page contents



Print this Post

Small businesses cry foul over Yelp’s harmful reviews, lack of verification

Unlike other ratings websites that offer guidance in planning a vacation or buying a car, Yelp cuts straight to the heart of everyday life.

Across much of the globe, has emerged as the go-to website for finding customer reviews of restaurants, dry cleaners and other shops just down the street. The name — synonymous with a squawk of pain — has entered the consumer lexicon as a verb: To Yelp a place is to check it out online, see the latest word about it.

Yelp’s enormous database of reviews, ranging from 5-star raves to 1-star disses, has made it perhaps the most polarizing of the review websites — loved by millions of consumers, many of them active review writers who post regularly on the site, and loathed by significant numbers of business owners.

Among the website’s 108 million monthly visitors are fans like Robert Genta, a 23-year-old Garden Grove, Calif., restaurant worker who frequently looks up reviews on his smartphone. He relied on them extensively during a recent eight-day trip to St. Louis and Atlanta.

“That’s pretty much how all our meals were planned,â€� he said.

Business owners are sharply divided about Yelp. Some appreciate the spotlight afforded by the widely viewed public forum, where obscure boutiques and eateries have gained invaluable exposure. But entrepreneurs with less-than-stellar ratings often complain they have been damaged by malicious, unwarranted bad reviews posted by business rivals and bitter former employees.

Anger over poor reviews has spawned lawsuits against Yelp, including a case now before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that challenges the website’s advertising practices.

The backlash has raised pointed questions about whether review sites — a multibillion-dollar industry — are capable of being the objective ratings tool they are intended to be, especially when powerful sites like Yelp post reviews written by ordinary people.

Yelp’s executive spokesman, Vince Sollitto, acknowledges that the review site must be on constant guard against ever-more-sophisticated attempts to game the system.

“You’d be surprised at how many business owners write a 5-star review of their own business,â€� Sollitto said, “and a 1-star review of their competition.â€�

Adryenn Ashley, who owns a public-relationships company in Reno, Nev., and runs a website called, said she has “a list of thousands of businesses that are disgruntled.â€� For proprietors stung by poor reviews, “there’s no recourse,â€� Ashley said. “There’s no grand jury.â€�

Entrepreneurs running small businesses are especially vulnerable to unfair reviews and often feel powerless to rectify them, she said.

Dary Jahromi, the 43-year-old founder of 24-7 Ride, a shuttle and limousine service based in Tustin, Calif., said his company has been the target of an unusual number of negative critiques. Sixteen out of 24 reviews visible on Yelp give 24-7 Ride the lowest possible rating, a single star. What especially troubles Jahromi is that the critics are often so cloaked in anonymity that he cannot tell if they are real people.

A reviewer identified only as “Tina G.â€� of Studio City, Calif., wrote a vague, two-sentence attack, posted on Sept. 20, that calls the company, “The absolute worst, most embarrassing excuse for a ‘car service’ in the entire world.â€� A similarly negative review was written by someone whose profile photograph appears to be a patterned rug. Another critic displays a photo of a cat.

Yelp allows the critical reviews to be posted without verifying any of the critics’ assertions or divulging the true identities of the writers, Jahromi said.

“They’re destroying our character without proving or verifying the source,â€� Jahromi said. “And they’re capitalizing on this — they’re making money on this.â€�


About the author

Mystic Maggie

All of the Mystic Maggie Posts are RSS Reader Feeds from around the web. All copyright remains with the original publisher. No copyright is claimed or intended. Where supplied, links back to the original article are included.

Permanent link to this article:


Powered by WordPress Lab
Powered by Yahoo! Answers