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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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13 comments

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  1. Amit

    Yelp hides all my good reviews from over a year and displays bad ones. I hope one day Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppleman loose his business, go in hell and then he will get to know how much did he hurt to millions of lives.

  2. Guest

    Yelp should NOT be allowed to post a business without the businesses permission.

  3. Thaddeus Buttmunch

    Yelp! should NOT be extorting businesses…but they ALSO should NOT be "filtering" and removing reviews that the business doesn't like because they are "anonymous." Of COURSE they are anonymous! Customers do not want Retaliation and they may even want to come back and give the business another chance. I left a Legit negative review of someone who did work on my home and it was removed(!) I reviewed a Bar in Canada and it was removed because of a "lack of personal experience there." WHAT?!? I paid the cover and bought a Beer so what are those Turkeys jiving about??

  4. www.it4la.com

    The answer is simple, do what I do,I have a sign in my business that say's use yelp in the event that you need to,additionally check my business web site,I list all comments,good and bad, and respond to each one,I don't delete any comments,however do have a drop off point at eighteen months,likewise have a suggestion box at the front door,this system has worked for me and have discovered that while you can't please everyone,a honest exertion goes far.@Karen Campbell.

  5. Jim

    I DARE YELP to come to Seattle and do a "town-hall". I have a bucket of rotten tomatoes ready for them.

    YELP the most rotten cancer on small American businesses.

    YELP business model is EXTORTION.

    You get bad reviews at the top, everything else sinks to the bottom.

    UNLESS. YOU PAY about $5,000 a year.

  6. Mike

    Yelp or any other reviews online are not to be trusted. It is sad but many companies place face reviews on yelp or other sites.

  7. Dan

    Yelp has repeatedly allowed false and obvious hate full smears of my business. These are in direct violation of their company's own policy but they somehow seem to keep moving to the top. This even after the same person has posted multiple smears for the same incident. So we work harder to get a positive and it gets deleted every time. Especially if it is 100% positive. Than they call me and expect me to buy advertizing on their site!! Really, provide a non legit platform to bash my business, delete any positives, throw my business that has been in business since 1890 under the buss and I should pay advertizing? I think not. In fact, I think yelp needs a class action lawsuit and I will be the first to join!!
    Then yelp deletes my positive posts as well. Why? Well the only reason is the person in charge of this thinks they are just to good to be true!
    Where is the site to bash yelp like they do to every real brick and morter business!!!

  8. Kenneth L

    Yelp sucks, they allow anyone to post reviews whether they have used your business or not. I have 10 locations in 12 states and would never advertise with them.

  9. Carlo

    I have proof that Yelps filters don't work. I printed out a reviewer that reviewed my restaurant on the 4-14-13. That had reviewed 12 other restaurants on the same day in a different state. How can you be in two states on the same day. YELP SUCKS.

    1. karose13

      People don't write reviews the same day that they visited the restaurant. There is something called traveling.

  10. Jason

    Had a clearly fake negative review show up today. Every allegation was clearly false as my company does not do the things they accused us of doing. Additionally, we were able to tracing back the the first name and first letter of the last name, we were able to ascertain that the person was never a patron of our business

    1. Carey

      I had the exact same situation. I suspect the person owns, or works for, a competitor. He posted both on Google and on Yelp. The problem was, we had not begun doing business in his area at the time of his reviews. I, too, had no record of having done work for anyone by his name (neither first, nor last, name).

  11. ALEX

    FUCK YELP!!!! I HOPE THEY GO OUT OF BUSINESS!!! THEY ARE A BUNCH OF SCUM BAGS AND ALL OF THE EMPLOYEES ARE SCUM AS WELL…LET ME REFRASE THAT, THEY ARE NOT EVEN A MATTER, THEY ARE A VAPOR THAT COMES OFF THE BOTTOM OF THE NEW JERSEY SEWER!!!!

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