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News Mon Mar 09 2009
The Trib reports that Yelp.com, the opinions website that gives everyday folks a chance to applaud or criticize thousands of businesses, has been conducting some unfavorable business of its own. Yelp staffers reportedly approached owners of local businesses (e.g. Ina Pinkey of Ina's and Patty Rothman of More Cupcakes) to ask for sponsorship of Yelp events in exchange for guaranteed higher ratings for their business's entry. Graham Elliot Bowles says he had his Yelp account suspended after personally contacting reviewers whose entries about his restaurants seemed questionable, and several other business owners claim that Yelp removed positive entries after they passed on offers to advertise on the Yelp website.
This doesn't seem shocking. What comes to mind is a restaurant whose review skyrocketed after a free party held exclusively for Yelp "Chicago Elite" members a couple years ago. While the food is perfectly edible, the place will never be a culinary standout in the city. Here's a review from the night of the Yelp party: "Every bite was a mouthful of satisfaction." Now compare that to a line from their most recent review, written a few weeks ago: "It is always dead too so at least you know you'll get a seat."
Yelp, after all, is a business. Their Myths section addresses the problems cited in the Trib article and claims innocence in managing their site and customers, but I doubt that Rothman, Pinkney and Bowles are voicing their gripes merely for publicity. What do we do as customers? Continue to use it, but like any opinion, take it as another piece of information floating out there for us to use or discard.