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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Exclusive Bar Sues Website Over Unwanted Publicity

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you.

Do you know that old saying that "there's no such thing as bad publicity" - don't you believe it!

A Japanese bar in Osaka is suing a food website—Tabélog—because the article written on it has destroyed its anonymity. It certainly wasn't about a bad review - that was quite positive.

The bar is one that thrives on not being known. The outside of it lacks any signage stating what it is or what it does, and it appears not to even have a name… but relies solely on word of mouth as one of those places that only the cool Japanese people know about.

"Have you heard about the X bar?"
"Nope."
"Me either! It must be great!"

Apparently the bar says that the website - which published a review of the facility including photos - is ruining it's reputation for coolness. Okay... it never mentioned 'coolness' - just that being written up was ruining its reputation. The coolness factor was implied.

That's how you know it's cool. It doesn't need to say it is cool, it just is.

I've never been cool, which makes me cool, right? No? Crap.

The bar wants to be a place known as one that no has heard about and even better, no one is sure where it is.

It thrives on the fact that those who dare to enter the nondescript building, that those would-be customers must first be known customers and then, and only then, will their doorbell ringing allow them entrance. Well, actually, it's only then that staff unlock a big iron door to allow them entrance.

Dare I hope that the entrance door is 'green'? Like in that old Gene Vincent song (Green Door)? Or perhaps it could be like The Rolling Stones song... I see a red door and I want to paint it black! Or maybe it's like the rock group The Doors: There is the know and the unknown, and in between are the doors.... which was how the group got their name... from an Aldous Huxley book The Doors of Perception. Of course (?), Huxley took that from a William Blake poem (I love William Blake's art!) from his famous work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell: "If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear to man as it is: infinite."

Of course, none of that is neither here nor there. I'm just showing off - which I suppose confirms that I am not cool. Apparently being smart is not cool. Or maybe the showing off part isn't. Who cares? Now we all know more stuff than we did before, right? Except me. I already knew this. Ego! Thy name is Andrew Joseph!

Of course, I think this whole restaurant concept is stupid. Mostly because I wasn't deemed cool enough to know about it.

Why do I think the whole anonymity thing is stupid? Well... at the very beginning, when the restaurant/bar first opened up for business, no one knew anything about the place and no one was a customer, ergo (and I use that word correctly), following the bar's line of logic, no one should ever have been allowed in.

'Speak when you're spoken to!' the Queen sharply interrupted her.
'But if everybody obeyed that rule,' said Alice, who was always ready for a little argument, 'and if you only spoke when you were spoken to, and the other person always waited for you to begin, you see nobody would ever say anything, so that—'
'Ridiculous!' cried the Queen. 'Why, don't you see, child—' here she broke off with a frown, and, after thinking for a minute, suddenly changed the subject of the conversation.

See… stupid. That's from Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. Even Alice, a fictitious little girl knew how stupid it was.

Anyhow, the bar with no name (by the way… in those Clint Eastwood movies: The Man With No Name trilogy… Eastwood's character was nicknamed 'Blondie'… ergo, he has a name) asked the Tabélog website to take down the bar/restaurant review and photos of the establishment.

Hey… ask all you like… but freedom of expression, baby.

Anyhow… the operators of the Tabélog website, which claims to have around 53 million users a month, refused the request, arguing that the review is covered by the right to freedom of expression. See?

Fifty-three million users a month?

According to the US website - www.tabelog.us - the parent company is www.Kakaku.com, founded in 2005 in Tokyo. Tabélog is the premier restaurant review site in Japan with more than 40 million users monthly. The New York website launched in March, 2013. Maybe there's an extra 15-million viewers of the NY site to get up to 53-million?

The website is written by foodies who provide self-important data to people who need to be told by someone else if a place is good to eat.

You can tell I am not high on reviewers. I would prefer that people make up their own mind rather than have someone tell them how to think.

And I've even written book reviews... which makes my statement hypocritical. Make up your own mind!

Tabélog comes from the Japanese word "taberu", which means "to eat", and then bastardizes it with the word 'blog'.

If you want to sound like you are Japanese, you would pronounce it "ta-bay-raw-gu".

“It was a way to differentiate the establishment. Our stagecraft as a secret hideaway was designed to appeal to visitors’ imaginations,” the bar operators told the Osaka District Court in a hearing Wednesday, according to the Asahi Shimbun newspaper. I suppose it was actually done in Japanese, and what you see is a rough translation into English.

The Tabélog information “took away the elements of surprise and fun and undermined our operational strategy,” they said, demanding the website take down the post and asking for 3.3 million yen in damages, the Asahi reported. That's about $32,277.92 in U.S. dollars.

That's a pretty weenie amount. 

Now… here's the thing… the actual review of the bar with no name was first posted back in 2012.

But… the bar with no name's owners only noticed it was up there during the summer of 2013.

One year later. Fifty-three million users a month.

So… was there a huge upswing in clientele?

There couldn't have been… why? Apparently they bar still needs to know you first before letting you in.

Also, they are only suing for $32,277.92

The case is on-going… and now, because of the legal action, the place is now in the news - the mainstream news - and now the cat is really out of the bag! They just created more publicity for themselves! Horrors! Not more customers!

I understand the restaurant/bar owners' concerns. Truthfully, they should have been moving the location of their place every few months to keep up with (non-)appearances. In my opinion, that would have made the place ultra-cool.

Anyhow… it's safe to say that Japan is unlike Canada.. where bars that serve food and restaurants all have to pass a regular health inspection, with the results of the inspection displayed prominently in the front of the establishment so people outside can see it. Really.

The name of the facility would also be on the notice. I guess it is safe to say that there are no such food safety concerns in Japan?

Of course... there's also the health safety aspect... you know... the fact that the place is locked down with only an iron door to let patrons in and out... good luck in case there's a fire!!!!

Aw... don't worry... no one smokes in Japan and no one is careless with their matches or cigarettes - there's no way the place would ever catch fire...

but don't worry if it ever does...

"Help! Fire! Please send a fire truck to... 
"To where, sir?"
"I'm sorry... I can not tell you. It's a biiiiiig secret."
"Really, sir?"
"It doesn't matter. We couldn't possibly let you enter the place anyway."

Anyhow, should you wish to read another blog on some really weird Japanese restaurants who don't mind the publicity, click HERE.

By the way... suing a website over publicity? That's soooooo not cool.

Cheers,
Andrew Joseph

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