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Businesses The Almighty Buck

Restauranteurs Say Yelp Uses Extortion To Ply Ad Sales 202

Posted by timothy
from the not-kosher dept.
Readers Mike Van Pelt and EricThegreen point out a story in the East Bay Express alleging that online restaurant review site Yelp is doing more than providing a nice interface for foodies to share their impressions of restaurants. Instead, says the article, representatives from the site have called restaurants in the Bay area to solicit advertising, but with an interesting twist: the ad sales reps let restaurant owners know that, if they buy advertising at around $300 a month, Yelp can "do something" about prominently displayed negative reviews of their restaurants. If the claims are true, it sure lowers my opinion of Yelp, which I'd thought of as one of the good guys (and a useful site). I wonder how many other online review sites might be doing something similar.
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Restauranteurs Say Yelp Uses Extortion To Ply Ad Sales

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  • Disappointing (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jetsci (1470207)
    That's rather disappointing for a community based effort. My girlfriend and I use a similar site but it skimps on the advertisements: http://ottawafoodies.com/ [ottawafoodies.com]
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by jetsci (1470207)
      As a note; *imagine* if Slashdot were to succumb to that.

      CmdTaco calls MS: "For one meallllionn dollas we'll post Pro-MS articles"

      MS Drone: "Deal, cash or licenses?"
    • Re:Disappointing (Score:4, Interesting)

      by von_rick (944421) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:23PM (#26919581) Homepage

      I didn't think it was a 'well guarded secret' or anything. Squelching negative reviews of your business and dampening the highly positive reviews of your competitors has been the dominant practice ever since the dawn of two businesses selling similar products.

      From the article it seems like Yelp had gathered a reputation of being impartial and fair. It understandable that people's confidence will diminish.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by causality (777677)

        didn't think it was a 'well guarded secret' or anything. Squelching negative reviews of your business and dampening the highly positive reviews of your competitors has been the dominant practice ever since the dawn of two businesses selling similar products.

        Well, two developments had to take place for this to be a dominant practice. You identified one of them, which was two businesses selling similar products. The other is a general public which is far too eager to believe what they hear, read, or see on

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Anonymous Coward

          Dude, chill.

          We're talking about restaurant reviews here. Don't jump into full Wikipedia-defense DefCon 5.

          No cross-referencing of information is required, just a quick visit to the cafe, bistro, or bar in question and you'll know whether Yelp is honest or not.

          And by-the-way, they're not. I've read bad reviews that were later pulled, and tried out the restaurant only to discover that the reviews weren't pulled because the food/service got better. I've also written bad reviews that were later pulled. I don't u

      • Yes and no (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Moraelin (679338) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @03:16PM (#26920367) Journal

        Well, yes and no.

        1. That some businesses would want to slander (or libel) the competition, yeah, that probably goes all the way back to the dawn of time. Which is why most countries have various numbers of laws to contain the phenomenon.

        2. There's still something distasteful about being the guy who tries to cash in on that with a "if you don't pay 300 a month, we'll show bad reviews of you at the top." That's no longer even about competition, it's a plain old protection racket. It's not just a betrayal of the public's trust, it's really trying to blackmail someone with a threat to their public image and reputation.

        We're in an age where someone's reputation is probably the most important asset of their business. I wouldn't be surprised if some restaurants would lose less money if you threw a molotov through their windows, than if you convince half the town to not even give them a try. Doubly so since you can insure agains the former, but there's no insurance I know of against just not getting customers. So basically I see no fundamental moral difference between, basically:

        - "Nice restaurant you have there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it. It's a rough neighbourhood, you know? Lots of evil people out there. Some vandals could tear the place down one night. But we're nice people. If you pay us 300$ a month for our efforts, we could keep an eye out that it doesn't happen."

        - "Nice reputation your restaurant has. It would be a shame if anything happened to it. It's a tough world, you know? Lots of evil people out there. Some bastards could plaster the reviews page with really nasty stuff. But we're nice people. If you pay us 300$ a month for our efforts, we could keep an eye out that it doesn't happen."

        Both essentially threaten you with a bigger loss unless you pay the protection fee.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Abreu (173023)

          Too bad they got greedy and managed to get accused of extortion... If it was me, I would have settled for giving a discount on the banner ads to those restaurants who gave me free lunches

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            Yelp.com just neglected to pay _their_ protection money. This "exposé" (essentially a negative review) is just to show them what can happen.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tjonnyc999 (1423763)

          1. That some businesses would want to slander (or libel) the competition, yeah, that probably goes all the way back to the dawn of time.

