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Yelp On The Defensive Once Again

    June 4, 2014
    Chris Crum
    Comments are off for this post.

Once again, Yelp is drawing the kind of media attention that it would like to avoid, but which has been following it around for years. You know the deal. A business claims Yelp is holding positive reviews hostage in its review filter because they refused to pay for ads. We hear this claim time and time again from business after business, and it can’t be good for Yelp’s reputation.

Do you really believe Yelp does this? Share your thoughts in the comments.

This time, a reddit post to the Toronto subreddit is the starting point. It has roughly 250 comments at the time of this writing, mostly from others bashing the company. A few other media outlets, including the Daily Dot and Consumerist have reported on it. The reddit post, titled “I want Reddit Toronto to see how bogus Yelp is” goes like this:

My family opened a Mediterranean Restaurant approximately 2 years ago called Ba-Li Laffa. During the first number of weeks, we were approached by a marketing member of Yelp who asked us to pay a fee for preferential display on the Yelp website. Due to the fact that were we a new establishment and bills were through the roof at that point, we politely declined their offer. This is where the issues with Yelp begin to arise.

Yelp claims to have an “advanced review engine” that apparently is knowledgable to sift out all the “fake” reviews and only put the “legitimate” reviews visible to those who are searching the restaurant. In theory this makes sense that those account with the sole review being that of your restaurant are probably fake accounts (or possibly someone that you asked to review it for you). Although this is not how it works, and according to numerous accounts from other restauranteurs that I have met through reddit, it is essentially a blackmail money grab by Yelp.

If you go to the site of our restaurant, http://www.yelp.com/biz/ba-li-laffa-kosher-mediterranean-grill-vaughan, you will see that 5 reviews have been selected, all 2/5 stars. If you look below the 5th review, in a light grey text it says “23 other reviews that are not currently recommended”. The majority of those “not recommended” reviews are by users with multiple reviews who have given the restaurant between 4-5/5 stars. In essence, they have taken every good review and made it categorized as a “bad review”.

Fortunately, our restaurant is not suffering from a lack of customers because our food and service is great (obviously my opinion), but the number of customers we are losing from internet traffic to Yelp is unfortunate. The problem is that the majority of people making review based decisions either visit Yelp or Urban Spoon (which our restaurant is not on). Maybe I’m giving a little too much credit to Yelp for their popularity, but even if I am losing a minor percentage of my business due to their unfavourable reviews they are giving to our restaurant, it is very frustrating because there is nothing I can do about it.

I have message the Yelp Business support center numerous times with no helpful directions or answers. I think word of mouth from these types of things are really important especially because of how many people use and trust Yelp.

As usual, there is no actual evidence revealed. The Daily Dot shares a response from Yelp (along with a screenshot showing positive reviews it says were “likely fraudulent”):

Yelp told the Daily Dot the team had hidden the positive reviews because they’d found them all to be sent from the same IP address within a short period of time, indicating fraud. “In cases where businesses have a large number of reviews that aren’t recommended, it’s often because they’ve solicited positive reviews from friends, family, or favorite customers or tried to game the system by writing fake reviews for themselves. Yelp does not support these practices as they result in biased reviews which aren’t useful to consumers,” a Yelp spokesperson said.

The screenshot shows five accounts created within 45 minutes of each other, all writing five-star reviews of the same business, and with email addresses: yelper91@gmail.com, yelper90@gmail.com, yelper94@hotmail.com, yelper93@hotmail.com, and yelper92@hotmail.com. It shows that they all joined on 6/1/2013. Only one is listed as having logged in since then.

No, that’s not very legitimate-looking.

Some have argued in the past that IP address isn’t a great signal, because there could be other reasons people leave reviews from the same address, like if they’re leaving it from the business’ actual venue. That, however, would also be taken as a negative signal by Yelp, because it might suggest to the company that you’re asking people for reviews, and for better or worse, it basically considers this spam.

Strangely enough, they advise you against asking customers for a Yelp review, but instead suggest you tell them to “check you out on Yelp”.

If Yelp is not engaging in the practice described by the reddit poster, it’s quite phenomenal that SO many businesses have made essentially the exact same claims, and are showing no signs of stopping. That is some real dedication to a conspiracy theory by a slew of businesses seemingly unrelated to each other. It’s even been brought up on the People’s Court.

