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Yelp fires back at critics claiming review manipulation by sales staff

updated 10:45 pm EDT, Wed May 22, 2013

Yelp points to Google search, lawsuit, auditor's results to deny claims

Crowdsourced review service Yelp has come under attack again over reports of business owners complaints that reviews are "too self-centered and not trustworthy" and that the company hides reviews to its own benefit. A blog post by Yelp's Vice President of Communications Vince Sollitto refutes the claims which have been reported to the media, and hopes to clear up the service's reputation.

A Los Angeles Times article points out a case where a tutoring firm wasn't going to advertise on Yelp based on a single one-star review. According to the article "The salesperson claimed she couldn't do anything directly, but would let the relevant department know. Suddenly, the negative review was gone and some positive reviews got through." Despite the report's claim, there is no chain of evidence pointing to manipulation of the system by the sales agent, but the appearance of impropriety is clear.

Sollitto points out that third party research has "debunked the conspiracy" connecting advertising and automated filtering. He says that the misbelief of bias "stems from Yelp's efforts to protect consumers from those who are constantly trying to game the system. Yelp uses automated software to showcase the most helpful and reliable reviews from among the millions submitted. Those that don't make the grade -- about 20 percent -- are posted to a separate "Filtered Review" page. So, in trying to prevent unethical wrongdoing on Yelp, Yelp gets accused of the same."

Yelp's blog post attempts to turn the tables on the journalists pointing out business' first-hand reports. Sollitto says that "Presumably, those reporters in the stories mentioned earlier were seeking to give a voice to the small business owner as the 'little guy,' but in the process seem to have forgotten about another 'little guy': the consumer who is looking for honest assessments of local businesses and not the misdirection of deceptive or biased reviews."



By Electronista Staff
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  1. kerryb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-05-01

    Yelp is a nightmare to the small family owned business. Reviews are posted by those with too much time on their hands and often in those hands is a big axe to grind with a business. Rather than solving a problem with a business by talking to the owner or manager Yelpers whip out their iPhones and leave scathing complaints. Read a 1 star review and you can tell it was written by a spoiled rotten princess.

  1. freediverx01

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 07-13-11

    "Yelp is a nightmare to the small family owned business"

    No, Yelp is a nightmare to businesses that provide lousy service. An occasional negative review will be outweighed by positive reviews if you're providing your customers with good service.

  1. SMacSteve

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 08-21-01

    The attention to Yelp and its inability to clean up it's reviewer behavior, allowing obscene language and personal attacks has prompted me to delete it and never use it again. I think Apple should take a stand on this app and remove it from it's app store until Yelp can prove it has control over this and it's online bullying that has been recently in the spotlight being revealed by the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares and the craziness that ensued from the personal attacks against the owners. I'm not saying that (if you're familiar with the situation, I'm not condoning the owners actions at all, but saying the "Yelpers" escalated the situation to near felonious attacks personally towards the owners) the owners of ABC are innocent at all, but that they made a situation much worse and weren't just leaving legit reviews. There were reviews by people that hadn't even eaten at the establishment and were just "pilling on" and escalating the story done by Kitchen Nightmares.

  1. SMacSteve

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 08-21-01

    The attention to Yelp and its inability to clean up it's reviewer behavior, allowing obscene language and personal attacks has prompted me to delete it and never use it again. I think Apple should take a stand on this app and remove it from it's app store until Yelp can prove it has control over this and it's online bullying that has been recently in the spotlight being revealed by the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares and the craziness that ensued from the personal attacks against the owners. I'm not saying that (if you're familiar with the situation, I'm not condoning the owners actions at all, but saying the "Yelpers" escalated the situation to near felonious attacks personally towards the owners) the owners of ABC are innocent at all, but that they made a situation much worse and weren't just leaving legit reviews. There were reviews by people that hadn't even eaten at the establishment and were just "pilling on" and escalating the story done by Kitchen Nightmares.

  1. SMacSteve

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 08-21-01

    Sorry for the double post... I hit it twice

  1. dmsimmer

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 02-03-05

    (That's what she said.)

  1. climacs

    Junior Member

    Joined: 09-06-01

    "online bullying that has been recently in the spotlight being revealed by the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares and the craziness that ensued from the personal attacks against the owners."

