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Why is Yelp so wrong?

Not trying to level any personal attacks at people who like the site but I'm continually amazed at how useless Yelp is. The reviews tend to be inaccurate and mostly emphasize telling a story or being cool rather than simply giving an idea of what the experience of the establishment was. Review after review are filled with statements that are just plain wrong. Just wanted to put this out there and see what people think about Yelp.

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  1. I agree, I find Yelp useless. One prime example, a poster complaining that there were "too many posts" regarding a certain restaurant. I find the bigger the sampling of opinions the better.

    I rarely go to Yelp, but sometimes I need a laugh, and read some reviews. It seems like a site for kids in their early 20's (Im only 37)

    2 Replies
    1. re: swsidejim

      I've got to agree with your assessment. A lot of 20-somethings who like to hear themselves talk, preening online about the newest hip place. But then again, there are more than a few those in Manhattan, some of whom post on CH. You've just got to cut through the chaff...

      1. re: JungMann

        i'm a 20 something and i like to hear myself talk, so cool it. ;)

        with yelp, though, i think it has something to do with the fact that posts are rated for being "cool" (or useful). and everyone knows it's cooler to be cool than useful.

    2. I'm a fan of both sites and find the border war between the users of both to be fairly amusing. My observation is that the demographic is pretty different between the two sites. The story telling and emphasis on being funny does get on my nerves at times (although I've been guilty of it too now and then), but in general if I want to see something through the eyes of a crowd that are younger/hipper, that's where I'll lean. In contrast, the reviews on CH tend to be oriented toward more upscale (not necessarily by price) tastes.

      7 Replies
      1. re: jgg13

        I don't use yelp, but agree that overall it seems to be a younger crowd than on chowhound. I agree that I think it's just a different demographic -- not any better or worse than chowhound.

        1. re: Miss Needle

          In general, in terms of food & drink, I find Yelp's best at getting insight into bars, dives, etc and tend to increasingly trust the judgement of CH as you move up the scale. Also, Yelp covers things that aren't food, which is useful (although another thing that annoys me is the habit of reviewing anything and everything in an effort to get a higher review count). As with everything, you just need to read the reviews and you start to learn who tends to synch w/ your ideals and who doesn't.

          1. re: jgg13

            Wow! You folks obviously aren't regular readers/posters to the Chowhound SFBayArea board! Taco trucks, Grocery Outlet, BBQ places, Chinese BBQ, best bahn mi, etc., etc. are liberally mixed into the reviews of upscale restaurants.

            1. re: oakjoan

              I'm not a regular on the SF board, but am on the Manhattan one. And I understand what jgg13 is saying. For example, it was poster Lau who brought me attention to Madangsui, who learned it from Yelp. While Korean food is discussed extensively on the Manhattan board, it seems that most of the reviews are about a few key restaurants while there are so many other Korean restaurants in NYC. And if someone brings up a new place just casually (unless it's from a widely known poster or they have absolute wonderful writing skills or they speak in hyperbole), a lot of these reviews kind of get ignored. A lot of chowhounders have their favorites, and some of them seem unwilling to deviate from them. What you see are a lot of the same places being talked about over and over again. Yelp seems to talk about certain restaurants that aren't in the Chowhound circle (yeah, i know the whole point of being a hound is to blaze trails, etc -- but I also find that a lot of people just rely on the ol' Chowhound faves).

              1. re: Miss Needle

                This is by no means universal, but my experience w/ boston yelp is that, at least for restaurants, not much gets "discussed" (I'm assuming you mean the talk boards - as the reviews are much more 'pull' in terms of how one acquires information) that isn't already discussed on boston CH. If anything, from reading both boards pretty heavily, almost all of the "restaurant news" I see show up on boston yelp was posted on boston ch a few hours earlier (implying that this was the source, as most of the people who post those things also post on CH).

                The talk boards are a lot more people chit chatting, causing trouble, having fun, etc and sometimes useful information shows up.

                1. re: jgg13

                  Yeah, there may be differences of Yelp depending on city and type of cuisine you're looking for. For example, I don't think I've seen any posts for Madangsui on CH before Lau posted it.

