Update: The plaque declaring Frary as the best restaurant in Claremont has since been removed from the dining hall “until we can verify the source and metrics for the award,” Frary manager Jose Martinez said. He said he tried to contact the Claremont Award Program and hasn’t heard back yet.
Original story: While Frary Dining Hall may be open to the public, many students have nevertheless been puzzled by the origin of an award currently plastered in Frary declaring it “2019 Best of Claremont” in the “Restaurant” category as selected by the “Claremont Award Program.”
This award, in fact, appears to be part of a money-making scheme that may not actually evaluate the award recipients on their merits.
Online reports originating in cities like Portland and Memphis have previously exposed scams from “The Best of Portland Award Program” and “Best Memphis Awards,” respectively, according to news articles and blogs from both cities.
The organization behind these awards prompts recipients to purchase plaques and crystal awards that are nearly identical to the plaque hanging in Frary, with just the city and business names changed.
Its process for identifying winners is unclear, and does not appear to be highly selective.
“As an Award recipient, there is no membership requirement. We simply ask each award recipient to pay for the cost of their awards,” the site states. “The revenue generated by the Claremont Award Program helps to pay for operational support, marketing and partnership programs in support of local businesses.”
Frary General Manager of Dining Services Jose Martinez said staff assumed the award was a recognition from the City of Claremont and the result of voting by Claremont residents and community members. He said he had been told by longtime staff that Frary has received this award for three consecutive years.
TSL’s own editor-in-chief received an email Oct. 17 from the same organization, congratulating TSL for winning the “2019 Best of Claremont” award in the “Newspaper Publisher” category, despite TSL not entering any such competition.
The email with the award announcement came from the email address firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Claremont Award Program did not respond to request for comment.
Its website claims a mission “to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.”
The enclosed link directs to a website selling award plaques for $149.99, crystal awards for $199.99 or both for “one low price” of $229.98.
But Martinez said the plaque seen in Frary was not purchased, but rather mailed to Frary for free.
“Any expenditure through company card will have to come to my approval and we haven’t paid $150 for that,” Martinez said. “The only certifications we pay for are for food safety, food allergy training and certification and anything related to operations.”
Martinez said he would dig deeper into the origin of the 2019 Best of Claremont plaque.
“To be truly honest, it’s something that’s great to have, great to receive, but it’s not something we work for. As long as the guests are happy, the students, that’s really our award,” he added.
Each week, TSL answers your questions about anything at the 5Cs. Ask us a question at email@example.com with the subject line “Ask TSL.” Include your name, school and year if you want.
This article was updated Nov. 12 at 6:48 p.m.