Why business owners hate Yelp and consumers love it

  Posted by - April 28, 2014 - CynEats Foodie Guide, Travel

I have a love/hate relationship with Yelp.

As a consumer, I love Yelp.

As someone working in the restaurant marketing industry, it can sometimes be annoying.

As someone working closely with business owners, it’s seriously like the devil.

Here’s why:

Yelp is all about connecting consumers to awesome local businesses and restaurants. You pretty much get word-of-mouth recommendations through one medium from real people, with real experiences. It’s even more perfect for travelers who need a recommendation on where to go, where to stay, and where to eat.

I literally use it ALL the time…and that’s also why I HATE it. I see the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Working for Taste Marketing Strategies (a marketing and PR agency in the restaurant, bar & nightclub industry), I have to deal with Yelp on a daily basis (mostly good).

We manage our client’s online reputation, which are often tainted by reviews on Yelp. While I agree that Yelp is helpful to improving businesses, there’s also the reviews where people b*tch about their water not getting filled in time or knocking off a star because the waitresses hair wasn’t tied up.

Not only do those negative reviews hurt a business’s overall rating, but they’re seriously super annoying to read. No joke, I’ve had one that went something like this:

“It’s been 5 minutes and our waitress hasn’t taken our order. I’m even sitting here writing this review. It’s now 6 minutes and she still isn’t here. If they had 0 star option, I’d give it to them.”

Lol. I just can’t deal.

Sometimes reviews like those “stick” and sometimes they don’t. Yelp filters out reviews through a top-secret algorithm (they won’t tell anybody), so there’s really no way of knowing which reviews will stay, and which reviews will be taken down. Unfortunately, even the 5 star ratings also get filtered out. Even my personal reviews I’ve done for places I’m in love with have been filtered out because I wasn’t a “frequent enough Yelper.” (<– that really sucks for businesses and my heart goes out to them)

The idea behind Yelp’s review filter is to protect businesses from fraudulent reviews, perhaps maybe ones coming from competitors <- – well that’s the idea anyway. It’s also to help keep Yelp reviews as “real” as possible, preventing business owners from soliciting reviews or paying for them.

Now here’s the real ugly…

yelp-reviews

Since “hate” is a strong word, I’ll use “strongly dislike” instead. I haven’t met one business owner who doesn’t “strong dislike” Yelp. I’ve talked to numerous business owners who have been contacted by Yelp to spend monthly advertising dollars. BUT… what happens when they DECLINE to spend money remains to be a much- heated debate.

It’s been “claimed” that Yelp filters out good reviews, leaving more of the negative ones up after a business refuses to advertise with them. Yelp has even fought extortion claims and you can read more about that on Forbes, Eater and New York Times. The facts and arguments in those articles are hard to ignore.

To sum it all up…

As a consumer, I take Yelp reviews with a grain of salt. I don’t believe in the star rating system as much as I did before and I tend to not read all their reviews…especially the ones where people go on just to complain about minor things.

People have different tastes, likes, and dislikes when it comes to food. Take an authentic sushi restaurant for example- some prefer sushi rolls & others prefer fresh sashimi. However, if the restaurant is truly “authentic” then they won’t be big on rolls…& they’re also pretty much non-existent in Japan.

Anyways, Yelp is a great starting point if you need a quick recommendation, but I wouldn’t believe ALL the horror stories you read online.

Have you been to a restaurant that was much more deserving than their mediocre 3-star rating or vice-versa?

What are your experiences with Yelp? Do tell below…!

yelp user

 

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32 Comments

  • Heather April 27, 2016 - 10:57 am Reply

    ANOTHER reason for business owners to hate Yelp, are the relentless sales calls we constantly receive from pushy-won’t-take-no-for-an-answer Yelp marketers trying to get at a minimum $400 a month to boost our page. The more money you pay the closer to the top of search results you get to be. Which is so flawed to the whole idea of Yelp because you pay instead of earn popularity. When the sales people have called MULTIPLE times (at least once a week) and we say we’re not interested they prod for answers to why not, and then they throw shade at you for not wanting any part of it. I’ve had to HANG UP on them because they won’t let me off the phone. Now that I understand how Yelp really works I don’t trust it at all.

