Just How Bad Is Yelp’s Fake Review Problem?

    January 16, 2014
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

You’re probably aware of multiple controversial issues surrounding Yelp reviews. There are several to choose from. You have some businesses accusing the company of holding positive reviews hostage (with advertising being the ransom). You have a court ordering Yelp to turn over the identities of anonymous Yelp reviewers. You have people paying other people to write fake reviews, whether it’s negative reviews for competitors or positive reviews for their own business.

Do you find Yelp to be a reliable source of information for consumers? Is your own business fairly portrayed? Ever suspected a review was a fake? Let us know in the comments.

These are all issues that Yelp has to deal with on an ongoing basis, and that consumers have to take into consideration every time they read a review on the site. The fake reviews are apparently so prevalent that the company is ramping up its efforts to combat them.

“Consumers, on average, can rely on the content they see on Yelp,” CEO Jeremy Stoppelman said on stage at LeWeb last year. Reassured?

In the fall of 2012, Yelp revealed a new system for combating fake reviews with its Consumer Alerts. Yelp shows warnings to users when they’ve found businesses that have paid for reviews. If you come across such a business listing, you’re greeted with a Consumer Alert, which explains that they’ve caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews.

Yelp Consumer Alerts

Yelp doesn’t kick the business out of its service, but the embarrassing warning appears on the business listing for three months. Yelp has hoped that this would serve as a deterrent. Just how well it’s actually working remains a mystery. So far, Yelp has reportedly issued 285 of the alerts with more on the horizon.

Stoppleman was interviewed for an article this week by The Telegraph. He talked about how the company is conducting “sting operations,” where Yelpers pose at users willing to write paid reviews. It’s only been happening in the U.S. so far, but is about to be expanded into Europe.

“It has been incredibly successful in that we have been able to catch businesses red handed,” Stoppleman is quoted as saying of the sting operations.

But how successful has Yelp really been at spotting fake reviews? Catching people red-handed is one thing. How many are not being caught?

Yelp has certainly been using the law to go after paid reviews, but a lot of this has been happening well after the Consumer Alerts system was put in place. Last summer, Yelp sued BuyYelpReview.com, obviously for selling reviews (not the latest such suit filed by Yelp).

Apparently Yelp has busted quite a few businesses over the past year. It had already caught nine when it first launched the Consumer Alerts, then launched another round of them in August. With the number approaching 300, it would appear that the program, at least initially, did little to deter the practice (though Stoppleman told the Telegraph it’s “obviously a deterrent”).

“We’ve seen some pretty extreme chicanery in connection with these businesses, including people buying fake reviews, offering rewards or discounts for reviews or having a large number of reviews submitted from the same Internet Protocol (IP) address (a clue that someone may be trying to artificially inflate their rating),” said Yelp VP of Consumer & Mobile Products Eric Singley in August.

In September, a Harvard Business School study suggested that 16% of Yelp restaurant reviews are potentially fake.

Luther Lowe, director of public policy at Yelp, tells us that 16% figure is misleading, as “HBS used reviews Yelp identified as suspicious (not ‘fake’) to run [its] analysis. 25% suppressed not 16%.”

Yelp responded to the study, saying that the findings “shouldn’t come as a complete surprise.”

“As consumers increasingly turn to online reviews to find a local business, the incentive to artificially improve one’s reputation also increases,” the company said. “But neither should the fact that Yelp has been on guard against these very same reviews from our earliest days.”

It went on to talk up its controversial review filter.

That same month, New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced that nineteen companies agreed to stop writing fake Yelp reviews and pay over $350,000 of fines.

“Consumers rely on reviews from their peers to make daily purchasing decisions on anything from food and clothing to recreation and sightseeing,” he said. “This investigation into large-scale, intentional deceit across the Internet tells us that we should approach online reviews with caution.”

“We think it’s great the New York Attorney General took action against these businesses that try to mislead consumers. In fact, we helped him,” said Yelp Senior Litigation Counsel Aaron Schur. “Because Yelp uses sophisticated software to filter reviews and weed out less reliable ones, we identify — and take action against — concerted campaigns to game the system quite frequently. As a result, we were able to give the NY AG’s office some solid leads on which businesses to go after.”

“And we have more,” he added. “We would love to work with law enforcement officials in other states to crack down on this unethical practice.”

Meanwhile, there are more reviews being posted to Yelp than ever. In the second half of 2013, Yelp added the ability to review businesses from its mobile apps. Earlier this month, Yelp boasted 47 million reviews, seemingly encouraging the saturation of the site with reviews by recognizing a guy who wrote 1,712 in 2013 alone. Perhaps more reviews means better odds of drowning out the fake ones.

At least Yelp isn’t eager to roll over on fake reviews without significant evidence. Despite being ordered to do so, Yelp has been resistant to handing over the names of anonymous users, whom a business alleges wrote fake negative reviews about it.

How bad is Yelp’s fake review problem? Do you think Yelp is doing a good job of keeping it under control? Share your thoughts in the comments.

  • destin garis

    I work as a bartender in San Diego at a small sports bar. The owner has been asking me to investigate what can be done about the old reviews and pictures on the yelp page. His English is rough, but he is stressed that a past employee is in many of the pictures.
    Yelp simultaneously helps and tarnishes the reputations of business. The establishment is a bar, therefore there are images of people getting loose. While reviews are informal, a picture is too invasive on others privacy. Especially for those background people in the pictures unknowingly. Yelp shouldn’t be used to embarass people, especially customers.
    -Destin Garis @CJ’s Lounge

  • http://esolsea.com CNXTim

    not only Yelp but other review sites, TripAdvisor is also complicit in this scam

  • http://iowacityautorepair.net Michael O’Reilly

    They are 90% fake. Just read them. The only thing Yelp is good for is the listings. Fivver sells Yelp reviews very cheap!

  • http://www.colesvilletravel.com Cynthia Amin

    I have a very big problem with Yelp. There are bogus reviews on their site about my business and Yelp refuses to take them down. Somebody in California, I live in MD and sell travel in MD, put a bad review about me on there and Yelp refuses to take it down. I have no idea who this person is and I have tried to contact them. All of my positive reviews are buried where no one can see them. I had a couple of dissatisfied customers and they put negative stuff on Yelp and Yelp does not care no matter how many times I contact them. They are horrible and somebody needs to do something about them. They are totally unfair and they filter out your good reviews and only show the negative one.

    • Peggy O’Connor

      I had the same problem with my business in Florida. They won’t show my positive reviews and refuse to take down the bad one. The lady that posted it was not honest and attacked my integrity and my Christianity. I think YELP is a scam and their goal is to destroy business. I feel your pain believe me. I even emailed them and they refused to help me.

  • http://www.forestsoftware.co.uk John

    Sadly this is a problem with review sites generally in my view – I know of people who post positive reviews on Trip Adviser because they are friends with the owner or have a business relationship with the owner but have never stayed at the place in question.

    Then you have the opposite problem of legitimate reviews on Google+ pages for small businesses being removed for no apparent reason (I know of a small business here in North Wales in the UK that has had reviews from overseas customers removed even though they ship their products world-wide).

    It’s almost as if the whole review business (and any perceived benefit from it) has got out of control. I just wish there was some sort of reasonable answer to the problem but I don’t know what it is, all I do know is that I don’t pay any attention to reviews as they are too easily manipulated.

  • Jody

    Yelp keeps calling to try to get me to advertise my business. I have asked numerous times where my good reviews have gone. The answer I was given is that is only stays up for a short time unless the reviewer has several yelp reviews for businesses. So, the bad reviews are from people who have nothing better to do than bash businesses!

    • Patt

      I have read many, many filtered reviews that I don’t understand why they were filtered. Some good, some bad, some in the middle.

      But the persistent commonality among those filtered is that the reviewer does not post a picture of themselves, and they have one or two reviews.

      It’s Yelp’s robo-filterer that does this, I think. I’ve never had one of my reviews filtered — even when I had just one or two reviews. All of mine are real.

  • http://yelp ruth sirgo

    I find yelp to not be a reliable source for busisness . I do agree positive reviews are held back and could be used to drive competiton out .

  • Dan C

    Yelp is a scam as they don’t post all reviews. They have a pattern of posting the bad reviews and then offering to help clients with their feedback problems. I have read many complaints from lots of businesses about how they operate.

