Couple Finds Food and Fun as Part of Yelp’s Elite Squad

Jeanne and Gary Megel at a Yelp event.

Jeanne and Gary Megel at a Yelp event.

By: Sharon Aron Baron

While we all have seen restaurant reviews online from Yelp, one South Florida couple’s numerous and thorough business reviews on that site have put them in Elite Status, opening the doors to exclusive parties and private events.

Jeanne and Gary Megel of Tamarac, Florida were members of Yelp for a few years, but like most of us, had never unlocked the full potential of the site.

“We never went out, everything was too expensive.  Our social life was totally in the dumper and contact outside our house was limited to a few neighbors on an infrequent basis,” said Jeanne.

However when Gary told Jeanne that Yelp had events for people that write reviews, it was then that Jeanne became interested in contributing reviews for the site. Soon their social life took a turn for the better.

Their first event was at the Bakehouse in Miami where they had full access to the art exhibits inside or could go outside for “bites and sips.”  Bites and sips turned out to be dozens of food and alcohol vendors of all kinds.  Everywhere they turned was something tasty to eat or drink.  The good news was that everything was free.

Jeanne and Gary along with their daughter Katie who is also part of Yelp's Elite Squad

Jeanne and Gary along with their daughter Katie who is also part of Yelp’s Elite Squad

They also received “swag” at the event.  The items ranged from t-shirts to keychains.  There were also contests for bigger prizes, like electronics.  

“The whole evening was amazing and we even met a few new people,” said Jeanne.

After that, they started writing more reviews and even posted photos.  They did “check-ins,” at the various businesses they visited to start building up their credibility as serious Yelpers.  

They also kept an eye on their Yelp accounts to check for any new events in the area.

After six months, they were accepted as part of Yelp’s Elite Squad, which opened up even more events for the smaller group of Yelpers who have shown a high level of dedication.

Yelp looks for three important criteria for members of their Elite Squad.  First, members have to use their real names and photo, and write honest, unbiased opinions about businesses.  Second they have to contribute not only reviews about the local experience, but they need to share happenings on the events tab, create lists, and use the mobile app to write meaningful tips, upload photos and check-ins.

Third, they need to connect with other Yelpers by voting on reviews, welcome new members, and send compliments on their favorite reviews.  Elite members are nominated by other members and they only hold their status for one calendar year.  

The Broward-Palm Beach Elite Squad has its own Community Manager named Blue Arauz.  Before this, the Megel’s attended events mostly held in Miami.  Now they get out even closer to their home and she said that because of his leadership, events are appearing more frequently.  

The community manager also has drawings for concerts where they won four free tickets to KC and the Sunshine band.  Last year, Jeanne and her daughter Katie, who is also an Elite Member, won tickets to the Boca Burger Battle as well as won four tickets to help build the worlds largest ice cream sundae in West Palm Beach.

“We’ve been to places we’ve never been before, and we’ll go back later and patronize that business as well as write a review.”

For example, one evening they had a full steak dinner at Longhorn, and last week, they had a four-course dinner at The Melting Pot. Typically, everything is free at the events except for gratuities for the waitstaff. They’ve even attended events like painting their own acrylic artwork on canvas, as well as getting line dancing lessons.  She said that some events are big, some are small, but they both agree that all are fun.

To add fuel to the frenzy, Jeanne said that there are UYEs, or Unofficial Yelp Events.  These are get-togethers put together by Yelpers that aren’t sponsored, so any fees for the event are paid as usual. There are also events like the “Dysfunctional Family Picnic,” which is a huge potluck party in a central location.  

“There was more food than it was possible to eat, including a grill dedicated to roasting an entire lamb.”

Last year, Jeanne and Gary set up an unofficial event at their home as well as holding a Fourth of July barbecue with some of their friends on Yelp. 

“To say that this has changed my life, is a significant understatement,” said Jeanne.  “I had become almost reclusive in my lifestyle.  Now, we’re seeing other Yelpers on a frequent basis outside of the events.  I’ve made more friends in the past year than I’ve ever had, even after living 57 years in the same city.”