    • Mike March 10, 2017 - 9:33 pm Reply

      As a restaurant owner, I will never give the money. We have about 13 5 star reviews that yelp will not add with the others because of their system they use. I think its total BS. Plus, you can’t always believe what some people say. Ive had experiences where I’ve talked to a table, smoothed things over and they left happy saying how they can’t wait to come back then BOOM! 1 star review saying how they never spoke to a manager and no one did anything to help them. That will go up 1st on the list of new reviews for sure, but not a positive review even though its a blatant lie. Id gladly own up to a mistake, but these types are just silly. Also, one guest gave us a 1 star recently because we were on a 1 hour wait and we wouldn’t seat them ahead of everyone else. No lie. Too much unchecked power.

  • Ward October 13, 2015 - 1:28 pm Reply

    Why is it that my company has 99 reviews and yelp only prints 25 ? Oops,make that 21 posted they changed it today, Also out of that 99 reviews 85 are 4/5 stars,yet I’m rated as a 3.5 star company.Mathematically that doesn’t work out.Also is it typical that 75% of the people who write reviews are frauds? According to yelp they are.I would not of thought that there are some many people who just sit around writing fake reviews.Tripadvisor,Zagat and even Google have been doing reviews for years and yet there is no other review site hated as much as yelp.By the way did I mention that I don’t pay for advertising on yelp? Didn’t have to did I ?Could this be why yelp’s stock is at an almost all time low? 

  • Ward April 2, 2015 - 5:33 pm Reply

    I hear some people say they used yelp and it was o.k. It gave them good info on services.Great ,We are not saying that yelpers can’t direct you to some good businesses but they can steer you away from some honest companies simply because those company did not cave in and paid for advertising.I will say that yelp does cost the consumer more money for those services that are highly rated/advertise.My business is primarily repeat/referrals.Now if another business has to pay yelp $1200.00 a month for advertising/reviews where do you think they get their money from? You,the consumer. If yelp was truly the unbiased review site that is portraying itself to be then no one would have to pay for advertising. That’s why they tell companies not to ask real customers to send in reviews,seriously they have a section on “Don’t ask customers for reviews”.If a person sees a company that has a 5 star rating with 100′s of great reviews who did not advertise next to a company who pays big bucks for advertising or for being placed on top of the search list with only 3 stars who do you think the customer will contact?

  • […] with everything here. Especially because I read/heard mixed reviews about the place. People on Yelp complain about the prices and inconsistent quality (they just opened in 2014). But after my meal […]

  • Jason Bizowner March 13, 2015 - 11:44 pm Reply

    I’m a business owner. We have 4-5 stars on Yelp in 3 of our 4 major markets. But, I do strongly dislike Yelp. We have _hundreds_ actually at this point over a thousand screened reviews. They are all real customers. The one market where we have poor reviews, we have 220 screened reviews – only 4 of the screened reviews are one star while over 200 are four or five star. Further, plenty of “101s” stick that are one star that automatically drop when they are four or five star.

    We have been approached multiple times by Yelp for advertising. Their claim that they have no responsibility for ratings is just false. They make the filter – the filter has bias.

    We view Yelp as literally an extortion business. Their sales reps are modern versions of guys in expensive suits asking you for protection money. We did advertise with them for a time, and it would be a mistatement to say service was poor as there simply was no service.

    Lastly, the Elite system – we are finding – now encourages “elites” and those with reviews that stick to basically extort businesses. We regularly have power Yelpers seek preferential treatment. These people create a lot of free content for Yelp. Their compensation is to demand discounts and special treatment from businesses. In our opinion, this is intentional. This is how Yelp compensates them for content.

    At the same time we are afraid of Yelp. They do manipulate; in our experience they are not forthright or honest.

    So, “dislike” is not accurate. It’s a mixture of dislike and fear. Yelp is the modern version of a guy in an expensive suit with a gun asking for protection.

  • Perri May 28, 2014 - 10:10 pm Reply

    I work for a small doctor’s office and we have 2 reviews posted on yelp both are 1 star reviews. The 1st was from a patient who had only written negative reviews on her yelp page and stated she was calling the better business bureau for every single one, shows what kind of person she is. The second review came from a patient claiming we charged them over $200 for a doctor’s visit they thought should have been free and billing refused to help them. The person used a fake name so it was tough to figure out who it was. When I asked someone in billing about it they said the only situation they had similar to it but the person was charged $15 copay NOT $200, big difference! I contacted yelp several times to take the second review down since it has false information and they refused. Meanwhile we have many positive review that are hidden because yelp didn’t recommend them, go figure that one out!