    • Patt

      I disagree, Dan. All of my reviews have been posted — the good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve gotten merchant responses on some of my “bad” or mediocre reviews. And I’ve gotten merchant responses on some of my “good” reviews.

      Yelp is not a scam. I read reviews carefully, though, for signs of generalities. And I check people’s profiles, if a review reads suspiciously.

  • JJ

    Agreed. As an executive assistant, we’ve had problems with our competitors going onto Yelp just to post false reviews about our company.

    Even positive reviews can be false. These can easily be posted from people from Fiverr or social media companies that do “reputation management”.

  • Susan

    I looked at Yelp reviews for restaurants in my area about two years ago. One stood out as being “the best Chinese restaurant – ever”. We drove 45 minutes to the restaurant where we were served the worst Chinese food that we have ever had anywhere. Either our taste differs radically from the reviewers or these were inflated reviews. This was my third such experience. I have never visited Yelp again – and would never rely on reviews there to pick anything.

  • FakeReviews

    The majority of anonymous review sites are fake reviews. I run a business and know that if a person has a real positive or negative experience with a company they have no problem sharing their identity to back it up. Our liable laws would never let people get away with what is currently happening on anonymous internet review sites. The law will catch up to these companies, and the courts will be able to force Yelp and Tripadvisor to release the fake reviewer’s identities or hold Yelp and Tripadvisor responsible for their actions. The courts also need to look closer at the relationship to positive reviews and advertising. It should come as no surprise that businesses on Yelp that advertise have a net positive review score while businesses that do not have a net negative score. Yelp doesn’t care about fake reviews, if they did they would just confirm the reviewer’s identity and relationship to the business before they post the review, this is reasonable practice, the BBB does it. The only reason Yelp cracked down on companies selling fake reviews is they didn’t want anybody else making money on their anonymous fake review scam.

    • Tomas Dalin

      Well put. I am a business owner in Austin Tx. My suggestion is any review that affects a rating (1-5 stars) must be verifiable, the poster must supply evidence of an actual business transaction and it must be verified. As far as the ranting and raving that some folks do they can do that amongst their circle of friends, I could care less. I have reviews about my business that if they were true, I should have been arrested by now and not have an A+ BBB score.

    • Nobo

      We agree with you. We’re looking at getting them under harassment/stalking and as far as the small claims for damages to our business as since these reviews our normal business has dropped off by approx 80% foot fall. Let’s see what their response is. Despicable.

  • http://www.localmarketingus.com Max Weiss

    Yelp is horrible. I have 4 positive reviews from actual clients, yet their automated system won’t show them except if you click a link that says 4 reviews that are not currently recommended. It’s a joke. Furthermore, they gave me some free credits to run ads and it was an absolute waste.. they charge 3.67 a click that produces 0 results. Where do they get off charging that much per click? who do they think they are, Google?

    I would never recommend Yelp for anything other than a basic listing

  • Missy

    Yelp is a waste of time, I put some nice reviews on and wasted my time…they filtered my reviews so whats the point? Use another reputable source of information, Yelp is a JOKE!~~


    Yelp and Angie’s List pull the same unscrupulous bullying against honest hard working professional businesses. They write phony reviews and then contact you using high pressure sales people to get you to pay a fee to better your position in their own reviewing system. If and when you get an honest good review they delete it. The bad reviews that they wrote stay forever.
    They are internet con artists that are not concerned with anything but making money for themselves even if they ruin or tarnish a good company’s reputation to do so.

    • anna

      you are totally wrong about Angies List and have NO CLUE. Angies List requires a membership and each membership is paid for with a credit card that includes a billing address. As a business on Angies List we are notified of each review as well as the name and address of the person who wrote it . I predict Yelp to self implode within the next 2 years.

      • Nobo

        Can’t wait! For the implode. We’ll gave a party.

  • http://www.mrtechnique.com Tom Nguyen

    I actually like using Yelp to find a good restaurant. I believe most of the reviews are real. When looking for a restaurant, I haven’t been steered wrong yet. Now as far as service industries? I don’t trust Yelp. I go to Angie’s List for that. They’re review system is thorough.

    • $6345059

      I agree. On Yelp, for restaurants you have to go by how many reviews there are (the more reviews, the more popular) and how many reviews people have under their belt as to whether to trust them.

  • Scott Harlan

    Yelp is not business friendly, review system crooked. They place competitors paid ads in middle of businesses listing to try an extort you to buy an ad. Requsted my listing be removed and wouldnt allow me to do so. STAY away from Yelp

  • http://1newyorkbartendingschool.com Dennis


    I’ve been a member of YELP , as a business owner, for years. I personally think the reviews and how they handle it are a bunch of crap. If someone wants to post fake reviews they will find a way. But what I have found is even legitimate reviews suffer. I own a bartending school and have used YELP for advertisement. I get on the average 15 new students weekly. When they graduate I ask them to write a review if they so feel inclined about their experience here at the school, etc. In my case I don’t need to have any fake reviews posted b/c of the number of students I have weekly. To date YELP has pulled 14 reviews and left only 2. I called asking what was the problem. The tech was nice enough and said yeah it looks like in my case legit ones got pulled but there was nothing he could do it was all software controlled.
    So, in a nutshell, I really don’t see it as being advantageous. Fake ones could remain, legitimate ones get pulled.

    • Patt

      Dennis, I think the problematic thing is the Yelp robo-filter. I’ve read so many filtered reviews that I don’t understand why they were filtered — bad, good indifferent.

  • http://www.cartridgesave.co.uk Alex Morris

    It’s not just Yelp, Amazon’s another major source of fake reviews. I read of a disastrous video game recently, Limbo of the Lost, which got banned for blatant plagiarism. Before it was removed from stores it was obvious the developers had been sticking 5/5 rave reviews on Amazon to boost it, fooling a few people in the process.

    I think fake reviews are pretty easy to spot. Fawning sycophancy is usually the first sign.

  • http://www.design42.com Carla Kirby

    I used to check reviews and rely heavily on them. Then I turned my cabin into a vacation rental. I only have one cabin. I know exactly who I rented to. These weird negative reviews started showing up that had NOTHING to do with my cabin. I don’t know who in the world was posting them. Competition? How much competition was I to anyone? People who were confused and thought they stayed at my cabin? People with too much time on their hands? The negative reviews did not seem to affect rental. The cabin stayed booked solid, even though it was the most expensive in the area. It doesn’t matter at all any more, since we now live here year round.
    Anyway, I don’t even bother checking reviews any more. Why bother?

  • Andor

    So Yelp attempted to con our business. We set up a profile year ago and forgot about it. Then suddenly years later it was in the top three searches on Google relating to our business search. There were two bad reviews from people we had never met who we can confidently say we had never done business with.
    We contacted Yelp and they said the only way they would remove the reviews is if we advertise with them! It was pay to play!!! We tried to close the profile, anything… We were shocked and mad by their lack of co-operation.
    So after a few weeks we did what we had to and got several friends to post fake positive reviews… It was the only options. So Yelp!!! Your Con is UP!!!

    • Patt

      That’s unsettling to hear about your experience with Yelp.

      It should not happen like this.

      You’re being held hostage.

  • TM

    What a big surprise. We received a bad yelp review and sent a message to the allegedly bad review and have not heard back from the reviewer. Not to mention that yelp has allegedly put our business in their company review Que so we cannot not receive or send message to the reviewer until they have verified our business and we did the verification over a year ago.

    It’s entirely possible to purchase business information and then allegedly post a negative review so you lure the business into yelp. it would surprise me if some of this is some sort of sneaky & sleazy marketing tactic to promote business into yelp.

  • Bill

    I think it is sad that corruption has to get into every part of our lives. If a person is not a customer they should not be allowed to post reviews negative or positive. If a person post a review about a business, then they should not be allowed to hide their identity. Small business owners work very hard for their businesses and reputation. Yelp should work businesses when this occurs to flush out the crooks, not defend the cowardly efforts. In my opinion this is just another form of cyber crime and should be punished as such. People who spend their time trying to hurt someone else should get a real life of their own.

