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Mar 20, 2010 09:15 AM

Yelp in (alleged) trouble?

For some reason I rarely go to Yelp for reviews. I usually come to Chowhound and one reason is I am comfortable with the arrangement of the site and, more importantly, I have read enough posting of some of the contributors in Austin that I have an idea of what to expect based on my history with them on the site (does that make any sense?).

Recently, as you know, Yelp is coming under fire for manipulating reviews based on the businesses giving Yelp their business. Yelp denies this and the truth is yet to be ascertained. But, there is one thing certain that makes me favor Chowhound over Yelp and that is that Yelp does not allow businesses to rebut negative reviews. I am presuming Chowhound has no such restrictive policy. This fact alone makes me wonder somewhat about the credibility of Yelp. I think such a policy lends itself to competitors, or unsatisfied customers, ganging up on a place without the business being able to post a defense. I believe that position to be untenable and if I were a business I would not advertise on their site because of that. Tripadvisor allows rebuttals and many times the dissatisfied party has not told the whole story, or told what the hotel, or whatever, did to try to rectify the problem. .

Too bad for Yelp.

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    1. re: thew

      I think you mean charges, plural, and, from what I have read online, my opinion is that they seem to have merit. But, we'll have to wait until the cases go to trial before we get any more concrete information.

        1. re: thew

          People in different parts of the country talking about different Yelp sales reps claim that the same extortionate techniques are used in sales pitches. Yelp employees write negative reviews about companies that refuse to advertise. But Yelp puts a "DID NOT" on its blog and you think all charges have been resolved?

          I'm not saying that Yelp is guilty of the conduct they've been accused of. But it's naive to assume that an executive's denial of corporate wrongdoing is conclusive evidence of the corporation's innocence.

          1. re: alanbarnes

            i dont think its conclusive. and i only have new york yelp to go by - but, as a regular user, i don;t see it

            1. re: thew

              Yep - few regular users see it. It seems that the complaints come from businesses rather than regular users.

          2. re: thew

            I've read these links previously and I find them entirely unpersuasive.

            What is Yelp going to say: "Yes, your honor. I'm guilty."?

            No. Of course not. Just like every other legal case in the world, the defendant says: "No your honor. I'm not guilty." and this is exactly what these blog posts effectively do and I'm sure Yelp's lawyers are doing it with various legal briefs (in numerous states at this point) as well.

            As long as we're trading links, I would direct you to the actual amended complaint from the California class action dated March 16, 2010 alleging:

            1. extortion (a violation of California's penal code);

            2. attempted extortion (a violation of California's penal code);

            3. attempted interference with prospective business advantage; and

            4. violations of the California unfair competition law.


            1. re: thew

              Also, the website hosting the amended complaint is a great resource as well:

        2. From what I have seen, Chowhound does NOT allow businesses to post rebuttals. As a matter of fact, any post that looks as though it is from a restaurant owner will be removed by the moderators.

          5 Replies
          1. re: DAMASO

            Yeah, i am pretty sure chowhound doesn't allow them either. I know that i have seen a post involving a restaurant's response to someone's nut allergy. The restaurant posted a response that disagreed with the the original poster's account of the incident, and that restaurant's response was deleted a few times. The original poster's description of the incident was allowed to stand. I am not sure how fair i think this is, but i guess there are negatives and positives either way.

            1. re: iluvtennis

              Nut person here.

              If you go back and read the thread you sill see that jfood spoke with the owner and posted post discussion results. So please be careful on which posters you use as a poster child.

              1. re: jfood

                Yes, but my point is, their post was deleted. That's all i was pointing out. Yes, you did mention the post discussion results, but it was still your word, not theirs. You happen to be an honest person, but maybe there are people who would never post a follow-up. Or maybe they would post a follow-up, but it would still be heavily skewed in their favor.

                1. re: iluvtennis

                  yeah, jfood never thought of that. thanks for the compliment.

                2. re: jfood

                  poster as poster child. hee hee.

            2. I can't say one way or another about the charge against Yelp, but I've seen some things from them about their "algorithm" that look awfully suspicious to me.

              I find anonymous reviews of most things utterly useless, (more so every day), and of restaurants more than anything else I've ever seen online. This has been discussed lots on the Food Media and News boards over the years.

              6 Replies
              1. re: dmd_kc

                surely we art more anonymous here on chowhound, then on yelp where they say they require a real first name and last initial for an account name

                1. re: thew

                  There are 20 million ways to spoof an account on Yelp. And I include Chowhound's restaurant reviews in the useless.

                  1. re: dmd_kc

                    agreed - it can be done easily.

                    1. re: thew

                      You have to use a real name & real pic to be elite. As far as I can tell, they have no way of verifying that you're using a *real* name and *real* pic

                    2. re: dmd_kc

                      Depends on how one uses that information. If one's goal is to explore unknown places below the radar, knowing that there's a post about it can help one decide to try other places. One can looks for gaps in the knowledge to fill, rather than for knowledge itself.

                    3. I've seen "rebuttals" on Yelp from the businesses themselves, very much in the same vein as on Trip Advisor, and the ones I've seen have mostly been apologies, resolving to fix the problem, and/or offerings of food on the house for the complaining poster's next visit.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: buttermarblepopcorn

                        >> I am presuming Chowhound has no such restrictive policy.

                        Chowhound does not allow rebuttals from businesses. Where did you get the idea that it does?

                        1. re: anonymouse1935

                          Our policies for restaurant owners and other industry insiders are explained at

                        2. re: buttermarblepopcorn

                          I have a rebuttal to a review I posted declaring I was never a client and a threat of a lawsuit if they find out who I am.

                          It is also a non-food related business that frequently gets negative reviews that are taken down rather quickly.

                        3. I have a non-food business in Washington state and what is described in the lawsuits happened to us--high pressure calls from Yelp to pay them $3,600 a year/$300 a month to have negative reviews about buried. We have over 150 very positive reviews and
                          a few rather dubious negative ones. One wonders if the bad reviews were not actually a plant by their sales dept to help push their $300/month program. Now the oldest, top reviews are getting deleted and the old, bad reviews are placed up front---it seems they are not pleased we are not sending them money.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: itsonlyfood

                            Ditto here, itsonlyfood. Same situation. My (Non food-related) business subjected to exactly what you are describing. Also have friends around the country that have been describing the same thing happening to them for a year or two now. I'm very happy someone is catching on to them. They plant false reviews and manipulate the real ones to suit their needs. Absolutely disgraceful. Don't believe me? I don't care.