But still, nobody is able to show any proof, and Yelp’s screenshot seems to blatantly illustrate abuse. There’s no Consumer Alert on the business’ page, however.

Unfortunately for Yelp, the loudest voice in this argument is the one of distrust and anger. Just peruse the reddit thread for a few minutes, and you’ll find slam after slam. Typically, it’s a similar situation in other comment threads on the subject.

The Better Business Bureau has defended Yelp, and given it an A+ rating. That’s actually down to a C+ now, interestingly enough.

As one redditor pointed out, the BBB isn’t exactly held in the highest regard by some either. They point to a Google search for “better business bureau extortion,” saying, the BBB is “cut from the same extortionist cloth” as Yelp.

The search brings up articles with titles like “Why the Better Business Bureau Should Give Itself a Bad Grade” from Time, “BBB Better Business Bureau LEGAL EXTORTION? LEGAL BLACKMAIL??” from Ripoff Report, and “Better Business Bureau Gives Itself an ‘F’ in Los Angeles” from ABC News.

“I gotta agree here, the BBB isn’t doing their job,” another redditor responded. “I had a valid complaint against a local company that delivered me the wrong piece of furniture, took it back, but then refused to refund the $100 delivery charge. I complained to BBB, the business essentially said again that they wouldn’t refund me, and BBB marked the complaint as resolved (leaving them with a B rating).”

Yelp may very well be innocent in all of this, but its real battle seems to be defending itself from hordes of angry Internet users, which it does time and time again. Until someone is able to offer up some real proof that Yelp is engaging in the behavior that it’s so frequently accused of, I don’t imagine much will change for the foreseeable future.

Consumerist suggests “someone start a fake restaurant called ‘The Honey Pot’ and wait for Yelp to call with a tape recorder hooked to the phone 24/7.”

Luckily for Yelp, all of the negativity on the Internet (and in actual news reports, not just reddit and blog comments) has done seemingly very little to hurt its business. Its quarterly revenue was up 65% year over year.

Do you believe Yelp is really engaged in the kinds of things its accused of? If so, how can it be proven? If not, why are there so many businesses making the same allegations? Discuss in the comments.

Images via Yelp, Better Business Bureau


  • Jason

    Yelp is holding every positive review of our business back, and letting spam bad reviews from competitors right through. Out of 12 reviews 1 is neutral and 1 is over the top negative the rest are all positive. Guess which 2 reviews show up which ones don’t?

    • Demetrios Salpoglou

      Yelp sucks period. They are a bunch extortionists. Anyone working there has low morals. Everyone knows they filter good reviews and only show bad reviews. Yelp sucks period. Everyone I know thinks yelps sucks as well.

  • Jay Steff

    Gee, didn’t Yelp just put together a small business advisory board (or some other panacea group to deflect a problem) a few weeks ago?

  • http://www.enviroequipment.com Enviro Equipment, Inc.

    Although this article is about Yelp, it should be pointed out that the Better Business Bureau should not be considered an accurate evaluator of businesses. I won’t go into my specific experiences with them, but bottom line is that once a business pays to join the BBB, it would take a formal act of Congress to get them to go after any of their members, even the unscrupulous ones. In fact, years ago it was common practice for fly-by-night companies that needed a quick boost in reputation to pay money and join the BBB because they knew that no matter what, the BBB would back them should a consumer have a claim against the company.

  • http://www.synertel.com Ben Stiegler

    we experienced this same issue years ago, spent a year trying to resolve it with Yelp, and gave up, 10+ positive reviews posted by customers over 6 months all “disappeared”, leaving only a single nasty-gram posted by someone who had bought one of our clients (a takeover) and didn’t want to pay her bill for services she personally had authorized in writing. I think Yelp could be a great thing, but based on our experience, and conversations with them bowing to “the mighty algorithm” I think they are not operating cleanly or fairly. Like others, we just go about our business, making new customers happy one at a time, and hope that karma will come around to Yelp some fine day.

    • simonts

      “Mighty algorithm” is they fig leaf, nothing else. I hope someone with deep enough pockets will sue them sooner or later and then the court will force them to disclose the supposed “algorithm”. My hunch is that no algorithm exists. Yelp was originally a good idea which has deteriorated into a simple extortion racket.

