On March 1, the BID’s Web site urged residents to “vote for Jive Turkey.”
“We encourage you to submit your vote and rank your other favorites in the coming week,” the entry continued.
Jive Turkey, on Myrtle Avenue between Clinton and Waverly avenues, serves up a wattle-dropping 15 flavors of deep-fried bird and is a candidate for entry into the new Zagat’s “Marketplace” guide, which will feature caterers, florists, and other stores “ranked” thanks to snarky reviews from actual patrons.
But in order to make the cut, Jive must accrue a minimum number of reviews. Zagat, whose highly unscientific ratings are based on votes by consumers, never reveals exactly how many are required.
“If you have a low vote count, unless you’re considered a really superlative place, you won’t be included,” said a former Zagat employee who would only speak anonymously. “[Encouraging people to vote is] frowned upon, but a lot of people do it. There’s no way to stop it.”
Michael Blaise Backer, the BID’s executive director, said his organization just wanted to help the little guy.
“We thought we would try to get them listed,” he said. “I think it’s more about trying to get certain businesses included, not to tell Zagat that Jive Turkey is the best one.”
Inadvertently or not, Backer managed to toe Zagat’s paper-thin ethics line.
According to Zagat guidelines, “Unacceptable practices include … encouragement of surveyors to vote a certain way.”
“We don’t view this as an unacceptable practice,” said Michael Mahle, a spokesman for Zagat. “[That’s] simply because [the BID] is not encouraging people to vote a certain way (i.e., favorably).”
The owner of Jive Turkey, Aricka Westbrooks, said she didn’t ask Backer to campaign on her behalf. And, bucking the industry-wide trend, she doesn’t much care whether or not she makes the grade.
“I’m not sure how much of an effect a Zagat listing would have on a business like ours, because we’re not a restaurant,” said Westbrooks. “But I think it would be wonderful to be in Zagat, too.”