What if Yelp Were Real Life?

An interesting idea, taking how Yelp behaves online and doing it in the real world. Even though there are differences between online and the real world, there are still rules of society, and pretty obvious right and wrong. This video does it brilliantly!

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Permanent link to this article: http://yelp-sucks.com/what-if-yelp-were-real-life.html

“Operation Clean Turf” Paves Way For Competitors To Commit Stealty Sabotage

Craigslist Ad looking for active yelpers to write reviews.

Craigslist Ad looking for active yelpers to write reviews.

Online review sites are flourishing, but new studies prove upwards of 25% of all reviews are bogus, flat out fakes! Good or Bad, the inability to distinguish real reviews is taking it’s toll on consumers.

Most people think of the internet as a useful resource, with the answer to any question just a query away. But there is a seedy underbelly, much like the backroom brothels in Vegas nobody talks about, it’s the money making side of the internet, where anything can be had — for a price.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman is the first of, I hope, many state officials to see the significance of how fake reviews can hurt business. Either by elevating the ranking of a bad business, or lowering the ranking of a good one. A quick peek at Fiverr.com easily reveals dozens of people who will happily create fake reviews and testimonials for you, for only $5. And the “legit” ones tell you, they have to #ad next to the tweet, unless you pay a $20 upgrade, then they’ll forget to put that on! There’s really only one word for it…

And the company at the forefront of this debate is Yelp! Yelp claims that their review filter will weed out these fraudulent reviews and even slap a badge of dishonor on the business if Yelp deems their business has been buying fake reviews. And that’s a problem.

Ask any business member about their faith that Yelp will protect their business and very few would give the review giant a thumbs up. This is a company that doesn’t answer the phone, allows competitors to write fake reviews and filters legitimate reviews, frequently putting good honest businesses out of business.

The rumor mill is full of legitimate stories of business that claim they got a fake bad review, and then the phone rings and it’s a Yelp salesperson offering to take care of the problem. One person who contacted me claimed to have been hired by a Yelp salesperson to write bad reviews and then remove them once the business signed up for advertising. I asked for proof and am still waiting. But it fits with the hundreds of stories of businesses feeling victimized after they get “the call” asking them to advertise. And if they decline, all their good reviews go missing. We will never know the truth of those claims with a thorough code review of the processes at Yelp, and that will never happen. EVER.

And while they stand behind the Communications Decency Act to protect them from litigation, they’re now stepping squarely in the thick of it. The Constitutional Right to anonymous free speech was to protect political dissidents from retaliation. Not a disgruntled diner who thought their waitress shouldn’t wear a nose ring.

A little background on the idea of stealthy sabotage…

There used to be an easy way to get rid of a Google result you didn’t want coming up: you simply bought a bunch of really bad, slimy, cheap backlinks for the site and viola, it vanished, slapped by Google for violating their rule to not attempt to manipulate the rankings. But it became so commonplace that Google now allows business owners to verify their backlinks to protect them from this unethical business practice.

Now imagine how Yelp will handle it… go ahead, try to imagine a company that won’t answer the phone or remove a review that says, “I went in because of the cute outfit in the window and the sales girls was so rude” when the business is run out of a house, with no storefront! Clearly a competitor, a mistake, but Yelp doesn’t have the bandwidth or the commitment to deal with such trivial things as a fake/defamatory review that hurts a businesses bottom line. In essence, Yelp will make it easier for competitors to destroy the competition because there is no way to determine who bought what. All a competitor need do is buy reviews and have them posted. And the more easily recognizably fake the better.

There is only one solution: move away from the anonymous reviews with no context and toward friend to friend word of mouth, like upstart FlypList. When I write a great review of a restaurant, all my friends know it must be a great place. Why? Because I’m a foodie. A gluten free foodie with allergies who demands awesome and friendly service. I’m not the person you would ask about Laundromats because I never go there. Or tattoo parlors. And my friends know this. And their friends can easily figure it out. I have expertise in variety of subjects but not all, and that’s where the current selection of online review sites fail. There is no context. If you prefer 5 star hotels and get stuck in a 2 star in the middle of nowhere, you might rate it 2 stars. But it could be a 5 star hotel in its category. Get it? Context!