  • Kathy

    I don’t belive in sites like Yelp and others. I don’t believe the reviews that get posted by people. Could be the competition posting bad comments also, how to you really know. Yelp has no way of knowing if this review is “real or not”. Anyone can make an email address account. We had a Yelp rep call us about our business and I can’t believe what they wanted to charge. Would rather spend my money in Google Adwords and get real people too our site. Sites like Yelp and others should be gone.

    • simonts

      I trust other sites but not Yelp. I posted many reviews on Tripadvisor, both good and not so good, and all of them were published without exception. Hence, I know I can trust the site. I have posted reviews on Yelp too before I stopped using the site and know form experience that Yelp’s site cannot be trusted.

  • Sofakingdabest

    The mafia without bats.

    • bodywise

      Bingo!! On target.

  • Anon

    Businesses need to start rejecting this mafia, publicly and with an active campaign for people to sign up to.
    If I were running a business being harassed and blackmailed by Yelp I would put a big sign up for all customers to see that says “WE REJECT YELP – ASK US WHY”

    It’s time to start educating the public and the customers about these scams, and that’s what it is, no mistake about it. Yelp might claim to be a legitimate business, but there is absolutely no reason to trust that company and their methods of blackmailing businesses.

    It’s like a protection racket, and the public needs to know why.

    • http://www.myrtlebeachwebdesign.com/ Jan Chilton

      That is an excellent idea, and if somebody talented came up with some good, attention grabbing banners and hundreds of businesses displayed them, it would be all over the news and so viral it would shoot them down completely. We need an organizer!

      • jetfa

        I will do that!!! Great idea!!

        • http://www.myrtlebeachwebdesign.com/ Jan Chilton

          We should make a Facebook page for it. I’ve got a slew of Realtors that would join in a hot minute.

        • http://www.myrtlebeachwebdesign.com/ Jan Chilton

          I can see a cartoon meme of a guy in a business suit running from a Yelp monster who is holding a fishing pole with “Reviews” dangling over the guy’s head. :-)

  • Kate Williams

    I have posted 5 reviews on different types of businesses and I stopped doing reviews because they did not allow my positive reviews to reflect on the businesses i left them for. 3 of the 5 were out of my state because i travel quite a bit.. They (yelp) has an excuse for everything..The point is..MY REVUES WERE HONEST. Yelp is not putting up favorable posts.

  • Deacon Tyler

    I can attest that Yelp indeed does this. A while ago I had received a negative review under our old business and within 24 hours a representative had called asking us to advertise. When I refused, our positive reviews stopped appearing and they even begun filtering out old positive reviews, some of them from Yelp Elite members.

    To be honest, what the sales rep told me IS true – one or two bad reviews aren’t going to kill your business. What people are looking for is a pattern to the reviews. If 1 person says “this company is rude”, that one person looks unreasonable. If 15 people say “this company is rude”, well that’s a different story.

    Personally, I won’t make a decision to do business with a company based upon Yelp reviews and will always seek out a different source before making my decision.

    What Yelp does is entirely unethical, but the public perception of Yelp is also very low. More people than you think do check the filtered reviews, because they know how unethical Yelp is.

    The more these stories come up, the more people look at Yelp with a degree of skepticism and take them less seriously…Like Fox News, I suppose 😉

  • kingralph

    The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming.

  • Jeanette Young

    Yelp is the worst. They are a bait and switch organization. I am in national marketing and know of 13 businesses who have reported them and I do not take any of their review seriously. I actually don’t even read them. It would be the LAST place I would check on a business.

  • Chaz

    Just have to say that this is a great article about a topic that doesn’t seem to get enough press. Yelp reviews can be poisonous and they certainly aren’t doing much to help their case.

  • Virginia Home Repair

    I absolutely believe that Yelp is guilty of what they are accused here. My business has the same result of positive reviews that are being hidden because I choose to not advertise with them. I have discussed this with the advertising representative multiple times and they have the same excuses and denial. I have kept a log of all phone calls and emails. I assure you this will backfire on them very soon via a class action lawsuit. I will be the first to sign unless this unless it is resolved quickly.