              2. re: oakjoan

                That's not really what I meant. In fact, most of the lowly "hidden gems" that I know of come from CH (and in general seem to flow from CH to Yelp in Boston). I was referring more to the refinement/demographic of the posters. For instance, on Boston Yelp I feel old, stodgy, etc. On Boston CH, I feel young, hip, etc.

                I'll say one thing though, I'd trust a review about a watering hole on Yelp 100x more than I ever would on Chowhound. Whenever I see people on CH asking for a bar that meets XYZ criteria, they're always being pointed to something that at *worst* (in 'divey' terms) is one of the new gastropub type places. Given that those are not what I think of when *I* ask for 'a bar', well ... :)

        2. Is a useful source to find out about new restaurants or unknown restaurants regardless of the review.

          6 Replies
          1. re: kare_raisu

            I can't stand it in Charlotte. There are reviews of restaurants in Charlotte written by people whose profiles say they are in California. There's a review of my favorite Thai restaurant by a guy who clearly has never been there. It's an online smear campaign weapon and I don't read it anymore. It also seems to have been mostly written by kids.

            1. re: southernitalian

              So people traveling shouldn't review places they visit? How does that make sense? Sure, things are different when you're a regular, but not everyone has that kind of patience or dedication, and want to know what a place is like the first and only time they go. I read up on places I want to eat at when I'm traveling, and if I learn that it's only good for regulars... I'll skip it. It's useful information.If a review looks fake or inappropriate, you can flag it. Say why and if it's a good reason, it will be taken down.
              Yelp has it's demographic. If reading someone's telling of their story is annoying to you, then Yelp isn't for you. Just like if people don't like sometimes ridiculous food snobbery, CH isn't for them. Yelp is way more searchable, and more easy to sort through the results. Putting in a restaurant name on CH may just lead you to a 5 year old discussion that's not what you wanted but had the same keywords.
              If you ask a friend for a review of a restaurant, they're going to tell you. If they think the waiters were rude or they have a funny story about the place, they'll offer it up. Same as Yelp. Not everyone is a food writer and can express their thoughts about a soup base or the over-caramelization of an onion. If you want to read a food critic's perspective, Yelp isn't for you.
              On the other hand, there's a lot of ridiculous chatter in the message boards. CH has interesting posts and you wont get sucked into reading inside jokes between a few members, back and forth. But, if I want to find good "___" in the city of "____" Yelp is way more user friendly than CH.

              1. re: Azizeh Barjesteh

                My point was that in a disturbing number of them, it's obvious they've not visited the restaurant. They make references to the decor or items on the menu that don't exist. It's the same 5 or 6 people. Really takes the legitimacy out of it.

                1. re: southernitalian

                  I could be wrong, but I think they have an option to ignore a user?

                  If so, if someone was too stupid to live in your eyes, you could effectively just killfile them.

                  1. re: jgg13

                    I've taken it a step further. I ignore the web site. Can't speak for your town but there are posts in mine that are false claims. Why would I waste my time?

            2. re: kare_raisu

              I totally agree. Yelp, like any/all information, is what you make of it. I can see why people see it as odd or don't like the format or any number of things. However as information I find it useful. Great for quick info and a quick sense of things...like CH you have to filter and read between the lines.

            3. The longer Yelp is around, the less useful I find it for restaurant reviews. I find that the reviews for other local businesses like auto mechanics or locksmiths can be a little more useful. While there is still some obvious shilling in those categories, there seems to be less pressure to entertain other yelpers on such pages.

              1. Yelp used to be much more informative about 5 years ago. Now, there's just a bit too much off-tangent chatter. There are still good bits here and there, but more often than not the chatter drowns it out.

                One thing that makes Chowhound very much different than Yelp is that with Chowhound there's more of a dialogue between posters. At Yelp, it's generally one poster posting a review (not counting their forums of course); it's much more static in that respect.

                Not saying one is better than the other -- cuz, there's alot static chatter going on Chowhound ever since the move to Chow -- but clearly the two sites have different demographics and goals in mind.

                Sometimes you want to drive a Mini Cooper; other times you really want that Maybach.

                Not saying which site is which ...

