I am a product manager, developer and entrepreneur in San Francisco. I update my blog infrequently. About me.

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

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.

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I built it over the weekend after waiting at Off the Grid for 30 minutes for a burrito from Señor 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.

Not all of the responses have been negative, but an overwhelming number of them has been.

I totally understand the frustration people have with SF’s particular brand of “innovation.” And it seems that everywhere you look cherished public resources are being claimed by startups, whether it’s Google laying claim to bus stops or parking apps laying claim to, well parking spaces. I’d half expect someone to come along one day and put picnic blankets down in Dolores park and sell them at $25 apiece.

I also understand that this represents, as one Tweeter put it, “a caricature of SF tech bro shithead.” And as someone who spends a lot of time complaining to my friends about how much of an insular bubble San Francisco has become, what with apps built by the 0.1% for the 0.1%, I completely agree. In fact, I would have much preferred the media raised this much a fuss about Drillbit or The Creative Action Network or any of my other startups over the years.

But there’s something peculiar about SF, in that our media seems to love hating on stuff like this, so I guess I’m not surprised that I got Valleywagged almost immediately, followed by a post from The Next Web. I responded to an interview request from TechCrunch so it’s written up there too.

Meanwhile, traffic has gone through the roof. Here’s my actual Google Analytics graph from today.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 5.50.59 PM

I guess you can say that any press is good press.

But let’s talk about the questions/criticisms everyone has. What was I thinking! How dare I sell something that’s free! Is this even legal? Is it ethical? Restaurants are going to hate this!

To be honest, I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking through these questions. I built this site as an experiment in consumer demand for a particular product, and the jury’s still out on whether it will work. But I can tell you what I have thought through.

The initial criticism has been about the fact that restaurant reservations are free, and I shouldn’t be selling them. First off, reservations aren’t free. Restaurant tables are limited, in high demand and people wait a good long time as walk-ins to get them. Reservations take time and planning to make and the restaurant assumes an opportunity cost from booking them. My friend joked that it took me less time to build this site than most people spend hunting for OpenTable reservations in a given year.

What about ethics? We are talking about an asset that most people don’t think about having a value. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t have a value, or that people wouldn’t be willing to pay for it. For instance, no one would have thought that taking a cab during rush hour should cost more than a normal ride, until Uber launched surge pricing and we realized that people are willing to pay for it. Clearly, the service of booking a reservation in advance has value to patrons. This is evidenced by the startups doing this right now in New York City.

If someone does pay for it willingly, is it really unethical? The consumer has made a choice, the reservation stands, the restaurant gets a table filled as planned, and I have made money for providing the service. That seems perfectly ethical to me. I am aware that the ethical conundrum is around the “what if” question: If I book a table and no one buys it, the restaurant loses business, doesn’t it? I don’t know if that’s true yet, and I’m also working at a volume so low that it probably won’t matter.  I’m canceling the reservations 4 hours before if they don’t get bought, and certainly a restaurant that’s booked weeks in advance won’t have trouble filling a table with their high walk-in traffic, or someone who gets lucky and snaps up the reservation for free on OpenTable.

But more importantly, I think that a paid reservation lets customers get skin in the game, and that means that restaurants might even reduce no-shows if paid reservations become a thing. When Alinea introduced ticketing (pre-paid reservations), they dropped their rate of no-shows by 75%. That’s a pretty good deal in an industry with razor-thin margins.  I’m just speculating on whether this might provide value for restaurants; I can’t speak for them and need to parse this out over the next couple days.

So, back to becoming the most hated person in SF. I learned a lot today about how media, culture and technology in this city interact, and I have to say that overall, I think that the people who have sent me violent threats via email and Twitter, while excessive, may have a point. So in the interest of ethics and fairness, I want to talk to restaurants about working with them directly on a better reservation system. I’ve heard that OpenTable is loathed by many restaurants who don’t want to pay to fill tables. There may be a ticketing solution to high-demand restaurants. If you’re a restaurant, please drop me a line.

And if you’re a regular Jane or Joe, and you missed an opportunity to get a reservation at a hot SF restaurant for your first wedding anniversary this weekend, check to see if there are any reservations available for you at ReservationHop.com.

UPDATE: We have made a “soft pivot” to address feedback from the restaurant and tech industries. Read more here.

132 Comments

  • Scott Says

    Your understanding of ethics is seriously flawed. Just because someone is willing to pay for a service doesn’t justify it as being ethical. For example how many tens of thousands of non-whites consented to ride on busses knowing they would have to move to the back of the bus if a white passenger wanted their seat? Would you consider that ethical? They willingly consented to that transaction after all right?

    What about extorting tens-of-thousands of dollars for new patented treatments of diseases (see the hepatitis C cure). There is no moral framework that I’m aware of that views the fact that someone is willing to pay for a service as a de-facto moral justification for that service.

    Have you ever taken a philosophy class on ethics? Are you familiar with moral theories?

    • Mark Says

      SInce this charged service doesn’t actually prevent people going in and waiting for (free) walk-ins, or planning ahead and making (free) future reservations, your analogy should really be “white people get on the bus and the black people can continue to sit exactly where the hell they like”.

      Your misplaced moral indignation has got in the way of your critical thinking.

      There are grounds to criticise the business model, but you missed them by miles.

      • Larry Says

        Actually, the reservation does (by definition) prevent someone else from getting that table.
        That’s how reservations work.
        If you were honest and booked a block of reservations to resell instead of doing it under assumed names, that would be different. Something more like Priceline, where the producer of the object (the restaurant) knows that your fake reservation is a different type of agreement.

      • Scott Says

        First this isn’t moral indignation, it’s a rational deconstruction of Mayer’s argument. It’s not an argument by analogy, but an argument via reductio ad absurdum. Let me break it down more clearly:

        Premise as stated by Mayer:
        1. If there is a willing buyer for a service that service is ethically justified.

        2. People agreed to buy bus tickets where they were treated as 2nd class citizens based on their race.

        3. According to 1 and 2. This was morally justified.

        4. But because we can all agree that 3 is false, we must conclude that 1 is false.

        Hope that makes it clearer.

    • Rick Says

      Which is why boycotting worked. If you don’t like something…don’t use it.

      • akabret Says

        Rick, your statement is ridiculous. The vast, VAST majority of people WILL boycott a site like this, but the damage will still be done: A site like this doesn’t need many users to seriously damage a public service: the ability to attempt to get a reservation.

        To wit, if even one thousand people use this site in a given city, the REST of the city’s people will see that ALL good reservations are now only available if you pay some scumbag asshole for them.

        Your comment isn’t helping.

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  • Josh Says

    A few things:

    1) You live in San Francisco. Bless your soul… everybody outside of tech seems largely miserable. They must be jealous.

    2) San Francisco is largely liberal. This means most won’t understand/appreciate free market economics.

    3) There’s nothing wrong with your service. I’d use the hell out of it here in Texas, where we’ve got an ample supply of restaurants and an even larger supply of residents who love said restaurants. In fact, send me an email and perhaps we can chat a bit– I’d be willing to introduce your business to several restaurant owners down here in Houston, TX.

    • Larry Says

      The deception of making reservations under an assumed name is not “free market economics” it is creating an artificial scarcity so you can distort the value.

      • akabret Says

        Amen to that. Too much cleverness, not enough wisdom.

        This is like my children saying, “Anything that my parents haven’t explicitly said that they’d punish me for must be okay!” And then they push the edges until we DO punish them.

        I have an idea: the local pond is a public service — I’m technically allowed to scoop up a gallon of it, if I wanted. So why don’t I drain the lake entirely, and sell it off to anybody who wants to pay for it?

        Or maybe I’ll go to the shopping mall, and wait for someone to pull into a parking space — then I’l zip in front of them and charge them $5 for the spot!

        Ooh, I’m so innovative! And am making the world a better place, I’m sure of it.

        Fuck you people who think this way.