  • Lee Scott

    Yes Yelp as well as hold back legitimating complaints against a business. I placed a complaint against a RV compamy in teh USA how we got ripped off badly. We could produce photos and emails to prove our terrible experience and they took the review down 3 days later

  • PET-PALS

    yes its very true what they do we get countless calls and bordering on harassment for us to buy there ads and since we refuse to be bullied into there plan none of our customers reviews are being published

  • Josh

    Yelp is definitely on the shady side. I have had a few friends that have worked for Yelp and they have all stated that there are things that go on that should not be allowed. In fact one of my friends quit because he witnessed account managers leaving bad reviews on business accounts and then call those businesses for solicitation.

    I personally have left messages for businesses that I used during my travels and have noticed that the majority of my reviews that I left are on the “not recommended” list.

    No Bueno!!

    • bodywise

      Any possibility of sharing these names in private? That is the beginning of true investigative journalism. You need inside sources!

  • Tina Divine

    Definitely. A good friend of mine opened a business just a few months ago and was contacted by Yelp. Yelp told them that if they didn’t buy ads then Yelp would make sure only negative reviews would be posted about them.

  • smallbusinessowner

    100% TRUE – Yelp is holding good reviews hostage…. We have contacted them and they could care less. Sad part is, the worst comment that shows up is NOT even about our company!!! We are in FL, and the comment is about a business in CA!!! 2 bad reviews show, and 20+ good reviews that are all hidden. Yelp is the worst comments / review website there is. They list your business and anyone can claim it as their own. Bad Yelp, Yelp is the Worst.

  • Mark Lerner

    I have heard from several businesses in the SF/Bay Area that Yelp does this. Despicable

  • Tom

    Any one with any business knowledge at all knows that Yelp and the BBB holds you hostage with reviews and it is a joke that it is talked about and no one seems to be able to accomplish anything regarding these two fraudulent organizations. I have had years or issues with both of these organisations to no avail.

  • sham

    Yes, They do. Now if you advertise they will put you high on the search pages. It depends on how much you buy into. The top 10 dentist when you just search dentist in your area are the top spenders. It is all a money game. My office was on a sale call and decided to think about it ……the sales guy became so pushy and sounding like we wasted his time. Wow…..

  • Chemo

    I would like to sum it up in two words “F*&K YELP”

  • Sarah

    Where to even begin?

    1. So businesses are shady if they ask for reviews from satisfied customers. Hmmm… Anyone with any marketing experience knows that an unhappy customer is FAR more likely to post a review than a happy customer. That being said, most businesses need to please hundreds of customers for one positive review, or make two customers unhappy to get a negative review. So in order to increase the number of reviewers on Yelp and to improve their overall ranking and reputation, a business asks happy customers for a few nice words. So what? How petty is this multimillion dollar company that they need to sweat the small stuff?

    2. So business should tell existing customers to check them out on Yelp? Why? They are already happy, why would they want to read reviews. Great idea Yelp! Have businesses pay for advertising, pay commissions on voucher and gift certificate sales, AND do your marketing for you. Are you kidding? What sort of business model is this? Genius. In fact, we should all be so savvy as to find a way to get other people to not only do our work for us, but pay us to do it.

    3. Yelp rewards headstrong bloggers with ample time on their hands by calling them “Elite” and letting them lose on unsuspecting businesses. Twenty-somethings who rank the boiling of Ramen noodles among their culinary accomplishments are reviewing chain restaurants on their menus, small ethnic restaurants on what they do not carry and others based on the friendliness of the server (often in the face of sarcasm or while having to overcome a litany of questions from someone who one might assume too lazy to read the words on a simple menu.)

    4. Regardless of how Yelp “filters” reviews, based on IP address, number of reviews, or whatever other arbitrary other factors that they choose to impose, these methods should be utilized for both positive and negative reviews. No one complains about the removal of negative reviews, but now Yelp places them on the first page of their “reviews that are not recommended” so that they carry more weight than the “not recommended” positive reviews. Fair is fair on both accounts, or this another example of Yelp making decisions to keep themselves in the limelight at the expense of businesses.

    Yelp needs to be shut down.

    • simonts

      They can only be shut down if we the people stop using them. I did my part, stopped using them more than a year ago.

  • marbleheadman

    Exactly same experience as thousands of other businesses that DECLINED Yelp’s “advertising” offer. Since that date, NOTHING but negative reviews show, despite dozens of positives!!