                1 Reply
                1. Actually, I tend to prefer Yelp to Chowhound for a lot of things. CH tends to be dominated by curiosity seekers, while a lot of Yelp entries, especially for ethnic restaurants, are written by people who grew up in a certain area eating a certain kind of food, and their opinions tell you a lot about the way things really are. Also, because of the nature of the beast, Yelp wankers are a lot easier to pick out than their CH equivalents.

                  1 Reply
                  1. Yelp is helpful for areas that are located a bit beyond the city-cores. I live in the far 'burbs and there just isn't much that is good out there food-wise (if I want to eat well, I have to go to the city). I appreciate letting others be the guinea pigs.

                    But I really do want to kill the people who review Taco Bell.

                    1. I like to think of myself as being able to use both Yelp and CH effectively. If I read about a new restaurant on CH, I check Yelp to see what reviews there are and vice versa.

                      I like the format of Yelp, how you can create lists of say, taquerias you've tried, or the Vietnamese restaurants you like. Lists help greatly when I try to get a perspective of where the reviewer has eaten. I find this feature effective when I try to find, say the best Pho place or other cheap ethnic eatery in Oakland. This type of query is not covered as vastly on CH, mostly due to the demographic I guess.

                      I find the sort feature an easy way to filter through useless reviews. I usually sort by rating to get a sense of what the restaurant isn't so great at, and then by time, to see what reviewers have been saying lately. I look for reviews that just list the food and descriptions, and pay more attention to those. I also like how Yelp has more interior photos of restaurants.

                      I've received bad recommendations from both sites, it's just a matter of knowing how to filter through them really.

                      1. It's like anything else, if you make the effort to find people that are reliably thoughtful you can get a lot out of it. Yelp's reviews may be more like to say, "True that" and "Woot!" - but many CH reviews are just as pointless but more verbose.

                        1. I think Yelp in a Second Life might be worthwhile, just not in this one...

                          1. Well I must say it's been interesting to get the different perspectives that people have of Yelp. I actually used Yelp the other day to find a good place to get an oil change the other day and found it to be more helpful for non-food related subjects. Perhaps food is just to nuanced of a subject for Yelp as one of my biggest problems with the site is all the inaccuracies that I find.

                            1. As a CH member, I have to say I prefer Yelp.

                              First, the format is a lot better. On CH, there are random postings but seems like no real organization to find an area and research the places there. Putting in my hometown of Manhattan Beach yields a lot of references of all types and tough to narrow and find things.

                              Yelp, you put in a city - you get the complete city. Next, put in sushi and you get sushi listings in that city. Just that easy. But Yelp then goes way beyond just food to other local flavors, etc. (which I also enjoy)

                              I enjoy eating out, and like to do research on places before I go spend (waste) money on them. A lot of newer restaurants constantly spring up, and people are actively seeking them out and postings.

                              As a road warrior (travel 70% of a month), I appreciate the ability to research local places. And then will also review the places I go. I see a lot of other roadwarriors that do the same thing.

                              Yes, it is a younger crowd and yes there is a type of community feel to it. But you can bypass those areas if you wish. I actually like some of the stuff they post and comment on. (sadly I am not a 20-something any longer ...)

                              Before CH, I used to like Zagat as well. But somehow their rating system was a bit too cryptic for my understanding. Then I found CH. But the interface, format and lack of search abilities was not to my liking (and driving me crazy), so I moved to Yelp.

                              Its a choice people ... and we do live in the Land of Freedom. And we all have choices here.

                              Richard K.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: rlknapp1

                                I use both Yelp and CH. I'm mainly a yelp user since I think their social networking and ability to see my friend's reviews is much easier for me. The dialogue in CH is more useful though, especially since you get to see arguments pitted for/against a restaurant by multiple points of view.

                                I do agree though that CH has more cred with the publishing folks (magazines, newspapers)...or at least they're more read.

                                1. re: rlknapp1

                                  Totally agree re: choices. There isn't one site that fits all, and we have to decide for ourselves which site(s) to use to best suit our chowing needs.