        • Emmett Says

          Scooping up gallons of water from a pond is what public utilities do among other things of course like making the water potable…most of the time. But they do charge you for the water so I’m not sure I get the analogy. They aren’t hoarding the water but that’s because most people are happy enough to let someone deliver water to them instead of lugging it home. But wait people do that when they buy water at the store! Wow there are actually companies that take a commodity like water and sell it at a premium. And there are people willing to buy into that scheme.

          I’m not saying I agree with this service but I’m also not so sure of a lot of things and I certainly don’t think going around saying “f you to people who think like this” is the way of getting your point across. Especially when you’re actually just saying “f you to people who don’t think like I do”.

          My gut feeling is that maybe this isn’t about feeling bad for restaurants as much as it is about being mad about a fee imposed – real or imagined. Isn’t one possibility that this service becomes the first of potentially many wholesale providers of reservations which may or may not increase the efficiency of reservation handling? Opentable gets a cut of the reservation so it imposes a fee on the restaurant in a not so dissimilar way. And it may effectively remove the burden of handling the reservations from the restaurant thereby lowering the costs of the restaurant.

          The more I think about it the less likely I’m so sure of the inherent good or bad of it.

          • Nichole Says

            Emmet,

            OpenTable doesn’t hold reservations. It makes them with the permission of the restaurant. If a business is using OpenTable, I can still call that business and get a reservation, if I use OpenTable or not.

            Brian Mayer is holding reservations. He calls, makes a fake reservation, and that reservation is reserved for him. No one else can call and take it. He’s stolen it. The only way to get that reservation is to pay Brian Mayer a cash fee.

            It’s not the same as what OpenTable does. That’s why Open Table has a partnership with the food service industry.

            Brian Mayer is just a parasite. His service isn’t a service. He isn’t making a reservation for you… you could have made that reservation yourself…. except he took it from you, and he’s charging you if you want it.

            It’s just stealing.

    • Danny Says

      Guy who would gladly pay for a reservation he could have gotten just as easily for free lectures people on economics. Proof that we are officially browsing the internet today.

  • Bill Says

    You are turning a free service into a paid commodity. For me that is unethical. I’d argue it is for you as well, otherwise you would not register the reservations under an assumed name. Unless you do it so the restaurants won’t catch on and refuse your reservations… wait, if you’re worried about that then you know restaurants will consider this as against their interests. The motto to have is not ‘Build something, Change the world’, it’s ‘Build something, Change the world for the better‘. You’ve changed the world – just not in a good way.

    • Emmett Says

      Why does everyone assume that reservation handling is a free service?

      • Nichole Says

        Because the restaurant who owns the reservation is offering it to the public for free on a first come, first served basis.

        That’s why it’s free.

        • ok Says

          ok, then get there before Brian, and you will get the rez

          life isn’t rainbows and unicorns….deal with it

          • Martin Says

            It’s not rainbows and unicorns because of opportunist fuckwits that’s right.

        • Kilometers Blackwood Says

          Just to play devil’s advocate, if the restaurant employs a host who manages reservations, the cost of paying that employee is covered in the price of your meal, is it not? Just because you don’t pay a fee up front to make reservation doesn’t meant that it doesn’t have an economic impact on the restaurant or your lunch.

  • dbg Says

    “If someone does pay for it willingly, is it really unethical?”

    YES! Fuck. Why don’t you understand this?

    • akabret Says

      There are ALL SORTS of public goods that we all benefit from. Parking spaces at the mall. A walk in the fresh air. Friendly neighborhood chats. Taking a photo of my son at the playground. The list is practically endless.

      You could put a business model around taking any one of these away. Maybe I’ll have a siren that plays while you’re walking down the street (just low enough levels that it’s legal), and charge you $5 to shut it off. …As long as the siren isn’t any louder than, say, other technically-legal noises, then I bet there isn’t a law against it! GENIUS!

      They all paid for it, right? Willingly, too, right?

      That is NOT the standard. The standard is having people pay willingly for something that adds value. Not to take something away and ask them to (willingly) pay for it to get it back.

      Finding clever ways to take away basic privileges, so that you can charge for them might be legal, but it’s clearly societally disadvantageous.

      • Keith Says

        You’re missing the choice factor here. If I want you to turn the siren off, my only choice is to pay you; meanwhile, I can plan ahead and make my reservation for free, or walk in and wait, and completely not pay this guy for a table.

        • Gino Says

          No. You’ll have to call earlier or wait longer. A better analogy would be taking a different route to work that doesn’t involve walking down the street with the siren.

        • Nichole Says

          No Keith, you don’t have the option of making a reservation without using this service, because why Mayer is doing is taking the reservation and holding it.

          Those tables are held in his (fake) name. You can’t call up and reserve them. The only way to reserve them is to pay Mayer.

          That makes it racketeering.

    • None Says

      “Why don’t you understand this?”

      Because he’s an asshole. Duh.

  • Steve Taylor Says

    It’s simple: people hate you because you’re a parasitic creep. Hope that helps.

  • Hi Brian.

    I don’t know you at all, and I’m not going to make any ad-hominem attacks (though I did have a lot of fun at your expense on twitter today). Your service is terrible in ways too numerous to mention, so I’ll just touch on one ethical issue. You book tables under fake names, and then sell the bookings that have been made under fake names. So not only are you lying, but your customers are paying for the privilege of lying. In a small way, you’re suborning fraud. Ick.

    The lie is important because your business would not exist *without* the fundamental lie – you are not who you say you are when you book the tables that you on-sell.

    If you cannot see that just that one simple aspect of your business is ignoble, then it’s unlikely you’ll be persuaded by the finer points.

    The way you write suggests that you’re a reasonable bloke. As it stands now, the service you’ve launched isn’t.

    @rossfloate

    • Keith Says

      It was already stated that this was an experiment to determine the viability of the service (and, by the traffic, I’d say it’s viable). While that doesn’t excuse the methods, it should also make it clear that those methods won’t be standard operating procedure. No that he’s gotten his foot in the door and has hard data that shows the tables will fill if he’s selling them, he can approach restaurants and get them to opt-in; without that, they’d just tell him to pound sand.

      • epb Says

        The restaurants shouldn’t have to opt in. They created the value here – a table at a desirable restaurant at a desirable time – and that is theirs to profit off of or not as they choose. This guy basically stole that property from them through fraud. Not only is it unethical, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was illegal in some way.

      • Nichole Says

        Keith,

        Those restaurants can also file a criminal and civil complaint against Brian Mayer and order him to cease and desist.

        He can’t sell their reservations without their permission. And he isn’t doing anything that better serves them.

  • Bogwart McDuffbubble Says

    Can I invest? $50m at a $2b val? This is Yo for restaurants I want in.

    Sincerely, Bogwart McDuffbubble at McDuffbubble Capital Associates

  • Adam Says

    I think what may be offensive to many is that you’re inserting yourself as a monetarily compensated middleman, where previously it required more work from the individual, but it was a meritocracy – early reservations got the tables, late ones did not.

    You’re preventing the early/mid game people by squatting on the freely available slots, then charging the remaining group who is willing to pay more.

    Effectively, those who are willing to pay your tax can play, but to do so, you’ve added competition to those who are not, but at no risk to you, since you use fake booking information.

    Illegal? Possibly, but doubtful. Maybe some places will catch on, and figure out a way to prevent yourself from becoming a middleman, possibly by charging a reservation fee/deposit at the time of booking.

    Moral/Ethical/The Right Thing To Do? Up to you. It’s not something I’d be comfortable telling random strangers in a bar of what my side project is.

    From friends who have worked in locations that take reservations, the no show rate is quite high. While I don’t think this is the solution, a third party who has nothing to lose and everything to gain, and controls the game – I do think businesses would benefit from a paid deposit system. Put $XYZ to hold the table on a card when you book the reservation. If you show up, the $XYZ goes toward your meal, so it’s not lost. If it’s a no-show, there’s a set period of grace time, then the table is given to a walk in, and the deposit isn’t refunded.

