Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Yelp outed by the East Bay Express

Wow. A lot has happened in Yelp land. The East Bay Express outed Yelp for it's shady business practices. It's been known for sometime that yelp uses extortion tactics to arm twist businesses into sponsoring their pages to the tune of $300-$1000 a month.

Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO and chief henchman of Yelp, has been on an all out damage control media blitz in an effort to spin this story.

His explanations for positive reviews disappearing and negative reviews showing up after it's sales people are turned down by a business include his ingenious "algorithm." You can read about it on his blog (which does not allow for comments btw). In it he blames businesses, anonymous sources, the author.. everyone except himself and the unethical practices of yelp. And for a good laugh here's what he says about anonymous sources..

"Use of anonymous sources is fraught with hazards and is strongly discouraged by most editors"

Correct me if I am wrong, but that is what yelp is all about. Over 70% of the reviews are from anonymous sources. But I guess Jeremy has a problem when the tables are turned and another organization uses anonymous sources. Yelp is all about transparency when it suits Yelp's bottom line but not when it is used to expose the slippery slope that yelp has fallen into.

Judging from comments around the web, it does not look like many people are buying his "explanations."


I couldn't believe it when I saw a negative review for my business from someone who had received her service almost 3 months after the fact and proceeded to falsely claim that she paid a lot more for it than she actually did.

Like many other businesses, I have been approached numerous times by Yelp to advertise with them and each time politely declined when I expressed that I wasn't convinced that paying Yelp would help me net more business than I was already getting. Then I noticed that my 5-star reviews kept disappearing, leaving me with down to about 20 or so. I still can't complain, but it's the suspicious particulars about this most recent negative review (several days after declining another advertising opportunity) that I find really disturbing.

Contacting the reviewer (thanking her for taking the time to review my business but asking her why she had waited so long and not expressed her lack of complete satisfaction immediately after her service and asking that she correct her erroneous recollection of what she had paid - we both have copies of the same receipt after all) yielded no response and after contacting Yelp the reply I got was "Unfortunately we don't make factual determinations on reviews." In other words, you're on your own and reviewers are free to say anything they want, even if factually incorrect.

My experience and the experience of countless others cannot bode well for Yelp's future if word of this continues to get around. And as for the reviewer who decided that she had a bone to pick several months after the fact when I can't imagine that I ever gave her a reason to do so, I hope whatever she got out of her deal was worth it to make up for her future karma.

Comment by localbusinessowner - April 2, 2009 @ 05:05 PM

I am owner of a small business. I finally understand what is going on. I had this happen to my business. GREAT JOB Eastbayexpress for the report!

Comment by Justmeok - April 6, 2009 @ 08:52 AM

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