  • TM

    One good option is to is a service such as Bazaar Reviews Express where the user in identified as a “Verified Buyer”. All you have to do is create on order feed and upload it and they email your customers asking them to come back and review. If you do get a bad review you have all the information to try and make it right on the spot. You have way more control over the entire review process.

  • Sarah

    Yelp is run so poorly. You have people creating fake accounts and posting negative reviews for personal vendettas and competition.

    We are also now experiencing a Troll Problem. People reading negative reviews and calling on them specifically. Asking questions regarding other people’s experience and then nit picking. It’s very strange.

  • http://dansullivaninsurance.com/ Dan Sullivan

    We had an honest review pulled and thanks goodness have not had the “mob” style pressure applied that others are talking about. I would rather have a hidden review that is good than a false bad one!

  • http://www.reysplace.net Michael Rey

    I’m a Mexican Restaurant owner. My staff is trained to Greet, Seat the customers, ask what they would like to drink. As most importantly, how did you hear about us. I will not defend Yelp. However, I do get a lot of referrals from Yelp. My staff and I encourage them to leave a review on Yelp, Urbanspoon, Google, and a few other sites. I do not that the reviews I have on my Yelp page are real, and are not fake.
    On the other hand, they do have something going on that I hate. The way the handle there reviews. I have had a couple of 1 star ratings that did effect my overall rating. Some how, it got buried in what they call a filter program. I guess Yelp has some computer way of how to choose which reviews will be posted on the main review page. Scroll to the bottom of any restaurant page. Look for a little red “filter” click on that. See for yourself.
    I believe it is a ploy to advertise with them is you are a restaurant owner. In this filter area I have several 5 star ratings as well as a couple of 1 star ratings. Funny, all the ratings started on the front page of reviews, and got sent to the filter area. Some one day a 5 star rating is in the front…next week it’s back in the filter area.
    So the ratings are not fake, but the way the filter each review is fake. In my opinion.

  • http://www.brake-guard.com Lawrence Jones

    Yelp Is A Scam. You Pay Them Or They Trash You!

  • Thyra26

    What SHOULD be investigated is the process by which YELP “hides” and filters reviews. I went to a medical facility where a family member later died and found YELP had suppressed 30% of their 2013 reviews ALL of which were 1 STAR. When I tried to post a 1 STAR review my review was also immediately filtered/deleted. YELP is a dangerous site that clearly misrepresents information based upon whether or not a business advertises. They should be SHUT DOWN.

    • http://wwwthesolarbiz.com Tom Duffy

      We have 5 legitimate good reviews which were filtered and one Negative review from someone who wasn’t even our customer which is the only review that shows. I think YELP is crap, there’s no reason for them to filter reviews from anyone. They need to figure out some other way to qualify the reviewers to weed out the fake reviewers.

  • http://SouthwestWebs.com Michael Davis

    I called Yelp twice a couple years ago to tell them about someone offering payment for reviews on Yelp. It was a craigslist (another unconcerned company), ad.

    I was told they were aware of it and taking action to stop it. I do internet marketing and advise my clients to not get involved withYelp. But how, when they will post reviews even if you are not a member?

    Time for a class action suit asking for the total damages to all businesses they have brought harm to businesses.

    Hey, maybe Yelp contracts with big business like WalMart to run the small guy out of business. Just a thought.

    • http://wwwthesolarbiz.com Tom Duffy

      Even the name “YELP” has a negative connotation which shows that bad reviews are their business.

  • http://whangareiholidayhouses.co.nz Mike

    I have just had my first time problem with a reviewer attempting to blackmail us into a refund they were not entitled to after cancelling a reservation on the arrival date. They proceeded putting a ridiculous review up on T A full of lies and extreme exaggerations. We filed a management complaint asking to remove the review on the grounds of blackmail. A so called investigation was supposedly carried out (we were never contacted at all???) They have listed this online. I think there is 2 sides here and until these websites operate more professionally this will continue. T A seems to love negative reviews fake or exaggerated for their ratings. (People love to read dirt on businesses), Genuine negative formally written can be helpful to owners and future guests. Also positive ratings can be an asset to decision making. Reviewers need to have a strict set of guidelines be brief informative. We have been operating for over 7 years never been confronted by a rude extreme group of people like this. I think they arrived early because they had found another cheaper place they liked and wanted to change. They manufactured this situation in an attempt to force a refund.

  • http://www.belfast-architects.co.uk Alan

    The business model is hopelessly flawed. Who writes reviews. SERIOUSLY!!
    1. A disgruntled former employee.
    2. A competitor.
    3. Some crank with a grudge about the world or someone who gets pleasure in some perverted way from writing bad reviews.
    4 Someone paid to write the review (good or bad).
    5 A relative or friend of the owner.
    6 The types who think the world should stop when they appear. The people you could never please.

    I have heard of people turning up at businesses and mentioning that they were often offered money to write good reviews (obviously with the intention of receiving the same, or if they did not then the review may be poor!)

    How often do you write a review for good service? Seldom. So the bias is already towards those complaining.

    I would NEVER write a bad review of a small business. Reason is I simply do not have the information necessary to make that sort of overall judgement. I once read a review of a business where the owner was described as sullen (or similar). The owners child was dying so how is she supposed to behave?

    We should all sit down a write excellent reviews of the local businesses where we get good service, and just ignore the others. Forget the bad reviews and the negative.

    • Jan

      I agree completely. Better yet, write the reviews on their Google Plus page where it really counts and helps.

    • Patt

      I disagree, Alan. I write Yelp reviews for nearly every place I go. Not necessarily EVERY time I go . . . like the grocery store.

      But my reviews are sincere, real and I get nothing for writing them.

    • steve

      Alan – I’m sure there is a lot of fakery within Yelp – I am a real person, and write real reviews. I’ve had business owners respond to my negative reviews, and everything seems legit. I would like to come up with a boiler plate system to smoke out / flush out the fakers. I was looking for a good antique store recently, and there were all these great reviews – the store was a JOKE !!! Wish I could’ve come up with a way to smoke these people out – maybe I should try Google Plus

  • Steven Erlich

    John Taffer loves his Yelp reviews. I think accuracy depends on the market and the quality of the COMPANY being reviewed. Any well rated company won’t (or at least shouldn’t) risk their already outstanding reputation to get a few fake reviews up there. A dying restaurant in a bad location would definitely be more prone to giving themselves some fake reviews, especially if their reputation is already poor.

    I’m glad to see actions being taken against companies with fake reviews. Getting real reviews is not easy to do. You have to stand out. Getting bad reviews is easy. Hence the abundance of fake reviews.

    • Patt

      Very interesting perspective, Steven.

      I agree with the actions against fake reviews, and merchants who elicit fake favorable positive reviews of their business or fake unfavorable reviews of their competitors.

      The consistent mention of Yelp Headquarters squeezing for advertising money is disconcerting.

  • http://autoaccidentpersonalinjuryattorney.com/ P I Attorney

    The U. S. Constitution guarantees Freedom of Speech. Yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater is not Freedom of Speech nor are slanderous or libelous remarks made in a Yelp review.

    The only defense against Libel or Slander is truth. If someone posted a BAD fictitious review on Yelp against me – both the reviewer and Yelp would probably get sued.

    On the other hand I’ve know guys who posted fake reviews on their Yelp page thinking that it would generate new business. As far as I know, it did not.

    I don’t read Yelp reviews because I doubt very many of them are genuine.

  • Mark Daly

    Took Yelp four days to take down my nonsense post. Non-moderated opinions aren’t worth a toss. Blondie rule!

  • Jan

    One thing they won’t allow which is crazy – for Realtors to compliment and endorse other Realtors. They will take down any type of review like that. For my two cents, having another agent to vouch for one is worth more than a home buyer that got good service (most do) and was probably asked to write the review for the agent.

    • http://www.lodichiropractor.com Toni Reynolds

      I wrote a good review for a local health food store that I often refer patients to. I am not much of a retailer and love that there is a great store down the street that patients can easily access. Yelp took down my review stating I violated some terms of service because I do business with the health food store. Asinine! The owner of that store wouldn’t know me if she saw me…and in a town this size I do business with most of downtown Lodi…so I can’t have an opinion?

