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Food blogger Seth Lui denies non-disclosure of paid food reviews and listings amid controversy

Operator of a prominent food review blog, Sethlui.com, denies concealing payment for restaurant reviews on the website. Accusations arose after an eatery owner’s Facebook post raised concerns about transparency in food blogging.

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SINGAPORE: On Friday (6 Oct), Mr Seth Lui, the operator of a prominent food review blog Sethlui.com, released a press statement regarding the recent feedback and concerns raised on social media via a Facebook post by Ms Charlene Yan regarding their services.

Mr Lui, 38, strongly denied accusations that his platform fails to disclose its acceptance of payment for restaurant reviews.

He asserted that all articles sponsored by advertisers are clearly marked as paid reviews.

Responding to inquiries, a spokesperson for Mr Lui stated on Thursday (5 Oct) that the blogger is aware of an online post circulating that accuses the food blog of featuring local eateries in its reviews in exchange for payment.

The spokesperson emphasized, “The allegations are absolutely false.”

Ms Charlene Yan, 34, is the owner of an eatery in Everton Park in the Tanjong Pagar area.

In a Facebook post on Wednesday (4 Oct), Ms Yan revealed her shock at receiving an email from one of Mr Lui’s employees, which inquired about her interest in paying for a spot on a list of the best places to eat in Everton Park.

According to the email, provided as a screenshot in her post, the offer was referred to as an “advertising effort.”

Her eatery could secure a random position on the list for S$2,300, with the option to pay an additional S$400 to S$600 for placement in first, second, or third place.

This position would be guaranteed for at least one year, and the package would include a review of approximately 150 to 200 words, along with a maximum of two photos, and promotion on social media.

She would also have the opportunity to review two drafts of the article and suggest revisions.

The email provided examples of similar lists that the blogger had compiled in the past, including Mr Lui’s Northpoint City food guide, which had garnered over 57,000 views.

Ms Yan criticized the cash-for-review offer as “incredulous” and raised questions about the authenticity of Mr Lui’s reviews.

She asserted that she had not contacted Mr Lui before receiving the offer.

In an interview with The Straits Times, Ms Yan stated, “I was surprised when Sethlui.com was going to write a new definitive article to say what is good to eat in my neighbourhood without actually trying the food.

“My gripe is that they were going to write an article for which the main criterion was money, and without full disclosure. And there were so many other articles doing the same thing for eateries in other neighbourhoods.”

I did not want to just ignore the e-mail because I feel that people deserve to know and be more aware of what they read. It is also time for bloggers to have higher standards of integrity,” she added.

Mr Lui and team addressing the issue

In response to inquiries, a spokesperson for Mr Lui expressed regret for any confusion and frustration caused by the post.

The spokesperson emphasized that Mr Lui and his team are dedicated to transparency.

Addressing allegations of accepting payment from eateries for featuring them, the spokesperson clarified that Mr Lui contacts potential clients for featuring on his blog only after extensive research by his team.

He added that paid collaborations begin with a thorough examination of social media platforms and Google restaurant ratings to identify new and trending places.

Mr Lui’s team then decides whether an eatery is deserving of a recommendation to their readers.

The spokesperson explained, “In a client collaboration, one or more members of the team would have visited them, understood more about their story, tried the food, and then written about it

If the food quality is far below average, we would still drop the client so as not to mislead our readers.”

As for the rationale behind Mr Lui potentially charging an eatery, especially when it is highly likely to be featured, the spokesperson explained that paid collaborations offer supplementary advantages.

Ms Yan stressed the importance of clearly labeling paid advertisements as “sponsored” to maintain transparency. Nevertheless, she noted that in the instances of lists she was shown, there was no indication of sponsorship.

The spokesperson for Mr Lui clarified that the mentioned lists did not include any sponsors. In other cases, a prominent “disclaimer for branded or sponsored content” is consistently positioned at the conclusion of the articles.

What’s also intriguing is a screenshot of what appears to be a recent Facebook post by Mr Lui, responding to the recent controversy.

In the post, he commented, ‘There’s no need for drama by taking a photo of the salesman who presented the offer and posting it online. No one strong-armed you or tried to cheat you into it. Is it the moral high ground you’re trying to stand on? Guess it created free PR for all of us.’

He added, ‘Numerous businesses have approached us for free coverage, yet we’ve never shamed them online, even if their requests were unreasonable.’

He concluded by saying, ‘Respect is a two-way street in business.'”

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Wah….food blogger….now even like this CAN MAKE A LIVING AH?
Got under wear blogger or not ah?
Or how about blogger to blog which house in Geyland has the best money worth chicken and which FL provide the best service?😆😆😆😆🤣🤣🤣🤣😆😆

sounds normal in the food biz really. you asked the “homegrown” sinkie brand SUPER!!! how many fake awards did SUPER brand buy. back in the 80s and 90s those jokers had awards for brand new products that they hardly advertised for, then they stick all this fake awards onto their packaging.

why not go and “blog” about SUPER brand products and all their numerous bullshit awards?

Even when certain diners eat at certain eateries and published ‘genuine’ comments or buyers of goods from a certain shop praise certain level of good service – are these seriously genuine?

While I not selling all comments or compliments as fake, people need to be aware and beware. The competition is tough, that’s it.

Similarly the PAP faces heat and competition, loud grouses, AND OUSH BACKS – BUT they have PROTECTIVE laws. LAWS TO WIN and JAIL people OF OUT OF STEP.

Do one NOT think Nas Daily or Critical Spectator do NOT enjoy beyond norm treatment or benefits in kind when they BLAST the PAP as so good? When negative reports on PAP surfaced, THEY ARE ARMOURED by POFMA and State Controlled BUT PEOPLE’S funded media. Credit rating agencies – who pay for them to rate A B C D, and who pay for the ratings be published publicly? Food writers are no angels. Neither are any of the realty, banking services INFLUENCERs and all other sorts of goods and service providers. Bear IN MIND this FUNDAMENTAL – NAS and Critical… Read more »

The same for the SOLO Stars. Gain the Fame then use the stars as endorsement for their products and sales … No?!?

It is a biz operation. Gain the Fame then the proposal to ride on the Fame with Payment. Isn’t it the SOP for blogs?!? It is how you operate without threats and fair conditions …

Seth is a fraud

If it is not true, why send an unsolicited email proposition to begin with? And when Sethlui.com got called out, it went on the offensive to spout ‘Respect is a two way street in business”. Which part of respect does Sethlui.com not understand? Well, now that everyone knows how these food reviews operate, so read them with a pinch of salt.

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