Weeding out fraud is important and I applaud all the efforts, but for every advance, it just opens up a new wave of profiteering from the internet underbelly, a new way to game the system. Only when word of mouth is taken back down to the personal level, where people stand by their word, will it ever be truly authentic. So while Google has replaced the card catalog for nearly everyone, Reviews will become more personal. (6709)

Permanent link to this article: http://yelp-sucks.com/operation-clean-turf-paves-way-for-competitors-to-commit-stealty-sabotage.html

Outsmarting Bad Reviews on Yelp!

Yelp has a secret! It isn’t so much that they get traffic but that they use search engine optimization to get traffic and THAT is people find you on Yelp. When you let Yelp be your only search engine listing, you give them complete power to wipe you out. To make your mark you have to out optimize for your keyword and target audience. It’s not rocket science, and it is necessary to survive online. Here’s a little video that shows you how!

For businesses with NO Reputation, http://ReputationChallenge.com
For businesses with a BAD Reputation, http://ReptutationTurnaround.com (14900)

Permanent link to this article: http://yelp-sucks.com/outsmarting-bad-reviews-on-yelp.html

Get Help With Yelp

Dancing with the devilOur community has thousands of business owners, most of whom hate Yelp and have been victimized by their business practices and refusal to acknowledge the damage their site has unfairly done to many. BUT, I personally know of dozens of folks who use Yelp well and transform it into a profit center. Let’s just call this Dancing with the Devil. As long as you know who your partner is, there might just be a way to make it work. So, comment below if something HAS worked for you… Deals, Check-Ins, etc… (1561)

Permanent link to this article: http://yelp-sucks.com/get-help-with-yelp.html

Outsmarting Yelp: Overcoming CDA Immunity via 3rd Party Contract Promises

Daniel Bernath came up with what looks like a stroke of genius. Now, I’m not a lawyer (but he is) so I can’t comment on the legality of it, but the logic looks good.

The idea is that since Groupon REQUIRES you to have a Yelp business profile (with positive reviews) before allowing you to do a Groupon offer, and that Groupon’s Terms of Service are more specific as to the rights of the merchant, that Groupon’s TOS trumps Yelp and that Yelp has to comply. I think…

Here’s what he said in a nutshell:

Defamer comes to Groupon and enters a deal regarding my business. Groupon states in its terms of service www.groupon.com/termsthat they are a service provider for merchant. They also contract with defamer that she has agreed to a 3rd party beneficiary contact and that the merchant can enforce it against Defamer as well as Groupon. Near the bottom of the Terms they clearly state that merchant has right to sue defamer.

Conduct of defamer that she breaches…second to the last bullet point defamer says won’t lie about the merchant, try to put him out of business (I don’t have the exact words).

Then the defamer (in my case) lied about my business. Urged people to breach their contract with me. Said I violated the law, etc.

Therefore, for breach of contract we need offer acceptance, consideration, breach, damages. All the elements have been met. Sue defamer for breach of contract, promissory estopped, breach of covenant of good faith and fair dealing (with and to the merchant) and as she obviously signed this third party beneficiary contract with intent to damage me and not actually to use my services, FRAUD.

Then it gets interesting. You can’t do a Groupon deal unless you make a deal with Yelp. (I just got another merchant who says she had to contract with Yelp before they would do a deal with her.)
Yelp also says in its terms of service (contract) with defamer IN PROVISION OBVIOUSLY MEAN TO PROTECT MERCHANT that defamer won’t lie, defame, etc. Yelp also contract in one paragraph that if a post is anonymous and defamatory that they will “probably deal more harshly” with it than otherwise. As such, they have contracted with merchant to not permit defamation about them.

Add that specific contract clause (merchant is 3rd party beneficiary to the defamer-Yelp contract AND defamer Groupon contract) you can then sue Yelp for breach of contract, fraud, etc. because they let the defamation be published and did not do their duty to take it down.

Warning!

IMPORTANT: Yelp is always sleaziness off by saying that the Communication Decency Act Sec. 230 gives them immunity for anything posted on their site by a 3rd party.

BUT UNDER THIS THEORY OF THE CASE you are NOT suing for any speech. You are suing because Yelp broke their contractual promise thus bypassing that immunity that has always gotten Yelp off the hook.

If you think I’m making this up, look at Barnes v. Yahoo

The court held that the CDA barred the plaintiff’s negligent undertaking claim because it was based on Yahoo’s failed undertaking to remove or depublish the offensive profiles and, thus, was based on a violated duty that was derived from Yahoo’s conduct as a publisher (CDA Sec. 230 immunityfor Yahoo and Yelp) . Id. at 1103.

