Will Boehmer · Follow
6 min read · Sep 21, 2018
6 min read
Sep 21, 2018
Oobah Butler’s Vice video “How to Become TripAdvisor’s #1 Fake Restaurant,” is a masterpiece of human deception. It makes you think about the sources you should really trust, as well as how easily our perception can be manipulated due to modern peoples obsession with Internet and its value.
Oobah Butler has worked writing fake reviews on TripAdvisor for restaurants. After writing multiple fake reviews and seeing how well they work with consumers, Butler declares that everything on TripAdvisor can be faked except an actual restaurant. Later he changes his mind and decided to make it his personal goal to get a fake restaurant to #1 on TripAdvisor. He comes up with a remarkable fake restaurant that sells moods instead of meals, is homely, and most importantly, always booked. He registers a domain and puts up some fancy pictures on the website as well as the lavish menu of so-called “Moods.” His goal is to appeal to high-end foodies who will want to come to his restaurant just to say they have been there. His fake business model is spot on with his market (which had much to do with his success). He then launches the website and registers the restaurant on TripAdvisor. The video goes on with him slowly climbing up the ranks on TripAdvisor, telling callers he is booked whenever they try to make a reservation. All the while, he is having various people write glowing reviews about the Shed at Dulwich talking about how nice their experience was at the “homely” restaurant. He even got an email from a PR agency that wanted to represent his fake restaurant. She suggested that the Shed at Dulwich send potted plants to their costumes. Oobah decided to wear a fancy hat and dress in what he pictured the person who owns the Shed at Dulwich to dress like. His use of comedy and satire throughout makes the video rather enjoyable and satisfying.
As the months progressed the Shed at Dulwich continued to climb TripAdvisor's rankings for London Restaurants, and they continued to tell people that they were booked. Oobah also continued to advise his friends to make the fake reviews, sending the populous of London into a frenzy trying to find a way to get themselves at the hottest new chefs’ table restaurant. Oobah even said in the video that people would use Google maps to track the restaurant's location and show up on his street confused. People were also trying to apply for jobs. It got to a point that Oobah was getting concerned for his safety.
Eventually, he decided there was no other way to end this crazy fake restaurant stunt than to actually make the restaurant. So he cleaned up his backyard, got a DJ to play restaurant sounds, hired some people to pretend like there are out to dinner at the restaurant, and brought people to his backyard to serve them frozen meals. He, of course, blindfolded the lucky first costumers so they wouldn’t see where they were going. And even with everything that could go wrong, and all the possibilities of customers seeing right through the restaurant’s whole shtick, they didn’t. Not only that, some people even said they wanted to book again.
He actually did it. He somehow not only got a fake restaurant to be the ranked #1 on TripAdvisor, but he also convinced people that were sitting in his backyard eating frozen meals that they were at the #1 restaurant in London and they enjoyed themselves. It is baffling to believe someone could pull something like that off.
My initial reaction was frustrated at the people who believed that this ridiculous restaurant was real. But as I continued to think about it I became more in awe of how easy it is to believe that the Shed at Dulwich was a real restaurant, I mean how could you not? They are always booked, have glowing reviews, and a sophisticated menu. Not to mention a well put together website. It really makes you worry about how we are perceiving things in 2018. How can we really trust the things we see online? Am I just suppose to have faith that TripAdvisor isn’t going to tell I’m going be at a five-star restaurant and actually give me to an address to some place where I am being set up to be robbed or murdered? Oobah’s little social experiment has really gotten people talking and asking important questions about topics like these.