          Astroturfing and astro-slander goes on all the time, on almost every review site. After all, if a business is going to invest the time/effort into promoting themselves (via fake reviews), why not slander the competition while you're at it? Makes sense from the time-management point of view.

          Which is why most countries have various numbers of laws to contain the phenomenon.

          And we're all keenly aware of just how well those laws work. Everything on teh interwebz should be taken with a grain^H^H^H^H^H large industrial-sized shaker of salt.

          We're in an age where someone's reputation is probably the most important asset of their business.

          Completely agree with you here. This goes double for

          • by Moraelin (679338)

            1. Well, I didn't say that those laws are perfect, nor that they _solve_ the problem. I'm just saying they try to _contain_ it.

            2. Well, when the friendly neighbour, the mafia thug drops by, he isn't actually threatening you with wrecking your shop. He's just, you know, offering an incentive to pay him so he prevents any threats to your shop :P

    • Re:Disappointing (Score:5, Insightful)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:24PM (#26919601) Journal
      Unfortunately, "community based" is something of a farce when there is an owner standing in the background and counting the money. Just because the crowdserfs are doing the work, doesn't make an institution "community based".
    • Re:Disappointing (Score:5, Informative)

      by humina (603463) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:35PM (#26919731) Homepage

      It looks like the CEO has posted his response to the piece. It appears to be quite well documented and researched. Possibly more so than the original article:

      http://officialblog.yelp.com/2009/02/kathleen-richards-east-bay-express.html [yelp.com]

      • Re:Disappointing (Score:5, Interesting)

        by eddiegee (236525) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:52PM (#26920001)

        The CEO's response makes mention of "anonymous sources" as being an issue with the article and mentions one interview subject as having posted "fake" reviews. He doesn't mention the other business named in the article that talk about being contacted by Yelp sales and given these terms. There are several mentioned.

        This is coming from someone who has submitted a few Yelp reviews in myself. If this is Yelp's response I would have to say I'm still leery.

        • Re:Disappointing (Score:5, Interesting)

          by afidel (530433) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @04:52PM (#26921637)
          From the CEO's response it seems like some sales droid was being overly pushy and overstating the facts, which is SOP for a salesmen in many fields. The actual practice of allowing a single positive review to be pinned and labeled at the top of the stack is perfectly acceptable IMHO. Personally I discount half of all negative reviews online since people tend to only go online if they have had a really good or bad experience, unless someone says they have repeatedly had bad service or food or almost all of the reviews for an establishment are bad then it's probably at worth at least trying out once.
          • Re:Disappointing (Score:5, Insightful)

            by CraftyJack (1031736) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @05:15PM (#26921887)

            ...it seems like some sales droid was being overly pushy and overstating the facts, which is SOP for a salesmen...

            Ah, the good old "overzealous staffer" defense. That supposed salesman is acting on behalf of the company. The company is responsible for making sure that nobody gets "overzealous", and is culpable when somebody does.

            • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

              For extra credit you can, with just a touch of spin, use the "overzealous staffer" defense at one end, and the "just following orders" defense at the other, at the same time!
            • by afidel (530433)
              Salesmen don't set policy which is what I am worried about, if a salesmen implied that all negative reviews would be removed and the reality is they got one positive review pinned then it's up to the restaurant to decide if they want to continue to advertise with Yelp. On the other hand if negative reviews were really being pulled at the request of advertiser then that significantly changes the nature of the site and is worse than false advertising in my book.
      • Re:Disappointing (Score:5, Insightful)

        by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @04:03PM (#26921037)

        If I understand everything correctly, it looks like advertisers get to choose one review as a "sponsored review" and this is shown as the first result. Couldn't this be what the sales people are talking about when they offer to change the order of reviews so that lower reviews are moved down?

        I could easily see "For $300 you can choose one review to appear at the top" becoming "For $300 we will make your bad reviews go away". To me, it sounds like a game of telephone combined 'investigative journalism' and angry restaurant managers.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          I agree. I have customers who misquote me all the time when I'm giving them a pitch of sorts. If they don't like the way things turned out, they always lie about what I said.