    • Keith Says

      He’s not inserting himself, he’s making himself available. The difference, and it *is* subtle, so I don’t fault you for missing it, is that you can still go around him and plan you reservation in advance; HE IS NOT RESERVING EVERY AVAILABLE TABLE! You can also still walk in. This is in stark contrast to, say, the music industry, where it’s almost impossible to get a record deal without an agent and getting your music on store shelves requires a big label.

      • Val Says

        And what happens if no one buys the reservations this toad books under false pretenses? The restaurant has to leave the table open until they’re sure no one’s coming, and they start to lose revenue. Now multiply that by multiple empty tables at multiple restaurants, and this guy is stealing their revenue on the chance that he’ll make a few bucks scalping reservations.

        The restaurants could fix this by requiring ID or a check deposit that’s equal to or slightly more than what the scalpers get. I’d be happy to pay $10 in advance against my check to stop scalpers.

        The saddest thing about all of this is that people like, Mayer and the geniuses at ParkModo really don’t get it. I’ll spell it out. Dude, people don’t like paying for things that should be free so that you can make money while making our two-tiered society even worse than it already is. So enough with the everyone-hates-me-and-I’m-just-an-entrepreneur self-pity, please.

        • Val Says

          Oh, and canceling the bogus reservation four hours in advance doesn’t cut it. Lots of people make their plans days in advance, and the restaurants are still likely to end up with empty tables.

      • Gino Says

        Keith, I think you’re consistently missing this one point. Table supply at a restaurant isn’t all or nothing. Just because he might not reserve every table doesn’t mean he won’t have an impact on the ability of others to get reservations. These are popular restaurants, after all, and the whole point of the service is to snag reservations that would otherwise definitely be booked. So by booking them himself, he negatively affects supply and forces other people to either pay him, call even earlier to make reservations, or wait even longer to get in.

        This is almost exactly the restaurant version of ticket scalping. And it’s clear that ticket scalping makes it more difficult or expensive to see a show or game. The argument really just comes down to the belief that time = money. If there’s absolutely no difference, then things like this are perfectly ethical and even desirable.

        The problem is that time and money aren’t anywhere near as perfectly interchangeable as Econ 101 concepts would have you believe. The most important difference is that time inequality is much lower than financial inequality. So services like this, that use resource scalping, aren’t simply converting between two equivalent types of value. They’re making it easier for those with more money to access resources, precisely by making it harder for those with less money. So you can argue for that if you want, but let’s just be clear that there is a very specific impact caused by this business model.

  • gregorylent Says

    i send my driver to make a reservation .. or use my phone to call .. i’m paying for the making of that reservation ..

    • yourmom Says

      do you make a profit off the resturant while you do this? no, then shut up!

      • Dan Says

        Man seeks to profit by every action. I step outside so as to profit from fresh air. I drink a glass of water to profit from hydration. I look out the window to profit from the pleasure of the view. Dollars are just one economic good among others, but which simply function better as a unit of account.

  • Ankush Says

    “First off, reservations aren’t free…”
    They are nominally free, which your service explicitly changes.

    “If someone does pay for it willingly, is it really unethical.” By this definition, slavery/prostitution/paid hit-men are all fine.

    And after all that pontification (most of it gibberish), you close with “check to see if there are any reservations available for you at ReservationHop.com.” Good thing you aren’t in PR.

  • Donald Brown Says

    Let’s see. You’re defrauding restaurants into providing the assets you’re selling. You have to defraud them because there’s no upside for them and lots of downside – any reservations you can’t sell means lost income for restaurant, waiterstaff, buss staff, and seats unavailable to walk in customers which makes them unhappy. People trying to make reservations normally will find them harder to get because you’ve stolen them by fraud. And you can’t understand why people hate you or what you could possibly be doing wrong.

    • Keith Says

      Did you read the article? He cancels unsold reservations 4 hours in advance, so they’re available for walk-ins, unless someone calls last-minute for a reservation, in which case, the restaurant books it. Your only valid point is your last point, but you’re also missing that this was an experiment; data collection to prove that he can sell tables. Now that he has that, he can go to the restaurants and offer them a service. People who pay for a reservation show up for that reservation, and no-shows are a big money-loser for restaurants; they can’t seat a walk-in at that table once it’s cleared and ready for the reserved party (often 15min in advance of their arrival) or for a reasonable time after the party was set to arrive (again, typically 15 minutes), so a no-call costs the restaurant a table for 30 minutes; if this can reduce that, it’s a net win for the restaurant, as well as extreme-last-minute reservers and walk-ins, since unsold reservations *are* cancelled 4hr in advance.

      • epb Says

        You’re missing the point entirely. Who cares if he cancels the reservations 4 hours before? The reservations never belonged to him because he obtained them fraudulently. He is entitled to exactly zero reservations at any restaurant, and he knows it, thus the deception.

  • Brian Says

    So easy to defeat your lame service. Restaurant now just have to ask for a last name + ID, and you’re GG’d.

  • Bo Says

    If you shared, say, 30% of your revenue with the restaurant you’d be like OpenTable but actually good for restaurants. If you keep it all then please get used to this reaction.

  • Mike Muscato Says

    If your service stays up you’ll be the most hated person for more than a day. Not to worry, it won’t be too long. I’m sure there’s another sleazy parasite like yourself who will come out with a service even more horrible than yours. Enjoy your infamy while you can.

  • Eat a wiener Says

    You are not providing a “service”. You are unwelcomely and abusively injecting yourself into a “good faith” system that has been working well since telephones “became a thing”, and probably even longer than that.

  • McKay Says

    Sorry Brian, but you seem to fail to be considering the full and actual ethics here. Interesting and innovative business model, but not a positive one.

    Becoming a paid middleman and gaming a system for a service which otherwise and formerly was free and un-gamed is a long established business model – and one that is nearly universally seen as shady, if not outright immoral, advantage-taking or illegal. Why are you possibly surprised people are upset?

    Do you know what you’ve created: ticket scalping for restaurants. And sorry, it is very clear that scalping is seen as a spurious and negative business.

    Line/queue jumping, ticket scalping, profiteering and other gaming otherwise formerly public, open systems are consistently frowned upon if not outright declared illegal across every jurisdiction and continent I’ve lived in. Most cities have made ticket scalping illegal for very obvious reasons and experience with its negative results. Or worse, they have regulated it because it was so prolific that they could not stop it entirely.

    The problem you seem to fail to recognize or admit is that if you are successful, you will be followed with competitors and together you will eat and eat away the reservation space (your business model has a super-low barrier to entry), booking earlier and earlier until the only way to book a reservation at a decent restaurant is by paying someone. Paying for something that was formerly free. Yeah, innovative yes, but hella classist and yup, totally making San Fran even more only for the 0.1%. If you’re successful, paying for a reservation will become the norm. Is that more efficient? From who’s perspective? Do you yourself want to pay for every reservation you make just to eat at a decent restaurant? How’s that going to help those not making 6-figure salaries?

    Gaming systems or becoming entrenched rent-seeker, baksheesh-demanding middlemen for highly desired services is a long-standing and always negative, shameful business model. That’s what you’re building and no amount of rationalization can make it otherwise.

    You’re the new ticket scalper. Are you really surprised people might dislike it vehemently?

    Hopefully, and I honestly, truly mean this from the heart bro, hopefully you can take the time to think about the ethics a little more. Think about the type of business you’re creating and the historical precedents and results of it. Stop doing interviews and writing in defence of your position. Stop writing and listen for a bit. Or don’t listen and just think to yourself. Personally I truly hope you get some good, solid advice from people you trust and do the right thing.

    And while no amount of hatemail is ever justified, the uproar and wide criticism is absolutely consistent with a business model consistently considered shady and entirely deserved. How can you be surprised? Sorry to come down hard, but I’m absolutely against it and hope you come to your senses and shut it down before he turns San Francisco into even more the 0.1%.