  • JETFA

    Yelp is nothing short of extortion! I had 2 bad reviews from a competitor who sent a spy to my class, but then at least 8 of my students have written good reviews in the past and Yelp took them all off as soon as they were posted! I am fuming mad and feel helpless to do anything about it. I know it has hurt my business, but I am held hostage. WHY CAN’T ANYONE DO ANYTHING ABOUT THEM????

    • simonts

      Hm, if you can prove that Yelp’s clearly fraudulent business practices hurt your business then you can sue them. Of course proving it is difficult and unless you are rich they will out-lawyer you. Maybe the solution is a class action lawsuit by thousand of business owners who were all hurt by Yelp’s fraud. In the context of a lawsuit they would be forced to disclose their filtering methods/algorithm.

  • Mike Grauer

    I do pay to run the yelp adds and its not cheap. and in fact I’m a bit irritated it hides many of my positives but shows all my negative reviews .

  • dog business

    Yelp has so many inconsistent and business unfriendly practices. Fortunately, we are in a fairly tech literate population and yelp isn’t a primary source of referrals for us. Yelpers can threaten to give bad reviews if they don’t get special treatment but businesses can’t ask good clients to post a positive review. As a business owner I am considered to be wrong before being right. Any attempt to tell our side of a story is met with attacks from folks who haven’t even been here or ever intend to.

  • Jonas

    This is very true. Yelp does filter great reviews and ratings if the business doesn’t pay for yelp’s ads. Yelp has been aggressively filtering all our good (4 and 5star ratings) reviews and ratings from the time we refused to buy their ads, but did not touch the bad reviews (they leave them intact). They don’t even care to investigate a genuineness of a review and rating as long as it is about a business that doesn’t buy ads with them.

  • Jonas

    This is very true. Yelp does filter great reviews and ratings if the business doesn’t pay for yelp’s ads. Yelp has been aggressively filtering all our good (4 and 5star ratings) reviews and ratings from the time we refused to buy their ads, but did not touch the bad reviews (they leave them intact). They don’t even care to investigate a genuineness of a bad review and rating as long as it is about a business that doesn’t buy ads with them.

  • sam

    you cant even ask Yelp to not participate. I don’t want my business to be on Yelp as an option. Businesses should have the option to participate or not. I own the business, I get to decide where I am accessible but not with Yelp. Wait, is there a review for Yelp on Yelp? Can’t they even use their own technology?

  • Mitchell

    I know for a fact Yelp does this. I’ve had clients who post positive reviews to find out they were deleted by Yelp while Yelp was soliciting fees from me while they left two less than favorable posts. But this isn’t anything new; for example, I find it equally interesting that you post their BBB C+ rating above as if that means anything (unless you’re a french model). The BBB is at the same level as Yelp requiring company’s to pay for their ratings. Then if you publically expose this, the BBB provides you with a nice F rating, kicks you out, and publically advertises that you are a bad business for reasons outside of why you are removed – I’m sure these scammers are paying off the legal world to protect themselves. Their is money as an Extornist: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yo8kfV9kONw

  • Jayna Sheats

    I pretty much ignore Yelp’s reviews; one simply cannot say whether they are useful or not, so better ignore them (good or bad – doesn’t matter). The only way they are going to get out of this is to qualify reviewers with personal attention (I think Angie’s List may be an example). It is just painfully obvious that one cannot use technology to filter out fraud in this case.

    I pay attention to accommodation sites like hotel.info, because one can only submit a review after staying at the place (confirmed via the reservation process). Perhaps these review websites can develop a process whereby users are confirmed to have actually been there. No technology will be fraud-proof, but that would be a big step forward.

    • simonts

      I agree. As far as travel I use Tripadvisor a lot, it is an honest business, not fraudulent like Yelp is.

  • bodywise

    Here is the biggest probem. Everyone complains. No one has SERIOUSLY tried to prosecute. You are barking up the wrong tree. If they are a protection racket then they are hip to everyone’s complaints. Their real crime is the intentional, malicious manipulations of reviews. They claim to be computer neutral. Their staff is actively managing accounts. That is where you score.

    No other company reviews are actively filtered. You put up the “good” and the “bad.”

    And they intentionally allow totally bogus and fabricated “reviews.” Many are “drive by” shootings.