          Of course, where I work, our phone system is recorded (and disclosed as such). I usually apologize for the misunderstanding and offer to have the customer come to my office and review the phone logs with me if they truely believe that I've changed a price or my story. They usually back down at that point.

          The problem is, people get an
    • Community effort. Private gain.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        that is one way to look at it.

        another way to look at it is that the community adds content that is of direct benefit to the community. the private entity (be it individual or corporation) that takes risks (purchasing equipment, signing contracts for hosting, etc.) has the right to make a living and profit. if you don't like it start a wiki and solicit donations for your hosting, that is a lot harder than getting business loans based on ad revenue streams.
  • Protection? (Score:2, Funny)

    by MarkvW (1037596)

    So the restaurants would be buying protection from negative reviews? Interesting . . .
    Paying protection money . . .
    Wow.

    • by grandpa-geek (981017) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:22PM (#26919571)

      Does Yelp also make sure that the restaurant's plate glass doesn't get broken by rocks thrown through it and that the head chef's knees don't get broken in an "accident" with a thug?

      Or is that a possible future service offering consistent with their current portfolio of services?

      Hmmm.

      • by cayenne8 (626475)
        I'll make him an offer he can't refuse....
      • What have I done to deserve this negative press? You come to my website on the day of my daughter's wedding, and you ask me to commit review-fraud...but you don't come with a handful of cash. You don't even think to call me Publisher.

  • risky? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by belmolis (702863)

    If Yelp removes negative reviews for a fee, it seems to me that they have given up their common carrier status and have made themselves liable for errors in the reviews they leave up. Restaurants that receive negative reviews could sue Yelp for libel if they can demonstrate errors in the reviews.

    • and everything to do with sleazy ad sales tactics.

      A LOT of sites still in "start up" mode (it still is in start up mode, despite what anyone may think) rely on these types of tactics.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by winkydink (650484) *

      Yelp is not nor have they ever been a Common Carrier.

    • ROTFL. I'd be very curious to know what you think a "common carrier" is. God save us from amateur lawyers!

    • The basic elements of common carrier status are:

      (1) A business operating under a license issued by the government;

      (2) The business offers to provide non-discriminatory service to the public; and

      (3) The service provided is considered a "public convenience and necessity".

      According to Wikipedia (my Black's is at home):

      "A common carrier must further demonstrate to the regulator that it is "fit, willing and able" to provide those services for which it is granted authority. Common carriers typically transport pe

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by PitaBred (632671)
      I think you were actually thinking about Section 230 protections [eff.org], not common carrier.
  • by lymond01 (314120) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:16PM (#26919481)

    Maybe you don't like to look at ads. Maybe you wants them to go away. Let's say you become a member. I would not be at all surprised if you found yourself +1 Insightful in the very near future. Think about it. Let me know.

  • by PapaBoojum (232247) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:17PM (#26919501)

    A friend who manages a restaurant in Watertown MA asked me what Yelp was... She was contacted by someone claiming to be from Yelp with the same pitch.

    I knew of Yelp, and used to trust the reviews. But I had already lost respect for them when they obviously sold my e-mail addy, despite claims of confidentiality and my opting out of their mailings.

  • by russotto (537200) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:21PM (#26919555) Journal

    What they're allegedly doing is scummy, but not extortion. Or rather, it's only extortion if Yelp itself is generating the negative reviews. Accepting cash to remove legitimate negative reviews is just slimy.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by sdaug (681230)

      Or rather, it's only extortion if Yelp itself is generating the negative reviews.

      If you RTFA, you'll see that Yelp employees do write reviews, including negative reviews.

    • by mea37 (1201159)

      That probably depends on jurisdiction, but in general I'd say extortion is a broader term than you think and this could be construed as extortion.

      The elements of extortion are typically a threat, intent to take money to which one isn't entitled, and sometimes the actual acquisition of the property as a result of the threat. The question is, does the threat to leave negative reviews visible count?

      You appear to be asserting that the threat has to be affirmative in nature -- i.e. "give me what I want, or I wi

    • by codegen (103601)
      In the article there is some suggestion that some of the negative reviews were written by Yelp staffers
    • by Quothz (683368)

      What they're allegedly doing is scummy, but not extortion. Or rather, it's only extortion if Yelp itself is generating the negative reviews. Accepting cash to remove legitimate negative reviews is just slimy.