  • http://www.networkingforus.com Dindar -Work from home opportunity

    I used to have a business listed on Yelp and they held 5 positive reviews hostage. They would not count them toward my ranking. When I learned that paying them was the way to release them, I stopped contributing to them. I know of two local restaurants having same issues with Yelp. My SEO company had their running with yelp too. When they threatened yelp with legal actions Yelp stopped indexing their page so that they are not coming up in searches anymore. I don’t trust Yelp and would never pay for their services.

    • http://www.wildernessunlimited.com Rich

      Does anybody know of a method or phone number to call to just have your Yelp review site removed altogether?
      Who needs then anyway?

  • http://www.lodichiropractor.com Toni Reynolds

    Yelp is adamant regarding the exposure of fake reviews while fervently filtering legitimate reviews. If a business, by notarized affidavit, can produce legal validation of their reviews then those reviews should be accepted and weigh in the “star” rating. The “algorithm” only legitimizes “yelpers” not the first (and sometimes only) review.
    The fact that N.Y. Atty. General puts such trust in Yelp’s “sophisticated software” is frightening. Yelp senior litigator, Aaron Schur, thinks it is great that there was “action aginst these businesses that try to mislead consumers”. I ask what about action against the consumer that is trying to mislead other consumers? Words are powerful and one should be held accountable for what they write. If you libel, you have crossed the line and should be prepared to defend your lies. Why Yelp embraces defamy puzzles me. Equally puzzling is the choice of the word “Yelp” for a website that is supposed to be upbeat and fun. Not!

  • http://champagnescajunswamptours.com Scott

    I have had success in getting bad and fake competitor reviews removed in the past month. Usually takes 5 weeks for Yelp to complete.

  • http://morningloryflowers.com/blog Alex

    Everyone survive in this crazy world in different ways.

  • angelo laurence

    Any site that trades positive reviews for advert cannot be held as creditable. Good business principles and fair and honest are always the path that keeps customers, not rip offs. Yelp will yelling for help pretty soon.

  • http://www.lawyernortheastphiladelphia.com Max

    I find yelp to not be a reliable source for busisness , Google Plus page is the best

  • http://abc-patent.ru Vlad

    Yelp is not very reliable marketing tool. The idea is old, but its implementation is very unfortunate. Although turnover of 138 million dollars in 2012, says that many people use this service.

  • http://www.zeonwebvertise.co.uk james43

    TripAdvisor is also bad had a client who ran a hotel and he had his employees post positive reviews for him.

  • Kendall

    Interesting that Yelp is attempting to be “legit.”
    In my experience I have seen them delete negative reviews from deserving businesses at the business’ request. Along with this, they have deleted user accounts that post negative reviews of the same businesses.
    Yelp is a for-profit company. It seems they cater more to business than to customers or users. When a review service is curating reviews for businesses they then become unreliable if not complete irrelevant. What good is a review service that fails to be objective.
    I continually recommend to people to stay away from Yelp.

    • Rick Walter

      Unfortunately this is not accurate. They continually violate their own terms of service especially in cases of the “professional” reviewers that have lots of reviews. The professional reviewers couldn’t use or be a customer of all those companies, therefore the service reviews are not accurate representations of what kind of service they did get, but rather what kind of service they perceived they might get. Those reviews are rarely if ever removed even in the case of multiple requests. In fact, given the accolades they give those “reviewers”, they encourage that kind of business demagoguery….

  • Jacquelyn Denise

    I am personally aware of a situation where a negative reviewed violated Yelp’s TOS and after complaining the business owner got the review removed. The complainer then merely reposted the review AND had additional people post complaints supporting the original complainer(they were NOT in fact customers of the business and state so in their reviews). Yelp now refuses to remove these multi-violations of their own TOS. Yelp reviews cannot be trusted because Yelp will enforce even its own rules against illegimate posts.

    • Jacquelyn Denise

      Sorry for the typo. Yelp reviews cannot be trusted because Yelp will NOT enforce even its own rules against illegimate posts.

  • http://www.wowserswebdesign.com Valerie Lancaster

    Im sure that there are “fake” reviews. Yelp, without contacting the business, filters at random reviews and there isn’t really a way to get the reviews “unfiltered.” My business has 15+ great and honest reviews from clients – Yelp has filtered all but one. What’s the point of asking a client to “Yelp” a review if they aren’t visible. Very frustrating.

  • http://www.leaningtreemarketing.com Michelle Bobzien

    I have an online reputation program through my agency, and represent several clients. Each of my clients have a problem with YELP holding positive reviews hostage. Yelp is not hesitant to post a negative review, but definitely holds back on the good ones. Very frustrating.

  • http://www.chathambeauty.net Brenda King

    Yelp, It should be called Help me Not…. I expanded my business last
    year and have had several clients put reviews on yelp and they have been taken off because yelp said they where not real…
    Really??? How do you remove your information from their website.
    Thank you very much for your assistance.
    Brenda King
    Chatham Beauty & Bridal
    1223 Main Street
    Chatham, MA 02633

    • Sharon Moak

      You can’t remove your information from their web site. Don’t even ask, or they will punish you by filtering out more of your good reviews. It’s part of their extortion game.

  • http://saywowmarketing.com Vickie Siculiano

    Reviews, especially for restaurants, are an important part of the social proof needed to give the restaurant clout. Yelp is not the only place for reviews, in fact, google is a very valuable place for reviews, especially since it’s high up on the seo chain of command. Every restaurant and bar should be actively seeking reviews on their Google + page, which is free, and which they should have grabbed onto by now. As a manager of a yelp page, you can comment on your negative customer reviews and take control of the situation rather than passively accepting them. And people like to see owners involved and that you “hear” what they have to say. Vickie Siculiano, Say WOW Marketing

  • Lois Steiner

    We received a very negative review about 2 years ago and could not get any response from the reviewer. From the comments it sounded very much like a competitor had written it because we have never had any client feel the way the comment expressed (and it was overly technical), quite the opposite – they love us, but we don’t solicit comments for our professional work. When we contacted Yelp for help they said they would not pull it even though all of the comments this person had reviewed were very negative and sounded canned. Their suggestion was – just get a lot of positive comments! I thought – sure why not build up their business while they let someone ruin ours because we don’t activel solicit positive comments!

  • Russ Binder

    Just about every day I get one or more emails from “click farms” that offer fake “connections” and “friends and followers”, good reviews, “likes”, page views and more for a fee. Pay more, get more. Once everyone knows this is going on, it makes having real ones of little value, as people will assume they are bought. It also makes paying for such reviews a joke because the value of having lots of “friends” and “likes” is to influence those who view those numbers, and if everyone figures they are mostly, if not all fake, then having those big numbers is worthless.

    Secondly, I have heard from business owners about Yelp holding back high ratings and only publishing low ratings until you pay to advertise. My guess is Yelp puts fake bad ratings on your business until you pay, then changes them for the better once you fork over some cash. To keep you paying, they would keep jerking around the ratings. Blackmail, basically.

    All this nonsense will eventually burn itself out, as scams usually do, but it can do some damage in the meantime.

  • http://www.all-occasions-catering.com Hillary

    I have mixed feelings about Yelp. I work with a catering company in Fort Collins, and when customers post reviews most of them get put into the filtered reviews that are not recommended solely because that was their first review. I can prove that each post is legitimate through documentation with clients, but I cannot do anything because Yelp is an automatic system. It is very frustrating because at one point we had 7 reviews published and now we have two due to Yelp re-filtering them. There is also one review that is from a past employee who got fired and wrote a very negative review pretending to be a bride. It is upsetting that that review cannot be deleted (I have emailed them about it) but at least it is under the filtered reviews.
    Overall, I am becoming less and less supportive of Yelp. We have started discussing other review sites out there for our customers to post reviews on.

  • Tony

    I’m in the process of opening a local directory with reviews, and noticed a 5 star review for a business we know is dishonest. The positive review was from someone on the other coast. Underneath in gray was not recommended reviews. Of course these hidden reviews were all negative.

  • http://Homefurnitureservices.com Clyde

    We are on Yelp and we even do a Yelp coupon. We are actually very annoyed at Yelp. We hav at least half of our reviews filtered out. When we asked them why they said thay have some sydtem that does it to prevent bogus reviews. They couldn’t explain how that worked though. All of our reviews are legitt even the one bad one although I didn;t agree with it it was still from a customer. It wasn’t filtered out.Not a fan of their system.

