Have You Been Yelped?

Everybody loves Yelp, right? Yet there has been negative press about the San Francisco -based company and its methods. On April 3, the LA Times carried a piece by David Lazarus headlined “Yelp’s tactics feel “nefarious” and “fishy” , even if they’re legal.”

How did things get this bad? The theory has been put forth that because Yelp was founded in 2004 and has yet to make a profit, the stockholders are restive and the pressure is on to squeeze very possible dollar out of the company. An Alhambra jeweler who cancelled his Yelp ad reported that the Yelp salesperson advised him that now his competitors’ ads would appear alongside his  but that for $75 per month “she could make those ads go away”.

Along with extortion over ad placement Yelp has also been accused of demanding payment to remove malicious reviews and being less than cooperative in addressing false claims. You can get a basic Yelp listing for $75 a month but you have no say in what is posted next to your ad. Could be your competitor. If you want to banish the competitor from view, you’re looking at $300 a month in the major markets. It was San Francisco attorney Antone Johnson who described Yelp’s conduct as being  nefarious etc. “It doesn’t pass the smell test, ” he says “But I don’t see a statute that they’re actually violating.”

Yelp has been hauled into court for its practices but so far the courts have held that Yelp is shielded by the 1996 Communications Decency Act, which protects a website’s right to determine its own content. Sounds like a noble aim  but it’s doubtful that protecting practices like Yelp’s was what the enactors intended. 

I have been told by a couple of local merchants that Yelp is playing the same game up here. Have any of you done business with them? We’d love to hear your story.

(Note: I could not secure a link to the Lazarus story, nor, apparently could the Sac Bee.  It’s in the April 3 LA Times.)

10 thoughts on “Have You Been Yelped?

  1. Their sales taxes with subscribing businesses aside, I enjoy Yelp. I’ve done my fair share of reviews there and have read others. I find them both useful and entertaining.

    I get the impression relatively few businesses are actually paying customers. I did notice Broadway Animal Hospital might be paying. There were some bad reviews of the hospital after it was sold by Dr. Krings. I noticed the latest owner, Dr. Otto, was able to comment on the nasty reviews and mention they were under new ownership.

    Did they pay for that, or not?

    • I understand that you are under the impression that few businesses are actually paying customers, and locally, you may well right, but in the bigger markets, it is a huge issue. I have no knowledge of Broadway Animal Hospital, have always used Cutten Animal HC. As you probably noticed, Rick Curtis came up with the “missing link” to the Times article.

      • I have sympathy for these online advertising companies. I can see them juxtaposing ads around, as tacky as it might seem.

        I’m not sure I’d go along with removing reviews if they weren’t complimentary to the business although it is their web site. I would think it would greatly lessen the value of the reviews if people knew they were cherry picked.

        • You are a SAINT if you have sympathy for online advertisers, although the genie is out of the bottle and they’re not going away. I personally will not be writing any more Yelp reviews. I actually believe the Trip Advisor reviews are more specific and interesting.

          • Hey. They’re trying to make a living. As annoying as the ads can be, how can you blame them?

            From what I’ve seen, Yelp reviews seem pretty legit for the most part.

            I saw a couple other web sites that had what I thought were a questionable review policy. I forget the exact sites, but I believe I was trying to find some reviews on the microwave oven we eventually bought. Both were sales sites, but one had only 1 star reviews of the oven. The other only had 5 star reviews. I had to wonder why. Hard to believe they’d be all low or high ratings from two different sites.

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