Friday, December 05, 2008

Why I Hate Yelp! Part X (I've lost track)

Instead of going on yet another tirade, let me introduce an actual story from an independent businessperson of my acquaintance:

I am mad at Yelp. First they called me incessantly and after repeatedly telling them I had no money to advertise they insisted on still talking to me because "there were ways I could promote my business with them that didn't cost money." So I did, I sat on the phone with the guy for an hour only to end up with a sales pitch for a $300 a month advertising plan and him basically calling me dumb for not wanting it.

Now mysteriously 3 of my 5 star reviews have been removed. When I looked into it, this is the response they give:

Reviews may come or go for a few different reasons:

1. A user may have removed his or her review.
2. Yelp may have removed the review for violating our Review Guidelines or Terms of Service (in which case we will typically notify the reviewer).
3. Yelp has a system which automatically determines which reviews show for a given business. Just as your Yahoo or Gmail email account doesn't deliver every email (spam, etc.), we don't show every review. This protects both business owners (by suppressing reviews that may have been written by a malicious competitor, for example) and consumers (by suppressing reviews that may have a definitive bias, having been written by owners or their friends). It's important to note that these reviews are not deleted (they are always shown on the user's public profile) and may reappear on the business listing page in the future.

Note: Our support team cannot manually restore reviews that are not currently displayed, should you contact us about missing reviews you will receive the information above.

And now, a mini-tirade:

It's amazing that a site that operates so disingenuously can be as popular as it is (though financially untenable). It's another example of Yelp!'s remarkable business model: gain traffic at all costs, be obstinate to the point of insulting toward businesses, turn around and ask those same businesses for money.

What's with the disjointed logic in the Yelp! form letter above? "Just as your Yahoo or Gmail account doesn't deliver all email." What the hell? Of course it does! There's a folder full of offers for "V1codin" and entreaties to "give her the gift she's always wanted: your dick" that I can read through if I want to. I self-censor my emails, Gmail just makes it easier to do with the spam folder. Yelp! censors its reviews, plain and simple. It decides for you which reviews you should read for a business.

And, based purely on original research, Yelp! is a helluvalot more likely to remove a perceived "pro" bias review than it is to review a "malicious" review. Notice, once again, that there's no mention of removing "factually inaccurate reviews." If the ultimate goal is to have a functional, effective resource for information on businesses, shouldn't this be the first thing you correct?

Blergh.

If you're a decent human being, don't use Yelp!, please.

8 comments:

charlie w. said...

WORD.

NickL said...

Hi!

I've been following your Why I Hate Yelp posts. Wouldn't it be more conducive for businesses to engage all those bad reviews left by customers? For example, a customer posts a problem on a thread. The owner then reads that thread, and posts his/her reply to resolve that problem. If you look at a site like getsatisfaction.com, it's a great way for corporations to understand what their customers want. What if there was a site like getsatisfaction.com and yelp.com combined? Do you think it would be useful?

David J.D. said...

Hi Nick!

I think it would be useful, but it would require a third party site to bring the Yelp! complainee and the business owner together since Yelp! has no interest in doing that.

Though as it is, a business owner can become a Yelp! user and contact reviewers to try and ameliorate problem which has been done by some owners with mixed success.

Which I guess is a long way of saying, a website like the one you propose sounds like a great idea, I just wonder if there are enough critical reviewers who WANT restitution (as opposed to just wanting to be shrill) and enough restaurants who would offer it.

This is why sites like Chowhound are in some ways superior. Since they're message boards, negative reviews can be countered and inaccuracies can be corrected.

Thanks so much for reading Nick! I really appreciate it.

NickL said...

Hi David,
I'm glad that you notice chowhound's message board is far more superior since the negative posts can be countered. We're developing a streamline message board where you can search for a particular local business and leave them a question, suggestion, issue, praise, or discussion. The business owner can now sort by these categories and reply back to their customers. What do you think? Let me know if you want a private invite to our site?

David J.D. said...

Nick-

I'd love to check it out.

You (should) be able to email me at david (at) hornyforfood (dot) com

Cheers!

twoplychipboard said...

Yes, I've been censored by Yelp for leaving a POSITIVE review of a salon, whereas only the negative reviews have been left up. It's incredibly conspiratorial--it's almost as if they're targeting this business and gunning for negative reviews. Yelp appears to be democratic, but it's so not

Ben said...

I've been censored too, for writing a bad review for the Hinsley Law Firm (http://www.consumersdefense.com). They screwed me bad, ripped me off, and destroyed my credit. I was just hoping to warn others about these jerks. Apparently yelp is not a good place to negatively review a business.

Rave said...

The solution to the yelp problem is RaveOrBash. Check it out at www.raveorbash.com