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Yelp - the review platform you love to hate

4 minutes reading time (730 words)

I'm pretty sure we've all had times we've said we hated Microsoft, or Google, or some other company whose product of service really ticked us off. It happens. But when it happens SO often that there are multiple court cases against a company whose practices seem "unfair", and there's even a Facebook Page dedicated to how much people hate them, you have to wonder.... 

Yelp, the name invokes different feelings depending on whether you're a consumer (in which case you likely love the helpful reviews), or you're a business owner (which usually bring feelings of hate. loathing and mistrust). True, I have talked to some business owners who seem to have a happy relationship with Yelp, but I honestly feel they're a very small minority... or they're paying for the privilege.

But hang on. Haven't many people tried to sue Yelp over its supposed bad practices? And lost? Yep, 100% of suits against Yelp have failed. So that makes them innocent, right? Yeah, well, the charges against Justin Smollett got dropped too, but what did the prosecutor who dropped those charges say? "We believe he did what he was charged with doing," he said. "This was not an exoneration. To say he was exonerated by us or anyone else is not true." So, just because Yelp's suits were dismissed doesn't mean that were spurious. Remember, they were all fighting a very rich adversary. Think about it a different way. How many people are regularly suing Google, or Angie's List, or Trip Adviser (do I need to go on?) over alleged shoddy practices? Hmmm, none....

There's the old saying of, "Where there's smoke, there's fire." If Yelp is so squeaky clean, why the regular march of suits against it? Yet, last year (2018) the CA Supreme Court ruled no more Supreme Court appearances for Yelp. Yelp argued (successfully) that it was protected by Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, and praise the CA Supreme Court for a "win for those of us who value sharing one another's opinions and experiences on the internet." All very nice sounding, yet the crux of all the smoke has never really been addressed. An internet search will reveal hundreds (possibly thousands) of complaints against Yelp, claiming negative reviews against a business where the reviewer was never a customer, or positive reviews from real customers that "disappear".

So why the sudden outburst from yours truly against Yelp? No, I didn't get bitten by them (thank goodness), but a painting contractor client of ours did. Precisely as I mentioned above. He has a negative review on his Yelp profile from someone he never did business with and which he has been unable to get removed. How is that  "win for those of us who value sharing one another's opinions and experiences on the internet."? Clearly it is not.

On his account he has 12 reviews. 4 are visible, and 8, including the one "fake" one, are "not recommended. How does Yelp determine what is recommended or not? They have a cutesy video - - explaining it. The trouble is, it doesn't really explain anything at all. It's just 1:53 of dribble justifying why they do what they do. Supposedly, someone who's only just met you can't write a factual, objective review. Well, really? So, if I contract someone to do a job, they do a lousy job, and i write a negative review, somehow I can't be factual and objective in my review? Please...

A more logical explanation of how Yelp filter their review is by looking at my client's Yelp profile. The visible reviews have profiles (to some degree), and those which are "not recommended" are ones with no profile. Really? It's that simple? Pretty much yes, and it helps if you've reviewed some other businesses too. So, tough luck if you don't want to give Yelp your details and you only went on to give a single brickbat or bouquet to a business; Yelp is probably going to hide your review.

As much as I wish it, Yelp is probably not going away. So you are going to have to live with their (apparently) flawed approach. My advice is to get your own review platform system going which makes getting reviews easier, spreads reviews across a number of platforms, and enables you to simply respond to ALL reviews. For more help on this, look at our review collection system

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