  • May May 14, 2014 - 6:38 pm Reply

    Yelp is for soccer moms who think they are food critics. Also it allows waitstaff and bartenders to be called out by name. I know two waitresses/students who have lost there jobs because of this. People make mistakes and it should be brought to their attention by management. Not called out publicly on the internet media. Sub par service isn’t a life or death situation, unless you give the wrong guy a peanut.

  • Hugh May 14, 2014 - 4:59 pm Reply

    We hired a nanny for our child thru an extremely expensive agency, and while we were told that all the background checks were done, they weren’t. Our nanny turned out to be a convicted felon who had done hard time in a woman’s federal prison. We posted this information on Yelp, in both places where the agency was listed, citing all of the facts, and our review was removed from BOTH listings. I emailed Yelp stating that I was happy to share all of the files from the Private Investigator that we hired substantiating our review, but we received no response. I just hope someone’s infant is not hurt by this woman.

  • Leisha May 12, 2014 - 1:55 pm Reply

    This is the first time I’ve looked at YELP.
    None of the posts say where a place is located. Am I missing something?

  • Kimo May 11, 2014 - 7:46 pm Reply

    First of all, great blog! Thanks for highlighting great places in the city I’ve never heard of before. Keep up the great work!

    So…I used to be the annoying Yelp rep calling businesses (sorry small business owners!). Just wanted to touch on a few things.

    The extortion claims against Yelp will always have a hard time in court. The review filter affects all businesses the same. Just look at the comments here. You have business owners that declined to advertise with Yelp (Chris) and ones that did (Shiva). Both had their reviews filtered. Paying doesn’t bring filtered reviews back and declining advertising doesn’t get them filtered. Any rep that promises otherwise will get fired on the spot if caught (easy to do in an open office floor plan).

    For businesses worried about those obnoxious reviews, don’t sweat it. Ever read the comments section of articles and wonder how so many obnoxious people have such strong opinions (not in this comment section of course ;))? Yup, those are the same people leaving obnoxious reviews of your business on Yelp. Try to take the feedback in stride (kudos to Sarah for this) and know that most people are smart enough to skip over the annoying reviews.

    Does the advertising program work? Ehhhhh… I’ve seen it work for some and not so much for others. We can talk about that another time though.

    Yelp isn’t going anywhere, so we all have a hand in making things as pleasant as possible. To the business owners, the fact that you were brave enough to follow your passion and share it with your community is awesome. If a Yelper writes about your biz (positive or not) you should think about responding. People like engaged owners and I have gone back to businesses because of this.To Yelp reps, ease up on the high pressure sales calls. You’re selling ads, this isn’t Wolf of Wall St. To obnoxious Yelpers knocking off stars in reviews because “the parking sucks,” I have nothing to say to you. You are the scum of the earth.

  • Joah Spearman May 11, 2014 - 5:43 pm Reply

    cyneats, I highly recommend you check out Localeur.com because I think you’ll like what you see. The problem with Yelp is that that position themselves as a recommendation service, but really it’s just a bunch of reviews. There is a huge difference between someone recommending something (a positive, uplifting thing for local businesses) and someone reviewing something (a sometimes negative, snarky thing that can hurt local businesses).

  • Koebin May 10, 2014 - 6:50 pm Reply

    Yelp by design is just a slightly more PC version of crsigslist a rants & raves section. Yelp is a parasitic business which has no real product and feeds off the fears of small business. It’s sort of a brilliant business plan if you think about it, but ultimately it’s proven to be an unreliable source of real world information.