      From the fucking article [eastbayexpress.com]:

      Indeed, Yelp does pay some employees to write reviews of businesses that are solicited for advertising. And in at least one documented instance, a business owner who refused to advertise subsequently received a negative review from a Yelp employee.

  • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:21PM (#26919559) Journal
    Their advertising side dominates their editorial side, just like the respectable old media guys. Web 2.0 made good, I think I'm tearing up...
  • by Fuseboy (414663) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:21PM (#26919561) Homepage

    In related news, Yelp has announced that it has reached a $300 cross-advertising relationship with Slashdot to "do something" about a prominently displayed news item.

    • by Zarquil (187770)

      So has Slashdot has been seeding dupes for years to cash in on this $300 advertising phenomenon?

      Diabolical! When do the bad dupes get moved down?

  • Finally (Score:5, Funny)

    by internerdj (1319281) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:24PM (#26919603)
    We all now know what the ... step is: Extortion.
  • Shake down marketing, in desperate times men do desperate things.
  • by leroybrown (136516) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:31PM (#26919681) Homepage

    I lost confidence in Yelp after I posted a negative review of an Italian bistro in Haddonfield, NJ (which I won't name to avoid giving them any free publicity) and it was removed after about a week. Over time other reviewers for the restaurant made references to their previous negative reviews being removed as well. My girlfriend and I had dinner at this place for Valentine's day last year and the experience was miserable. The food was bland and overpriced, and the kitchen manager was making very rude sexual comments about his dating life and experience with women. I wrote to the owner first explaining the problem and he responded with suggestions that I'm a prude, obviously don't know good food, would not be happy anywhere, and suggested that if I'd like to come back sometime (I live in PA), he'd be willing to settle this outside. So since I wasn't getting anywhere with that route, I posted both my and his emails into a yelp review. Gone a week later. I've watched the review section since then and have noticed several negative reviews go up and are then removed shortly after. Currently there are only two reviews up, with 3 and 5 stars. My only idea at this point is that the owner of the place (whose email address looks suspiciously like the word "douche") badgered Yelp into removing them.

    Anyone else have this experience?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:49PM (#26919955)

      the kitchen manager was making very rude sexual comments

      Is-a no fair!
      Avete dato al mio ristorante una revisione difettosa per formulare le osservazioni sessuali inadeguate.
      Ma ho dato alla vostra mamma cinque stelle per il sesso caldo della scimmia!

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Culture20 (968837)
      Keep posting them. Eventually that restaurant will run out of money in their "Yelp fund"
    • Please name names.

    • by Hogwash McFly (678207) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @03:33PM (#26920589)

      Anyone else have this experience?

      Of spending Valentine's day with a female? No, sorry...

    • I know a couple of restaurant owners. Reviews are only half of the story. Positive word of mouth is really vital; restaurants are by their very nature dependent on the bricks & mortal business style. They can't even do mail order, so a bad reputation leading to the loss of repeat business can destroy them.

      This one place in my town was making an easy million per year, most of that from repeat customers eating there a couple times a month, some as often as two and three times a week. Then the owner ca

  • First things first, what Yelp is doing is not the most respectable thing, but should not surprise a single person that understands business. Next, what they are doing is not extortion, at least not yet. When they call companies and tell them that a competitor bought a sponsorship to promote themselves and if they don't up the ante along with them, then they 'wont be able to do anything about those negative reviews,' then you have a case for extortion. It could come in many flavors, but you should get the id
    • by mcgrew (92797) * on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:51PM (#26919981) Homepage Journal

      ...should not surprise a single person that understands business

      And people wonder why the economy's in the toilet.

    • This better fits the description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payola [wikipedia.org]

      And, considering that it is/was practiced by our pals in the Big Music Industry . . . doesn't make it any more palatable.

    • If they are posting false negative reviews and then offering to take them down for a fee they are engaging in extortion. The false negative reviews may also constitute libel.

    • by WNight (23683)

      extort - obtain by coercion or intimidation;
      "They extorted money from the executive by threatening to reveal his past to the company boss"
      "They squeezed money from the owner of the business by threatening him"

      Seems to be common usage.

      Yelp is essentially lying to customers. ('reviews' implies all reviews, not just selected ones.)

