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Yelp Still Playing us for Fools

Updated on August 12, 2017

Yelp Continues to Dupe the Public, at the Cost of Small Businesses

This is my fourth or fifth article on Yelp, and each one addresses another problem with this multi-billion dollar company. I don't have a vendetta against them or anything like that. If other companies did business the way Yelp does, then I would write about them. But, Yelp's following is so large, that I just have to illustrate that which most of you are evidently unaware. Otherwise, I would not be able to sleep at night...

If you don't already know, Yelp is trying to overtake Google Maps, as the most popular search engine in the world. I use the qualifier 'Maps', because Yelp has no interest in replacing Google as an information source (history, trivia, encyclopedia, dictionary, etc.) Yelp is only concerned with consumer driven businesses.

Now, I'm going to say this as succinctly as possible: The ONLY reason that Yelp is even mentioned in the same sentence as Maps, is because they state that the reviews on their site, are more valid than those on Maps and every other search engine in the universe. They profess that they have developed an algorithm, that determines which reviews are authentic and which are not. Well...I don't want to disillusion you, but that is a crock.

As luck would would have it, I happen to have a degree in Mathematics, so my knowledge or algorithms is vast. There exists no algorithm that can do what Yelp purports it's algorithm to do. An algorithm is only as accurate as the information fed to it by human beings, and it relies on history and tendencies. In my opinion, the accuracy of Yelp's algorithm falls somewhere between 'educated guess' and 'wild guess'. Well, I can make guesses like those on my own.

Every day, I try to figure out why people believe this fish story, and I'm always left scratching my head. Before Yelp came about, how many people even knew what the word "algorithm" meant? How many people put stock in Yelp, because the word "algorithm" sounds so official, that it must be on the level. Even though I despise Yelp, I will admit that whoever came up with this scam, is a genius.

If you don't have the time or inclination to read this article, in its entirety, I'll say it up front... Unless you plan to have an active, committed, lifelong relationship with Yelp, then you're better served not writing a single Yelp review. When I joined Yelp, as a reviewer, I pretty much knew what to expect... I knew that if I wrote only one review, then they wouldn't show it, because anyone can join Yelp, for the sole purpose of writing one impactful review, then never write another. And, if you look through Yelp's filtered reviews, you will see that most of them are from reviewers whose lone review is that one for that bidiness. I ask you... If someone is only interested in writing one review, should they be less credible than someone who has the time to write 1000?

If you decide that you have the time to write a couple reviews per week, in order to become a Yelpers with standing, then you are sorely mistaken. You can write 200 reviews, but unless you add photos of the businesses, then you won't even come close to gaining respect from Yelp. And, if you consistently write reviews and add pictures, then that still won't be enough. If you don't communicate with other Yelp members, on a regular basis, then most likely, your reviews will will start to be erased. And, if you do all of that, then it still won't be enough. You will have to 'Check-in' to places that you've reviewed (on a regular basis), update your review, and add additional photos. And, it doesn't end there: You will have to post 'Tips' and dad more photos and review updates. You see where I'm going, right?

Another travesty that Yelp is perpetrating on the general public, is their claim that no Yelp employee can override the information that their algorithm spews; that their computer program has the final word. Ha! That is the most ridiculous thing that I've ever heard! Does Yelp expect me believe that their algorithm, the heart beat of their entire business, cannot be overridden? If you buy this, then I don't know what to tell you...Yelp is pulling the wool over your eyes. They instituted this "can't override" mantra for one reason, and one reason only: so that when hundreds of thousands of business owners complain about poor reviews, Yelp can absolve themselves from all responsibility. That's all there is to it.

I wouldn't have such a problem with Yelp, if the inconsistencies of their algorithm were uniform for all businesses, but sadly, it is not. In no uncertain terms, Yelp's algorithm favor large businesses over small ones.

Here's a Yelper's review of Yelp itself. I found it so profound and well-written, that I just had to add it to my article (of course, I got the author's permission to do so.)

It is a 1-star review...

"As I get older, I tend to get more emotional, so I apologize in advance if my review has a surly tone. I do not get more irrational, just more emotional.

This is a review of Yelp. It is a first-hand account of my experience, while using their products and services..

THIS IS NOT A REVIEW OF YELPERS.

I was already 60, by the time Yelp went public, and in my opinion, businesses (large and small) were more accurately represented than the way Yelp is representing them.

I'm an intelligent man, but regrettably, I cannot speak intelligently about Yelp's computer programs. I'm too old to start investigating the inner-workings of Yelp. However, I would be a moron, to believe that the heart and soul of a powerful company, cannot be overridden by Yelp employees. And, anyone who believes it, would be naive, to say the least. I apologize, but that's my sincere opinion, and according to even Yelp's by-laws, I have the right to state my opinion (via review), whether kind or unkind, as long as it is a sincere, firsthand review (which it is), and as long as it is not self-serving, or promotes a specific business or industry (which it is not.)

For research purposes, I have been Yelping for maybe three or four years. I've written round-about 100 reviews. Mainly restaurants, hardware, franchises, retail, and the like. One of my reviews was for a business that caters to a very small number of people. The nature of its field, lends itself to having a small clientele. The name of the business and/or field is irrelevant.

Of course, any review of this business, positive or negative, would impact it a great deal (because of its size.) As it happens, my review of this business is not being shown and, last I checked, that review is the company's only review. In other words, it has no reviews, only my filtered review. Now, perhaps the powers that be, deem my review to be suspect. It wouldn't be the first time, in my nearly 75 years on this marble, that my actions have been regarded as suspect. I've already made peace with that.

The curious thing, is that this particular review is the only review, of my 100 reviews, that is not being shown. How does a computer deem one of my reviews suspect, yet still allow all of my other reviews to be shown?

If Yelp thinks that I tried to trick their system with one of my reviews, then why would they give veracity to the others? It perplexes me, that Yelp has removed, filtered, not recommended, etc. this hugely influential review, and has opted to keep my review of Hash House a Go-Go, which has 3000 reviews, and for which my review doesn't amount to a hill of beans. I will never understand how something like this can occur.

A small company deserves every legitimate review it garners (positive or negative), to better inform locals as to whether to use them or to stay away. If I'm not mistaken, this is the purpose and premise of Yelp...To help the public make informed decisions.

The most important concept for which I'm trying to convey, is that just because a large company says that they can do something, you should think twice before you buy into to its lunacy. I wouldn't waste my time writing this article, unless I thought that the subject was important. I hope it gives you pause when considering if you should contribute to a business that can bankrupt a company that doesn't deserve to go under.

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