However, the court held that the CDA did not bar the plaintiff’s promissory estoppel claim (or other contract claims) because it was based on a violated duty that sprang from an enforceable promise Yahoo had breached, i.e., Yahoo’s promise to the plaintiff to promptly remove the offensive material from its Web site. Id. at 1107-08. http://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/oregon/ordce/6:2005cv00926/74096/43

Important!

Get it? Not suing Yelp or defamer for “speech.” Suing them for entering into a contract and then breaching a contract with merchant. to protect merchant and not allow defamations and take down defamations.

Of course, a trial court judge may disagree and then it will have to be appeal… (7099)

Permanent link to this article: http://yelp-sucks.com/outsmarting-yelp-overcoming-cda-immunity-via-3rd-party-contract-promises.html

Yelp Gets Bad Reviews From Small Biz Owners at Heated Town Hall

A Yelp sticker. The review site has come under fire by small businesses who question its business practices.
unnormalized/Flickr

Yelp is giving small business owners a chance to air their concerns about the review site in a series of town halls across the country. And it turns out some these restaurateurs and small business owners have a bone to pick with the way Yelp does business.

On Tuesday, Yelp (YELP) held its latest town hall in Los Angeles, with a panel of company representatives and friendly small businesses fielding questions and discussing ways to use Yelp. The idea, in part, was to reach out to a small-business community that often feels victimized by unfair reviews, as well as what some say are aggressive sales tactics by Yelp.

But the forum didn’t go exactly as planned for Yelp. As the Los Angeles Times reports, company representatives found a hostile crowd waiting for them:

Many slammed the company for allowing reviewers to post inflammatory comments – one restaurant manager said she cried for three days after a Yelper wrote that her restaurant was filled with Nazis. Others said they had been subjected to aggressive advertising calls from Yelp.

Vintage clothing shop owner Reiko Roberts said the advertising pressure amounted to extortion. She said that when she declined to buy ads, “the lower reviews go to the top and the higher reviews go to the bottom.”

That’s a charge that’s been leveled at Yelp numerous times in the past, and which the company has repeatedly denied. The issue lies largely with the site’s filter, which seeks to exclude reviews from suspicious or unproven reviewers in favor of reviews from established users.

Yelp has also sought to bring purity to the review process by going after businesses that try to buy positive reviews for themselves. But as the hostile reception makes clear, a lot of business owners feel that these systems work largely to their disadvantage, burying positive reviews and elevating negative ones.

It’s hard to say how many of these complaints are legitimate, and how many are just sour grapes from business owners angry about negative reviews. But there’s no doubt that Yelp has a public-image problem among its most crucial users — the businesses that pay to advertise on the site.

So far, though, it doesn’t seem to be hurting Yelp too badly: Since going public last spring, its share price has more than doubled.

Matt Brownell is the consumer and retail reporter for DailyFinance. You can reach him at Matt.Brownell@teamaol.com, and follow him on Twitter at @Brownellorama.

 


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Permanent link to this article: http://yelp-sucks.com/yelp-gets-bad-reviews-from-small-biz-owners-at-heated-town-hall.html

Do You Want To Get Paid For Writing Yelp Reviews?

writing yelp reviewsAccording to a leading attorney, you could already be owned money for writing reviews on Yelp.com.

Here’s what they have to say: Get paid for all the reviews that you wrote for Yelp! over the years. Federal and State laws state that as Yelp! had the right to control you as a reviewer/writer and as the reviews you wrote were essential to their business of reviewing restaurants and businesses that you must be paid wages for all the reviews you wrote.

We are asking the Court to award approximately $100 per review that you wrote. For example, if you wrote 650 reviews, we will ask the Court to order Yelp! to pay you your wages of $65,000.00.

It doesn’t matter in the eyes of the law that you were convinced to work for Yelp! for free as you can’t legally waive your right to wages. As this is a class action, if you want to continue to work for Yelp! you can do so as it is likely that a multitude of Yelp! unpaid reviewers will share in the court ordered award.

Clearly Yelp! owes you wages under the Nature of the Business test. Yelp! admits that it would not exist if not for you, a reviewer. But we’d like to know about Yelp!’s control of you in writing a particular way, how you had to do things their way at every stage, disciplined you for not following their rules and fired you.