    I happen to be familiar with the situation as Amy's Baking Company etc etc is < 5 miles from where I live. These people are indeed scumbags, they serve shitty food, the name of the restaurant implies they bake their baked goods when in fact they do not, and they go nutso on customers who dare to complain about soggy pizza with raw, uncooked dough.

    "I'm not saying that (if you're familiar with the situation, I'm not condoning the owners actions at all"

    Yeah you kind of are. Choose a better example next time.

    ", but saying the "Yelpers" escalated the situation to near felonious attacks personally towards the owners)"

    Hyperbole much? Free speech is almost never felonious. I read many of those Yelp reviews of ABC. Was it an internet feeding frenzy? Yeah. That happens. Welcome to the internet. Did anyone make a credible threat of violence? No.

    Hurting someone's fee-fees is not felonious, as in 'you may have committed a felony'. Choose better adjectives next time.

    Part of having a business open to the public is that you will be criticized. Sometimes fairly, sometimes not. Yelp merely gives customers a way to get their comments and complaints a wide audience. Man up or go work in an office somewhere.

  1. SMacSteve

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 08-21-01

    Originally Posted by climacsView Post

    "online bullying that has been recently in the spotlight being revealed by the season finale of Kitchen Nightmares and the craziness that ensued from the personal attacks against the owners."

    I happen to be familiar with the situation as Amy's Baking Company etc etc is < 5 miles from where I live. These people are indeed scumbags, they serve shitty food, the name of the restaurant implies they bake their baked goods when in fact they do not, and they go nutso on customers who dare to complain about soggy pizza with raw, uncooked dough.

    "I'm not saying that (if you're familiar with the situation, I'm not condoning the owners actions at all"

    Yeah you kind of are. Choose a better example next time.

    ", but saying the "Yelpers" escalated the situation to near felonious attacks personally towards the owners)"

    Hyperbole much? Free speech is almost never felonious. I read many of those Yelp reviews of ABC. Was it an internet feeding frenzy? Yeah. That happens. Welcome to the internet. Did anyone make a credible threat of violence? No.

    Hurting someone's fee-fees is not felonious, as in 'you may have committed a felony'. Choose better adjectives next time.

    Part of having a business open to the public is that you will be criticized. Sometimes fairly, sometimes not. Yelp merely gives customers a way to get their comments and complaints a wide audience. Man up or go work in an office somewhere.



    I am pretty familiar as my dad has visited the restaurant and experienced Sammy first hand, although he didn't go ape on him he was very rude.
    I only cited the example because the aired episode seems to have brought the "Yelpers" into the spotlight and I think that the review service could do a better job at deleting the personal attacks to other individuals who have an opinion and get attacked viciously if they don't "toe the line" with others.

    Yes, I think Sammy and Lisa of ABC are nuts and need to be out of business (which I'm certain will happen again soon if not already) The only people that seem to venture into the establishment are the "sight seers" un-informed. (God help them).

    Thanks for your personal experience being so close to the situation.... I'm living in MN and have lived in Scottsdale for many years as well. I plan to return to the Scottsdale area within the next few years to get closer to family and warmer climate.

  1. kerryb

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 08-05-01

    I will trust the words of a friend or good acquaintance any day over a Yelp review. Once a nasty bitter review is posted does it stay there forever? Can the poster retract it? A poorly run business will ultimately fail when enough customers decide not to return again. Yelp is filled with vindictive comments from immature people that do not think of the consequences of their reviews.

  1. pottymouth

    Junior Member

    Joined: 11-19-03

    I don't understand the hubbub. There are lies on the internet. Duh. There's also plenty of helpful information that is easy to separate from the garbage. Given a decent quantity of reviews, any rational person should have no problem ruling out the obviously biased/false/ridiculous ones.

    I'm fine with the system the way it is until somebody comes up with a foolproof way to keep liars, bigots, spammers, and general a-holes off the internet.

  1. airmanchairman

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 12-08-11

    When we consider the inordinate invective and even downright lies directed against the likes of industry leaders like Apple Inc by such established "news" sources like NYT, Forbes, Bloomberg and Business Insider (one of them even won a Pulitzer for their "factual" accounts), is it any wonder that similar shenanigans may be taking place in the world of user-sourced consumer reviews? Consider this titbit from the world of wiki authoring and despair:

    http://www.salon.com/2013/05/17/revenge_ego_and_the_corruption_of_wikipedia/

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