The social media site “Yelp” has undergone a great deal of controversy lately and has been looked upon rather negatively by many business owners.
“Yelp!” – for the uninformed – is a crowd-funded social platform setup to share customer reviews of various businesses. Perks of being well rated on Yelp! include a nifty little “People Love Us On Yelp!” sticker.
The concept is good. A central site that consumers can visit to find out more about the businesses around them. However there has been a tide of backlash from businesses and users that include numerous reports of abuse by Yelp!. These reports include:
- Extorting businesses for advertising dollars in order to keep positive reviews of their business at the front and negative reviews in the back (in fact these accusations have been the topic of at least two federal-class action lawsuits).
- Employing “shills” to flood their site with fake reviews of various businesses.
- Harassment by Yelp! sales associates trying to land ad sales.
Taken from the Cityseed blog: “…[A recent] Reddit thread was inundated with over 1,500 comments. These comments came from people who come at Yelp from different angles. There’s the shop owner who says that Yelp filtered out all their positive reviews, the Yelper who had their reviews deleted for no apparent reason, and the former consultant who worked for an online reputation management company that regularly worked with disgruntled small businesses.”
The backlash has not been restricted to Social Media platforms however with multiple businesses boycotting and adding signage to show their disgust with Yelp! and it is gaining momentum. Some businesses are prominently displaying “People Hate Us On Yelp!” stickers – a direct jab at Yelp!’s promotional stickers.
A website has even cropped up to broadcast the many of Yelp!’s alleged wrongs: Yelp-Sucks.com which reports many of the social site’s more questionable actions. Most recently Yelp! has been accused of:
- Allowing competitors to write negative reviews.
- Filtering legitimate reviews.
- “Hundreds” of businesses getting phone calls to advertise with Yelp! and upon refusing, seeing their positive reviews disappear.
- Not answering the phone to respond to user’s concerns.
Taken from Yelp-Sucks.com: “try to imagine a company that won’t answer the phone. [They wont] remove a review that says, “I went in because of the cute outfit in the window and the sales girls was so rude” when the business is run out of a house, with no storefront! Clearly a competitor, a mistake, but Yelp doesn’t have the bandwidth or the commitment to deal with such trivial things as a fake/defamatory review that hurts a businesses bottom line. In essence, Yelp will make it easier for competitors to destroy the competition because there is no way to determine who bought what. All a competitor need do is buy reviews and have them posted”
In a recent court case in San Diego, CA, A judged awarded the McMillan Law Group (MLG) in their case against Yelp! MLG stated that they had been coerced into entering into an advertising contract with the internet giant who promised results. The judge in the case ruled that:
- The contract was void due to fraud in the inducement, and duress,
- That Yelp had failed to provide any of the promised services, and
- That the contract itself was a contract of adhesion.
The judge also added that “this is like the mafia going door to door extorting protection money from small businesses.” (Taken from McMillanLawGroup.com)
The fact is that Yelp! is a cool concept, but has lost a great deal of legitimacy. Their brand is not trusted within the industry right now and it would appear there is more than enough evidence to support why.
Yelp! is no stranger to controversy in 2010 Yelp! made two changes to their system order to address similar mounting concerns.
Taken from a 2010 article by the Los Angeles Times: “The website will no longer let advertisers post their favorite review at the top of the page, and it will give users access to posts previously hidden. The moves address complaints from businesses.”
It would appear however that the issue is still very much alive as a recent article by (again) the Los Angeles Times cites identical issues happening once again to businesses all over North America.
Do you, or have you ever used Yelp? What have your experiences been?
Transition Marketing Services is a small business marketing firm in the Okanagan. Our passion Small Business Marketing. Educating and equipping small business owners with the tools and strategies to succeed. We have made it our priority to know Specialized Marketing. We keep up to date on what is new, what is available and what makes the most sense for businesses of all sizes and backgrounds. We recognize that every Small Business is unique, and their Marketing needs to be as well. Visit us at our website and let us know how we’re doing or if you have any questions.