  • Brian Says

    You’re ‘buying’ up a limited quantity item and ‘reselling’ it at a premium. Isn’t this scalping? I don’t know anyone who likes scalpers.

  • Mike Says

    This is literally just ticket scalping, but with restaurant reservations. Ticket scalpers are human garbage, so there’s that, but I also like the irony of your own description of your service.

    On your “How It Works” page, you say this: “Everyone has tried to book a restaurant reservation only to find that someone else got to it first.” Thats you. You are the person who got to it first. You are the problem that you are solving. Please think deeply about that.

    Still, I think this is a great idea. You should do it with emergency room queues and doctor’s appointments. People hate waiting for medical care even more than they hate waiting for food. I bet there’s a ton of money to be made there!

    • Eric Says

      You should do it with emergency room queues and doctor’s appointments. People hate waiting for medical care even more than they hate waiting for food. I bet there’s a ton of money to be made there!

      Exactly. And since people that get rushed to the ER are already paying a small fortune, it’s a proven business model! Someone that’s just been impaled by a chainsaw and has minutes left to live (unless they gets treatment) would totally be willing to pay, so it’d be completely ethical too. Too bad for those who can’t afford it, but oh well… can’t afford to risk diluting your brand and increasing support costs by lowering prices, amirite?

      I think we’re on to something here…

  • Phil Says

    Any “hot” restaurant in SF that requires a reservation is for rich people anyway. The “meritocracy” that some posts claim you’ve made into a market doesn’t exist. So skim off the wealthy, and use the money to go to restaurants that don’t require a reservation!

    • akabret Says

      Yes. Only the rich ever make reservations at expensive restaurants. The bottom 80% have never celebrated a night out at a good restaurant.

      Good point, Phil.

  • John Says

    I’m surprised at the reaction from what seems to be a city that gets disruption. Maybe that’s wrong. As a foodie that frequents nice restaurants I’m not sure how I feel about this but would probably use your service if I found myself traveling to your city last minute and wanted to get into a good place. People don’t like change. What your story has done is changed my opinion of the people of san Francisco more than anything. Wow, just rude and unforgiving. Then again my city is full of liberals as well… Here is a thought, get the government to subsidize reservations and you’ll have a sure winner.

    Whatever happens they have given you a huge career boost one way or another. Well played.

  • Bubba Punk Says

    Sleazy ticket scalping at it’s best. You need to get a bodyguard. I’m afraid angry citizens may beat your ass.

  • Gabi Says

    I came here wanting to pour vitriol on you, but was surprised to find your response to be fairly reasonable and showing some of the self-awareness that perhaps was absent from your initial brainstorming sessions.
    I say “some” because your grasp on ethics seems shaky at best.

    Nobody likes a middleman, but we have seen time and time again that people will pay out of convenience and desperation.

    You state that you are calling up the restaurants yourself and therefore giving up your own time to do that – or is there an unpaid intern behind the scenes doing the legwork?

    People are angry because you have added one more thing to the list of items that “rich people get ahead of me”. That, and also your profile pics, here and on Twitter come off as incrediby smug. Nobody likes smug.

  • Kristine Says

    Your logic seems really fuzzy.

    1. By snapping up reservations so there are even less of them seems like it hurts the very Jane and Joe you say you are trying to help.

    2. How can you be so sure restaurants will be able to re book the fake reservations within 4 hours?. Playing fast and loose with a great many people’s livelihood seems extremely irresponsible – at best.

    And like many other comments here I am skeptical that you did not think this would generate the negative publicity that it has, or that people would guestion the ethics. Of course if you really did not have a clue, then the insulated .1% bubble we live in is even more depressing and dangerous that I thought.

    Lastly I am glad that, according to your blog, you are reaching out to restaurants and I hope that is a committment you will stand by.

  • akabret Says

    Hey Brian,
    I’m actually Chief Data Strategist for a $11B high-tech company in Boston. I help build our data models, to make sure we’re using data properly to make business decisions.

    If you’re ever in town, we should catch up! I’d love to throw a drink in your face for your blatant lack of ethics, and the bad name that you cast upon our broader group, of people who try to use data responsibly.

  • Damon Says

    You are taking something of value from everyone involved. Restaurants don’t charge more or upcharge for last-minute reservations so they can be neighborhood institutions and allow people who appreciate food to book early and still afford the restaurant.

    Your service denies them that so that people with more money but less taste or neighborhood connection use up all the tables.

  • SFRussell1963 Says

    Yes it IS unethical and illegal. The sale of good which do not belong to you is a crime. It’s not even a question.

  • B Says

    What happens if I am obviously not white and I get a reservations with a white sounding name? Or if I am a girl and I get a dude’s name? I imagine that most of your customers will be white dudes, so it makes sense for you to fill every reservation with white sounding fake names (in other words, you should cater to the mode of your customer distribution.) So if you succeed and it becomes hard to make a reservation by phone, I will have to dine under a white guys name. Sometimes I am the only one asked to show ID in some stores because I look like I could have stolen the credit card (since I obviously cant afford anything.) It would feel horrible for me if I am asked to show ID and I am using a fake name — hopefully you wont grow to the point where you can suck up every reservation.

  • Chester Says

    Last night on an old Simpsons rerun Monty Burns blocked out the sun in order to sell more electricity. Wecome to being Montgomery Burns: evil, thoughtless, hated moron.

    I have two suggestions: First, take down your site. Your thought of actually working with restaurants is better; however it is still horribly flawed because it will PISS RESTAURANT CUSTOMERS OFF because you’re going to charge customers for reservations, instead of restaurants, like Open Table. A dipshit move for sure.

    Second, take a course in Engineering Ethics; UC Berkeley has just such a course. I gave one of the guest lectures this past semester. Just because you can do something does not mean you should. Maybe you’ve learned this lesson but it clearly needs lots of time to sink into your mind.

  • Chris Kaster Says

    ““If someone does pay for it willingly, is it really unethical?””

    To me, that’s an easily answered “yes”. But perhaps you have different ethical standards than I.

    How about this test Brian? Go buy a child prostitute, have you way with her or him, and then tell me about your ethics.

    Maybe that simple example might help you grasp the concept that you clearly lack comprehension of at present.

  • Mike Says

    Did Scott just compare getting reservations at some swanky bullshit restaurant to the Civil rights atrocities of America’s History? why do we always compare frivolous things to historical tragedies to prove a point. Scott, learn to use reason instead of the weight of an event that does not actually create a valuable comparison.

    That being said. This guy is going to get a lot of flack for what he is doing, but if he creates a market for something people want, it’s a good thing. Especially for those who make last minute plans.

    My airplane ticket costs more the closer I reserve it to my departure date, if I want tickets to a concert, I have to pay more to stub hub if I don’t get it the day it goes on sale. If I want a TV today I can go to Best Buy and pay retail or I can go on Amazon and have them ship it to me for free (Prime) in two days. If people are willing to pay for something that doesn’t break any laws, then the morality or ethics of it is subjective.

  • Frank George Says

    “If someone does pay for it willingly, is it really unethical? ”

    OK, you can pay to have someone killed, does it become ethical then?

    You can buy kiddie porn, is that ethical too?

    Is the mere act of money being exchanged for a service/product make it ethical? Is the monetisation of something/anything enough to legitimise it? Is money the arbiter of morality?

    This for me is why your in need of some serious help. Your moral compass is totally f###ed up…

  • Jesse Chapin Says

    “If someone does pay for it willingly, is it really unethical?”

    Words that can only come from a true sociopath. Get fucked.

  • Ted Bronson Says

    I would love for your service to be used at my restaurant. I would scan your page everyday and when the persons comes in with the reservation from your site I would let them wait. They would never get a table. Don’t you see the fault in your scheme. You cannot be the enemy of your revenue. I think I’m going to start a service in san fransisco that would let the restaurant know if a reservation is coming from your site. I would charge them a minimal fee and since they are paying for my service it would automatically make it ethical right?

