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Restauranteurs Say Yelp Uses Extortion To Ply Ad Sales

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the not-kosher dept.

Businesses 202

Readers Mike Van Pelt and EricThegreen point out a story in the East Bay Express alleging that online restaurant review site Yelp is doing more than providing a nice interface for foodies to share their impressions of restaurants. Instead, says the article, representatives from the site have called restaurants in the Bay area to solicit advertising, but with an interesting twist: the ad sales reps let restaurant owners know that, if they buy advertising at around $300 a month, Yelp can "do something" about prominently displayed negative reviews of their restaurants. If the claims are true, it sure lowers my opinion of Yelp, which I'd thought of as one of the good guys (and a useful site). I wonder how many other online review sites might be doing something similar.

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Disappointing (2, Interesting)

jetsci (1470207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919413)

That's rather disappointing for a community based effort. My girlfriend and I use a similar site but it skimps on the advertisements: http://ottawafoodies.com/ [ottawafoodies.com]

Re:Disappointing (3, Funny)

jetsci (1470207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919493)

As a note; *imagine* if Slashdot were to succumb to that.

CmdTaco calls MS: "For one meallllionn dollas we'll post Pro-MS articles"

MS Drone: "Deal, cash or licenses?"

Re:Disappointing (2, Funny)

French31 (1311051) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919663)

"And for another one, we'll hide the bad reviews dropped by angry /.ers."

"We'll pass, it would be suspicious if those articles end up with no comments at all."

Re:Disappointing (1)

LUH 3418 (1429407) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920041)

<tinfoilhat>
Now just how do you think slashdot survived the dot-com crash!
</tinfoilhat>

Re:Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26920053)

Would it be worse than the current situation that refuses to acknowledge paid for ads masquerading as submissions?

Re:Disappointing (3, Interesting)

von_rick (944421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919581)

I didn't think it was a 'well guarded secret' or anything. Squelching negative reviews of your business and dampening the highly positive reviews of your competitors has been the dominant practice ever since the dawn of two businesses selling similar products.

From the article it seems like Yelp had gathered a reputation of being impartial and fair. It understandable that people's confidence will diminish.

Re:Disappointing (2, Insightful)

causality (777677) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920073)

didn't think it was a 'well guarded secret' or anything. Squelching negative reviews of your business and dampening the highly positive reviews of your competitors has been the dominant practice ever since the dawn of two businesses selling similar products.

Well, two developments had to take place for this to be a dominant practice. You identified one of them, which was two businesses selling similar products. The other is a general public which is far too eager to believe what they hear, read, or see on TV. You could think of that as the great enabler of most of the rest of our problems, including this one.

There's this idea that sites like this one or news agencies and others (this is a very general principle) exist to confirm sources and vet stories and information for you. That is, the idea that because they are established, they must therefore be better or higher-quality or more truthful. There is some truth to that, although it's more of a half-truth. Then there's this accompanying idea that therefore, you should not test and confirm information on your own. If you don't like being deceived or used as an unwitting tool in this type of alleged extortion, nothing could be farther from the truth.

I think the real issue is that most people have no idea how to perform critical thinking or how to cross-reference information or how to judge the authenticity of a source of information. They also don't seem skilled at recognizing propaganda techniques (such as bandwagon appeal, "Big Lie", appeals to emotion, etc.) when they are found in advertising and the media in general. Remedy that one shortcoming and all of these myriad instances and iterations will take care of themselves.

Re:Disappointing (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26921463)

Dude, chill.

We're talking about restaurant reviews here. Don't jump into full Wikipedia-defense DefCon 5.

No cross-referencing of information is required, just a quick visit to the cafe, bistro, or bar in question and you'll know whether Yelp is honest or not.

And by-the-way, they're not. I've read bad reviews that were later pulled, and tried out the restaurant only to discover that the reviews weren't pulled because the food/service got better. I've also written bad reviews that were later pulled. I don't use the site anymore, since (much like the vaunted Wikipedia) it seems the content can't be trusted.

Yes and no (4, Insightful)

Moraelin (679338) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920367)

Well, yes and no.

1. That some businesses would want to slander (or libel) the competition, yeah, that probably goes all the way back to the dawn of time. Which is why most countries have various numbers of laws to contain the phenomenon.

2. There's still something distasteful about being the guy who tries to cash in on that with a "if you don't pay 300 a month, we'll show bad reviews of you at the top." That's no longer even about competition, it's a plain old protection racket. It's not just a betrayal of the public's trust, it's really trying to blackmail someone with a threat to their public image and reputation.

We're in an age where someone's reputation is probably the most important asset of their business. I wouldn't be surprised if some restaurants would lose less money if you threw a molotov through their windows, than if you convince half the town to not even give them a try. Doubly so since you can insure agains the former, but there's no insurance I know of against just not getting customers. So basically I see no fundamental moral difference between, basically:

- "Nice restaurant you have there. It would be a shame if anything happened to it. It's a rough neighbourhood, you know? Lots of evil people out there. Some vandals could tear the place down one night. But we're nice people. If you pay us 300$ a month for our efforts, we could keep an eye out that it doesn't happen."

- "Nice reputation your restaurant has. It would be a shame if anything happened to it. It's a tough world, you know? Lots of evil people out there. Some bastards could plaster the reviews page with really nasty stuff. But we're nice people. If you pay us 300$ a month for our efforts, we could keep an eye out that it doesn't happen."

Both essentially threaten you with a bigger loss unless you pay the protection fee.

Re:Yes and no (2, Insightful)

Abreu (173023) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920549)

Too bad they got greedy and managed to get accused of extortion... If it was me, I would have settled for giving a discount on the banner ads to those restaurants who gave me free lunches

Re:Disappointing (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919601)

Unfortunately, "community based" is something of a farce when there is an owner standing in the background and counting the money. Just because the crowdserfs are doing the work, doesn't make an institution "community based".