  • Steve Jones

    YELP is the Mafia of the internet. No rules, no accountability but it can kill a business with no remorse.

  • Mike Guido

    Do not trust these people. After reading and hearing all of the negative things They can not be taken seriously.

  • eric

    As a consumer, I tried Yelp a few times but didn’t find it useful. The reason was that there seemed to be something not very helpful about the reviews. It’s been a long time (this was long before the fake-reviews issue cropped up), so I have to be vague, but what I recall is that they often just didn’t seem to be apt.

    so, probably the review-spammers hadn’t gotten their act together yet….

  • http://www.spatech.edu Kris

    Yelp sucks. No two ways around it. I would never trust the reviews and don’t use Yelp. Hopefully Google and other search engines will eventually stop giving them a good listing position. It was great news to hear they lost the suit and have to give the names of of who posted the fake reviews. Hopefully they will continue to lose and the laws that protect the websites from liability will be changed soon.

  • Tina

    We are finding that Yelp is not dependable and not accurate. They do not reply to attempts to contact them when we try to dispute reviews but are all over us when they want advertising dollars. We neither trust nor rely on them. They seem to have no checks or balance system devoted to accuracy and accountability. Just an outlet for whining.

  • Tracey

    No one should be able to leave an anonymous review, PERIOD. If they do not have the courage to leave their name, then they should not be able to review.

  • http://www.popsb.com/category/design-notes/ Peter Otte

    When a business has more positive reviews, it tends to do better in the search results. So if you are also looking at improving your standing in organic search results (as opposed to paid advertising), you the business owner have an incentive to garner more 5-star reviews. I’m glad that Yelp is making an effort but based on the comments below it seems like there’s still no substitute for good old-fashioned word-of-mouth.

  • http://Yelp David Quinn

    I question the reviews. I have written good reviews which I find still on the site, but I have written negative reviews which are deleted within 24 hours of being posted. I redid the review and again it was gone. The pub has problems with wait staff and bartenders standing around and not waiting on customers. I even went back in a second time to see if it was a freak deal and same ole story posted another review and it lasted only 24 hours… only what the establishment wants to be seen is seen.

  • Mark Hochstatter

    To say what I really think of Yelp would be stooping to their level. I’ll go back to what our mom’s taught us, “if you don’t have something nice to say…..”
    The real issue is that Yelp holds business ransom for advertising. Once you agree to pay for advertising, Poof, those bad reviews sitting on your front page magically fall to where they belong cronilogically.
    I personally won’t use Yelp as a resource.

  • James Oliver

    I’ve heard all the bad reviews of Yelp and how all the posts are fake or misleading, but I have to say it’s been a valuable tool in finding some very good places to eat. Now I spend a lot of time looking at the good and the bad reviews and decide for myself, I also go to the restaurant’s website to get an idea of their full menu and the ambiance I can expect. As long as I do a little extra leg work in researching the place once I find it on Yelp I never have an issue and have always been pleasantly surprised.

    • http://bigdtowing.com Big D Towing

      Perfectly stated, James. I completely agree and as a consumer, that works and I would hope everyone takes the good and the bad as considerations and does draw their own conclusions. On the other hand, as a business owner, we can only hope that everyone is as due-diligent as you are but more often and especially with mobile usage, many consumers just look at that star rating and reviews that Yelp has determined as important.

    • Chuck

      James….there are more reliable and more reputable review sources that cover restaurants, such as TripAdvisor, OpenTable and probably the most accurate is Zagat, who really works hard at getting an accurate review by the sheer number of people that do polling for them. Yelp is a criminal organization that blackmails the businesses into advertising with them. They’ve lost several class action suits on this. You can check the court records.

  • http://www.watermillflowers.com Thomas

    The Crooks at YELP should be embarrassed, but they are not. We had a horrible experience in 2011 as a business advertiser. We cancelled Yelp for all the reason you mention in the article.

    Around July of 2013 the yelp criminals working in the sales dept assured me that all those issues of blocked positive reviews and fake reviews from competitors or terminated employees had been fixed. By re-signing up Yelp would “of course” delete the false and display the real reviews. Well that was NOT TRUE, right Kelsey & Katie?

    As a business owner, I would HIGHLY recommend working with reputable companies with proven results (Like Google), not these Yelp knuckle-heads who enjoy outrageous editorial negativity. I believe Yelp has become a site for nut cases to mouth-off and for their readers to laugh at it the insanity of the reviewer.

    Yelp is similar to The Onion. Both offer fake reviews and similar results. The only difference between The Onion and Yelp is that the Onion was meant to be funny, Yelp policies, practices and people are of no moral rectitude.

    I’m happy to say I have cancelled Yelp Advertising (2 months in advance, just in case they tried to say I missed the cancel date). Since then they have harassed me to continue and offered to walk me thru what I am wrong in feeling the way I do. I finally had to demand that they never harass me again. What losers.

  • http://YELp carl N

    I no longer use YELP, because I’ve found the user reviews to be total fabrications.

    If I did use the, would only be for the directory / search of companies near me.


  • Brian

    Yelp cannot be trusted! I had a competitor post a false, bad review a couple years ago. Shortly after that review I received a call from Yelp offering me some some type of membership or advertising program. I declined and ever since that day ALL my good reviews disappeared. Now only the single false bad review shows up.. Coincidence?? Seems like extortion!!

    • http://bigdtowing.com Big D Towing

      Exactly my point! No human at fault… algorithm only, seems doubtful!

    • Chuck

      Brian you are absolutely correct. They blackmailed me into advertising by only allowing bad reviews to post that I believe were fake. When I paid them for the blackmail err advertising, the good reviews stuck.
      I wish the Attorney General would investigate YELP. What they do is criminal.

  • http://bigdtowing.com Big D Towing

    This is a great conversation. I have challenged Yelp advertisers many times from the phone solicitor up to the managers who continually followed up with me; making no guarantees that advertising with them would change the filtering of our reviews or remove the negative ones but I still remain unconvinced of their claims. The most absurd part to me was that they would take on companies who have such negative reviews that they (Yelp intentionally would remove the star rating on the companies’ profile page while placing them at the top spot for their consumers to notice (straight from the horse’s mouth). I would say, “doesn’t that change the very fundamental reasons Yelp was created in the first place?!”. The answer YES, absolutely…. Yelp is a CONSUMER REVIEW site. We have certainly been affected by the negative reviews in combination of the filtering system. I actually felt we were being penalized for having a stellar customer satisfaction month. Why? Because we hadn’t received any new reviews in a couple months previously and then we received three in the same month, the filter decided they were all faked or requested by us from the customers and therefor, kept them hidden. First off, I don’t ask customers if they are frequent Yelpers nor do I know if they are going to be leaving us a review so I can ask them to hold off until next month to not set off the “alarms”. Furthermore, soliciting the review without providing payment or compensation from a reviewer is not illegal anyway – hence the reason they provide you with stickers to advertise your Yelp page and the same reason we see signs at businesses that say, “Like Us? Tell us on Yelp!” Secondly, the site itself is about happy and unhappy consumers so why when we show we are excelling at customer service would any reputable review site hide that information. To further my suspicions, this was at a time where they were pitching me the new advertisement program and knew I was already frustrated with the system. The Yelp reps I had been in contacted with shot me an email to say “Call us immediately. I know you’re frustrated” before I could even reach out to them to say WTF?! In the end, the truth is that Yelp has us at a 4 star rating. We show 6 reviews I believe. If you look at the filtered reviews, we have closer to 25. All of which are 5 stars with the exception of 2 (one within the past year that is filtered and one from nearly three years ago that is always been on our main page, never moves and constantly brings down our score as the magic filter takes away some of the positive ones on a regular basis, only to bring them back…sometimes. Yelp will assure you that advertising really doesn’t change the filter process… only expands your exposure and may or may not change what is being shown. They say no human can override or change the filter process or what reviews are front and center nor can they explain how there tricky algorithm filter actually works. It’s all very mysterious but extremely efficient they will tell you. I call BS… in the end, I have given up on what I can expect from Yelp and have drawn my own conclusion on the benefits of their advertising and as much as I believe that suddenly all of my requests and complaints would be rectified, I refuse to pay them for CONSUMER reviews and customer satisfaction status that our company has earned, time and time again as shown in our actual Yelp review history!

