Blackmail, Extortion and Mafia Like Tactics: The New Face of Yelp
There have been a number of reports by small business owners all around the nation of Yelp calling and trying to convince them to advertise on their site. According to Yelp representatives along with this advertising, the businesses can have their negative reviews moved, eliminating them from view. For a monthly charge, they promise to keep these negative reviews buried. The fact is however, many small businesses do not have several hundred dollars to pay each month for these tactics, with some making the claim that the tactics being used seem to be unethical since honest reviews are being removed or hidden.
However, when they refuse this advertising offer, it does not end there. Not only does Yelp continue to send emails and make phone calls to the business, they will remove positive reviews, claiming this is done automatically by their unknown algorithm. Small business owners are skeptic, especially since this starts to happen right after turning down the advertising offer.
The bad news is that even with all the complaints and seemingly unethical tactics, Yelp has now received a ruling from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, stating that Yelp is within their rights to manipulate the ratings on business’s review pages for monetary gain.
To this day; however, Yelp stands by their position, which is that they do not manipulate ratings, despite the longtime accusations from various business owners. Instead, it uses a process that is completely automated, which presents the most relevant reviews and creates the number of stars that a particular business has. The fact is that no matter the complaints, businesses have no hard evidence that Yelp is participating in these unethical tactics. This is why the actual court ruling states that if Yelp were to use this type of behavior, it would not be illegal.
This ruling is definitely not great news for smaller business owners since Yelp could, legally, extort them for their money in order to achieve better reviews. According to the court, this tactic would be “at most, hard bargaining,” which displays the logic of cold-hearted capitalism.
While Yelp is often treated as a public service, this ruling is a reminder that it is a massive and publicly traded corporation that has the ultimate goal of making money. The platform is not for referrals like you would receive from a friend, even though that is how it is often used. The bottom line is that there is nothing keeping the company from using these mafia like sales tactics and it is something that businesses of all sizes are going to have to deal with.
All small local business should make it known to their customers and prospects that due to the court ruling you can not trust any Yelp Rating!
The Watters Group
Santa Clarita, CA