Does Yelp Use Blackmail As A Monetization Strategy?

Posted Feb 19, 2009

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]