  • http://sugarkneads.com Tara Tomlinson

    I have nothing good to say about Yelp. We currently have a 2/12 star rating with a total of 9 visible reviews. We have 27 five star “filtered” reviews which yelp doesn’t recommend their users to read. Ridiculous is all I have to say. Some of my five star are frequent reviewers with established profiles and photos and some of my 1 star reviews are anonymous. One of them talked about a cupcake we hadn’t offered for a year. Despicable the way this company is destroying the reputations of hard working individuals. In addition I hired an employee from a competitor this year who told me flat out that they went on and had several other individuals go on and leave us negative reviews. She was able to point out 4 of them!!!!!! I won’t play their dirty game but it does hurt my business. Then yelp, if you can get in touch with them, refuses to do anything about it. They’ll certainly call you once a month to offer advertising options. Why would I pay to advertise terrible reviews??? Thank you for giving those of us suffering from this corrupt software a place to vent.

  • http://palomarhandcarwash.com Dave Lefton

    YELP is the absolute WORST. They absolutely filter legitimate positive reviews. I have tried repeatedly to reach out to them but there is no way to get through to anyone. They have called me on several occasions to advertise my business with them and have mentioned that “more” positive reviews will show if I commit to advertising. Really, why would more reviews show up just by advertising with them? A perfect example, I believe, on how they do business is as follows: A customer put up a 1 star review for an inferior service they received at my business, which I totally understand being we are human, but we reached out to the customer to see if we could regain their trust by fixing their dissatisfaction. The customer came back and we made it right for them and he said he was going to retract his 1 star review and replace it with a positive review. He did replace it with a 5 star review and YELP filtered it. So the 1 star review was shown, we exhibit good customer service skills and make it right for the customer, the customer appreciates that and writes a positive review AND IT GETS FILTERED. Something is wrong with that. This has happened on 2 separate occasions. I also have had customers tell me they wrote a YELP review and when I went to look for them, they were filtered. These were from customers I have never met before and were mentioning to me what they did. We are by no means perfect BUT we do make our best efforts to satisfy a customer if they are not happy and YELP certainly gets in the way of the small business trying to do the right thing. I work hard enough to do the right things and some third party business (YELP) dictates what the world can see about my business which I believe are totally inaccurate because I do believe we do a good job. At this point, I don’t even care what is put on YELP because there is nothing I can do to change it, as outlined in my example, and have zero confidence in YELP and their business practices.

  • Chuck

    It’s so ironic that yelp is facing problems of fake reviews after YELP HOLDS BUSINESSES HOSTAGE by only allowing bad reviews to stay up unless the business does paid advertising with them.
    Yelp has been sued multiple times. They’ve had several class action lawsuits against then that they’ve lost for blackmailing small businesses.
    I think gaving businesses post fake good reviews only levels the playing field against YELP’s blackmail.
    I don’t know why anyone would trust what they read on yelp

  • http://www.slinkyproductions.com Catherine Rose

    I own and operate a small business that offers dance instruction. I have had numerous YELP reviews being “held hostage” for years. After each class, I let people know that if they want, they can write a YELP review and share their experience. I have gotten a handful or more people to use YELP for their first time because they were excited to share a review. I should be rewarded for expanding their customer base. However, I get really upset seeing most of these initial reviews come in from enthused new students, only to see them disappear within days or less.

    I get it, that YELP prefers to validate users with more reviews, but how about giving the new users more time and not hide their first attempts? I have also noticed that very experienced YELPers who have reviewed me have had their review hidden too. In the past, I was told that this is a problem due to “the algorhythm,” and could not be changed. I am glad to see that hidden reviews are at least viewable with a little effort, even if they aren’t counted as valid.

    I have over 50 reviews (total hidden and viewable,)all valid, I have an class waiver and eamil trail from each person that has taken the time and energy to review my business. My YELP business page shows between 32 and 36 reviews at any time.

    I have been in business for 14 years, and am a very small sole proprietor operation. The reviews have a significant impact on my business. I have only ever seen one bogus review on my site. It was a scathing and really crude review having nothing to do with my class, but attacking the morality of my business. I had to work hard to have that one removed. And I do have a few valid less than positive reviews, which are valid.

    I am sure there are valid issues of YELP review fraud, but the existing method of discounting honest reviews has many a small business suffer in this way.

  • Adrianna

    The beauty school I attended REQUIRES all graduates to have 3 positive reviews on yelp or another review style website. As a result of this, all of the negative reviews from actual customers are buried and the page is flooded with fake reviews students praising soon to be graduates. FYI if it weren’t for all of the fake positive reviews this business would have few good reviews!

  • http://goldbergsbagels.com Stanley Drebin

    Most of the reviews are correct and we do respect corrective criticism. However, some reviews you are able to see clearly that they have an agenda and will stop at nothing to state it online. They have no ramifications to there words. It is like an one way street and Yelp does not care. I have tried to deal with them and they are just as bad. I would not use them if they were not the biggest online restaurant rating service. What can you do at this point? They have the monopoly.

  • http://www.seizetheleash.com Jamie Robinson

    I know for a fact that one of my reviews is a fake. There is information in the review that could not have been obtained by anyone but one person and that isn’t the “reviewer”. There is also other comments that are false. The same reviewer commented on another similar business in town with much the same result, truth mixed in with falsehoods and information that could only be obtained by one person who is not the reviewer (at least not that name). Then he commented on a third business with rave reviews. I suspect that it’s the significant other of the third business owner.

  • http://cardinalexteriors.com Terry Severson

    Are you kidding me? Losing control on the credibility of reports is like a bank losing money. I don’t like their premise. “THERE ARE EVIL CONTRACTORS EVERYWHERE!!!” I have no trust in Yelp or Angies list.

  • http://mtnpostal.com Susan Knieriem

    I absolutely hate anonymous review sites for all the reasons listed. I could refute several of the bad comments for my business if I had access, and yes, I have asked happy customers to write a review to counteract some of the bad. Truth is, spiteful folks are happy to take the time to write anonymously, while satisfied ones don’t usually bother. They just keep coming back, thank God.

  • http://www.solareenergy.com Kathy Kubiak

    We have had 14 reviews from actual verified customers over the past 2 years; Yelp has filtered EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. We even tried signing up with Yelp for advertising – they did a promo video for us, and added that to our listing; we still have ZERO reviews after spending thousands of $$ for their supposed advertising over several months time. RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN away from this company!!

  • Linda Bright

    I believe Yelp is the new Topix. (No offense to the Topix fans.)
    I recently had an “out of bounds” negative review.
    According to Yelps own FAQ, their magic filter should have caught the review and put it on Yelp’s not recommended wall.
    (I currently have 5 great reviews on that wall.)
    I flagged the “out of bounds” review to Yelps attention and they decided to stand behind the review.
    Yelp requires a business to upload personal photos, (you cannot make a public reply to a reviewer until you upload a photo of your face)
    phone #’s, web pages, addresses, while the reviewer can hide behind a fake name and a phony photo.
    Yelp said they wanted to make sure I was a “real” person.
    Yelp is denying me my 6th amendment right.
    A customer listed us on Yelp’s site 2 years ago without our knowledge or permission. I did not list my business on Yelp.
    My advice to Yelp and Yelp reviewers: If you want to post a review, then be man or woman enough to stand behind it or keep your mouth closed.


    Not only is Yelp.com not a reliable source of information for consumers but the same issues most hotels are having with TripAvisor.com

    TripAdvisor.com is owned by Expedia.com not many people know that one of the largest thrid party interest site that sell hotel room.

  • http://www.mysecuritydog.com Duke Smith

    We too are another victim of vanishing positive review ratings. I have seen them first post and then disappear. In my opinion their rating reviews are flawed at best.

  • http://docsroofingcontracting danny harding

    they put on a review that is ruin my company they have know proof of contract to back the review up i need help.

  • http://Bravowoodfiredpizza.com Gregg

    Have a problem with fake bad reviews and reviews that have made my average per person cost to dine listed as $30-$60 ! I have a pizza restaurant ! Yelp refuses to do anything so prospective customers will be mislead because some reviewers – probably local pizza shop competitors- have clicked on “pricey” for fake reviews. Yelp claims the cost to dine is based on user “opinion” and cannot be changed. Quantifying the cost is no longer opinion, it is an in correct fact about my business that hurts my business. My cheese pizza is $10.95! The most recent review attack included personal attacks on me by someone who just joined Yelp and has never reviewed before. I wish it were possible to have my listing removed from Yelp!

