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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Anatomy of a Shill: Soulard Smokehouse

Posted By on Tue, May 19, 2009 at 1:00 PM

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Look, folks, for better or worse, Riverfront Times doesn't moderate the comments on its blogs. But that doesn't mean we don't pay attention to them or note when things seem a little...oh...odd. Like when a post about a new restaurant draws positive comments about that restaurant that seem a little...oh...planted.

Last month, I posted that Fat Toney's Bar-B-Que in Soulard is now Soulard Smokehouse. There are now seven comments on this post, the most recent of which was posted this very morning.

Of those seven comments, six are positive. To be honest, I paid only glancing attention to these comments until "Greg and Gina" posted the following:
We stumbled upon the Soulard Smokehouse while out shopping at the farmers market. And we had a wonderful time. We sat and talked to the owner. Who I must say is very personable, witty, and very knowledgable [sic] about food. She is going to do AMAZING things with this resaturant [sic]! Not to mention the food! My wife had a brisket sandwich which she enjoyed so much she can't stop talking about it. And I had a slab of ribs. I must say they are the BEST ribs I think I have eaten. Not to mention the homemade was excellent! So I would recommend this place to everyone to and try!
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How many red flags did this send up? Let's see: The couple happened to "stumble upon" the restaurant. And then they happened to talk to the "personable, witty, and very knowledgeable" owner.

The next comment, from "BBQlover":
I stopped in at the soulard smokehouse cause everyone I run into keeps talking about it. And I must say the rumors that I keep hearing are true. This place is awesome! The food was great! the service was awesome! So I will be a repeat customer!
Multiple exclamation points = always a red flag.

Finally, the most recent comment:
I visited the Soulard Smokehouse over the weekend. The ribs were great! The only complaint I have is that, they are so good.. you eat them so fast your covered in BBQ sauce when your  [sic] done!
This comment wasn't so bad -- though the "covered in BBQ sauce" image was a bit much. At any rate, I decided to venture deep into the bowels of Gut Check International Headquarters, where we store info about all the comments posted on the blog. Guess what?

All three of the comments above came from the exact same IP address. What's more, the first three positive comments came from one IP address (though not the same IP address as the last three comments).

This, folks, is what we call a shill. Come on, restaurateurs or friends of restaurateurs or really obsessive fans of restaurants: At least try to hide your shenanigans.

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