  • Jbaez May 9, 2014 - 11:20 pm Reply

    Restaurant and Hospitality professionals who work for reputable establishments know to completely ignore yelp. It’s nothing more than a sounding board for complainers who I wouldn’t want taking up seats in my restaurant anyway. The whole idea behind it is absurd. I have friends who share my same interests and tastes and those are the people I go to when I’m looking for a recommendation for something. Why anyone would base where they’re going to spend there money on what a bunch of strangers are saying on some web site with a nonsensical star rating system is beyond me. Then again, if you’re someone who either thinks everyone on the internet cares about what you have to say or you complain a lot, chances are you don’t have many friends.
    Poor Food Writing started all of this. A well experienced Food Writer does research before a review in order to find out if the Restaurant is delivering the food and service they’re aiming for. However somewhere along the line it became more common for writers to simply complain about a place because it didn’t satisfy their simplistic tastes (especially when there wasn’t a comp or discount involved). Now with sites like yelp everyone thinks they’re a professional critic.
    The only good thing about this site is a lot of these yahoos keep each other out of places that are delivering an authentic experience leaving more room for people who can think for themselves

  • Kenzo May 9, 2014 - 6:25 pm Reply

    I’m not a big yelp user, but I definitely use yelp to help decide on a place to eat at. It would be cool if there was an option to filter specific users and remove their ratings from the overall review score, just for my personal yelp. I read way too many negative reviews for minor things that don’t bother me, or matter about the food. One example was a 1 star rating because the cafe didn’t allow people to use their laptops. The food is top notch and the lattes are awesome, not a 1 star worthy rating at all, I’m looking to eat not use a laptop. Being able to filter them out and have the review score adjust for that would be great. Maybe I should have a yelp account and you can already do that… I should look into it.

  • thane May 9, 2014 - 2:11 am Reply

    Yelp filters reviews, based on whether or not companies pay advertising. Any company that filters reviews for money is garbage. Yelp is garbage. Further, average diners don’t know food as well as experienced food critics, and people are vastly more likely to complain than they are to praise. Coming and going, Yelp is garbage.

  • restaurantgoer May 8, 2014 - 1:37 am Reply

    The thing is, even if you discount all the claims of manipulation by Yelp, it’s a trusim that people are more likely to leave a negative review than a positive one. The number I remember from when I worked in the industry was seven times more likely, although that could have been BS. So basically no matter how good you are, Yelp is probably going to hurt you more than it helps you. Because a regular word-of-mouth review would just be forgotten, but with Yelp, they live on forever.

  • Chris May 7, 2014 - 11:29 am Reply

    I’ve had the exact same thing happen to me and my small business.meverything was great for the first couple of years until Yelp contacted me about their paid advertising. Since I didn’t sign up the negative reviews took over my page and it seemed like all the five star ones disappeared. It’s really unfortunate!

  • John May 7, 2014 - 1:38 am Reply

    Yelp truly has a fault business model. Their paying customers are business owners, yet they treat them as horrible as can be, while their “elite” reviewers are treated as kings. Let’s remember something first. Small business owners are the lifeblood of any local economy. They have the courage to take high risks, often times sacrificing their life savings, family and time for their business. When some “elite” Yelp reviews rips apart a small business, it more than a cowardly act of a person who has never been in the shoes of a business owner. Time for these people to get off their high horse and make a greater contribution to society than to express their opinion of their risk-adversed life.

    My suggestion to business owners. Get on the class action lawsuit against Yelp and get the contact information of everyone of these Yelp reviewers. If it’s freedom of speech, then you should have the courage to stand behind your comments in court when you sue them for your loss of business.

  • Sarah May 5, 2014 - 2:15 pm Reply

    So much like the author of this article, I have a love/hate relationship with yelp. Personally, I love using it to find great local places for dinner, auto shops, nails, and so on. But as the manager of a small cake shop, yelp is truly evil! About 4-5 years ago we noticed we had a more than a few reviews that our cupcakes were less than stellar. We took this very seriously and revamped. Bigger cupcakes, better recipes, even a different way to store them to improve freshness. And while we have received new awesome reviews about or cupcakes, the old ones are still there! Seriously, reviews from 5 years ago, still there! What is the point of improving if yelp doesn’t even give you the option to improve? And the filtered reviews? Crap. We have plenty of 5 star reviews, all filtered and hidden. I don’t know how that system works but it clearly needs an overhaul.

