Tuesday, July 8, 2014

How I Became the Most Hated Person in San Francisco Bay, For a Day

By Brian Mayer

This morning I put the finishing touches on, and launched, ReservationHop.com, a site where I’m selling reservations I booked up at hot SF restaurants this Fourth of July weekend and beyond.

I built it over the weekend after waiting at Off the Grid for 30 minutes for a burrito from SeƱor Sisig, and realized that there’s got to be a market for the time people spend waiting for tables at our finest city dining establishments.  Turns out I’m not the first person to think it, as there are two startups doing this very thing in New York City (here and here).
It’s a simple site with a simpler backend. I book reservations under assumed names, list them on ReservationHop, and price them according to the cost of the restaurant and how far in advance they need to be booked up. I don’t use OpenTable; I call the restaurants directly. And I have a policy of calling and canceling reservations that don’t get snapped up, because I don’t want to hurt the restaurants (the assumption being that on-demand restaurants with high walk-in traffic won’t have trouble filling those tables).
I anticipated some mild interest when I launched this morning, emailing the 20 or so potential customers I had interviewed at Off the Grid and some friends. I expected maybe having to make somewhat of an effort in order to get people to discover what I’m doing.  I never expected a maelstrom of internet hate.


  1. You should read some of the comments coming from the self-righteous leftists who do not grasp the concept of Scarcity, Opportunity Cost or Time Preference. Leftists and the economically-ignorant (usually the same people) cling to the notion that unless you talk about money, nothing has a cost. The usual argument being wielded around is that the reservation system is "free" because you can call and hold a table for yourself for "free", so the blogger's business model is unethical because it "commoditizes" those "free" spaces available for all, regardless of the fact that TIME spent waiting for a table IS A COST.

  2. There are several legitimate criticisms of his model in the comments. He artificially manipulates the supply of reservations by securing them under false pretenses. If you have to lie to make your business work, I think your practices is inherently unethical.

    The main issue I have is that his service does not add any value to either the customer or the restaurant. If he did not take a reservation hostage, it would be available for direct exchange between the customer and the restaurant. He has inserted himself as an unnecessary third party and has effectively established a system of exchange in which he is the only benefactor. Sounds like stealing/extortion to me.

    1. Your first paragraph I agree with. The second I don't. This is akin to ticket scalpers; they provide a service to people who don't want to, or can't, get tickets right when they go on sale. Even if others (or even their own customers!) frown upon them.

      Similarly, if I don't get a Valentine's Day reservation in time for my girlfriend's favorite restaurant, it may be worth it to me to call this guy and buy one of his reservations. How is that not a valuable service to me? How is he "unnecessary" any more than any transaction is "unnecessary?" How am I not a benefactor? How has he stolen or extorted from me or the restaurant?

      I do wonder about how the business model can last but I could see this evolving -- even to the point where the unethical lying is no longer necessary.