Does Yelp Use Blackmail As A Monetization Strategy?

East Bay Express is reporting an interesting story about Yelp.  Yelp is supposedly offering businesses a way to have negative reviews deleted from their website for a monthly price.  “Hi, this is Mike from Yelp,” stated a Yelp representative. “You’ve had three hundred visitors to your site this month. You’ve had a really good response. But you have a few bad ones at the top. I could do something about those.”

John, the owner of the restaurant that was called by Yelp said that he was not used to getting phone calls like these.  He was familiar with Yelp, but did not expect them to charge a monthly fee to have negative reviews removed. John’s restaurant has over 100 reviews and has about a 3.5 star rating on Yelp.

John had asked Mike, the Yelp rep what they could do about removing the bad reviews.  “We can move them. Well, for $299 a month.”

“When you do get a call from Yelp, and you go to the site, it looks like they have been moved,” stated John. “You don’t know if they happen to be at the top legitimately or if the rep moved them to the top. You don’t even know if this is someone who legitimately doesn’t like your restaurant. … Almost all the time when they call you, the bad ones will be at the top.”

John’s company isn’t the only one.  East Bay Express also reported that over dozens of businesses have reported the same thing is happening with them too.  Some businesses even believe that Yelp representatives themselves are writing the negative reviews.

These are extremely shady tactics and if these stories are true, Yelp is a disgrace to Web 2.0.  You figure Yelp would have a better monetization strategy given their $31 million in funding.

[via East Bay Express]

This article was written by Amit Chowdhry. You can follow me at @amitchowdhry or on Google+ at

Does Yelp Use Blackmail As A Monetization Strategy? Comments

  1. Pau says:

    Here is a free alternative to Yelp for local businesses: www.rateitall.com/promote

  2. Paul B. says:

    Whose to say that the authors of this very article didn’t fabricate the whole story because they have a vested interest in seeing Yelp fail. I’m not saying that the idea of businesses having the opportunity to remove negative reviews of their biz is not worth looking into it’s just that all media content nowadays has to be read/watched/listened to with a certain level of helthy skepticism.

  3. Lorenzo A. says:

    I can attest to the verasity of this article. I’ve had a restaurant in New York City for the last 21 years and have enjoyed considerable success over the years. I was unaware of yelp until recently when a customer mentioned that we had been reviewed on their site. At first, our reviews were predominately positive along with the occasional constructive critasisim. But recently, we have received a slew of outragiously negative and even offensive reviews which included factually innacurate / inapropriate information. Oddly enough, these highly critical reviews coincided with the first sales calls that we began receiving from yelp representatives offering to resort our reviews so that only the most posative ones would appear on our page. This of course was contingent on our willingness to “advertise” on their site…. To make a long story short, I am now considering my options, including any leagal recourse, to protect myself from these vultures. Wish me luck. I think that I will need it.

  4. webmastere says:

    Www.drzahrahakim.com……We are experiencing unfair treatment from Yelp also. Our business has some negative reviews posted on Yelp which as a public business is regrettable but par for the course. The reviews are either fictitious or innaccurate, but hey thats free speech…….However, any and I mean any of the many positive reviews our clients leave for us are removed by Yelp. How can they validate the negative reviews more highly than the positive ones.

    Also how can they remove these negative reviews and include the positive ones for a 299$ a month fee. Is this tax deductable?? We are very saddened by Yelp. Also very saddened and hurt by the negative reviews but with Yelp's participation we are getting scared to turn the computers on. If you have similar a experience we would like to hear from you. Contact webmaster@extraordinarysmile.net.

    Also have you noticed there is no front end to Yelp, no direct contact page. Also have you noticed the language used on the site for guidelines and use is also confrontational and inflamatory.

    It is fine in our age for programmers to develop social utility sites, there are a plethora of them with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter et. al. But Yelp comes across as independant, aggressive and sadly of the impression it is above the law.

    We are deeply concerned about Yelp. Minus a million stars so far.

    Also how can a social utitility site

  5. webmastere says:

    Www.drzahrahakim.com……We are experiencing unfair treatment from Yelp also. Our business has some negative reviews posted on Yelp which as a public business is regrettable but par for the course. The reviews are either fictitious or innaccurate, but hey thats free speech…….However, any and I mean any of the many positive reviews our clients leave for us are removed by Yelp. How can they validate the negative reviews more highly than the positive ones.

    Also how can they remove these negative reviews and include the positive ones for a 299$ a month fee. Is this tax deductable?? We are very saddened by Yelp. Also very saddened and hurt by the negative reviews but with Yelp's participation we are getting scared to turn the computers on. If you have similar a experience we would like to hear from you. Contact webmaster@extraordinarysmile.net.

    Also have you noticed there is no front end to Yelp, no direct contact page. Also have you noticed the language used on the site for guidelines and use is also confrontational and inflamatory.

    It is fine in our age for programmers to develop social utility sites, there are a plethora of them with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter et. al. But Yelp comes across as independant, aggressive and sadly of the impression it is above the law.

    We are deeply concerned about Yelp. Minus a million stars so far.

    Also how can a social utitility site

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