Rebuttal to some Yelp Bashing

Posted on September 22, 2009


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Note: I’ve deleted a small amount of profanity that was present in the material I’ve quoted, replacing it with roughly synonymous nonprofanity in parantheses, because I’ve decided to move toward making my own pages a little more family friendly. No profanity softening was present in the original text.

I posted the following response to this article, posted under the title “Yanked Off Yelpers: How To (Urinate) Off Your Most Passionate Users in 7 Days or Less”, in which the author (Sarah Browne) wonders out loud … read it for yourself.

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“Everybody (and rightfully so) is ready to jump through hoops to keep their Loyal Customers purringly happy.

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Everybody that is, except Yelp. SFGate reports that the online review site yanked ‘an undisclosed number of accounts after finding that the business owners had swapped positive reviews with other business owners. Yelp also regularly deletes reviews it believes are phony. The move sparked an outcry among local businesses, and has even led some entrepreneurs to band together with thoughts of a class-action lawsuit. Their reasoning is, if they legitimately spend their money and patronize a service, why can’t they review it?”

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Because they’re gaming the site? So, we have support for those who filed a nuisance suit in order to bully a free service into letting them use that service, in a misleading manner, posting ad copy as if it were a series of spontaneous testimonials. As is all too often the case online, the word “fraud” is the first one to come to mind, and continues to be as we come across the reply written by “Brian Smith”, to which I attempted to reply, myself:

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“If you write a negative review on yelp on there site, you will be banned. So much for freedom of speech.”

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Pardon me – bull. Let’s take a look at the review page for Yelp on Yelp:

http://www.yelp.com/biz/yelp-san-francisco#hrid:TkMMI0BVBb9we_Dr3cvXMQ

We find this review, dated May 5 of this year, from Rick G:

“yelp (slurps). They delete what anyone flags. without question. no contaction the author to question the review. just a message to tell you someone flagged it and its gone. thanks for your hard work but its not needed. don’t get creative; but stay within the small minded guide lines that only a hillbilly could comprehend. you (slurp)!!!!!!!!!!!!!! i used it’, are you going to delete this. or will you flag it and then send me a email telling its been deleted already. you don’t appreciate my work i don’t appreciate yours.”

Doesn’t sound very positive, does it? Yet Rick G.’s profile is still up

http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=cmbLhf-Jrq_fIxxlSWO8zA

I guess these censorious mods need more than four months to oppress their users? One might note that it hasn’t been updated since that review, which could mean that Rick walked off in a huff, or his account was locked. “It must be the latter”, somebody might write. Yet, if we take a look at this comment from Mashimaro M, who gave Yelp one star

“Often times, it seems that if you are a “PAID SPONSOR” you get the special treatment and if not, well, good luck for your business because you will be at the mercy of Yelp’s selective listings. That’s not what I call a “fair and unbiased” forum for reviews.”

and go to his profile

http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=JNeqH3WpciaKrVZiy0hu6w

we find that he has posted reviews as recently as last week – even though his one star review also was posted on the fifth. So, I’m guessing that more four months are needed by the operatives of the evil Yelp empire to silence their users? I wonder how much more. Let’s go back more than a year, to when Sarah Y. posted these kind words in her one star review:

“Yup, judging from the other reviews and lots of PM’s in my inbox, Yelp is definitely on the decline. When things grow, they die. Yelp now sides with the business owners who can pay to have negative reviews removed. Wonder why your review doesn’t show up in the search? What a joke. Ultimately, GOOD FOR THEM, they’re trying to make money. The users are just unpaid peons doing all the grunt work. 😉 You can’t fool people forever, Yelp.”

Yet her profile and review remain in place

http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=zD1T8JFx3O1Rf9aNu49rpQ

and looking at the former, we find her last active on February 26 of this year. But these all come after Mr. Smith posted his remarks. Perhaps Yelp used to be ever so sinister, and has since cleaned up its act? Fine, let’s go back to January 25 of 2008, well before Brian posted, when Jobby J. wrote

“Too many secret handshaking (sphincters).”

and also gave Yelp one star. Looking at his profile

http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=5-JGKdS4zpoz7SpxnACPKg

we find that he was posting just last month. Conclusion: Smith’s claims would not seem to be supported by the facts, but that won’t matter, because most people won’t take the time to do what I just did.

As for why the Yelp staff won’t let their “most passionate reviewers” post ad copy on what is supposed to be a review site, maybe I’ll let that one comment on itself.

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The keyword, perhaps, is “attempted” – that reply has not, as of the time of this writing, yet appeared on Ms.Browne’s blog. Let’s see if it ever does.

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