  • Howard May 5, 2014 - 8:49 am Reply

    Competition is fierce in my city of almost 1 million . I manage a retail /tattoo business that has a great reputation . We are very proud of our consistent glowing reviews on yelp which now are over 200 . All of this done without advertising on Yelp. Yelp hounds us all the time stating we could reach so many more views if we just pay for ads. I always tell them we are doing just fine . Even though our competition pays for banner positions when customers view our listing on yelp .
    The main thing that really upset me about Yelp : our closest competitor a 1/2 mile away closed their doors and moved to a new address that is now around the corner from us . but They changed their name , has all completely new staff and more funding , it’s a completely different business and were somehow able to merge all their old reviews from their previous business into their new one under a different name. That is totally unfair and gives an unfair advantage for those that can afford it.

  • Matt May 1, 2014 - 10:32 pm Reply

    The biggest issue at hand is that Yelp is not going away. In fact, it’s becoming more relevant than ever. If you google a business you will see that a yelp listing sometimes shows up ahead of a company’s actual website in the google search. Also note that yahoo is now using yelp instead of yahoo local listings.

    I agree that many people go on there to complain or even a competitor will go on there to bad mouth your business. Yelp does have rules in place to discredit bogus reviews. For instance if someone bad mouths your business and mentions another instead, you may be able to get that removed.

    It’s important to note that some yelp negative reviews are authentic, and can give you great insight into your business practices. If you engage with a negative yelper and make an attempt to show that you are trying to fix the problem and do the right thing, people will see that and it shows that you care.

    In regards to the software that lowers a bad review, there’s some merit to it but at the same time you are potentially putting a band aid on a gunshot wound. Addressing the negative review will help you figure out if there is a problem so you can fix it and prevent the same complaint from arising again.

    I know that yelp and review sites are extremely frustrating, but like I said, unfortunately it’s not going anywhere. The important thing is to have a strategy in place. feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions. My company specializes in local listings and social media management strategies and have taken numerous companies from 1 star to 4 or 5.

    • Chamindri May 4, 2014 - 4:27 pm Reply

      Need help

  • In the business May 1, 2014 - 6:05 pm Reply

    For someone who’s been using yelp so much you should already know.
    Yelp is taking of great reviews and calling businesses to “collect” money so they will repost them.
    I have friend who are calls all the time from yelp to be asked to pay or open an account with yelp and by doingso the reviews will come back.
    Yelp is nice but it a business too

  • David April 30, 2014 - 10:19 pm Reply

    :You make an interesting point about advertising with yelp vs not advertising. My father owns a small limousine and wine tour business. He made the fateful decision to sign up for a year of advertising. Not only has the advertising failed to provide any return on investment, when my father asked his rep why 20 out of the 22 reviews have been “filtered,” the rep told him there was absolutely nothing that could be done and that yelp has the “best algorithms” to ensure business are accurately represented by reviews…. Please tell that to the 20 real customers who had their reviews “filtered.”

    • Shiva May 7, 2014 - 5:27 pm Reply

      I completely agree. I advertised for one year and what a waist of money, at 300 -a month for 12 month.
      3600 in their pocket and maybe I got 5 customers out of that, not even paid for itself, but put pocketbook in a deeper hole.
      I also had 22 reviews and 20 filtered. Isn’t that odd how they run a company and cannot control their own buttons, we had actually paying customer who write good reviews and they were filtered.

  • Sandy April 30, 2014 - 4:55 am Reply

    I completely agree with you. Although I find yelp useful to find to new places, I also hate that some people go on there to complain.

  • Peonies April 29, 2014 - 10:03 am Reply

    This isn’t restaurant related, but my favorite nail salon has such bad reviews posted on their yelp page. I don’t understand this because I think they’re the best in my area, and all my local friends agree. We’ve also done reviews for them but they were also taken down after a week or so. They deserve so much more praise than what is being portrayed on yelp.

    • CynEats May 7, 2014 - 6:56 pm Reply

      I agree with you! I’m always on the search for a good nail salon in my area and most of them have 3 stars with some pretty bad reviews, which makes me hesitant to give them a shot. But when I do decide to check them out, the service is actually decent and the nail technicians are amazing at what they do! It’s such a shame that these businesses are portrayed to be completely different online.

  • Tera House April 29, 2014 - 8:00 am Reply

    Last week I tried a restaurant with a 4 star rating and great reviews on Yelp, but I was so disappointed. I thought they only deserved 3 stars at best, also the service was so disappointing.

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