  • http://www.abgcommercial.com Katie MacDonald

    Our Yelp reviews are arbitrary and misdirected. While I realize we’re all here due to Yelp’s controversial reviews, most of our reviews are not actually for our company. We’ve tried to clear this up with Yelp, and state that the two companies, although sister companies, are very different. In response to us trying to sort this mix up out, the representatives at Yelp were unresponsive and refused to offer a solution to our issue with their service. Due to this, the aforementioned withholding of positive reviews, and numerous anonymous posters, it is difficult to know if anything on Yelp is true. It is also impossible, sadly, to try and clear your name on the review website. I hope the legal action Yelp is facing will finally force them to come clean and be a fair service. After all, there are two sides (at least) to every story.

    ABG Commercial, Cambridge, MA

  • http://www.ownerlistens.com Adi

    We are business owners who decided not to succumb to the tyranny of online reviews but rather do something about it. We built a platform to help businesses route complaints privately and directly to us and to our manager. That way we can address the issue and solve the problem through dialogue.

    It doesn’t entirely stop people from posting negative reviews on Yelp but when they do, we can always challenge them. Since we provide a safe way to reach us which they could’ve used, it’s suspicious that they choose to post on Yelp before reaching out.

    It’s been working pretty well for us. We have over 800 reviews on Yelp and an average rating of 4 stars. We are able to intercept several negative reviews a month. Patrons love that they can access us directly and they provide really useful feedback that has helped improve our business. In addition, our employees have stepped up their performance ever since we deployed this feedback system.

    We decided to open up the platform free to fellow business owners. You can check it out at ownerlistens.com. All business owners are welcome to try it out and let us know how it’s working for them. We highly recommend using a direct feedback system (whether ours or by someone else or building your own).

    Only if we work together to educate consumers to complain to us directly, can we combat the damage being done by review sites that let any one post anything with no validation of fact.

    Adi, CEO OwnerListens

  • Jodi

    Yelp is awful. Their reps are obnoxious and bully and badger companies to “advertise” with them. Anyone can write fake reviews on yelp AND THEY DO. Trying to work with Yelp is impossible. We trust Trip Adviser and Urban Spoon over Yelp any day.

  • Sharon Moak

    Yelp intentionally leaves up reviews from its “Elites” that they know are fake. Recently an Elite confessed that she accepted money from businesses she never visited to write glowing reviews, and Yelp covered it up by deleting her confession twice. Then they blocked her from deleting the fake reviews.

    Yelp is only interested in giving lip service to keeping the site real, as long as it gives them publicity and more power.

    Fortunately there are screen shots to prove it, since Yelp attempted to cover up their dishonesty:


  • http://skywaytools.com/default.asp Sherry G

    My husband and I own a small tool store in Northern California and it has been absolute hell trying to stay in business through this recession, which for our business has not ended. He is 68, I’m 58, and we were in a semi-retirement, after working our behinds off since 1986 – too much blood sweat and tears to describe here. We had to get back in there and work like slaves to just stay in business, we moved out of our home of 21 years and have to sell it, we had to sell off a lot of our stuff and lost most of the cushion we had spent a lifetime building up. My husband decided to start selling recycled products, because the tools we sell were sitting on the shelf since so many are unemployed. He drove all over the region finding used barrels, buckets and other containers – huge wood bins, crates and so on – loaded them on his truck and trailer, drove them back to the store and then stood out there for the last three years washing them out by hand. What a hero! He has saved our family business by doing this and has had to stand out there at 65, 66, 67 and 68 yrs old in all of the weather washing barrels, polishing them, and putting them in the store to sell. Some young idiot woman saw the ad painted on our windows that said, “Barrels – $16.99,” and assumed that meant that all of the barrels we had for sale were $16.99, including the more expensive plastic barrels. So she got on Yelp and ragged out our business, calling us cheats who duped the public, among many other nasty, untrue things. We had to change all of our signage to say “Metal Barrels – $16.99” because of her – the only one to ever complain – but still her Yelp stayed on there for about a year. I don’t know why they finally took it down, but maybe it was because people in the area complained.

    The bottom line is that my husband has heroically saved our 28 yr old family business, he is recycling, which is wonderful for the environment, he is providing the product to schools, churches, businesses and individuals who would otherwise have to pay an enormously higher price for a new one, and 99.99999% of the public are actually overjoyed he is doing what he is doing – but Yelp provided a platform for the one jerk out there to b*tch. Maybe Yelp can reform itself, but by the very nature of the name “Yelp,” it is a site to complain.

  • D.K.

    Yelp’s business model is to sell 5 star reviews.
    Yelp’s business is advertising sales.

  • http://indie-publishing.blogspot.com Rick Carufel

    The very concept of online reviews is flawed from the start. It assumes a level of integrity and honesty from the reviewers that simply doesn't exist. Add to that the anonymity afforded by aliases and you have a whole sub-culture of bottom-feeders trolling the internet looking for easy targets to victimize with fake negative reviews or people trying to boost sales with fake positive reviews.
    Sites that specialize in consumer reviews were doomed from the start. Sites that try to verify the legitimacy of reviews will go broke doing so and sites like goodreads that embraces and encourages the fake reviews are a fraud.

  • scrwdbyyelp

    My business had all good reviews. I got one bad review and then all the good reviews were hidden. A short time later, Yelp contacted me to advertise with them for about $400 / month, and they suggested they could not help me with " my problem" if I am not a paid advertiser! Do not trust what you read on Yelp!

  • dogjudge

    I do not have a business that would be affected by Yelp. However, I have used their site to check on restaurants primarily. I came across a situation where a restaurant that I frequented had a couple of bad reviews, but also the people were saying that the prices were at the highest end of Yelp’s ratings. This is a small, family owned Italian restaurant. Given the fact that a plate of spaghetti was about $12.00, I found the pricing comments odd. I then checked a couple of chain, Italian restaurants that were nearby (within 1/2 mile). Three of the reviewers for the above restaurant had also reviewed these two chains. Highest ratings for food and 2nd lowest rating for prices. All three restaurants had their menus on line. Want to guess which ones were the highest and which one was the lowest.

    Contacted Yelp. First they acted as if I was the owner of the restaurant involved. Then they said that they did nothing about potentially bogus reviews. They relied on the volume of ratings to even out unusually high, or low ratings (including prices).

    Until Yelp actually acts on complaints about bogus rating, when brought to their attention, I’ll never trust their ratings.

  • Richard Barrett

    FURIIOUS with YELP . Been in business for years , was 1st in my profession to sign up with YELP. Had dozens of positive comments withheld, and the only one they posted was removed ,and my account rendered inactive after I very professionally inquired about it ( took an Act of God to speak with representative ) Meanwhile, my competitors have joined fray and amassed many positive remarks

  • Richard Barrett

    BTW – YELP rep had no explanation for not posting positive comments I accumulated other than ” the algorithm decides “

  • $6345059

    I just saw a Brooklyn dentist on Yelp that has 29 glowing reviews. Puhleaze… how many dentists have reviews on Yelp, number one? It is so obvious they are friends or relatives of the doctor OR the staff is pushing the patients into writing reviews maybe with a free cleaning.
    Also there is a website called Dealerrater which reviews car dealerships. Those reviews are SOOO FAKE. One Subaru dealership on Long Island has like 50 glowing reviews (all mentioning salesman’s names, of course) while another Subaru dealership has no reviews.
    I’m beginning to wonder how reliable Healthgrades is, as well.

  • Nobo

    The problem is they are allowing anonymous users to post defamatory comments that cannot be backed up. They insist on businesses and owners uploading pics but not the users. They need to revise their policies on what users should do to verify who they say they are. This may not always be verifiable but it’s a step in the right direction. They are also allowing the illegal act of harassment & stalking in some cases. We have issued them with a stop and desist under ‘harassment’ be use 2 of their anonymous users have been virally posted about us and they’re connected to each other. We’re currently in the process of issuing them notice of harassment under the ‘anti stalking’ law. They may operate in the UK but they are not always understanding the law of that country and the communities for which these businesses belong. We agree that do use a firm if ‘scam’ to get you to use their paid services as that’s ex what happened to us this week. We complained then they said they could help us for a ‘fee’ shameful.

