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Re: “Yelp Spins the MSM, Again

I hate to disappoint the "Yelpers" but the blinders have to come off.

Since when are small business owners your enemy? We are the foundation of your community, we employ your sons and daughters, your retired grandfather, and you think that just because Yelp is being criticized, called to the carpet that this is some master plan to censor you or that we, the small businesses are just whining? Not true. This is about fairness and public practices. Yelp deceives the public, and “yes” Yelper fans, they are deceiving you as well.

This may come as a surprise to those that love to post reviews on Yelp but you ARE being censored and deceived and you should be as upset as the small businesses you seem to so eagerly like to put down, it’s simply not true. My partner is actually a former Microsoftie, writes code, creates websites, we are a mostly web driven business so we “get it” when it comes to the web. 90% of our clients find us on the web.

As a small business person in Seattle, Washington I am the benefactor of all good reviews on Yelp with the exception on one 3 star review which I still found helpful. I have 2, 5 star reviews written by 2 elites! Which according to Yelp is a really good thing. That said, don’t think for a minute that your reviews are not censored. And I'm not so naive to think that my "elite" reviews will shine for long either. The fact that Yelpers write reviews that never get posted, even though they are perfectly legit, is a form of censorship. I started out with 12, 5 star reviews, and a few months ago I did get one bad (bogus) review. "Ok" I can deal with that but when I refused to pay to be a sponsor, suddenly that BAD, outdated review becomes the billboard review on my review page, the very top. Good reviews have now dwindled down from 12 good reviews to 9 good reviews. Once again I get call again to be a sponsor from Yelp. I politely decline, feeling like a hostage and that their promise to move the bad review if I paid was extortion, the thought of paying felt worse than the review. My reviews dwindle down to 8, 5 star reviews, the outdated one bad review still at the top.

Finally I write Yelp a letter, mail it, sprinkled it with some legalize and a week later, the bad review is removed, as it should have been because it violated all their policies which they seem to ignore. But my 5 stare reviews are still dwindling, now down to 7 reviews. With each refusal to be a paid sponsor for Yelp my stars shine a little less on Yelp. And perhaps even your review Yelper fan has been removed. How is that an honest review page when Yelp is stacking the deck? Good reviews are not always posted and obviously at times even removed. So in a way, you, the Yelper are censored and I the small business person am being cheated also. And by the way, Yelp IS a business too so if you really want to “stick it to us”, the small business community, Yelp should not be excluded.

It's difficult to treat the review as if it were "a letter" as stated above because it's a "letter" for the whole world to see and if the review is false, defamatory, it's damaging.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Becky Bishop on 03/31/2009 at 6:37 PM

Re: “Yelp Extortion Allegations Stack Up

Just so you know. Not all states allow you to record a conversation without revealing that the conversation IS recorded. So, that said, I can tell you when I had my conversation and I offered to record it, I was hung up on.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Becky Bishop on 03/23/2009 at 11:17 PM

Re: “Yelp Extortion Allegations Stack Up

Gbirdie "While I'm sure there are a few mean or vindictive yelpers who get a kick out of a bad review - but they are few and far between. "

I'm sure this is true. However, even when my bad review was flagged, proven to be untrue, Yelp left it there. So while you get your ego stroked by Yelps "Elite" status you have no idea what it does to a business to have a false review at the TOP of their review page and not be able to defend. So it's not the reviewer that gets a "Kick" out of it, it's Yelp that leaps on it as an opportunity to hit up the business as incentive to pay up.

You have not experienced it from this end. They offer cookie cutter responses to our concerns and again, took an attorney to get something done that any other person with a brain and a heart would have taken care that day.

YELP needs to clean up their act,and THEIR customer service simply does not exist, unless you are a paying customer. I now have all 5 star reviews, actually have over a dozen but Yelp chooses to display 8. While I feel good about my good reviews, I do have a 3 star that I did find helpful, Yelp totally for lack of a better term creeps me out. When I was on the phone asking for them to put their sales offer in writting and was told they only "deal" over the phone, hair went up on the back of my neck. Just so dishonest, if what they do and what the offer to the small busisess person is SUCH a great deal why would they not outline that for me in an email? I will tell you why. As long as it's over the phone it's "he said she said."

Yelp is not long for this world and it will be all their greedy fault.

1 like, 0 dislikes
Posted by Becky Bishop on 03/19/2009 at 1:11 PM

Re: “Yelp Extortion Allegations Stack Up


"The inconsistency I see, as both an avid Yelper and as a close friend to a restaurant owner in the South Bay, is that it appears to me that quite a few "Sponsored" businesses on Yelp have negative reviews. Being that the accusation is that "if you sign up with Yelp, we'll remove your negative reviews," well then - why do the businesses who advertise still have negative reviews? At the same time, I see lots of "not advertising" businesses with nothing but 5 star reviews."

Unfortunately you don't know how many negitive reviews Yelp may have removed from a sponsors site. Sure, leave a few up, that is what makes it look legit, if sponsors had all 5 star reviews it would look suspect. But I assure you, as a small business person who was "leaned" on for lack of a better word to sign on and my one bad review would drop and maybe even disappear, it FEELS like extortion.