    So … what are you going to do with all these comments???

    • simonts

      Yes, crooked businesses like Yelp should be prosecuted. However, to prosecute one needs laws and there are none. It is their site and they do whatever the heck they want. The only “solution” is to simply ignore Yelp which is done by more and more people who realized how fraudulent the site is.

      • bodywise

        This defeatist attitude is how they survive and draw blood every day. Exactly how the Mafia survives. Tens of millions of dollars are being lost. .

        • simonts

          So what have you done??

  • Colleen

    I’m not sure if they hold back because of ad payment, but I do know that whatever algorithm they say that they use is seriously lacking. We have far more reviews (both positive and negative) in the hidden area than show up on our page — and they allow comments that are not even from actual customers. We tend to know our customers well … so it it very disheartening to see a post from someone (with no picture and no last name) who claims to be a customer — but is not — and yet the post remains on the page with a flaming review. I know of another business that, when their ad schedule was over, received a number of negative reviews the next day. Yelp is not a medium I would count on for anybody’s opinion, and that’s unfortunate, because the concept is a good one.

  • Bryan

    Yes I do believe they do this. They can’t prove otherwise and those business that do offer the customer service they strive for should have their reviews posted. Google is a much better format.

  • AbrahamS19

    Yes Yelp recently filtered out 3 of our good reviews claiming that these people are new to Yelp and if they are giving you 4 to 5 star ratings then their filter is programmed to take it out. Now if they will write a bad review then the filter is programmed to keep it. Further their sales rep told me that if I get a good review from someone who had an elite status then it will stay.
    If you do advertise with them then they will take the bad reviews out. Now if you are a big business then you will have their Elite reviewers on your payroll so if someone will give you a bad review then these Elite reviewers will write a 4 to 5 star review right away to neutralize it. You can check yourself to see the pattern for every big national business on Yelp especially in the service field.
    Yelp has just hired a big lobbyist in DC to buy power in Congress so there is very little you can do as a small business, tough luck!

  • Sunseeker Chuck

    No question that Yelp holds businesses ransome. There are too many similar stories with the same ‘party line’ response that Yelp gives about positive reviews not staying up/posted. They say it’s ‘an algorithm’ that causes the positive reviews to fall off. That’s what they told me with our business. (All of our positive reviews came from different guests with different computers and on different dates).
    It’s baloney that they are doing ‘filtering’ of false reviews.

  • Jayna Sheats

    One more comment to add: I use the services of an alternative healthcare provider who had a few negative reviews visible and many hidden ones which turned out to be positive. From my own experience she is everything the positives said, and none of the negatives. Just an observation coming from the user side and not the business.

    I think Yelp (or any such company) has to institute a process in which at least the customer-business interaction is independently verified by both parties, and then no filtering.

  • Chris20127

    Yelp’s comment

    “Yelp told the Daily Dot the team had hidden the positive reviews
    because they’d found them all to be sent from the same IP address within
    a short period of time, indicating fraud. “In cases where businesses
    have a large number of reviews that aren’t recommended, it’s often
    because they’ve solicited positive reviews from friends, family, or
    favorite customers or tried to game the system by writing fake reviews
    for themselves. Yelp does not support these practices as they result in
    biased reviews which aren’t useful to consumers,” a Yelp spokesperson
    said.

    The screenshot shows five accounts created within 45 minutes of each
    other, all writing five-star reviews of the same business, and with
    email addresses: yelper91@gmail.com, yelper90@gmail.com,
    yelper94@hotmail.com, yelper93@hotmail.com, and yelper92@hotmail.com. It
    shows that they all joined on 6/1/2013. Only one is listed as having
    logged in since then.”

    interestingly enough, the restaurant in question has recently gotten some 5 star reviews that are still showing – so maybe complaining loudly enough helped.

    is an outright lie – there WERE 5 reviews tagged as fraudulent – but these are NOT the same as 23 “not recommended ” reviews which people can see but which do not affect the stars – and which were mostly 4 stars, given on varying dates, by people who had written other reviews, etc… so where are the screen shots for these???