  • Kate

    I have first hand experience with Yelp and how they may as the articles suggest that Yelp holds bad reviews away from a business if they place an advertisement with them. I had a really bad expedience with a shop that had burned my child’s body. Short of stating all the details, I received a message after my review was sent in but held for review. After I replayed to the message that my experience as a consumer was true and I insisted for it for to be posted, it was not. However, I realized that shortly within few days, the suspected business had an advertisement placed with yelp which was not there before. My guess is that probably Yelp exchanged not posting the negative comment for exchange for the business owner placing the ad on YELP website and paying for it.

  • Jackie

    Most of the reviews on Yelp are fake. I have a business with a 5 star reputation and local businesses are jealous. What do they do? Post a negative review on Y
    elp and Yelp allows it. So, do you trust Yelp reviews? I dont think so.

  • Stacey

    Yelp is a total scam. I paid to advertise with them after getting a bad review (from someone who I cant find in my thorough records) and I have done nothing but waste my money. They removed my first review, saying it was suspicious after it had been there for years. And, a bogus review appeared and I had to jump through hoops to prove it was fake and have it removed. Then, I had a great review appeared they took it down days later. Coincidentally the same week I down degraded by package with Yelp advertising rather than paying to cancel it outright. Bottom line, they are scam artists and do not care about the business owner once they sucked you dry. Yelp will take your money and do nothing to support the growth of their business.

  • US78749

    My experience with Yelp reveals they are padding the reviews for profit. I have actually talked to the business people who pay that profit. You can no longer trust Yelp alone and should use other methods of evaluation.

  • caligyrl

    -post a clear photo of their face
    -have at least a year long history on yelp in which they have written numerous (more than 15 reviews) for establishments over the COURSE OF the year
    I own a small business and people actually THREATEN to write bad reviews if we don’t give them free stuff!! Why should small business owners be at the mercy of these people who have ZERO accountability once they go on the internet and write a horrible, FALSE review and can remain ENTIRELY anonymous?!!! ITS ABSURD THAT YELP ALLOWS THIS!!! THE WORST BUSINESS PLAN I HAVE EVER SEEN!!!

  • orgonko the wildly untamed

    yelp & other similar sites are just a GUIDE–like online scammers unless your intelligence level is subpar it’s been easy for me to differentiate at least 90% of reviews as to their validity

  • Mark Trombolo

    90% of them are fake, and even the legit 10% are biased and motivated by some extraordinarily good or bad experience.

    Most legit “yelp reviewers” are narcissistic self made pseudo critics, that act as if having taste buds is some sort of unique talent…

  • LookOut

    Yelp is really a listing for restaurants & the filter system is a joke. Yelp started branching out into other types of businesses in the past couple years this what I found out about Yelp: they never check if a business is even real not just all the buy & fake reviews bad & good. But Yelp never checks if business has a license? a address? insured Yelp dose not care if the business is even real.
    I own a small business in California there is person who runs a unlicensed fake funeral etc, business no address, no permits nothing just a cell number. this person has ripped off customers and has poor reviews on other sites like: http://www.harsanik.com/directory/miscellaneous/white-dove-socal/details/
    but has great reviews on Los Angeles Yelp site all the poor reviews are filtered out.
    The Yelp sales person stated he could fix this issue if I spent over a $1,000 a month with yelp I stated as long as you have fake – phony – unlicensed persons on Yelp ~ I asked how come they allow fake unlicensed company’s on Yelp he replied “were not the only one’s doing this google dose too” that I may still add, that are still on Yelp with five-5 star reviews 8-3-2014 I will never give a cent to Yelp . After that most of my reviews to are real are pulled off while the unlicensed illegally operated company is up on Yelp the word is “Exaction” by large advertisers like Yelp,

  • Jzilla

    Yelp is only a good source if you have no real friends. Most of the reviews (good and bad) are fake.

  • Cathy

    The first and only review so far of my parent’s business on Yelp was completely false. Also, the review made statements that were defamatory and could easily devastate their business if people read it and think it is correct. The person posting the review never visited my parent’s resort at any time. Any online reviews should be taken as most likely false, misleading and inappropriate in what is stated!!!

  • Chris

    I know they are FAKE. My posted a fake review for a company Energy Guys… We have NEVER done business with them. She was asked by her sister who does work there… I posted a review letting the world know they are fake and it was DELETED!!

  • Chris

    I know they are FAKE. My WIFE posted a fake review for a company Energy Guys… We have NEVER done business with them. She was asked by her sister who does work there… I posted a review letting the world know they are fake and it was DELETED!!.. sorry forgot wife

  • Jinna Beeler

    Yelp called my business four times in one day. Telling me about a bad review that needed my attention. When I asked them to take me off the call list they became very combative and condescending. I’ve know about their review scam for a long time. Yelp is by far the worst company to deal with. What I’d like to know is where the hell is a place where I can put on reviews about YELP!!

  • tmorro

    They talked about one side of the problem, the business faking good reviews. And Yelp is going after them aggressively. Great. What about retaliatory fake reviews by fired employees? What is Yelp doing about that?

  • Kristin

    I have been struggling with yelp for years. My business customers are registered members so I know who everyone is and have electronic records of all registered people. We have negative reviews on our page that aren’t from people who came to our business. There’s no way to prove to yelp that these are fake reviews while our members who only write one review for us have them filtered out. In our case, yelp should let the business report if the person is even a real visitor (good review or bad). I pray for more real reviews to go live as they fake ones are quite damaging.

  • Hurt business

    My business, and 6 others in my industry, got attacked by fake 5 star reviews. Some of these five star reviews were just copies of reviews that I already had posted. So both my real reviews and the fake ones got pulled down. My company’s page lost 23 reviews in 2 weeks due to this attack. Another company went from 95 to 53 in the same time frame. Yelp refused to help. I even wrote to their legal department. Nothing. I also know of a company that just started 30 plus yelp pages that just funnels all the calls to one source. I let Yelp know, nothing. Yelp is the worst!

  • http://www.sportfishingcapecod.com/ Capeshores Charters

    my fishing biz runs on reservations and deposits that are well documented. when i got a bad review from “Robert Y”, i wrote him and asked if i could refund his $ or give him a free trip. No reply from Robert or Yelp. after researching my books i realized no Robert Y had reserved or booked with me at least 5 years prior to his review. All his reviews came from San Francisco in a 2 day period. I complained to Yelp i thought it to be a bogus review and could prove it and have not heard back from them as yet. Robert Y’s (does that stand for Yelp?) negative review is shown every day and not one of my positive ones (35 five star reviews) are shown at all. Yelp is a bogus operation and the head honchos have already sold stock and taken their cash and are running for the hills. Lawsuits from stockholders currently pending.

  • kmandingo

    They hide good reviews and use bad reviews to extort ad sales. They are the ad mafia. They have almost no cred anymore.

  • Clsykatt

    Yelp filters my good reviews and makes it impossible to know if they will show up or not. My clients go to all the trouble to go on line and write them to have Yelp decide…….toss this one out, and this one, and this one. then one bad one shows up from my competitions and ohhhh this one is good,,,,,,,lets throw it in for good measure and mess this persons stellar reputation up. Clients have no idea how unreliable these reviews can be, the personalities of the people who go and write a bad review in the first place instead of giving the business a chance to fix the problem. Mean spirited people out there, gives me shivers…….

  • T Snay

    Yelp in New Orleans is holding business hostage by planting fake bad reviews if you don’t buy their outrageously expensive ads. This is a consensus between my business and a few other of my fellow business owners. We have consistently getting good to great reviews from Yelp and other sites until we claim our yelp account. All of a sudden, Yelp started to contact us about helping us with our reviews if we advertise with them. After we said no, poor reviews of our business with one star review start to pop up on a regular basis and mostly from new reviewers with under 5 reviews. We asked Yelp to remove some of the reviews that are so obviously fake and they refused to do so. The reviews of our business from all other web sites continue to be all positive except for the Yelp’s ones. Suspicious???

  • Stephen David Forbes

    Does anybody actually use Yelp?? If I can have fake reviews, how many are out there??