Want to find out how much?  Fill out the form below and they will contact you.  Or you can contact them directly

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Permanent link to this article: http://yelp-sucks.com/do-you-want-to-get-paid-for-writing-yelp-reviews.html

Yelp Is Ruining My Business

Yelp Is Ruining My Business
“Help! Yelp is ruining my business!” This is the tearful phone call I get every week. Another struggling business owner, failing, due to an unfair negative review. Feeling helpless, alone, attacked, the emotion coming through the phone line sounds a lot like the rape victims I counseled in college. The same questions: How did this happen? Why me? And worse, why won’t anyone help me?

Why is it my phone that rings? Because I answer the phone when Yelp won’t. I listen when Yelp won’t. And I know, with the right guidance, they can overcome the attack, can regain their confidence and go back to being a rock star business. But for some, there will always be scars, and fear that it could happen again. The disgruntled customer who just can’t be satisfied, the new competitor moving in down the street… always causing a little catch in the throat and a slight flinch… wondering, is today the day it will happen again?

I know I’m going to get a lot of flack comparing Yelp to a rapist, but really, I’m comparing them to the gun the rapist is holding that allows them to commit the act in the first place.

I’m here to tell you, it doesn’t have to be that way. There is a reality where you can life fear free without the risk of sites like Yelp taking all your business away, and causing the phone to stop ringing.

Using Search Engine Optimization, you can ensure that you are on page 1, and yelp is nowhere to be seen. To do that you need a lot of fresh, relevant content, sharable, social, and directed back to your site. And Media attention!

I’m interviewed by the media at least once a week. Three times this week so far! Yesterday somebody said something about this site. I don’t even know where yet because my news clipping service hasn’t sent it. But they did, and 10,000+ new visitors arrived yesterday and viewed an average of 4.91 pages. They were reading about YOU, and your troubles with Yelp. Imagine if that media coverage was about your business. When those new visitors land on your site, what will they find? How long will they stay? And will you be building relationships with them from the moment they arrive?

There is a new book on this subject you should read, You Stock: Increase Sales Conversions by Branding with Personalized Marketing Photography. It’s on Amazon, and today it’s free. The key is to user your face in your branding, you are uniquely you and your competitors will only ever be able to be a paler lesser version of you. So why not use your most valuable asset to build brand trust with your customers?

And for those of you that want media coverage, please Tell Your Yelp Story! The more thumbs up you get, the higher the story will go in the media meter and more likely it will get mainstream coverage. The media is looking everyday for your story, make it easy to find! (21447)

Permanent link to this article: http://yelp-sucks.com/yelp-is-ruining-my-business.html

INFOGRAPHIC: The Ultimate Complete Final Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet

Need pixel dimensions and sizing information for Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, or LinkedIn? Here it is all in one handy infographic.
Social Media sites are constantly changing sizes of their graphics, making it near impossible to keep up or make your pretty image just perfect… until now. Thanks for my buddies over at Lunametrics for whipping up this awesome cheat sheet and ensuring that we will always be up to date!
The Ultimate Complete Final Social Media Sizing Cheat Sheet LunaMetrics

Brought to you by the LunaMetrics blog.

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Permanent link to this article: http://yelp-sucks.com/infographic-the-ultimate-complete-final-social-media-sizing-cheat-sheet.html

Yelp’s CEO Jeremy Stoppleman Had One Thing Right

Jeremy Stoppleman, CEO of Yelp.comIn 2008 Yelp first did a massive clean sweep, claiming to delete spammers accounts. I got swept up in the mess. I’m not a spammer. I never wrote a review for a product or service I didn’t use. And every review I received for my business was from a very well satisfied client. But the truth didn’t matter. The almighty Jeremy Stoppleman, CEO and Founder of Yelp had his opinion and that was that. All my work writing reviews, all my work product (to which they had a license to use, not destroy) was gone. And in place of all the hundreds of links I had peppered all over the internet leading people to my profile on Yelp, was a page proclaiming me a spammer.  When calls to the company and emails to the founder got me no relief, I decided to take matters into my own hands.

It took me about 5 minutes to launch YelpLawsuit.com and Yelp-Sucks.com (I would have bought YelpSucks.com but Yelp already owned it)! Within days we had national news coverage and thousands of registered businesses who wanted justice. And since then I’ve been waging a battle against the unfair business practices Yelp employs that has left so many honest local business on life support, or worse, in the morgue.

