The alarm was raised after Jessica Sneddon at Scottish hospitality PR Charlotte & Joseph sought to confirm a booking at The Stockbridge Restaurant in Edinburgh, for a man claiming to be named Dan Reynolds, who said in an email that he was working for the Shanghai Travellers’ Club magazine as part of the DR Media Group.
In his original email to the restaurant, via Sneddon, he said he was the deputy managing editor, and attached a ‘press kit’ to that effect.
He wrote: “[We] would love to have THE STOCKBRIDGE RESTAURANT included in a special feature on Edinburgh's must-visit restaurants at NO cost. Our travel editor and a guest has a spot to visit the restaurant next month. We would appreciate perhaps if in return you could offer complimentary meal and beverage? I will then ASAP send you a relevant paperwork… [sic]”
However, when Sneddon followed up the booking, emails seen by BigHospitality show that the Shanghai Travelers’ Club magazine (STC) had no employee matching that name working there, with genuine publisher Pierre Gervois replying to Sneddon confirming that this was “a case of fraud and impersonation”.
Sneddon had contacted the magazine directly after trying and failing to confirm with the so-called Reynolds, and quickly established that the same person appeared to have scammed several London restaurants through the same ruse, either by using the name ‘Dan’ or ‘Don’.
Sneddon said: “After some digging it transpired he is a fraud. He has also scammed a number of London restaurants through another PR agency I know, so it looks as though it is a fairly nationwide fraud and I would hate for him to continue to get away with it.”
Restaurants are often warned to watch out for apparent bloggers, journalists and writers seeking free food and drink in return for a ‘review’. Generally, respected bloggers and reviewers are open about whether they ate for free, and will not give a positive-no-matter-what review in return for free food (something that most restaurants would reject, in any case).
In fact, many bloggers and reviewers clearly state that they paid for their meal and are reviewing as honestly as possible in return.