And when good, recent reviews just fall off the radar? What is that about. The timing of it is with every sales call, I said "no thanks!" my 12 5 star reviews goes down to 8 5 star reviews? What? Why? And when you call Yelp, even THEY can't explain it on any level in any way that makes one go "oh, I see, makes total sense!"

And now that Yelp is exposed the CEO becomes a whiner. He blogs about it but does not allow for comments to his blog.

Also they never return phone calls UNLESS it's to talk about being a paid sponsor. I called, asked to talk to a represetivie of what I felt was an unjust, unfair, untrue rant and no one calls. So I call back and ask for someone to call about paying to a sponsor, I get a call in minutes. Once I get the sales person on the line, of course she is irritated because I really just want to get to the bottom why it feels like I was being held hostage by YELP. And, if you can beleive this, even with the "rant" by this one Yelper, I emailed her and I offered her a full refund, told her I could handle her 2 star review, I did ask her to temper her review words to reflect what really happened, she admitted in email she over reacted and was stressed. I told her that I did not want to offer the refund for her to change her review, (unlike Yelp I did not want this client to feel that I was offering her something in exchange for money) and I refunded this client. The client never did temper her review but she did cash the check I sent. I actually did a follow up email with her, she thanked me for the refund, and my "kind words" but her lying, untrue, false statements stayed.

But I, as a small business person, have NO recourse on Yelp to tell what I did to make something right, make it better. I could not rebute what this Yelper said, Yelp gave me no choice but to to have my attorney draft a letter to them and to that end, the rotten review was gone. If they really stood by the review why did they remove it? I know why, because they count on most small business owners to just cave, give up, walk away or more importantly pay. I won't and if there is ever a class action suit, I'm first in line.

It's a shame because with a few changes, a dose of honesty and intregrity, Yelp could have something cool, but as it is, it's al smoke and mirrors and their investors should be shaking in their boots. I doubt I would be getting calls from the Times if they thought there was nothing to this.

4 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Becky Bishop on 03/18/2009 at 10:07 PM

Re: “Yelp Extortion Allegations Stack Up

As a business owner in Seattle I can assure you this is about YELPS corrupt tactics and not a news organization trying to dis the competition.

We have a small business here in the Seattle Area. I have a 5 star over all rating and yet, I still feel that YELP is border line criminal based on my recent experience with them.

I just got a few months ago my first bad review, actually more than bad, it was full of slander, liable and simply put, facts the reviewer stated did not happen. At the end of her untrue review, she also referred to my competition in her review of my business.

I flag it several times and finally get a response that is exactly what others above got. They said that it was what the reviewer "felt" and that was a legit review.

Because YELP continued to keep this 2 star review at the top of my page I emailed them again and just got a bunch of word salad about why this one, outdated bad review not only was at the top, it was a tag line under my business name. I actually had my attorney draft a letter and magically, one week after they received my written letter it was removed from my page.

Almost within a day of the bad review I start getting more calls from YELP sales people. I question the sales person why a bad review remains at the top and all I get was "that can all change if you are a sponsor" and that the review was all based on again the algorithm and they don't know how it worked. I know. You pay three hundred dollars a month, that is how. So I didn’t pay because I told them that it just didn't feel good to pay with my motivation being the price I had to pay to relocate a false review.

It was after I refused to pay that the review became more prominant. They refused to put their offer in writing, said that all sales are discussed only over the phone, I could not even get an email verifying what they were proposing. When I declined to pay the $3600 a year suddenly the defamatory review was at the top of my page when previously it was dropping. I even have some "Elite" reviews but they were placed now at the bottom of the page.

Yelp will simply publish what it knows to be a damaging and defamatory review about my business and obviously others, for all potential customers to see and hold us hostage unless we pay. It's just true, these are facts.

Yelps choice to place this poor review first in line and to associate it with the tag line for my business is a clear violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act in that it is unfair and deceptive act or practice that is being done in the conduct of commerce and that affects the public interest. I can only guess this is true for California and other states.

I have a mind to actually have a "YELP" link, on my home page and have it go directly to THIS article that is written with honesty, and integrity, something that YELP lacks. I will encourage all small businesses to do the same.

5 likes, 0 dislikes
Posted by Becky Bishop on 03/18/2009 at 5:07 PM

Re: “Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0

Great article. As a business person I too was aggressivly pursued by YELP. I had one horrible review by a person whose comments were not only slander, liable but NOT true. YELP was advised, sales people kept pressuring us to by ads based on ALL our good reviews yet, for some odd reason, according to thier "algarythem" the ONE bad review remained at the TOP of our business page.

Finally, after our complaits fell on deaf ears, our attorney wrote YELP a letter and magically, the bad review is not only lowered, it's gone. Shame it took this to get them to act on a false review.

Other good reviews on our site have just gone missing? Again, they claim the "algarythem" which even they can't say how it works.

YELP is a joke. Even with all our good reviews, I don't trust YELP. They manipulate the ratings to pressure poor small business people to pay 300 dollars a month. Just totall creeps me out.

Posted by Becky Bishop on 03/16/2009 at 8:46 PM

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