Many of us rely on Yelp for advice on restaurants, dry cleaners, retailers, handymen, gardeners, and so on under the assumption that it is a democratic site that supports all comments, good and bad, without bias. – Nothing could be further from the truth.
I found yesterday that Yelp filters results according to certain arcane rules that are not even disclosed to the reviewers who donate their time and efforts to the website’s benefit. When a business patron writes a review it may or may not remain on the Yelp site according to these rules. There’s no real way of knowing what will stick and what won’t.
I found this out when I posted a glowing review of South County Process Service. This company, which was recommended to me by a close attorney friend had but one Yelp review at the time, and it was scathing. As opposed to that reviewer’s experience, my dealing with them was laudatory, warranting a very positive review.
When I notified County Process Service that I had posted a good review (my first on Yelp), they replied: “We’ll see if yelp filters the review. All of our good reviews get filtered. I’m not sure why yelp thinks our good reviews are fraudulent.”
When I checked a week later, Lo and Behold! My review had been removed. Did Yelp tell me about it? Not one word!
My wife, a Realtor, had a similar experience: “They seem be wary of first-time reviewers. If your first review is negative then they let you post other reviews, but if your first review is positive then they remove it. The same goes if all your reviews are positive.”
She went on: “I called Yelp after a business associate posted a positive review about me which was later removed. They hinted that if I advertised on Yelp this may not have occurred.”
Yelp’s illusion doesn’t match reality.
I contacted Yelp’s press office asking what they had to say about this (and disclosing that this story was headed for a Forbes blog) but after 24 hours received no reply.
A lawsuit about this did not clearly prove that Yelp was extorting, but it raised serious doubts. The judge, according to a Wall Street Journal article, said in his decision that the plaintiff did: “not raise more than a mere possibility that Yelp has authored or manipulated content related to Plaintiffs in furtherance of an attempt to ‘extort’ advertising revenues.” Further proof would have been required.
I am sure that the lawsuit was fueled by souls who feel as betrayed as I do today. Further web searches reveal other upcoming lawsuits and a few “I Hate Yelp” discussion sites.
But to put things into simple language, don’t believe all Yelp reviews.
Who knows how many of them have been deleted or obscured according to some secret policy? Would Yelp be a prudent investment?
It appears that the company is in a position that could well be undermined by a competitor with a more honest approach.
Article originally read on Forbes.