                                  While there has been some effort in trying to organize the CH boards a bit with stuff like Places and of course the breakdown into regional boards, I actually enjoy the randomness and lack of organization, because it adds an element of serendipity. This also serves as an indirect reminder that finding good chow requires serious exploration -- if we just make a list from an effective guide and eat off that list, we'd never uncover the unknowns. Then there would only be a rehash of old stuff or new places that are at the forefront of the media because they hire good PR firms.

                                  It sounds inefficient, but exploration is one the most fun parts of chowhounding -- treasure hunting for hidden delicious food, and trying to crack a restaurant's menu like a puzzle. It's nice to have someone report something to you, but it's even better to find it on your own.

                                  1. re: limster

                                    Good point, Limster. Miss seeing you!

                                  2. re: rlknapp1

                                    >>and we do live in the Land of Freedom.

                                    Sounds like Yelp is worth a visit.

                                  3. day to day i use yelp nowadays, because it covers more ground and more restaurants
                                    chowhound tends to beat the same topics over and over and over...
                                    but every once in a while i find a thread that is great...which is better than anything that yelp could ever offer...
                                    i think i am right inbetween the two demographics
                                    high end/low end
                                    20 something 30 something

                                    16 Replies
                                    1. re: modernist

                                      The personal bookmark function is very helpful. You can track place you want to check out. That alone is worth joining. If CH offered that, I'd use it here first.

                                      1. re: ML8000

                                        But CH does offer that. Just check the Favorite Topic box at the top and you'll have it bookmarked.

                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                          Yelp actually makes an organized list of specific places that only has a quick summary and location/info. The list can be categorzied several ways...by type of place, city, to try, etc. It's very easy to use and tracks the place you want to try very fast. CH you have to muddle through things. There might be ways to keep a list but it's not intuitive.

                                          1. re: ML8000

                                            Can you post on Yelp about an upcoming trip to another city and get a whole threads worth of real time recommendations based on the dining interests and financial concerns you have?

                                            1. re: Servorg

                                              I don't really know. You can start a discussion topic about anything...so I guess it can be done. I've never done it. I only use yelp as a reference and place holder.

                                              1. re: Servorg

                                                i post on yelp and chowhound when i travel and weigh and research results from both...

                                                  1. re: thew

                                                    Can you link to one? I have never seen anything like what local Chowhounds routinely do for out of town visitors on Yelp.

                                                    1. re: Servorg

                                                      It happens w/ some regularity on the Boston Yelp. As you can probably imagine, the responses are radically different w/ CH tending more towards pricier/fancier options and Yelp more towards younger/cheaper/etc oriented.

                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                        I really don't see ANY evidence that CH's give pricier/fancier options over ethnic or less expensive recommendations, at least on the LA board. It really depends on what those who post are looking for.

                                                        I admit I only look at Yelp reviews very infrequently. They seem to be less than credible when I do. Can you point me to a real time discussion like the ones we do see here regularly on CH, where an out of town poster says something along the lines of "I'm coming to LA and I really enjoy hole in the wall, delicious Mexican food. Can you all point me to the best of that genre with locations included if possible?" and the local hounds chip in with a long list of board favorites all over the city.

                                                        My use of Yelp is normally restricted to location information and nothing else.

                                                        1. re: Servorg

                                                          i do see those conversations’, but they do not exist as much on yelp, because they re not as needed on yelp. here the reviews are buried inside the talk threads, so to get information about a place you do not know you need a conversation. on yelp the reviews and the talk are separate entities. so to get information about place in an area, you search the reviews, not have a conversation. completely different model. apples and oranges

                                                          complaining that those conversations don't exist on yelp (although they do to a lesser degree) would be like complaining you can't search individual reviews by neighborhood and cuisine here like you can on yelp.

                                                          1. re: thew

                                                            The point in my original comment above was to differentiate between what CH can do that Yelp cannot. I wasn't denigrating Yelp so much as lauding CH for the unique and useful role it plays in the lives of those addicted to the finding, eating and discussing of food.

                                                            In depth, immediate and comprehensive recommendations on where to find the food you love, and even what dishes to order at those restaurants, in a city that's completely new to you and in which you will have a limited amount of time, is an incredibly valuable resource.

                                                            I still don't see this as something that Yelp can or does do and which CH does. That was my only point.