    That said, we do use yelp a lot for restaurants, have rarely noticed ANY filtered reviews at all – so we were shocked to see how many reviews are filtered than actually “count” when we looked at Yelp reviews for air conditioning companies – one local company had good reviews from cities hundreds of miles away and even all the way across the country, but all of the negative reviews from “local” customers were not recommended…. another small company had 1 1/2 stars – 5 bad reviews – 12 good reviews hidden (we used them and I can tell you that the bad reviews were inaccurate!) Angie’s list is MUCH more accurate for businesses….

    • simonts

      As far as restaurants, Tripadvisor (and even Open Table) reviews are MUCH more trustworthy than Yelp.

  • simonts

    Yelp is a dishonest business run by crooks. There is no two ways around it. I used to depend on them but ever since I realized how dishonest and fraudulent they are I stopped using the site.

  • Steve Peters

    We received a call from yelp a couple of weeks ago asking us to PAY. We are a VERY small business and cannot afford to pay them or any other internet business except for our web site. The marketeer emailed us and said he was going to post that he had heard that our business was closing. We emailed him back and said that was not so. Luckily he did not post that lie but what other “tricks” will Yelp come up with to extort our money???

  • Ricardo Hartley

    I have no doubt Yelp extorts money from businesses, based on my own personal experience watching Yelp delete or filter out negative reviews I had personally written. That and the procedure for Yelp members to flag obviously fake droolingly positive reviews written by paid shills is a joke. Yelp refuses to take these fake ads down, why is that? And let’s not forget the incessant ads on craigslist seeking yelp reviews for $5 each.
    On the surface Yelp seems like a good idea, but underneath the cellophane wrap it’s all garbage.

  • mike

    They are like the mafia. “We are selling you protection and if you don’t buy it you could have a bad experience.” who would use and support a company like this?

  • Al

    I have countless clients tell me that they can’t find their review on Yelp. These are people that have used our business for years. Yelp needs to start letting people make their own judgement and stop blackballing businesses.

  • Phil

    Agreed, yelp is primarily negative. My business receives 50 reviews a year that are primarily very positive. However any content added from a “Yelper” focuses on bashing my business. I don’t pay any attention to Yelp.

  • Joel S.

    I don’t know why articles about Yelp don’t talk about the more egregious issue, which is that their filter will take out reviews, even when a person has written a high number of them, then they won’t filter out ones where the person has written only a few. Some will be filtered out because there is no profile picture, then others remain, even though they don’t have a profile picture. In addition, they still show reviews from long ago, sorted way up to the top of the list. In our case, one from 2007 (7 years ago) displays within the first ten on our page. Plus, if you click on the link for “illegitimate reviews” it shows the 1-stars first, all in a row. Where is the outrage about these practices? You can write article after article about extortion, but until there is evidence, it is all just conspiracy theory. If you want evidence of outrageous business practices, just look at any Yelp page and see the arbitrary, inconsistent way the filter works. That is what these articles should be about.

  • SonzTwin

    As an Elite member, my take is that where there’s smoke there’s fire. It would be very helpful if all posters who said they had extortion experience with Yelp would tell us their business name and city; that way, we can look up what’s held back. I’ve seen cases where reviews are rightfully held back, and cases where you go ‘Huh? If that’s not genuine, I don’t know what is.”

  • Jonathan

    I had someone write a scathing negative review and recommend my competitor. By it’s nature my business does not get many reviews. I communicated to yelp that this person has an ulterior motive and it was her first review.

    They took it to the “comments not recommended list”
    They then asked me to consider advertising with them.
    I stalled them about the advertising.
    The scathing review was put back in front to “recommended reviews”
    Since I only have two reviews on their “recommended list” I know I will lose revenue.
    My glowing reviews are buried.
    Algorithms? (obviously not)

  • Daenyuil Archer

    Yelp is a complete extortionist scam. They keep one FAKE bad business review up on our business and refuse to publish all the good reviews until we pay for premium account. They say the good reviews aren’t any good because the people who wrote them haven’t reviewed enough in the past which is total BS. The good reviews we got are from legitimate customers and the one bad one that is published is a fake.
    Yelp is an extortionist Scam.

  • Bea Ware

    There was a lawsuit against Yelp for doing this filed in San Diego. What happened to it?

