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Yelp Sued for Burying Bad Reviews for Advertisers

 1:31 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

If the allegations are true, Yelp provides a good example of how to destroy the credibility of your user-generated content.

A California veterinary center has sued review site Yelp for allegedly promising to bury bad reviews in exchange for purchasing $3,600 worth of advertising on the site.

"Yelp frequently exercises its control over the Yelp.com listing application to modify business listing pages to the advantage of businesses that purchase Yelp advertising subscriptions, and the disadvantage of those that decline," Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital owner Gregory Perrault alleges in a complaint filed in federal district court in the central district of California.

Yelp Sued For Offering To Bury Bad Reviews In Exchange For Ads [mediapost.com]



 2:36 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

That is an interesting business plan. Comments on a NY Times article on the same subject echoed many "they tried it with us too" comments.

I would think that with some phone record analysis this would be pretty straightforward to determine. Business owners are claiming to have received dozens of phone calls attempting to sell them ads, and those calls will leave an easy trail to follow.


 2:37 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

About time. I read about their "service" they offer in Inc Magazine a few months ago. Sounded shady to me, and I remember thinking that it was a business service I would never think of offering because it seemed like extortion.

They even boasted about it the Inc article. They talked about roping businesses in with a free account to manage their "page", and then they would send in the sales force to aggressively pitch the paid services they offer.


 2:54 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I can't help but wonder if some of the bad reviews don't get posted by individuals working on the behest of either Yelp directly or individuals in the sales force to help force businesses into buying "protection".

Manipulating the reviews in any shape form or fashion would be an abuse waiting to happen.

travelin cat

 3:17 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've always felt that review sites are highly suspect and easily gamed. Yelp is not the only one, a huge travel related site has been having problems with fake reviews.


 3:35 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

Think of what we do to get links or increase our PR. The same scams and dubious tactics are used there too, I'm sure when it comes to reviews to beat /bury the competition.


 4:08 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

<Channeling Dilbert>

Enter Facebook, to decree -> "~Oh, hear ye of the value of trusted recommendations from people you know . . your . . friends . . "

Which will work, at least until the day we learn that our "friend" . . who badly needs the money because he/she lost his job . . because of spending too much time socializting . . is actually less a friend and more a part of a paid/"comped" network of social (marketing) influencers . . who achieved that status . . and got the new "job" . . because of all the time and effort spent . . socializing instead of working . .

Don't worry, though, because by the time awareness of the scale of that exploit brings down Facemark . . we'll already have crossed the event horizon and be circling the . . Help! . . I . . can't . . think . . for myself . . drain, due to some exploit . . or excess . . of the neuroscience marketing gang.

Neuroscience Marketer: "Yes, sir-ee, we really tapped into their limbic system this time! They so terrified that they can't stop eating our Mac-a-Doodles! Oh, wait . . They keep pressing the pellet . . er . . Mac-a-Doodle bar . . and now they're dying from eating too many Mac-a-Doodles! Quick! Pull the plug on their brain . . before we loose all our customers . . !

Ah, who cares about a few rigged reviews or influencer marketing or the hard-wiring of our brains? Free will, independent thought and rational fact-based judgment have long been over-estimated and over-rated. Someone please summons the Borg. I'm tired of the effort and pretense of thinking . . that I think for myself. "Borg me up, Scottie!"

Danger! Danger Will Robinson!

Yes, the robots will save us . . or maybe just replace us.

</Channeling Dilbert>

[edited by: Webwork at 4:55 pm (utc) on Feb 25, 2010]


 4:24 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yelp has always smelled like a rat to me so this is no shocker.

I can't help but wonder if some of the bad reviews don't get posted by individuals working on the behest of either Yelp directly or individuals in the sales force to help force businesses into buying "protection".

No need because any customers having a bad experience or unscrupulous competitors are going to do the job for them.

Besides, I can't take someone else's bad review too seriously.

For instance, my sis-in-law hates pepper and one of my favorite steak houses uses a decent amount of pepper, so she would obviously write a bad review for what I consider a wonderful place.

That's what makes horse races.


 4:49 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I can't believe it's taken this long. And, I can't believe this isn't a class action. I've talked a few clients through dealing with Yelp, and it's always been the same: It's a scam, and if they were a real review site they'd know that bad reviews lend credibility to good ones. I've never really liked the look and feel of Yelp, but once I heard they had actually tried to charge my clients for a good review, I knew the day would come when they'd get sued. Good news for many.


 5:07 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I've found Yelp reviews to be pretty accurate. Maybe I've been lucky.

I certainly don't think all the reviews are accurate or valid though. I caught my former employer (A well known SEO firm) putting fake good reviews on Yelp; so, of course like a good citizen of the web I reported it to Yelp. The reviews were removed.

Though I am sure there are many instances such as my example above, the reviews are usually not too far off.


 5:49 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I'm sure businesses don't like them, but negative reviews are often better thought out and documented than positive ones. Many a time I've been sold based on "negative" reviews that clarify what my expectations should be for the real-world use of the product, or cite problems which are based on too-high expectations or are irrelevant to my needs.


 6:22 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

>>I've been sold based on "negative" reviews

Absolutely - I like Amazon's presentation of the top positive and top negative reviews, and the ability to view reviews by rating. I'll still buy a product with negative reviews, though sometimes I'll give it a pass if the negatives are credible and are directly related to my needs/wants.

>>class action

Perhaps the big-time tort lawyers don't think Yelp has enough cash to bother with. Toyota has $20 billion socked away, and is drawing lawsuits like a magnet in a junkyard.


 6:46 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

I also find "negative" reviews that are constructively written valuable in better understanding the product I'm going to buy. They don't necessarily stop me from buying the product, rather they help me know shortcomings of the product and allow me to manage my expectations. I especially like "negative" reviews that provide a workaround to a shortcoming of a product.

In the end, negative reviews can actually help me be happier with a product because I already know about its shortcomings ahead of time and thus wasn't disappointed to find something not as I expected.

If I see an nonconstructive "slander" type review I tend to ignore them as someone with an axe to grind unless I see a pattern of negative reviews.

subhankar ray

 8:25 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

This will make tackling the 'local problem' by other companies harder..

BTW, are companies like Yelp solving any burning problem?


 8:29 pm on Feb 25, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yelp is fake. They used to run ads on Craigslist looking for "writers". These days, most of the reviews are written by wanna be writers mostly bashing businesses.


 12:34 am on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

Last year, I went around my city talking to local businesses. I was putting up a guide to the city and each business got their own page. Almost every single business I talked to told me about Yelp. The story was the same. After you have a lot of reviews, they ask you to pay them money. if you don't, then they move all the bad reviews to the top. There was even an article about it in a local paper. This was a full year ago!


 5:43 am on Feb 26, 2010 (gmt 0)

Ummmm, I've used Yelp exactly ZERO times to help me decide on something so... yeah.


 9:05 am on Mar 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

The scary part about Yelp is that you cant opt out as a merchant. If someone has an axe to grind it stays and shows up in Google. From there you have to try to get more positive reviews then bad, maybe list Yelp on your site or give in and pay.

We all know that a satisfied customer is less likely to review then a disgruntled one, at least the ones I've seen. A built in income maker for yelp.

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