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

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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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31 Comments

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Mona L.

I have shoplifters come in to my business a small luxury store. They get thrown out or I call the police and also throw them out. They immediately go to YELP and YELP let's this garbage stay up. The very next day a woman named Courtney called and said if I advertised for $600 a month they could fix the "problem". Are you kidding me? WHO IS GOING TO STOP THIS SCAM SITE? WHERE ARE THE LAWYERS? BRING THEM OUT. I CAN'T AFFORD A LAWYER. I'M SICK OF THIS GARBAGE. IT'S ILLEGAL AND CALLED EXTORTION. LET'S STOP THIS YELP COMPANY NOW. SMALL BUSINESS DO NOT ADVERTISE ON YELP. BOYCOTT IT.

September 27 2013 at 7:59 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Evelynn Montgomery

I like DinnerWire better.

August 26 2013 at 12:35 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Randy Fox

Yelp tried to get me to pay them over $350 a month for my small business. Hard sale till I ask the sales guy to loan me the money to do it. I said if it's that good I'll can easily pay you back. They never called back. Google hates these directories and will eliminate them as soon as they can. If you own Yelp stock sell now,

August 26 2013 at 3:29 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tahbubba

I put in 2 good reviews for restaurants which I like a lot by my house. After the second, I was banned from yelp and both reviews were deleted. I then informed both owners of this. They said they do not pay yelp for advertising and that is why most of their reviews are negative. I have not used yelp for information as I am now aware that most of the good reviews are indirectly paid for. Yelp does essentially extort these businesses and their service is a scam.

August 25 2013 at 10:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
bigwave48

Yelp is very helpful, of course business owners are going to complain. When auto dealerships
treat customers like trash. Its nice to hear there complaints.. If they have enough of them. I
go somewhere else.

August 25 2013 at 4:48 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Shaun

yelp is the biggest joke there is! hey tried extorting me as well!! When I refused to advertise with them all my positive reviews got filters and the bad ones there were 2 at the time , stayed up and 4 more bad ones came in that day . All were fake cause they didn't even have facts right. One comment said they came in on Monday ( we are closed on Mondays) another said when they spoke with the secretary ( We don't have a secretary) They were all posted the next day and with in 15 minutes of each other. We know for sure yelp made them up and posted them and 16 positives got filtered the next day what scam artist these guys are , I will never ise yelp or advertise with them EVER!!! Beware guys!

August 25 2013 at 3:33 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Shaun's comment
betty_brock

Yelp and Obama hate small business.

August 25 2013 at 4:43 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
4 replies to betty_brock's comment
jimwho1

the answer is simple, do what I do, I have a sign in my business that say's use yelp if you want to, but also check my business web site, I list all comments, good and bad, and respond to every one, I do not delete any comments, but do have a drop off point at a year and a half, also have a suggestion box at the front door, this system has worked for me and have learned that while you can't please everybody, an honest effort goes a long way. as far as yelp here in Chicago, it has it's upside and downside, but I don't need them to help me never will, but they do seem at times to try and abuse their power, hence the sign. jimwho Chicago

August 24 2013 at 8:32 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
Catherine

I don't like the people on Yelp. It may be just my city but they almost act like they are a cult with special powers. Their website has talk threads were individuals can ask questions but most of the yelpers aren't nice or helpful.

These people need to realize they are effecting people's lives by with what they say.

August 24 2013 at 6:52 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Catherine's comment
teeessiii

I spent some time checking out the "Yelp community" in Chicago a few years back and you'd be hard-pressed to find a more pretentious, arrogant, or delusional group of spoiled yuppie morons anywhere on earth. The biggest problem with Yelp is that most of the people posting reviews are totally clueless imbeciles with no credibility whatsoever who are very much in love with the sound of their own voices.

August 26 2013 at 3:43 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
charpist5

I have never herd of yelp, but the name alone tells me it is idiotic. And likely it is filled with morons posting garbage just for fun, without caring about the consequences to the business being dissed. I personally think we should ban "social media" all together, along with these unfair, silly websites. Because honestly.....would YOU visit "Yelp" and expect anything on it to be true?

August 24 2013 at 6:33 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wwelbes

Yelp like angies list is useless.

August 24 2013 at 4:56 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply