A fake restaurant, that showcased dishes made of bleach tablets and shaving foam, became London's top-rated eatery on travel and restaurant website TripAdvisor.
A writer for Vice, Oobah Butler changed his garden into a fake restaurant and made a website which says: "An appointment-only restaurant located in South London, The Shed has been operating privately for years. In 2017, it decided to open its doors. As of November that year, it was TripAdvisor's top-rated restaurant in London."
According to the Telegraph.co.uk, the journalist tricked TripAdvisor into making the non-existent restaurant the top-rated restaurant in London.
He managed to convince TripAdvisor and hundreds of potential customers that his shed in Dulwich, was a real restaurant by not giving an address because the 'restaurant' was appointment-only and buying a cheap mobile phone and registering that number as the restaurant.
The rankings climbed up over the next few months with fake positive reviews. The uniqueness of The Shed in Dulwich and its mood menu sparked interest among potential customers.
The 'restaurant' offered its invited guests, dishes named after moods, including "Lust - rabbit kidneys on toast", "Empathetic - vegan clams in a clear broth" and "Contemplation - a deconstructed Aberdeen stew".
It was accompanied by pictures of mouth-watering dishes which were made of bleach tablets, shaving foam and gloss paint. There was even one picture of a fried egg rested against a human foot.
"One day, sitting in the shed I live in, I had a revelation: within the current climate of misinformation... maybe a fake restaurant is possible? Maybe it's the kind of place that could be a hit?" said Oobah Butler.
"In that moment, it became my mission. With the help of fake reviews, mystique and nonsense, I was going to do it: turn my shed into London's top-rated restaurant on TripAdvisor," he wrote.
His fake restaurant starting at 18,149, the worst ranking in London, gradually climbed up, thanks to fake reviews.
Under the heading 'An unrivalled delight', one of the reviewers wrote: "Many restaurants get it wrong nowadays by trying to set too much of a mood. Here you order the mood and the mood is always right". Another reviewer said: "As the sun was setting we were offered blankets -- we politely declined (one had a stain on) but a nice touch, adds to the al fresco feel!"
TripAdvisor responded in a statement Thursday, saying: "Generally, the only people who create fake restaurant listings are journalists in misguided attempts to test us. Most fraudsters are only interested in trying to manipulate the rankings of real businesses -- so naturally, that is what our content specialists are focused on catching.
They added: "As there is no incentive for anyone in the real world to create a fake restaurant, it is not a problem we experience with our regular community -- therefore this 'test' is not a real-world example."