  • Tim Lopatofsky

    I believe this issue is a lot bigger than Yelp. The idea that people can
    post largely negative things anonymously is akin to school kids writing on
    bathroom walls about the very successful and popular athletes, students,
    teachers and administrators. Schools at least have the decency to paint
    over the walls. In today’s society we have somehow twisted this to
    celebration status on the internet and somehow consider this part of free
    speech. This is now an opportunity for bullies, extortionist, mean people,
    twisted business ventures, government entities and countless other mentally
    challenged individuals to harm children, other adults, and good businesses with
    immunity. I’m all for free speech, but I don’t see how anonymity is part it.
    Requiring identification of posters solves the problem, gives targets of
    post the opportunity to defend themselves and is part of normal dialogue in a
    just and decent society. Posted by Tim Lopatofsky

  • Alex

    Yelp is holding every positive review of our business
    back, Everyone knows they filter good reviews and only show bad reviews.
    We experienced this same issue years ago, spent a year trying to resolve it
    with Yelp, and gave up, over 60+ positive reviews posted by customers
    over 6 months all “disappeared”, leaving only a single nasty-gram posted by someone who had bought one of our clients (a takeover) and didn’t want to pay her bill for services she personally had authorized in writing. They had to go back more then 7 years to came up w/ the 7 worst reviews They are true LEGALIZED CROOKS with deep pocket THAT CAN AFFORD TO PAY OFF FOR LOTS OF LEGAL PERKS AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL. Cause there are lots of complains but nobody does anything..Yelp sucks! They are a bunch extortionists

  • spileski

    I don’t personally believe that Yelp is holding back good reviews for non-advertisers in an attempt to punish non-advertisers or anything of that sort.

    They may be doing something to attempt to filter positive reviews for all businesses and not just advertisers, although this is speculation. I think this second case is more likely than the first, although I don’t have a good reason as to why they’d do it. Judging from the results of what’s filtered, I’d say it’s possible.

    Part of the reason I could see Yelp filtering positive reviews for everyone is how they are sorting the filtered reviews: http://www.montway.com/transportation/buyer-beware-yelps-sorting-reviews-misleads-readers/

    I can only interpret this sorting as an attempt to harm all businesses, likely in retaliation for all the bad press Yelp has gotten at the behest of the business community.

    It’s not a major issue as most people won’t see the filtered reviews page, but I think the sorting does have a negative impact for anyone who will see the filtered page for a given business. There is also absolutely no justification for why Yelp chooses to sort the filtered reviews as they do.

  • Stephanie Mayers

    I now for a fact that they do this…they said one of my reviews was withheld because the woman who wrote it had no friends and was her first review…then let a guy I never spoke to write a bad review of my business and let it stand even though I only deal with WOMAN. He also had no friends and only wrote bad reviews. Every legit review I got they withheld for various BS reasons. When I called them, they said they could fix it IF/WHEN I pay for advertising. WTH!!! They are doing this to not only my business but at least 3 other businesses I do business with.

  • http://www.linkedin.com/in/frankjramirez/ Frank Ramirez

    I do not use Yelp – but I believe them more than I believe a mom and pop business trying to leverage Yelp site traffic for positive reviews. I do not think it is extortion to try and maintain quality, and the evidence provided by Yelp is pretty damming. For myself I would only entrust a persons review that I know, or that has evidenced over time that their reviews are believable. I do not extend trust to the crowd unless the scope of the feedback is so large as to statistically diffuse any potential for abuse. Even with large numbers I take the reviews with a grain of salt. Programmatic abuse/fraud is now fairly rampant and most firms do not have the QA human auditing needed on place to counter its effect. Also, the motivations of any reviewer that is compelled to share good news is also suspect. I did a big data analyses on NPS for a national retailer and feedback is hard to come by without a incentive structure. But if you really anger someone with bad service – they will happily vent online. Frank Ramirez – Linkedin

  • Smoke ‘N Bones

    Yelp recently responded to a review I flagged as inappropriate. In my opinion, it should have been removed because it was for a different, now closed location – long story. The review is a horrible, excessively long-winded stain on our otherwise good collection of reviews. I even offered them to take down the other, good review for the closed location. To be fair, and all.

    They responded with “we didn’t agree that this content should come down”. By what stretch of logic is that acceptable? Shenanigans!

    (And of course, we don’t pay Yelp anything.)

  • http://shopit4me.com/ Shopit4me Company Reviews

    Yelp is very helpful in maintain the company’s review it will wipe out negative reviews.