      I can't imagine the life of anyone here would be enriched by listening to a lawyer yammer on about the technicality in the legal definition of extortion merely makes this jackassery instead of criminal. It's still antisocial and the people involved need to be ostracized.

      • by ericrost (1049312)

        More aptly, just like with Microsoft, the Television Studios, etc. You're not the customer, you're the product. The advertisers and, in this case, restauranteurs are the customers.

        Sucks, but its more and more true.

  • The article sounds pretty damning-- if they move bad reviews down based on whether you advertise on the site (or even, apparently, actually write bad reviews if you don't advertise), that's extortion.

    I'm wondering if they can be sued for that. If they really write bad reviews for restaurants that don't advertise, I would think that this would count as libel, even if you can't sue for extortion.

    • > I'm wondering if they can be sued for that. If they really write bad reviews for
      > restaurants that don't advertise, I would think that this would count as libel,
      > even if you can't sue for extortion.

      I think that they could be sued for both libel and extortion, if anyone wants to bother.

  • Does Jack White have another side project?

    Hahaha!! Oh man, I crack myself up....

  • Bucket of salt (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Joe the Lesser (533425) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:34PM (#26919715) Homepage Journal

    after RTFA I am not so sure what's going on is clearcut, so take this story with some salt.

    Clearly the sales reps are 'shaking down' some restaurants, but I think it's more likely that they are trying to inflate their own numbers and don't have the power they pretend or are wording it in such a way that it seems they can do more than they can.

    What you get is just the ability to choose one review to be 'front and center'. Otherwise all reviews are placed by an algorithm. So a sales rep says 'we could help with that negative review' but what they mean is 'because you get to place one featured positive one at the top'

    • by garcia (6573)

      Lots of media groups are doing shit like this. Take for instance Minneapolis/St Paul's CityPages [thedeets.com] and what they're doing with their restaurant reviews.

    • In other words...

      "Nice restaurant youse gots there. Be a shame if you had lots of negative reviews, now, wouldn't it, Vinny?"
      "Yeah, Guido, it sure would!"
      "Well, we's got an offer for youse that youse can't refuse...."

    • Yelp directly competes with East Bay Express for restaurant reviews, and their "Best of" awards, so no surprise that the Express would run a Hit piece against Yelp. Moreover, the Express has also had controversies of its own in how it does reader "rankings" of local restaurants. And for those of us trying to improve local public transit, the author of this EB-Express article is very well known for her slanted and inaccurate hit pieces against AC Transit (the local bus service).
      • While this practice may not legally be extortion (or may be, that remains to be seen), accepting advertising dollars from companies that are being reviewed is, itself, a conflict of interest. That is a system that cannot help but to be dishonest!
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Jay L (74152) *

      I think it's more likely that they are trying to inflate their own numbers and don't have the power they pretend or are wording it in such a way that it seems they can do more than they can.

      I was thinking the same thing... If Yelp's search results change frequently, and if reviews are regularly removed (for any reason at all), couldn't this be a combination of two classic scams, plus confirmation bias?

      1. The Perfect Prediction scam: You send postcards to 10,000 people, predicting the winner of tomorrow nig

  • 6 Pages!?! (Score:3, Funny)

    by DrWho520 (655973) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:41PM (#26919823) Journal
    How is this article 6 pages long? I cannot help but snicker reading the first paragraph. I get the image of a restaurant owner cringing every time the phone rings, dreading the voice of Henchman Number 24 on the other end.

    "Would you like to purchase advertising on our site? We can rearrange the order of your ratings. The Monarch Mobile will be right over with the paperwork."
    • Come on, don't act like you don't know that they are cramming every ad that they
      can on, repeatedly !!!!

      It is a virtual advertising gang bang.

  • by kabocox (199019) on Thursday February 19, 2009 @02:42PM (#26919841)

    I live in Texarkana AR. I eat mostly in Texarkana, TX. The Bowie County has this nice report http://www.txkusa.org/health/Food-Report.pdf [txkusa.org]
    It lists: Establishment, Address, Date of Inspection, Type of Inspection, and Score. My wife and I check it every time we consider trying something new. We first look 'em up. If they don't have an A; we don't eat there.

    I just wish Miller County had the same thing. Heck, it would be nice if there was an easy federal health website that it was trivial to search for this info. Heck, it would be nice to have those GPS units be able to poll for that info when you are "out of town." Just so you are sure to pick a clean place to eat.

