The Trouble With Yelp

OK, first go to Yelp and check out the one star review of us near the top. Read it? Great, here goes.

Yelp can be a really good thing. I used it to find places to eat when I moved to Oakland. Some of those places became my favorites, like El Taco Zamorano and Chai Thai. Although some restaurant people resent it, it can be a good tool. For example, if three yelps say the bread pudding is dry, you might want to check the bread pudding.

Every now and then, though, you get one that shows a disturbing level of unwarranted hostility( did you check out the link in the review I’m talking about?). Here are some clues that we are dealing with someone with pre-existing problems and not someone with genuine criticisms:

The imagined discrimination against the “non-hipster.” Does TA (our yelper) really imagine that we try to edit our customers by appearance? What constitutes a hipster, anyway? Certainly not our hostess, who does not list fashion among her passions. We don’t have a preferred demographic- its a place to eat, not a clothing line. Elderly people, kids, even the odd neck tattoo, all seem to feel pretty welcome here.

Point two: Why would you publicly post something threatening, profane, and insulting about any service employee? They are just implementing policies that are part of their jobs. The point of our seating policies are always to enable as many people to eat here as possible. Thats why we have a bar. Again, it seems clear that some pre-existing hostility was triggered.

TA finishes by claiming she “may even know the owners.” She doesn’t, and it wouldn’t make a difference. Our employees work very hard to satisfy a lot of people. That is expected of them every day. They are not expected to be targets for free floating rage. If you wish to advise your friends not to eat here, that is your right. In the meantime, TA, I request that you take down your abusive post, and please think a little harder before you single someone out for this type of attack. If you decide not to, that’s OK too. You are telling people more about yourself than about our restaurant.

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  1. JLDOakland
    Posted November 19, 2011 at 12:29 am | Permalink

    Lev, until I watched the video clip they posted I felt maybe you were over reacting, people have bad days and the result is outlier reviews like that one from TA. But when I watched it I changed me mind – I’m guessing TA thought it was somehow”funny” or clever to post that – they post YouTube clips on some of their other reviews but it shows they had not the slightest care of being extremely offensive and threatening themselves. If they want to prove how great a customer they are that you turned away this is not it. I would not be surprised that posting something like that is a violation of Yelp TOS for posters and find it sad that Yelp (how has had well publicized issues with basically blackmailing businesses over bad reviews) does not have a button to flag a review as offensive, or otherwise inappropriate – I would willing click on one in this case.

    Looking at the rest of TA’s reviews it seems like when they give a bad one they go overboard with the ad-hominen attacks, epithets and such, not really helpful at all, just pure venting. I think most people who use Yelp seriously realize there are always outliers and this one, among so many positive reviews.

    TA, if you should happen to read this – I was at CB on the night in question and also found several open tables. We were told politely that the table we had originally indicated an interest was bigger than our party of three. So we took a smaller table but as more people came to join us we were repeatedly given the choice of moving to a bigger table. I can assure you that none of us were hipsters and had no visible tattoos. Given the amount of praise you originally showered on Chop Bar in your first review I think you would owe it to go back another time, talk to the manager and express your disappointment before unloading a truck load of hate and vitriol.

  2. John
    Posted December 10, 2011 at 12:48 am | Permalink

    I work in IT and have seen business clients deal with Yelp hostility. It’s horrible, especially for doctors and dentists. One of my doctor clients sued a Yelp poster and won a $250k judgement against her. This client is now suing Yelp. Businesses can pay $300/month (or so) to Yelp for a euphemistic “merchant” membership, which Yelp publicly denies includes removal of many bad reviews. However, my doctor client paid the $300/month and the bad reviews disappeared, just as the Yelp sales rep suggested on the phone (but not in writing)! When Yelp learned that my client was suing a Yelp poster (and possibly Yelp), Yelp canceled the merchant membership and put all the negative reviews back!

    What this means is (1) Yelp allegedly extorts businesses (how else is Yelp going to coax small businesses to pay $300/month and (2) Yelp’s ratings are extremely untrustworthy. How do you know if a business is truly has a 4 or 5 star Yelp rating if that business pays Yelp and Yelp removes the negative ratings (an action they adamantly deny but I’ve witnessed)? And how do you know if a 2 or 3 star business doesn’t actually have a higher rating than its competitors who pay off Yelp every month?

    And what about insane posters who lie and post negative reviews under different names? This was found to be the case for the poster who lost the judgement against one of my clients. Not only did she post negative reviews under different names, she also even created a new merchant profile for my doctor client (worded differently) just to post negative reviews there. This client lost tens, perhaps hundreds, of thousands of dollars in business because Yelp did not respond for several months to my client’s complaints of gross fraud. Patients searching for the doctor would see the bad reviews in Google results.

    Yelp is a devil’s racket that harms businesses and customers.

  3. Posted April 15, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Permalink

    As in any statistical study, you need to throw out the corner cases. It’s just noise. Yelp is only useful if you completely ignore the extremely negative comments. Chop Bar rocks, and we all know it.

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