Letters of Recommendation

I have been pondering the value of a recommendation of a friend, as both a general and a specific phenomenon.
A neighborhood friend recommended a newly opened restaurant. Based on her advice that the food was tasty and the ambiance perfect for a summer evening dinner, I invited two other friends to join me for a meal. The outdoor patio was pleasant, making it easy to forget that we were sitting outside in a supermarket parking lot, aside one of the busiest thoroughfares in the zipcode. But the food was terrible, in all sorts of different directions. The salad wasn't washed well. The lamb kofta balls were exceedingly dry. One of my friends barely started her meal before placing her fork down for the evening. The eager restaurant manager stopped by our table and asked how everything was, explaining they'd just opened a few months ago. This was a moment of truth. Should we tell him how bad everything really was? Where to begin? Or was he asking to be polite, as a matter of restaurant routine. I meekly deferred to my friends, and none of us said anything. We are now "voting with our feet" and eating elsewhere. When the recommender later asked I was more honest, but still gentle, taking some suggested responsibility, by saying that maybe we hadn't ordered the best specialities of the house.
Another dilemma arose when the same friend effusively offered further recommendations: seamstress, Mexican restaurant, nail salon etc.
This is surely one of the benefits of friendship: the word-of-mouth recommendation. It's how we found our house cleaners, a great cozy bar with delicious burgers, and my wedding dress.
The generosity of a friend who finds something they love so much for themselves that they want to share it with everyone they know is a notable everyday charity. (Case in point: Jason's persistently asking me if I'm sure that I don't want an iPhone.)
I wondered though, if my friend's opinion of a restaurant was so off-target, could her judgment be trusted on anything else?
What else should be taken into consideration? Our neighborhood is in its retail youth, so "acceptable" anywhere else is often "great" here. Just the presence of a new restaurant is a trend to be encouraged and fostered.
Our friendship is early too, having only met through commuting to work. Has she known me long enough to know the degree of finickiness in my tastes - or for me to know her level of scrutiny to details like the chipping paint on the wall of a store?
Or is she one of those civilians employed by nefarious marketers to recommend products?
Or one of those people who's just really gratuitous about it? (Oprah's Favorite Things. After googling for this I learned that I have inadvertently adopted many of her favorite things: Uggs, Edy's WholeFruit Popsicles, Graeter's Black Raspberry Ice Cream - an Ohio thing, SugarDaddy's brownies - also from Ohio.)
For now I take the recommendation with an open mind, but also with the knowledge that I will have to weigh in with my own judgement.
I might also consider the recommendations I give too.


Andra Sue said...

Oooooh...I hate when that happens! It's so hard to figure out what to say, especially when someone asks what you thought of XYZ Restaurant/Housekeeper/Movie/Landscaper...and really they just sucked. :P

Jean Therapy said...

I've had pretty good luck when it comes to recommendations from friends. That's how I found my new and now regular massage person.

I usually take everyone's opinions with a grain of salt and if I get a bad rec, I have no problem telling people I didn't like something. I figure it's better for them to know. Different strokes, different folks.


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