  • Michael Says

    If it looks like a douche, and acts like a douche, and rationalizes like a douche…

  • concierge Says

    Your service reminds me of the service provided by the concierge at a high-end hotel. They appear to have contacts at the hot restaurants and can get you a reservation in exchange for a tip. Maybe the concierge shares the tip with the maitre d (I don’t know how it really works but I’m sure money is involved). This service is only available to the rich or well-connected, while yours is more democratic. However, your problem is that you don’t have an established middleman relationship with the restaurants – instead you are fraudulently making the reservation. That’s the fundamental flaw in your business model. Also, obviously it won’t scale, even with a stable of unpaid interns making calls. Why not put your skills and creativity to better use? Solve a better problem.

  • You confuse price with value. Restaurant reservations aren’t priced in dollar terms. People demonstrate that they are valuable by how they work to get them and how they behave once they do.

    Similarly, love and sex are valuable, but generally not priced. That you aren’t paying for sex on a per-encounter basis doesn’t mean you don’t value it.

    As a fellow entrepreneur, I believe the hate is entirely justified. By your own admission you haven’t thought this through at the same time you’re trying to disrupt an industry. It would have taken you a lot less time to consider the ethics of this than it did to build it out. For those of us who have been in SF a while, it’s embarrassing, and creates headaches. I’d encourage you to close this down and do something that actually creates value in the world.

  • B Baker Says

    Booking the reservations under “assumed names” sort of says it all, doesn’t it?

    Moreover, if your services catches on, it will harm restaurants. If I want to get into a coveted restaurant fairly, “competing” on a level playing field against other would-be patrons and I don’t get a reservation I’m not necessarily inclined not to try again: I had a fair shot and didn’t get it. On the other hand, if your “service” takes off and people begin to believe that the only way to get a reservation at Restaurant X is to pay a third party a fee, or believe that they tried and were unable to get a reservation because services like yours were crowding out patrons, some portion of potential patrons are simply going to stop trying to get reservations at X. And your freeloading has harmed the restaurant’s brand.

    • B Baker Says

      Also, from your website, this:

      “Everyone has tried to book a restaurant reservation only to find that someone else got to it first.”

      This is the problem you’re trying to solve, right? You will only exacerbate it. You are making money by, and providing a financial incentive for others to make money by, making it more likely that “someone else got it first,” unless they’re willing to pay what is essentially extortion. And that’s what your “service” is — creating artificial scarcity and monetizing it.

      How many restaurants have taken you up on your offer to partner? None? Isn’t that a pretty clear statement that the industry you’re freeloading off doesn’t think your service is in their best interest?

      And if restaurants wanted to reduce no-shows by charging a pre-paid fee, wouldn’t they do that themselves? Why “partner” with you? What, exactly, do you offer?

      Seriously, Brian, if you’re going to rationalize this service to yourself as anything other than freeloading-cum-extortion, do a better job of it. As things are now, you not only come across as a douchebag, but also as an idiot.

  • Jesse S Says

    Well i’m up here in Vancouver BC. How many times have i looked for a reservation last minute, called around and found nothing to only go and wait an hour for an open table at whatever location we decided on. If this was a service here, i would have ZERO issues paying a few bucks to get a spot to enjoy my evening. You spent the time to make the reservation, i then pay you for your service. The whole ethics thing at work here is non-issue for me, i guess i’m a terrible person, and i’m just fine with that. I’ll be the one with the table by the window with a view laughing as i enjoy my meal while you wait on the narrow uncomfortable chairs in the waiting area… Brian, kudos, you may have just found the data and interest to be the first “Priceline” of the restaurant reservation world. As this becomes popular, it will have to evolve and turn into blocks of reservations sold to re-sellers who then make a small profit, restaurants make some extra money and continue to have the filled tables they expect.

    • epb Says

      I have an idea. Why don’t you stop making reservations at the last minute? It’s called planning ahead.

    • David P. Graf Says

      Yes. You are a terrible person and one whose actions make life worse for the rest of us. You remind me of what Scott Adams said about the task of good management. It was to get rid of the jerks who made work a bad experience for everyone else. Well, the same could be said of society in general and the way people like you make the world a meaner place. The shame is that you have no sense of shame.

  • Nunuvyer Bizniz Says

    Brian Mayer, you are slime. You are the problem in this world. You richly deserve all the hate.

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  • Jennifer Says

    I’m not worried about the consumer because really, some people will pay for convenience. That is the way it has always been.

    Some have been comparing you to scalpers but I see a very big difference. Scalpers buy tickets so the business get their money. What the scalpers do after they buy it is immaterial to the original seller because they have gotten paid. The scalpers own the tickets now.

    This is very very different. You’re filling spots with phantom people and messing with the expectations of the restaurants. Let’s forget the patrons who get locked out because really, most times, they can find another place to eat.

    This is about hurting our local businesses and people who work there.

    Restaurants plan the food prep, the waitstaff and many other variables around reservations. If they believe they will have X amount of tables, they are planning accordingly. You are throwing a wrench in to this by making reservations in fake names that you don’t know if you can fill or not. Canceling 4 hours in advance isn’t a lot of time, by then they’ve already called in the staff they need, ordered the food, etc.

    Many of these places operate on low margins as it is.

    You haven’t invested any money and so you doesn’t lose anything if you can’t sell the reservation. If you remember to cancel, great! If not, oh well.

    But even if you do cancel there is no guarantee the restaurant will be able to fill it in short notice, maybe they will but it’s a gamble. You’re gambling with the restaurant’s money to make your own.

    This is my problem with your business model.

    • HoHo Says

      Precisely. And the businesses could eventually require a reservation deposit if more people try to run business in this way, which introduces overheads and inconvenience to all consumers on the end.

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  • Emmett Says

    A thought experiment:

    In the beginning there is a restaurant. (Let’s call this restaurant Leaven, because it has good beer and bread).

    Leaven opens with 10 identical tables.

    Every Friday (they are only open on Friday’s — so crazy!) they fill up to 9 of the 10 tables – no matter what and never more. Every Friday. At this point, the 10th table has no ‘value’ to the (would be) consumer – there is no scarcity of tables, you can always get a seat. And, in this sense, the concept of a ‘reservation’ is meaningless – as a table is always available.

    Suddenly, one Friday, the 10th table is filled (credit goes to the short ribs. Or the marketing guy posting sassy Facebook updates). And, from here on out, the 10th table gets filled every Friday. Not only that, but more people want in (ok, definitely the short ribs). There’s a line out the door. Every Friday.

    Now, that 10th table (or any table), has ‘value’ – it is desired by multiple parties but cant be had. The ‘reservation’ is born as a device to favor planning and first-come-first-serve in equal measure. It meets Leaven’s need of keeping the seats full, but also make access slightly more open (as opposed to the string of people that randomly show up for the 10th table).

    At first it was on the phone, then new technologies were developed to make it easier (e.g. OpenTable – even if not always easy!) These new technologies didn’t really change anything except allowed people access to reservations – and the visibility to see they don’t need to be standing out in the rain (it rains a lot at Leaven, it’s in NH). They can see much further out when Leaven tables will be open.

    Then an online tool called ReservationHop.com comes along. It doesn’t just change the way (or medium) reservations are made. Reservations are for booking tables. ReservationHop is for booking reservations. The idea was seemingly innocuous – there may not be a physical line out the door to Leaven, but there is a line on OpenTable. Now, you can use cash to cut that line!

    Here’s the thought experiment part.

    What happens when there’s a ‘line’ on ReservationHop? Suppose Mr. Mayer calls and books 1 table at Leaven. (Leaven at this stage is serving sourdough pretzels, so people are even willing to pay for a reservation – that’s crazier than only being open on Fridays!) Now, every Friday, RH.com sells off the 10th table to the highest bidder. But in a matter of weeks, there’s a line on ReservationHop vying for that 10th table.