    • All the information is "free" but it's not put together anywhere. So you're depending on your local news organ to get the information, and publish it. Most papers put it in the actual paper.

      I agree though, it should end up online either through local government or a local watchdog news organization.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      an easy federal health website

      Because we all know that if the government is involved, bribes and money and bias don't have any affect anymore. :)

    • In California restaurants are legally required to post those ratings on the storefront. Most seem to do so inconspicuously though.

    • by gknoy (899301)

      It would be nice if there was an easy federal health website that it was trivial to search for [restaurant inspection scores]

      Quite true! Part of the problem is that the way places do this is not really standardized at all, from what I can tell, and often are in PDFs, and thus harder to extract text from.

      I think a good idea would be to write to your people-that-provide-inspection-score-info and ask if they could also include an XML or other file for the information. Point out that the PDFs are likely autom

    • by blueZ3 (744446)

      What's even better is that in L.A. county they have to post a notice in a "conspicuous place" that has the rating. When they first implemented it, I was amazed at what motivation the little placard with an "A" on it (as opposed to a "B" or "C") provided--several seedy joints were surprisingly cleaner.

      • by Toonol (1057698)
        Hmm... nicer places have more money to bribe the inspector with, and so get better grades. It actually works, in a roundabout way.
  • I use Yelp regularly and have found some good restaurants through Yelp that I would have never visited on my own. It seems like they can't simply leave good enough alone.
  • True (Score:2, Informative)

    by paimin (656338)

    Absolutely true. I personally know a restaurant owner in San Francisco that complains about these suggestive calls.

    Yelp = crap.

    • Re:True (Score:5, Interesting)

      by inviolet (797804) <slashdot@ideasmatt e r .org> on Thursday February 19, 2009 @03:22PM (#26920439) Journal

      Absolutely true. I personally know a restaurant owner in San Francisco that complains about these suggestive calls.

      Apparently the Better Business Bureau operates the same way, but with more obfuscation.

      Membership in the BBB allows your company to 'respond' to customer complaints, which means that your company no longer has a nasty "complaints unresponded" number. You don't actually have to do anything about the complaints; you just have to respond, which requires member$hip.

      MBAs are wrecking our society.

  • Of course all companies in this situation would claim its the actions of a rouge sale's person. But I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt.
    • by Fnord666 (889225)

      claim its the actions of a rouge sale's person.

      So if you buy the advertising you can also get makeup at a discount?

  • The same behavior has been going on in print magazines and newspapers probably since the they started. Ever notice how whatever band or establishment is reviewed in a magazine also ends up advertising? What they print and what is advertised is often very related. That's how they stay in business. The cover cost of magazines rarely pays for anything besides distribution costs and its the ad revenue that actually lets print happen. Thus, ad dollars often dictate was is or isn't in print. Sometimes the print m

  • If you live in Buffalo, NY, check out Bill Rapaport's Buffalo Restaurant Guide [buffalo.edu]. It's put together by a CS professor at the University at Buffalo. Although the web design is right out of 1995, but it's extremely fair, useful, and informative site, and a model for other grass-roots restaurant review services to emulate.

  • The LA Times had this "scoop" a week ago. This is old news!

    http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-lazarus11-2009feb11,0,6849007.column [latimes.com]

  • If it really is as blatant as this, then this is a trivial problem to correct. Put one of those prerecorded messages on your phone saying "To ensure quality, conversations may be monitored or recorded". Next time a Yelp employee tries to shake you down, record them. Post it on your store's website and make a YouTube clip of the audio. When Yelp attempts to force the message to be removed ... Behold, the Power of Streisand.
  • Let's face it, no review by anyone that you do not personally know is worth anything.

    Professional reviewers 'do it for the money' and can therefore be either bought, or just recognised and given preferential treatment.

    Reviews by members of the public can be faked. Anyone can sign up and claim anything.

    Some people just love to complain, and will do so in every forum at every chance. Negative reviews will always dominate. (This very article is a negative review, in a way). Satisfied customers have
  • Like most small business owners when you add your business to a website like Yalp you check in once in a while to see how things are going. I went from 8 positive reviews down to 2, no reason. All legit reviews from existing happy customers.

    So ya Yalp is very shady but this is common knowledge now. In fact I was warned against putting my company on Yalp by others because of how shady they are.

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