                                                            1. re: Servorg

                                                              well yelp does, but to a lesser extent. as i said before i think the 2 sites compliment each other very well and i use them both extensively. If one or the other isn't someone's cup of tea, that's ok - but i really do not get the animosity towards yelp i often see here, not at all

                                                              1. re: thew

                                                                What's funny is I came across a thread on BeerAdvocate which disses both CH *and* Yelp. now it's a hate triangle :)


                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                  From looking at the linked discussion on Yelp for the Boston area it seems like CH's very focused approach to food only results in coverage that borders on the "exhausting" - which can be both a positive or a negative, depending on your level of food mania. For most around here it is obviously a positive. Yelp covers a much broader territory and so you end up with a lot of general knowledge. A place for both and both in their place.

                                            2. oh yeah, yelp is a dating site

                                              1. Most of my time spent on Yelp and Chowhound is the Boston boards, so I'll only comment on them. The average poster on Yelp Boston (Restaurants) definitely seems younger; the Talk section (the closest aspect of Yelp to Chowhound's bulletin-board, conversational format) more full of time-wasting, unfocused blather.

                                                But I'm starting to find a handful of Yelpers who are truly passionate and adventurous about food, whose opinions I'm starting to trust the same way I do a handful of favorites on the Chowhound Boston board. So I've gone from generalizing about the two communities to focusing on finding like-minded posters and folks with special expertise I lack (e.g., with depth about Taiwanese food). I think Chowhound is more tightly moderated, so there's less shilling and disgruntled ax-grinding. I dislike the use of posters' pictures on Yelp; I think anonymity is better for serious reviewers.

                                                There are worthy resources on both, and plenty of people on both whose opinions I don't trust.

                                                7 Replies
                                                1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                  I dislike hte real pictures as well, although that's part of their schtick ('real people' and all of that). I finally got tired of getting knocked for being an 'orangehead' and just stuck some random picture up. THat practice seems to becoming more accepted, although I'll never be "elite" I suppose (I don't have a desire to go to the social events, so this doesn't bother me one iota)

                                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                                    I will say that the Talk section on Yelp is pretty useless.

                                                    1. re: risottoman

                                                      Depends on how you're viewing it. If you're looking for it to be informative about specific places, that's not really what it ends up being. Its more of a social chat type of message board, where the participants happen to be the same folks that are revewing stuff.

                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                        yeah, I guess it's more for chatting.

                                                        1. re: risottoman

                                                          I agree Yelp is more for talking than actually giving a decent and proper review.

                                                          1. re: Shan Resto

                                                            I know you're replying directly to risottoman, but i'd like to note that this isn't what i said at all. i said that the message boards are more for chatting, and should be viewed as being tangential at best to the review side of things.

                                                            1. re: jgg13

                                                              yeah i was replying directly to risottoman, but i got what you mean....

                                                  2. exactly, people posting to a thread over 40 times and beating a dead horse is sooooo useless. ;-)

                                                    1. There is room for both CH and Yelp. I got a bit burned out of CH about a year ago, and was focusing on Yelp more. In a way, it does feel like more of a community because reviews aren't just restaurants. Now I'm back on CH more than Yelp. They are really different sites, I think it's like comparing apples to oranges.

                                                      I do find many Yelpers a bit obsessed with drinking, I'm sure that has to do with age. I'm not a drinker so that emphasis doesn't interest me.

                                                      That being said, I've met some very cool and friendly Yelpers in person and shared some good meals with people who were interested in exploring.

                                                      3 Replies
                                                      1. re: Muhlyssa

                                                        I agree. I think in every group, you're going to find people who think they're superior to others because of X, Y and Z. I was reading a blog over the weekend where these people were bashing Chowhounders for various reasons as well. How dare they! ; )

                                                        1. re: Miss Needle

                                                          I think Chowhound contains more insightful foodie information, but the search function could be improved -- the keyword search is very unsophisticated

                                                          I think Yelp organizes things much better, but there is a tendency for ratings to get diluted by the shear volume of responses from a truly wide variety of taste preferences (sf yelp suffers from a regression to the mean effect -- it's always either 3.5 or 4 stars for "good" places, so it becomes harder to really narrow down what you might like personally)

                                                          the key is to find frequent posters on both sites who share your same palate

                                                          1. re: ankimo

                                                            It seems that there's a difference between how Chowhound and how Yelp works. Yelp seems to be organized as a review site while Chowhound is more of a discussion site. Yes, it is indeed frustrating when I'm looking for a review of X restaurant to have the keyword be embedded in a long post that has really nothing to do with X.

