Why Yelp’s Reviews Mean Nothing

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.

Why Yelp's Reviews Mean Nothing

16 Replies to “Why Yelp’s Reviews Mean Nothing”

  1. Maybe, but my commentary and narrative define the parameters of the universe, such as whether it is toroid or more like an oblong sphere, whether it is actually a bunch of interconnected wormholes, or it is more like a duck on water.

    1. Great analysis! You sure are a good and balanced writer. There is a lot more on the evil empire – yelp.com. Google “yelp mess” “yelp search engine roundtable” or “yelp sucks” for a lot more.

    2. I had a profile on yelp and I had many positive reviews for some good businesses. I rated dickslastresort and had a bad experience there. *It had positive reviews and Iv never been there* Food was undercook and I never got my order after I sent it back. When I asked the waiter, he said ‘shut the F**k up.”
      I said this place had a ‘dirty mouth.’
      So this person named Jamie b. said I offened her favorite place to eat and had complained so much she had me banned from the site.
      So far, her and yelp are a joke and a ripoff.

    3. My wife is a small biz owner. It’s totally reasonable that she wants to communicate back to the nastiest reviewers (via Yelp messages…not sure about the pay for email approach). Particularly when a biz first opens and the kinks aren’t worked out yet…some anonymous harpy can give you a bad rep because THEY had a bad day. Yelp owes it to small biz owners to help a little in this regard to be fair.

    4. Yelp’s credibility problem!
      We pray YELP goes bankrupt and sinks to the bottom of hell, and takes its MAFIA YELPERS with them. We pray that GOD shows no mercy for all the damage and EXTORTION they have inflicted upon business owners and the children they support. YELP is a den of snakes and deserve to BURN for the lies and slander they spread.
      They are running out of money! Praise GOD!
      BTW-I have 200+ fake accounts with YELP!

    5. Yelp is a complete racket! I have had eight 5 star reviews removed but one disgruntled associate loses her job and spends the next two months becoming an elite yelper just so she can post a fake negative review about my business. And, it will never be removed. Now they call weekly to get me to advertise on their site. They want me to pay them money to facilitate a blank bitching board for any peon to write any biased review about my business without any verification or recourse? Oh Yes, now businesses can respond but that doesn’t affect the star rating which is what clients see when they do a search. I am astonished that there is no legal recourse. I am so looking forward to Yelp going down. They are greedy bastards and deserve to be sued into oblivion.

    6. It sounds like the momentum is building for full disclosure which can lead to a suit. There is not integrity to Yelp. I’ve had unbiased, unsolicited 5-star reviews about my business removed, with no explanation.

    7. I agree Yelp site for business has very odd behaviours. Hard to understand logic of what is going on. Can create listing as a Business owner and never see it on line. No response to email inquiries. Funny… Yelp is getting bad reviews all over the world.

      Their advertising offers are also can be seen as an upfront uninformed or fraud. I was offered 700 impressions per month for my business on Yelp. But according to Google search data, there is only 400 total monthly searches for my key words. I asked the sales person, how can they provide me with more views then total amount of searches and he said that people who are looking for related services will also see my ad. Silly…. Ha?

    8. Initailly I was surprised by how ‘literate’ and wordy most Yelp! reviews were. I think I found out why when I stumbled upon an ad for ‘Yelpers’ in, I think, Austin TX. I reckon the vast majority of their reviews are ‘paid for’ – hence the drain on their VC resource. They are effectively paying their reviewers to generate business leads!

    9. My business had merely two reviews on yelp, both 5 star reviews. I have been receiving phone call from yelp to discuss how they “can help my business”. I told the rep that I would call him back, but I haven’t gotten around to it. I look at my company’s profile to find that one of the reviews has been removed. Such a coincidence that it was removed the same week that I didn’t return their call to buy any advertising from Yelp. So I guess I would have to pay to keep the reviews up there–no thanks.

    10. I had a truly bad experience with a landscaping company and my review was the only 1 star out of the rest which were all 5 stars. My review was not filtered, but deleted for “violating policy” but I was never contacted (like they claim they would) before deleting. I reviewed the violation policy and still didn’t think I violated anything. I suspect the business owner complained to have my review removed. Anyhow, contacted Yelp to explain what rule I violated – just curious to see what their response is or if they will even respond. Yelp just keeps going downhill…

    11. Misinformation abound. Business owners can’t “buy users email adressess” (or anything for $150) but can email users much like I can email you if you post something on craigslist. Tons of advertisers have multiple negative reviews. The internet is great, you can say whatever you want without having a basis in reality or fact (case in point, this blog) and people will just believe what they want. Guess what I heard online, (or from a friend who works somewhere whos boss told him), I heard that the Government planned 9/11 so it has to be true. With the rant of reviews supposedly being removed (false) hopefully my “one star” review of this fairy tale blog post and comment thread isn’t removed as well. Or does it have to go through a “moderator” first? Hows that for irony!

    12. Yes and the internet allows you to post things anonymously as well. I stand behind what I said as I know the business owners actually affected by it and the customers who were cajoled for negative reviews. Thus, there is basis in fact.
      Apparently you do not stand behind what you say or you would have put your actual name to this comment. I can only thus assume you have an opportune affiliation with Yelp and your statement should be disregarded.

  2. I have a small business and I started getting calls from Yelp about how “Traffic to my page had skyrocketted” and that I should consider advertising to help boost my business further. There was one negative review on my page, while they didn’t offer to remove it I was assured that their filter would probably take care of it since it was the only review this poster had ever done and was also a shout out for a competitor. I fell for it hook line and sinker. Sure enough the post was filtered off but a funny thing happened…my page hits dropped right back to where they were before the phone calls started…and as a toy store hits don’t normally decrease in November and December, especially when a close competitor also closed shop in that time leaving their customers looking for new places to do their shopping. I was upset, it clearly looked like a scam to me and I stopped advertising. IMMEDIATELY that single one star review popped right back into the main area and several of my high reviews from my regular customers popped right off into the filterred section. I think it’s a scam all around.

  3. I have had a terrible time with Yelp. They remove all legitimate reviews but leave up the negative ones. I tracked one of the “reviewers” and he immediately removed the erroneous review. It wasnt even my company, mistaken identity. I have contacted Yelp repeatedly for help. Canned email responses basically state they will leave damaging review since it seems like a “real experience”.
    Ironically since I have been trying to deal with this scam for so long it seems I have contributed to its rank on Google search to 1st listing. There is no one to speak with. No one to return calls and no one in the Have a Heart department.
    This is dirty business hurting small family owned businesses at the absolute worst economic time..
    I have been in business 18 years and NEVER had any reviews as inaccurate and meanspirited til Yelp decided to target my company.
    Any Advice would be welcome…
    Steve Hoyme owner K&S Cleaning Inc.
    Durham NC

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