    At this stage, for lovers of Leaven, nothing has actually been improved. The 10th table is still always full every Friday, and access hasn’t been granted any more equitably (if such a thing is even possible in the restaurant biz). There is still a ‘line.’ Except a third party financial incentive has been added that’s completely divorced from the thing that actually made that 10th table valuable (sourdough pretzels dipped in short ribs bbq sauce!)

    What is RH.com to do? Book the 9th seat too? And when a line forms there as well? The premise was that these restaurants are so popular they fill no matter what – so why wouldn’t RH.com continue booking more and more tables?

    It appears as if RH.com creates its own incentive to hold restaurant tables hostage – increasingly so – because any one consumer (or 10) will pay ‘not to stand in line.’ The idea was sparked by Mr. Mayer’s frustration of waiting 30m at Senor Sisig. It isn’t clear why, after some time, he would have any better access to Senor Sisig through this website. RH.com doesn’t solve the problem it set out to solve.

    Hmm.

    -from the guy who works at Leaven, in NH, which is not only open on Friday but does serve awesome sourdough pretzels, and you never need to pay to get in! #seewhatididthere

  • Nichole Says

    Brian,

    What you’re doing is called “stealing.” That’s all it is. You’re stealing from both the restaurant and the diners.

    If you don’t understand that, then you have a serious moral problem.

    That reservation is owned by the restaurant. They offer it to their customers for free on a first come-first-served basis as a convenience.

    When you block off reservations under false names, and then charge money to release them – that money isn’t rightfully yours. You are holding those restaurant tables hostage until someone pays you.

    It’s stealing… or racketeering, if you prefer that term. And you really need to go to jail for that.

    Please realize that you CAN go to jail for that.

    • Jennifer Says

      To me is sounds like he’s perpetuating a fraud on the restaurants by making up names and tying up tables he knows in advance he might not be able to fill.

      Those up thread and elsewhere comparing this to slipping a $20 to the waiter to jump in line are completely missing the point. That person is *in* house, that person is a guaranteed customer. Sure, this person might be cutting in line with money but this person will also pay for his meal and tip.

      This is nowhere near the same thing because this model is based on speculation. There is no way of knowing if the reservations will sell and we only have his word he’s canceling the ones that don’t.

      4 hour lead time isn’t a long time to fill that table because by then people who were turned away have made other plans and the restaurant has to rely on last minute calls or walk ins. If it’s popular than maybe it’ll fill but as I said this is a gamble and Brian is gambling with their money with no skin in the game as it were.

      He’s also not sharing the money he makes with the restaurants. The links he uses to defend himself in this post are disingenuous because those places have partnered with the restaurants which he hasn’t.

      I don’t know if making up names and tying up tables at local restaurants one has no intention of using for themselves meets the legal definition of fraud but if I were an owner of a restaurant I’d be very interested to find out.

  • David P. Graf Says

    If you don’t understand why it is unethical to lie in return for money, then I despair for you. When booking a false reservation, you are lying to the restaurant. By getting paid for doing so from people using your website, you are profiting based upon a lie. Is your conscience seared or is money all that’s important to you?

  • Lilac Sunday Says

    San Franciscans need to get over themselves. The guy is selling restaurant reservations, he isn’t violating the social compact or destroying democracy. He is selling restaurant reservations. He is selling something you do not need. You can still obtain food without using his app, you can even still obtain food from restaurants requiring reservations without using his app.

    • David P. Graf Says

      He is behaving unethically. Is that irrelevant?

    • Jennifer Says

      This isn’t about the customer because you’re right, they can eat elsewhere this isn’t a dire situation for them .

      However he is hurting the business he is trying to profit on and not even sharing the money he makes on them with them.

      As for not violating social contracts? He’s selling reservations that are not his to sell. He’s made them fraudulently with made up names with restaurants who in good faith are planning their service around the number of tables they have filled that night.

      He says he’ll cancel them but what if he forgets or doesn’t? Also is he giving the restaurant ample time to fill the cancellations?

      If he had entered in to a above board agreement with the restaurant that would be completely different.

      He hasn’t. He is lying to them to make money off them and in the process possibly costing hem money while he profit.

      This hurts business and the people who work for the business. The patron who can eat anywhere isn’t the point or even the concern.

    • Nichole Says

      Lilac,

      He’s selling something that doesn’t belong to him.

      In any society in the entire world, that’s called stealing.

  • Paulo Says

    Booking reservations under an assumed name is a big ethical first hurdle. It’s depressing that this is open for debate in the first place. Entrepreneur? Hustler is more apt the term.

  • I’m not native English speaker, so sorry for my bad English:

    1. Most shitstormer obviously don’t know anything about philosophy, moral and ethics. ‘Good’ philsoophy doesn’t judge in any way emotionally. It argues just based on logics and offers difefrent perspectives of how to look at things. That’s just all. Moral is what people (esp. intolerant idealists) make out of it to force the world around them in their view of the world. Best examples: Crusades of the Catholic Church, Race theories (Nazis, Apartheid etc.), Nationalism (instead of patriotism).

    2. Usually shitstormers think they’re the gate keeper of truth, but the fact is: As long as there is no objective evaluation, EVERY statement about your service is just a hypothesis and as right or wrong as your statements.

    3. Why don’t you ask the restaurants to cooperate with you: They provide you with a a contingent of ‘blank’ reservations, you gurantee a selling of at least 75% of the reservations until 4 hours before and the reservations and the restaurant gets a share of the money. Or something like that. Advantage: You don’t have to use wrong names and everything is official.

    *******

    And here to some arguments of one shitstormer, becuase they’re perfect as an example for the ‘psychology’ of sss

    SS: What you’re doing is called “stealing.” That’s all it is. You’re stealing from both the restaurant and the diners.

    Answer: This ss obviously didn’t read your arguments, couldn’t follow them intellectually or just is unhappy in his/her life. Statements like “That’s all it is” is not made by grown ups, but by stubborn children (There IS a Santa Claus)

    SS: If you don’t understand that, then you have a serious moral problem.

    Answer: And you seem to have a serious intellectual problem. Intellectual honest people are never trapped in ideologies (= moral theories).

    SS: That reservation is owned by the restaurant.

    Answer: Please show me the law, where you can read, that a restaurant owns a reservation. (I’m positive, you won’t find any.)

    SS: They offer it to their customers for free on a first come-first-served basis as a convenience.

    Answer: And?

    SS: When you block off reservations under false names, and then charge money to release them – that money isn’t rightfully yours.

    Answer: Agree!

    SS: It’s stealing… or racketeering, if you prefer that term. And you really need to go to jail for that.

    Answer: Here comes the true moralist – never without a sword in his/her hand. And always mismatching a very personal hypothesis with ‘truth’. Yeah, let’s conquer all non-believers and turn the world into a ‘civilisation’. (By the way, that’s why most of the world doesn’t like the actual American policy. It’s intolerant, aggressive and imperialistic. And – before moralists kill me now: I’m talikng about POLITICS, not the American citizen, who more and more suffer from that intolerance)

    SS: Please realize that you CAN go to jail for that.

    Answer: Here the wish seems to be the father of these thoughts.

    All the best for your business! (If you stop this wrong-name-thing and start to cooperate with the restaurants). Write to Google, offer to become a project manager for this to implement a tool like that in their IT. I’m positive, that most restaurants would be interested in talking part and posting reservations on their own…

    • Nichole Says

      It’s stealing.

      I stand by all my statements.

      If you can’t see how it’s stealing, then you should perhaps rethink your moral values.

    • David P. Graf Says

      If you don’t understand why it’s wrong to lie, then I pity you.

  • Sean Says

    What you’re doing is ticket scalping for the restaurant industry.

  • Marcello Says

    Even your scruff makes me sick. All you morons that look a like need to move somewhere else. Where do you get off selling something that doesn’t belong to you?

