Most folks would agree that the two secrets behind any successful website are: funding and trust. Or maybe that’s just my opinion, but I’ve ridden the wave of two dot-com surges here in San Francisco and this is the main lesson that I’ve learned from it. It’s the reason why Craigslist is so insanely successful with such a small staff. It’s also the reason why FaceBook damned near jumped the shark when they tried to push out their beacon service that told the users they and their privacy were really just the chum needed to lure said shark to jump.
But what this tells me is that I respect Google a bit more. What does this have to do with trust and funding? Well, Google is well-funded and they seem to try to stick to their, “Don’t be Evil” corporate motto as much as they can. That ties in to my pondering some time ago as to why they don’t buy Yelp.com. As I said in that article, it seems like a natural fit, but then again, I’ve recently found out that Yelp would go a long way to poke Google’s corporate mantra hard where the sun don’t shine.
Yelp is doing nasty things to make a dollar. I assume they must be running low on cash reserves these days, since they can’t seem to turn a profit and prefer to bicker with rational magazine articles as opposed to creating a proper business model. It appears that number one on this list of the nasty bits is that for a fee they will do a business owner a big huge favor and remove all the one and two star reviews in counting towards the overall rating of their business. This explains why it seems like everything on Yelp has between a 3.5 and a 4.5 for overall reviews. It’s particularly nasty and I would call it criminal blackmail because Yelp has managed to get themselves placed very, very high in search results for many businesses. Whether they bought this SEO placement or actually earned it, the painful fact for business owners is that if they don’t want the initial internet impression of their business (which in San Francisco is very important) to be a negative one from hipsters who couldn’t find parking and thus gave a one star, they need to pay up to Yelp to “trim the dead wood”. I was rather shocked to hear this as while I haven’t taken Yelp’s reviews seriously for at least two years now, there are a number of people who do. To blatantly betray any semblance of authority to the scores makes the whole site a pile of worthless ones and zeroes.
Next on the list of nasty bits is that if you go and review a site on Yelp and give it a low score, you could very easily be hearing from the owner of the business. Preying on the fact that new business owners are terrified that Yelp reviews will sink their business before it even really starts, Yelp offers a “helpful” service that allows a business owner to buy all the emails of reviewers for $150. From that point forward, the business owner is free to do whatever they want with the information, your information.
Now, I’m sure that this is all legal from the point of the TOS that Yelp reviewers sign upon joining. But, it’s not legal from a user trust standpoint. Are you really going to be honest about your review knowing that the business owner will know exactly who you are and potentially bully/bribe you in to changing your review? I doubt it. Hell, it makes me not want to even submit any new reviews because if they’re low they’ll either a) not count or b) open me up to unwarranted invasion of my privacy.
In case you’re wondering where I learned about this information, a friend of mine who works as a server at a new restaurant passed it on to me. Apparently the owner contacted a number of reviewers who had given low reviews only to get a very bad reaction due to people being unaware that their personal information was part of a highest bidder marketplace on Yelp. Now, more than just being annoyed that Yelp is pretty much just reviews by hipsters who don’t share the likes/dislikes as me, I really hope that the damned thing folds because it is bankrupt in being an entity that any sane user can never hope to trust. Take a look at my profile [now dead] while you can. I’m going to be deleting it (if Yelp allows me) in the near future. I don’t want to be part of this anymore and no one else should either.
Yes, I did kill off my profile. Exactly three years after starting it, I’m done with these losers, especially after reading this and this. I hope they tank, since there is no way anyone would ever want to buy them out given their desperation to fund the company.