A recent Boston Herald article claimed Yelp is a bully. In this article, the CEO of Phantom Gourmet and the President of the Restaurant and Business Alliance in Massachusetts compared Yelp to a high school football star who sets up a website that trashes all the students, but the students aren’t allowed to respond or remove offending comments. The primary claim is that such a website would be shut down for bullying, but that Yelp does exactly the same thing and is growing with no chance of being shut down.
So, is Yelp a bully? There have been many stories over the past year about businesses who feel they are being coerced by Yelp to purchase advertising in an attempt to “fix” bad reviews. But there has not been any reports showing the results of advertising on Yelp as it relates to negative reviews. If you have done a study of this, we would love to hear your results.
The fact of the matter is that when two sides have an argument and one side gets to do most or all the talking, it’s a fairly one-sided conversation. That’s the big issue with Yelp – the consumer does nearly all the talking. The consumer gets to give a rating and enter a comment but Yelp does not give the business the ability to respond to the rating. The business can reply to the comment, but has no control how or where that comment shows up on their page. And as we’ve all read, Yelp auto-filters reviews so they can try to ensure that only “true” reviews are showing up. The business has very little control over how information is displayed on their page – it’s not even configurable in many cases. In the best case scenario, top businesses will respond to negative reviews in the hopes that potential customers will see that they do truly care about what their customers say about them.
I don’t think this makes Yelp a bully, but it certainly does skew any argument of clarity strongly to one side, namely the consumer. Yelp gives consumers a lot of the control, and say, in the discussion, and businesses are second-class citizens. At Bizyhood, we believe that all businesses should be given the opportunity to respond to any review and let consumers review an interaction between a business and its customers, rather than just giving the customer the first and last word.