  • g Says

    Simpler summary of the response to your idiocy: fuck you, asshole. Watch the “free market” deep six your career and weep, creep.

  • John Deaconer Says

    What would be the problem with restaurant employees beating you about the head and face with a cast-iron skillet?

    I’ll have to think carefully about the impact of that.

  • Sarah Says

    I’m really not seeing a problem with this. Good on you for your entrepreneurial spirit. People are willing to trade money so they don’t have to spend time and hassle getting a reservation themselves. Sounds good to me.

  • LOVE it Brian! You go for it….ignore the naysayers and if you can get me a resi for the French Laundry I’m buying!

    • Mark Says

      Jim – I was going to comment on the lack of ethics you share with Brian…then I took a look at your website. My god – if you can make money & run a business on that 80’s pile of crap site, pitching yourself as an SCO expert – more power to you. That must be the ugliest pile of crap on the internet today.

  • James Says

    Interesting App. What happens when the restaurants start asking for credit card info before reserving a table?

  • Tom Fine Says

    If you spent half as much time thinking about the ethics of this as you did designing your logo, you’d have abandoned the project from the start. You’re incredibly tone deaf and oblivious to so many issues. Read the comments above and take them to heart. This is stealing. It doesn’t pass the “sniff test.” And it betrays how an arrogant techie can be so blind to so many things.

    Grow up.

    And post a mea culpa here to salvage your currently trashed reputation.

  • John Says

    Brian is not stealing. What he is taking is being given out for free. Does that mean there is no ethical issue? Of course not. One time at my alma mater a group of students decided to take all the campus newspapers because they didn’t like an ad in it. The paper was free but they almost certainly acted wrongly.

    But this is not what Brian is doing. What he is doing is akin to is taking a few free newspapers out of a limited supply and reselling them online to people who weren’t willing or able to go retrieve one.

    It’s actually even a little better than that, ethically since tonight’s meal is probably not much different than tomorrow’s meal – whereas today’s free newspaper will never be published again.

    One can assume that the publishers of a free newspaper want it to be read (not thrown away) and that those who give out free reservations want to fill their tables. Whether Brian’s scheme adds value depends on whether it helps fulfill that goal.

    If anything he is making a scarce resource (a table at a specific date) available for someone who really values it (like that person who forgot about their anniversary…) For those who don’t much care what night they go, it’s a shame to be clogging up a table for the guy who wants to propose on a whim or who forgot an upcoming anniversary. The person who is indifferent can always go later or earlier.

    Where there is an issue is the reservation under a fake name, but that was something that Brian planned to phase out now that he knows there is something people are willing to pay for here. As long as he doesn’t hide who he is, there’s very little to complain about.

    It will take a while for everyone to figure out whether there’s value in this business model or not – but I really have no sympathy for the knee jerk reaction “oh, stuff was free and now it’s priced. Woe is me. The little guy loses again.” Which little guy? The waiter who gets fewer tips because of the jerk who threw away his free reservation and didn’t show up? The struggling restaurant entrepreneur who has to throw away more food every night because reservations were not kept? Or the fishmonger/baker/butcher who would sell more product if only the restaurant owner could be sure people would keep their damn appointments?

    Free reservations, as Brian points out, can lead to waste. Waste is bad – especially for the little guy. Who captures the profit should not detract anyone from the realization that maybe Brian has figured out a way to avoid waste.

    If you’re a Kantian and you think lying is always wrong, then yes Brian used the restaurant as mere means to an end. End of story. However, if you consider that his idea might waste fewer tables and might be profitable for the restaurant owners – then his proof of concept acts in their best interests provided he then reveals to them what his plans are. The ends can sometimes justify the means.

    So I would say that it is not yet clear whether Brian acted unethically – whether he acted unethically in the past depends on what he will do in the future. We should consider the venture as a whole, not merely each part of it. Will he come clean and start a mutually profitable business venture or will he continue to deceive restauranteurs for low stakes?

    • mel Says

      Handicapped people pay extra to park in choice parking spaces. What’s the difference?

      • David P. Graf Says

        The difference is between having the money to blow on a reservation and having a serious medical condition.

    • Dan Says

      I use false names when I make reservations. I don’t think this is fraudulent, since the restaurants themselves are not necessarily interested in your identity. They don’t care who you are, as long as you show up. It is simply not part of the understood contract.

      Right on about the newspapers though. Good analogy.

  • Jeff Rensch Says

    We couldn’t get a reservation via Open Table for a hot restaurant in London. The concierge got us a table and we tipped him. Isn’t this the same thing basically?

  • Paul Zirkle Says

    I think one of the things that’s sparking vitriol here is that while you’re correct, its not free (a reservation is an opportunity cost to the restaurant) — it’s a resource that is free TO YOU (asserting that your side of making reservations is a negligible cost), which you are then selling.

  • B N Says

    I was thinking about this the other day before I found out about Reservation Hopper. Needless to say came across your website from a highly negative by someone that I follow on Twitter although generally, even though they live in SF, they are quiet anti ‘tech bro (male/female) shithead’ and this seems to have gone through that filter. I was thinking about, what happens if I go to SF on a trip for a week and I want to reserve a table at a popular, well-known restaurant. I’m not usually the type to reserve weeks in advance, I am more of a last minute person. I think that this service would be useful BUT only if the restaurant is popular, well-known, ie the Michelin style restaurants. The downside is that as soon as those restaurants catch a whiff of this service, they would probably make a move to block reservations that have been changed for this service if they can find a way of finding out. I can see a service if the place is -really- exclusive, for example I used to be a member of a club paying thousands of dollars per year and only members can reserve at this restaurant. I could sell my ability to reserve, since I am a member, to anyone asking for it. I would really only find use of this if we are looking at those types of high end restaurants where I would be keen enough to actually pay for a reservation from a site like this.

    • B N Says

      NB: By the way, I -wouldn’t- actually sell my ability to reserve seeing as I imagine that would be against membership rules? I don’t know, as the thought hasn’t really occurred to me.

      Anyway good on you for actually going out there and giving this a go which is better than most people out there

  • BT Says

    Yup, you’re an asshole alright. You’re violating the implicit contract when making a reservation that you already have a party that will take that table. You’re selling something that the *restaurant* owns – ie their table space. This is not right and not good for society/the-economy at large.

    This is *exactly* the problem with ISPs fighting net neutrality. They’re trying to sell other people’s data, when ISPs don’t actually own any of that data. Its fucked up, and should be illegal.

    So go fuck yourself. And also, try taking a picture of yourself that doesn’t make you look exactly as trashy as you sound in writing.

  • Manic Says

    Don’t apologise to these trolls for performing a valuable intermediary service. If they can’t understand that decreasing the uncertainty surrounding obtaining a reservation actually transfers information and thus power from the restaurant to the potential patrons (and might be worth money to some patrons), then let them continue to stew in their normative ignorance about what constitutes productive behavior in society.

    • David P. Graf Says

      Another comment from the “morally clueless” crowd who still doesn’t get that lying is wrong.

  • Holger Says

    You say

    “The initial criticism has been about the fact that restaurant reservations are free, and I shouldn’t be selling them. First off, reservations aren’t free. Restaurant tables are limited, in high demand and people wait a good long time as walk-ins to get them. Reservations take time and planning to make and the restaurant assumes an opportunity cost from booking them.”

    And I answer: You are a well done capitalist. Because the only thing one has to spend to get a table is time – first come, first serve. Your business-modell changes this to: I jave no time, but money, I will buy it. What next? Will you try to sell fresh air while smog? If one has money, he can breath free?

  • “If someone does pay for it willingly, is it really unethical? ”

    Absolutely not. As long as the two parties who enter into the contract do so in an entirely voluntary way, and the contract does not violate the property rights or freedom of a third party, then the contract is valid and the transaction ethical.