                                                            Have you tried the options in the search engine? I've been on CH for a while but only discovered how to use this a few months ago. I'm not very tech-savvy. But I find that it help me narrow down the keyword search.

                                                      2. Although there are a few "Yelpers" that know there stuff, most are uninformed children hiding behind a computer. I guess some people need to feel powerful every once in a while. Thanks for the good topic!

                                                        1. I take it all with a grain of salt, since it is just as easy for a business owner or someone with a grudge to post positive or negative reviews as it is for someone who wants to share their honest opinion.

                                                          1. Threads like the one below pretty much sum up why I hate (yep, i said it) yelp:

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: mollyomormon

                                                              Old post, I know, but not sure I see why this is any different from any other thread? What bugs you about it specifically? (Not from the area, so maybe that's why it's not immediately clear.)

                                                            2. yelp is a very interesting site. Because although the premise of the site is to review (mainly food establishments), it has become more than that. Actually, it's kind of like a myspace/facebook for 20-30 somethings.

                                                              Did you know that there are reviews for words (ie "love") ? I think the most interesting aspect of yelp is the yelp talk threads -- topics are truly random!

                                                              Unfortunately, yelp isn't necessarily the best place to get reliable feedback regarding a certain business. But it's generally a fun site to chat on.

                                                              1. I just noticed this thread and wen for the first time. In Miami at least, you could hurt yourself if you used this place for advice. Every place gets somewhere between 4 and 5 stars so you might as well not bother looking at all. Most reviews start with "OMG it was (or one of) the best meals of my life and dare I say it, I consider myself a foodie.". Obviously it can vary by city but for Miami at least, go to the boards here.

                                                                1. Although Yelp is not perfect its a useful resource. I think when you read through reviews about a business you're able to take away some details that help you make a decision.

                                                                  Jippidy.com - Video Yellow Pages

                                                                  1. i use both sites extensively. they compliment each other very well. What a lot of people seem to miss here is that the review section of yelp and the talk section of yelp are not the same thing.

                                                                    for serious conversations about food and restaurants &tc, chowhound has it beat. Agree or disagree the conversation here is always inetresting and informative.

                                                                    at least to me, here in new york, the ability to narrow down reviews by cuisine neighborhood and price, on yelp is VERY useful. New York is like a lot of small towns all shoved together, so choice of what to eat is often determined by where you are or will be.

                                                                    The first thing I do when i learn about a place here that catches my eye is go to yelp to check it out. The talk threads on yelp are like the mailing lists and usenet groups and other post-local communities that have populated the internet since, well, the internet began. As a social network, loosely based around people who like to go bars and restaurants, it works as well as such adhocrasy can.

                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                    1. re: thew

                                                                      Yeah, I agree. I've come across people who use both sites who swear that Yelp (in the Boston area) tends to discover things earlier/is easier to discover new things - my experience has been that Boston CH is generally more on top of new stuff/better for coming across new things - BUT once I know what I'm looking for that Yelp is far superior for getting quick opinions that are more likely to be useful to me.

                                                                    2. Too many of the yelp posters are much like the reviewers on Amazon who delight in bashing the popular. The ones who give the "Wizard of Oz" one star with no critical reasoning behind it or because the box it came in was bent. Yelp has an awful lot of people with very little sophistication food-wise (not to suggest I'm all that sophisticated myself). You end up with "the guacamole isn't what I'm used to" rather than a discourse on the quality or flavors. A friend of mine went to a restaurant I recommended -- a long-time favorite -- and her boyfriend posted an unfavorable review on yelp, mostly relating to it's not being like some other place he liked -- it never actually addressed the merits of the restaurant he went to just that it was too different from a place he really liked. That, to me, is pointless and of use to no one.