I haven’t spoken to Yelp‘s CEO since the clean sweep in 2008. I argued that I hadn’t violated any Terms of Service. Show me where! Show me the line item and what I did and I’ll back off! But he couldn’t. Because I didn’t. But that didn’t change how he characterized everyone they deleted, mostly members of Ladies Who Launch, eWomenNetwork and BNI. Networking groups where we see each other all the time. The point of these groups IS to do business with one another, so why would it be a violation of the Terms of Service to review the products and services we bought? Technically, it isn’t…

Here’s where Jeremy and I ultimately reached a sort of de-taunt. He gave me this scenario: I review a business for their great service. All is fabulous. Other people read my review and based on my recommendation, they buy the service. After a while, something happens with the service provider… drinking, drugs, divorce, something that significantly affects the quality of service. Because this person is someone I see every month, or week, would I be willing to recant my endorsement, or lower the rating. I acknowledged that would be a sticky situation and that this could present a “conflict of interest”. This is where we agreed. It’s a conflict of interest. Not a violation of the Terms of Service. And since I only review the best, I felt, in reality, while the above scenario was a possibility, it was seriously remote. And for 5 years I was right.

Today, I have to acknowledge that what Jeremy said could happen, has happened… sort of. While it wasn’t the direct result of actions by one of my networking connections, but she does work at the place I recommended after having fantastic over the top service. I was still telling everyone, months later (I have a big mouth and if I love you, everybody knows it). I loved my salesperson, it was the perfect transaction! I must have sent a couple dozen people there.  And then the phone call yesterday…

The company had fired my salesperson because he wouldn’t do something that he knew is a felony. Turns out they do this a lot, and there is now going to be a class action suit against the business. So while my experience was AWESOME and I would stand behind the service I got from my salesperson, and my networking connection who brought me there is still amazing and fantastic, I can no longer recommend the business. As a customer, it was great, but knowing the behind the scenes drama, I want no part of it.

So here’s the sticky situation… My reviews get read. I have had many Review of the Day’s on Yelp leading to massive traffic for the business. Do I downgrade my review, delete my review, or leave it alone… This was the conflict of interest situation I really never thought I’d be in. The very situation Jeremy predicted.

In the end I deleted it because I know the massive lawsuit coming is going to say everything that needs saying.  And this is where I have to give credit where it is due. This scenario never occurred to me, but it did to Jeremy. And I have to acknowledge his foresight. If we hadn’t had that conversation 5 years ago I wouldn’t have been prepared to handle this situation.

Yelp is a double edged sword. It has its place. A negative review from a customer that is willing to work it out can lead to a fair resolution with a company that might not be playing fair. But it also allows competitors to make false reviews unchecked and doesn’t account for the vengeful ex employee or hateful customers that just want to ruin you. There needs to be a balance to keep it fair, just, and useful. They aren’t there yet, and without a change in attitude I doubt they’ll ever see the black on the balance sheet.

Yelp.com’s couldn’t care less attitude drives over 30,000 unique visits a month to Yelp-Sucks.com, and every week I get calls from business owners who have been railroaded by Yelp. They call me because I answer the phone. Something Yelp.com should be doing to take care of their bread and butter revenue stream, business owners.

So, to everyone reviewing their friends… there may come a day when you have to recant. Are you going to do it publicly like Tom Antion did when he recinded every recommendation he ever made about James Malinchak? Will you confront the person, ask what’s going on and help them regain their former glory? Or will you simply delete your review and let nature take it’s course. Big decisions… I hope I made the right one… (7305)

Permanent link to this article: http://yelp-sucks.com/yelps-ceo-jeremy-stoppleman-had-one-thing-right.html

Buying Better Yelp Results

If you’re a Yelp business owner, no doubt you saw the Important Message that went out today from Yelp talking about “reputation management” and how you can’t buy results on Yelp.

That is TRUE! You can’t pay for Yelp advertising to remove bad reviews, you can’t bribe them to take down negative reviews, you can’t pay a reputation management firm to have it removed. All of it, TRUE!

But that doesn’t mean you can’t do anything. You CAN take control of your reputation and make Yelp irrelevant to your bottom line!

Using the right customer engagement strategies, and encouraging reviews on Google rather than Yelp, focusing on building citations from all over the web and a robust internet presence that gives customers the chance to experience bits of your brilliance is what it’s all about.

Turning over the reins of your business to just one site is crazy business. And I’m pretty certain nobody here is in that business! (21439)

Permanent link to this article: http://yelp-sucks.com/buying-better-yelp-results.html

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