    The issue some of the anti-market zealots ahve with services like this is that they do not understand the concept of Opportunity Cost. They will show the same sort of outrage at businesses such as ticket scalping because they do not understand that TIME lost waiting in line IS a cost; that spaces in a venue or a table in a restaurant is a SCARCE GOOD subject to the Law of Supply and Demand just like any other scarce good and that services such as yours actually HELP by providing clear MARKET SIGNALS to market actors about the scarcity of those goods. Those of us who do not want to wait and are willing to pay the extra few dollars to hold a table at the time of our choosing will certainly find the service VERY VALUABLE. Certainly, a table at a high-end restaurant is NOT free. The TIME a person has to WAIT for a reservation is NOT free because nobody can travel in time.

    • David P. Graf Says

      Isn’t scalping reservations a violation of the freedom of others who want to go to the same restaurant? They would want to make a reservation but can’t because this joker has scarfed them all up.

    • Meghan Says

      “The issue some of the anti-market zealots ahve [sic] with services like this is that they do not understand the concept of Opportunity Cost.”

      I think maybe you do not understand the concept of negative externalities.

  • Dan Says

    The only possible problem I see seems to arise from an assuming multiple names. I don’t think a false name itself is fraudulent in the context of a reservation any more than an internet message board. However, using multiple names, though not necessarily infringing on someone’s property rights, may fall outside current social norms (even on message boards, those who change their profiles are less trusted, etc.) The concern on the part of the restaurant owner, in the context of a reservation, is that the table is filled. What they want to hedge against is a no-show. Your service seems like it would help with that, as those who value the table most highly end up with the claim to the table, with the added advantage of selecting from a vastly greater pool than the small number that can fit in the front lobby waiting area. The only reason people think reservations are ‘free’ is because restaurants give them out pro bono. Convincing restaurants that their reservations are worth paying for may be your first step towards altering the social norm. The way I see it, you may even be able to charge the restaurants for your service, should the service be profitable enough to them. There may be a great advantage to having a demonized third party handle this service for them until public understanding shifts (like Jews circumventing usury laws in the Middle Ages). Eventually, when the climate of opinion shifts, they may offer this service themselves (simply adding reservation purchases to their website).

    Those who lose out on the formerly pro bono goodies might feel slighted, but they have not had their rights infringed on. What they are really arguing for is protectionism for their currently optimal market share.

    This conversation reminds me of Ralph Raico’s discussion on the ‘Dutch Experiment’ (http://mises.org/media/1263/The-European-Miracle : start at 50:50) “Jean-Jacque Rousseau…hated the Dutch, and said that if you go to Amsterdam, and ask somebody the time, he’ll try to charge you for it.”

    I commend you on attempt to discover what people value and get it to them. Well done.

  • bjm Says

    This service might help restaurants in 2 ways:

    1. Limiting empty tables

    2. Perhaps steering higher spenders into seats.

    These reservations aren’t necessarily “free”; but restaurants dont sell them because it would be bad for business overall. But this might create a form of price discrimination for big spenders which helps restaurants and potentially other customers.

    For example, business class flyers subsidize economy flyers. This is potentially a way to identify “business class flyers” for restaurants…

  • ok Says

    Brian,

    You are a true capitalist. Keep it up! Don’t let the envy of lazy folks deter you. I’d happily use your service to get a reservation tonight at a restaurant that typically has a 6 month wait. You are making people’s lives better. Let the trolls be trolls!

    • David P. Graf Says

      If the restaurant has a six month wait, then there are no reservations to be had anyways! By the way – who’s lazier – the guy who takes the time to set up a dinner six months in advance or someone who tries to score a meal the same day?

  • Jane Doe Says

    Dear Brian, Consistent with your strategy, I have used a fake name too! I read your justification for what u call value and a business. If it is so well justified and there is real value in what you do, why are you using fake names to make bogus reservations? You are a cheat and so is your business. I am all for entrepreneurs and creating value, but you put shame on the profession if you call yourself and your new idea entrepreneurial. Best of luck as you go down with your business…..

  • garnish Says

    I view this as identical to ticket scalpers with screen scraping technology to snap up all concert tickets within 2 minutes of release time. If there’s a concert you really want to see, it’s no contest. You have to pay their inflated prices. “Free market” my ass..

  • Shel Says

    Some thoughts


    And it seems that everywhere you look cherished public resources are being claimed by startups, whether it’s Google laying claim to bus stops or parking apps laying claim to, well parking spaces. I’d half expect someone to come along one day and put picnic blankets down in Dolores park and sell them at $25 apiece.

    Do you realize that what you’re doing is exactly like selling parking spaces or spots at Dolores? This might not have been the best choice of analogy.


    And as someone who spends a lot of time complaining to my friends about how much of an insular bubble San Francisco has become, what with apps built by the 0.1% for the 0.1%, I completely agree.

    So why contribute to that midset? Why make an app that makes life easier for people with money at everyone else’s expense instead of making something beneficial to eveyone?


    Meanwhile, traffic has gone through the roof. Here’s my actual Google Analytics graph from today.

    PR tip, this makes you sound like a douche. I’m not aying you’re a douche, I’m saying this line is really bad form in the context of this post.


    To be honest, I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking through these questions

    Why not? It’s your job as an entrepeneur to think about these things.


    For instance, no one would have thought that taking a cab during rush hour should cost more than a normal ride, until Uber launched surge pricing and we realized that people are willing to pay for it. Clearly, the service of booking a reservation in advance has value to patrons. This is evidenced by the startups doing this right now in New York City.

    First, new york medalian cabs have always charged more at rush hour. What you’re talking about is peak demand pricing, it’s a whole different thing. What you’re doing is scalping.


    What about ethics? We are talking about an asset that most people don’t think about having a value. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it doesn’t have a value, or that people wouldn’t be willing to pay for it.

    You have totally missed the point. Just because an asset has value, or even is undervalued, doesn’t mean that increasing it’s price is beneficial or ethical. Again, take scalping– Here’s an item (a ticket) that clearly has value, and in fact is undervalued if demand outstrips supply. So a scalper scoops it up and re-sells it at whatever the market demands. Is that ethical or legal? Depends on your ethics and the law. Is it shitty? Absolutely. You’ve added no value to either the producer (the artist) or the consumer (the concertgoer). You’ve simply turned scarcity into profit. It’s parasitic, plain and simple. Innovation, disprution, whatever you want to call it, is about using technology change business models for the better. It’s not about applying a business model we all hate (scalping) to new sectors.


    But more importantly, I think that a paid reservation lets customers get skin in the game, and that means that restaurants might even reduce no-shows if paid reservations become a thing.

    Actaully no. If restaurants want to reduce no-shows, they can charge deposits, they don’t need you to fix that problem for them. You’re increasing no-shows because your unsold inventory becomes thier no-show. Plus, if your user decides to forfiet their $12 and no-show, you keep your money, but the restaurant still loses. You’re not going to form any kind of symbiotic relationship with the restaurant industry here.

  • youradick Says

    The problem is shitheads like you in tech. You have just confirmed the bubble. Everyone in sf is fucked the end is near. You guys need to wake up and get a clue. Most of this bullshit being created is not tech and has absolutely no value to the general public. The early 2000’s being played again. Just watch the pin is over your head about ready to hit the bubble.

  • Andrew Says

    Ugh, please go away. You’re a parasitic worm.

  • Your self-delusion that you’re some kind of innovator and not just an incredibly self-centered asshole is what has elevated this to viral status. Don’t delude yourself that anything about this is due to your “service”; it’s just emblematic of the many ways sociopathic dicks ruin society for the rest of us.

  • etl Says

    It does sound like ticket scalping but if Mayer could somehow come up with something that benefits all the parties (customers, restaurants, the public) I could say why not give it a try and see how things turn out. If things turn out to be bad for any of them, it must be stopped, that is all. At least, he is revealing what he is doing online and to the public to some extent, he does not sound like a complete secret dishonest person.

  • etl Says

    His sentences seem to indicate that he is a reasonable guy. Some of the negative and ad hominem comments toward him sound unfair.