Interested in joining Yelp?  Go to Yelp.com or download the app for your phone.  Thanks to Jeanne Megel for contributing to the article.

About Sharon Aron Baron

Sharon Aron Baron Sharon Aron Baron is the Editor of Talk Media and writer for Tamarac Talk and Coral Springs Talk. Tamarac Talk was created in 2010 to provide News, Views and Entertainment for the residents of Tamarac and to give resident's a forum. We are not affiliated with the City of Tamarac. That's why this site can be occasionally opinionated and obviously open.

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  • Jane Ruggiero

    Nice article, thanks for sharing it.

  • How is your cholesterol

    A former reclusive now restaurant reviewer. Hmmm. Let’s check out some of their reviews. Oops, where are they. Can’t find them in the article and can’t find them on Yelp. What qualifies this likely overweight, bored introverted couple to review restaurants? What kind of hospitality experience do they have? Why was their social life in the dumper to begin with? Has Yelp ever published a bad review from the two? Likely not, because Yelp, however big and global it may be, is a scam. Then again, they say about 95% of the population is ignorant – which is why millions fall for scams every day. If you read this Jeanne or Gary, maybe Sharon will allow you to share some of your reviews with us to see if you know what you are talking about or if you just do it to fill your tummies. They way I read this article you care less about the restaurant industry and more about eating for free. Maybe we should call you Jeanne and Gary Groupon

    • Hey Mitch Pellecchia, How are things over at Margatenews.com? You must not have much going on over there by coming over here making stupid comments under a pseudonym. How’s that DUI charge coming along? Nice mug here. I bet you wish you could afford to these events….you could get all the free booze you wanted.

    • Jeanne M.

      Hi there, it’s me – half of the bored, overweight couple. BTW, at 5-6″, I weigh in at a slim 115. Less than I weighed in college. How about you?
      I have 212 published reviews, so evidently, you have no idea how to conduct a search. 43 of them are 1 or 2 stars, so yes, Yelp does publish bad reviews.
      I never claimed to be a restaurant critic, I have reviewed everything from nursing homes to gas stations.
      As far as my social life, you will clearly never be part of it. What bores me is people like you, who sit on their ample rear ends and judge each other without benefit of knowing anything about them.
      You did your guessing, so let me do mine. From your unwarranted and ignorant venom, no one has ever given you a decent review on anything you’ve ever done, so you resent people like me and groups like Yelp who provide honest opinions.
      I’m not going to link any of my reviews here, because anyone with half a brain could find them on their own. So, good luck finding that much gray matter.

    • Gary M

      Concealment, conjecture and convenience

      How typical of the writer to conceal his/her identity.

      It is always safer to do that when going public with statements that are conjecture based and serve only to attack.

      By the writer’s own admission, s/he has no idea what we write but feels compelled to attack what we write, anyway. So much for his/her objectivity, accuracy and any semblance of integrity.

      As for what we write, it is simply our opinions of what we encountered be it food, service or products. Simply our opinions with which some other reviewers may agree or not. (No, there is not a qualifying exam to write reviews on the hospitality industry. However, I did eat out three times a day for three weeks a month, eleven months a year for five years when I was teaching across the US and Canada. Keeping that schedule, one can’t help but get a little taste for how restaurants perform.)

      As for bad reviews, there are times that I feel a business is really trying or it was a bad night for them. In those cases, I opt for sending them an email recounting the difficulty and sometimes offering solutions, as I see them. No need to “blacken the eye” of a business with a bad review if they appear to care. (Hmmm, that is an action that ‘How is your cholesterol’ will never need to concern him/herself with.)

      So “How is your cholesterol”, I do understand your choice for concealment as it allows for belligerent conjecture with the convenience of not having to substantiate it. “Wise” choice on your part… although others, myself included, would select a different adjective (but using the phrase “chicken shit” on a blog is probably in poor taste).