By An Phương
Whatever one feels about TikTok food reviews, it cannot be denied that they are good at stirring the pot.
The dramas that have been played out between several local eateries and TikTok food reviewers recently is evidence of this.
I have followed many stories uploaded by both sides and discussed them with a few friends.
We agreed that food reviews were among our favourite content on the Internet, particularly TikTok, as the information is short and to-the-point, thus easy to consume.
|Illustration by Trịnh Lập|
“I have come across many lovely restaurants and eateries recommended by TikTokers, including a chicken rice stall in District 5 and a sticky rice stall on Vạn Kiếp Street in Bình Thạnh District in Hồ Chí Minh City. As a food lover, I am very excited every time I try out a new dish,” said Thanh Tú, 26.
Compared to old-school food reviewers with blogs or video posts on their websites, TikTokers’ reviews are more relatable and down to earth in the use of words and slang.
“With TikTok videos, I feel like I am listening to a review that my friends would make and the experience was mostly pleasant. But I have recently begun to get bored with all the replicated content being made,” Tú said.
“While TikTok provides a platform where everyone can do reviews, many are just copies of each other. Worse, quality content seems to have been replaced with dramatic ones to ensure they go viral,” she added.
It is hard to disagree with Tú. Take the instance of several TikTokers “bombarding” a local chè (sweet soup) chain with negative feedback. It poses a question: Do TikTokers think too highly of themselves and consider their tastes as the standard to go by?
Anh Dũng, 29, whose uncle is a street food vendor, said they had not received any hateful review yet, but the recent dramas were worrying.
“Although it is completely personal for a diner to like or dislike a dish, my uncle’s business is relatively small and a drama could be devastating,” Dũng said.
“I was not surprised that some restaurant owners have considered banning certain TikTokers from their establishments. The way they usually record their videos, with lighting equipment, already inconveniences other diners,” he added.
My friend Hoài An, 31, runs two restaurants in District 2. She said that it was impossible to avoid mistakes in the food and beverage service industry. Preventing customers from posting reviews on the Internet was also not possible.
“We appreciate all feedback, especially constructive ones to keep our business going. But I’m worried about certain TikTokers who seek nothing but the tiny spark to start a fire so that they can easily attract attention to their content, but it is unfair when actual service providers have to bear the negative consequence of such actions,” she said, adding that TikTok users and makers are mostly the younger generation who lack life skills and are easily manipulated.
According to Võ Đan Mạch from the HCM City Bar Association, there is currently no law prohibiting the act of evaluating or sharing personal experiences when using a certain product or service as this is a citizen’s right to freedom of speech.
In fact, consumers have the right to give opinions to organisations and individuals trading in goods and services on prices, quality of goods and services, service styles and methods of sale, among others. They are also obliged to inform relevant agencies when detecting unsafe goods and services which may damage or threaten the life, health and property of consumers.
However, if the truth is intentionally misrepresented, causing damage to restaurant owners, they may be held legally responsible for their actions.
Every social network platform has its pros and cons, and one pro is that TikTok has provided users with opportunities to connect with others on a large scale with short-form videos.
This can be very beneficial for those with quality content who can reach wider audience groups, but the con is that it can be used for selfish, personal purposes and direct unjustified malice at others.
In our discussions, my friends and I were in agreement that there seems to be an element of mob psychology involved in recent unsavoury TikTok food reviews.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has put enough stress on local businesses and I believe we should support each other. It is absolutely not wrong to share one’s personal opinions but we should do it in a direct and constructive way,” Tú said.
Hoài An added to this, saying viewers should show some discretion in buying into Internet dramas. Taking the trouble to check out a food review by personally visiting the establishment and deciding for oneself is a more sensible thing to do.
And as with all online media, don’t get so hooked to it that real life passes you by, is what I feel. VNS