How easily our social media accounts can be personally identified and marketed to in order to create political leverage has become a dangerous and complex topic. It is almost impossible to believe what you see on your social media feeds because of all of the propaganda. Trump’s campaign in collaboration with Russian influencers was accused recently of constructing anti-voting propaganda on peoples social media feeds that they profiled as left-leaning. On top of that, they also “created hundreds of social media accounts impersonating real and fictitious Americans — and they paid for ads promoting their posts” (Parlapiano). These accounts would post slanderous statements, pictures, and even used popular Internet memes. It seems that the Russian government and Donald Trump’s campaign had a far greater understanding of how to manipulate the election to work out in their mutual favor than any common American could have fathomed. I don’t mean to flex ¾ of a completed Political Science minor here, but it is important to note that the Russian’s would be inclined to want Trump as president more so than Hillary Clinton because Donald’s idea of governance style lined up with their Communist ideology. So working on this slander campaign seemed like a good idea to accomplish their goal. But a project like that cannot be completed without prior knowledge of how easy it actually is to control people’s perception through the Internet.
That’s why Vice’s video on Oobah’s the Shed at Dulwich serves as such an allegory for how easy our perception can be manipulated. While Oobah uses a sort of syndical comedy that most Brits are known for in the video, it is apparent that he is also very aware of how easily people can form misperceptions due to things they see on the Internet.
This video is getting worldly recognition so that it may serve as a warning to people all around the world to be careful of how they perceive things as well as the sources they trust.
Oobah even went on Good Morning Britain explaining what he had done. He was asked at the end of the interview about how he suggests people see through fake reviews and ads to get honesty. To which he responded that he thinks truth in on the Internet is “overrated” and how people should just use the Internet and “have fun” (Reid).
He is clearly not interested in uncovering the deeper lying issue in why he was able to be so effective in completing his goal of getting his fake restaurant to #1 and more caught up in his own personal accomplishment of achieving it. I wish Oobah would try and be more active in trying to educate people on how to get these misperceptions under control. Yet, I can understand why he would be more focused on celebrating such a grueling and tedious project, and trying to figure out what he will do next with Vice to top his latest piece.
It is important to understand all of the issues surrounding perception and human behavior that Oobah was able to manipulate in order to get his fake restaurant to #1 on Tripadvisor so we may apply them when scrolling through social media or committing to spending our money on something. However, my biggest take away from the video is how very little I should be trusting any sources I come across from here on out because of the possibility it may be fraudulent.
Parlapiano, Alicia, and Jasmine C. Lee. “The Propaganda Tools Used by Russians to Influence the 2016 Election.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 17 Feb. 2018, www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/02/16/us/politics/russia-propaganda-election-2016.html.
Reid, Susanna, and Ben Shephard. “The Fake Restaurant That Was London’s Top Rated on Trip Advisor” Good Morning Britain. Youtube, 7 Dec. 2017
Oobah tells Kim Hill that 'Oobah' is his legitimate birth name and was originally his elder sister Becky's nickname – nothing to do with ridesharing.Where is Oobah Butler now? ›
In 2021, he became co-host of Catfish UK.What is Oobah Butler famous for? ›
Oobah Butler is an award-winning filmmaker and LA Times best-selling author. Over the past two years, he's released four films with VICE which were viewed almost 200 million times.Is Oobah a real app? ›
Oobah is the world's first service which enables you to order a lookalike of yourself who can step into your life, and optimise it. Five day work week getting to you? Send your Oobah.Does Oobah Butler drive? ›
Can I drive? No. Every week for the past few weeks, I've put an item up for trade for 24 hours on my Instagram and it's called Oobah's Stock Market.What is Oobah Butlers real name? ›
His name is Georgio Peviani. Repeat.Is Catfish UK scripted? ›
Catfish UK presenters Nella Rose and Oobah Butler insist that despite the 'outlandish' stories, there is nothing scripted about the reality show. The programme is a spin-off of the incredibly popular US version, which exposes fake personalities online by following people who have never met their partner in person.Who is Nathan on Catfish UK? ›
Nathan Henry is an English television personality best known for appearing as a main cast member in the British reality series Geordie Shore. He has also appeared on many other reality television series since rising to fame on Geordie Shore in 2015.Who presents catfish UK? ›
Julie Adenuga and Oobah Butler have been announced as the co-hosts of Catfish: The TV Show for MTV UK. Catfish UK is the first international iteration of the hit TV show, which follows the real-life stories of individuals in online relationships with partners they've never met in person.Is Oobah Catfish his real name? ›
His name is Georgio Peviani.