Re:Disappointing (5, Informative)

humina (603463) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919731)

It looks like the CEO has posted his response to the piece. It appears to be quite well documented and researched. Possibly more so than the original article:

http://officialblog.yelp.com/2009/02/kathleen-richards-east-bay-express.html [yelp.com]

Re:Disappointing (5, Interesting)

eddiegee (236525) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920001)

The CEO's response makes mention of "anonymous sources" as being an issue with the article and mentions one interview subject as having posted "fake" reviews. He doesn't mention the other business named in the article that talk about being contacted by Yelp sales and given these terms. There are several mentioned.

This is coming from someone who has submitted a few Yelp reviews in myself. If this is Yelp's response I would have to say I'm still leery.

Re:Disappointing (1)

AlexBirch (1137019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26921287)

Can you find any of your negative posts that have disappeared?
Any of your friends?
None of mine have been removed.
It would be nice to try to do this with some semblance of logic/sampling.

Re:Disappointing (4, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#26921037)

If I understand everything correctly, it looks like advertisers get to choose one review as a "sponsored review" and this is shown as the first result. Couldn't this be what the sales people are talking about when they offer to change the order of reviews so that lower reviews are moved down?

I could easily see "For $300 you can choose one review to appear at the top" becoming "For $300 we will make your bad reviews go away". To me, it sounds like a game of telephone combined 'investigative journalism' and angry restaurant managers.

Re:Disappointing (1)

ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919991)

Community effort. Private gain.

Re:Disappointing (2, Insightful)

YouWantFriesWithThat (1123591) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920295)

that is one way to look at it.

another way to look at it is that the community adds content that is of direct benefit to the community. the private entity (be it individual or corporation) that takes risks (purchasing equipment, signing contracts for hosting, etc.) has the right to make a living and profit. if you don't like it start a wiki and solicit donations for your hosting, that is a lot harder than getting business loans based on ad revenue streams.

Re:Disappointing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26921451)

I've been using a site a friend made for restaurant reviews [foodry.com] .

Don't have to worry about bad ad tactics there, since he has no overhead and also a real job.

Protection? (1, Funny)

MarkvW (1037596) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919415)

So the restaurants would be buying protection from negative reviews? Interesting . . .
Paying protection money . . .
Wow.

Re:Protection? (3, Funny)

grandpa-geek (981017) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919571)

Does Yelp also make sure that the restaurant's plate glass doesn't get broken by rocks thrown through it and that the head chef's knees don't get broken in an "accident" with a thug?

Or is that a possible future service offering consistent with their current portfolio of services?

Hmmm.

Re:Protection? (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920307)

I'll make him an offer he can't refuse....

Re:Protection? (-1, Redundant)

dwiget001 (1073738) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920235)

Advertising Sales Drone: (After having written a negative review about a restaurant but not posting it yet.) "Hi, say, nice little restaurant you have there.

Restaurant Owner: "Thanks."

Advertising Sales Drone: "Yeah, you know, it would be a shame if your restaurant got a bunch of bad reviews and ruined your business now, wouldn't it?"

Restaurant Owner: "Uh...."

Protection rackets are everywhere (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26921259)

risky? (2, Insightful)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919459)

If Yelp removes negative reviews for a fee, it seems to me that they have given up their common carrier status and have made themselves liable for errors in the reviews they leave up. Restaurants that receive negative reviews could sue Yelp for libel if they can demonstrate errors in the reviews.

Re:risky? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26919655)

If I don't post whatever comes to mind, do I give up my common carrier status? Yes, you too can misapply "common carrier"; visit your Slashdot today!

Re:risky? (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919745)

Your analogy to not posting whatever comes to mind is incorrect. The issue is whether Yelp is acting merely as a forum for others, in which case it is not liable for what they post, or whether it is selecting material to post, in which case it is a publisher and is liable.

As for "common carrier", the term is commonly extended from its original use with respect to telephone companies and the like to ISPs and other hosts that do not control content.

Re:risky? (5, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919893)

Common carrier is a legal term with a specific technical meaning. Any "extension" of the term is a misapplication of the term. It misleads people as to the actual legal specifics of a case, and should not be done.

Re:risky? (1)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920063)

Maybe so, but the extension is in common use. I didn't invent it.

Re:risky? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26920407)

but you did post your uninformed and factually inaccurate opinion.

Re:risky? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26920471)

If everyone jumped off a bridge into the clear murky waters of a Ted Stevens car metaphor couldn't we care less about prior art? Or should we sue for felony punitive damages? I object, your highness!

Re:risky? (4, Informative)

belmolis (702863) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920253)

If you want the technical legal terminology, the question is whether Yelp is a "conduit", "distributor", or "primary publisher". Primary publishers are strictly liable, conduits are not liable at all, and distributors are liable under certain circumstances. The risk to Yelp is that by removing negative reviews they control content and become a primary publisher. It seems very likely, though, that few Slashdot readers know these terms but that most understand what a "common carrier" is in telecommunications and in the extended sense.

This has nothing to do with liability... (1)

IANAAC (692242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920047)

and everything to do with sleazy ad sales tactics.

A LOT of sites still in "start up" mode (it still is in start up mode, despite what anyone may think) rely on these types of tactics.

Re:risky? (2, Insightful)

winkydink (650484) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920791)

Yelp is not nor have they ever been a Common Carrier.

"Common Carrier Status" (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920891)

ROTFL. I'd be very curious to know what you think a "common carrier" is. God save us from amateur lawyers!

Just like everyone else (1)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919479)

People manipulate online review and rating systems all the time, whats interesting is that this is on such a local level that it brings the corruption much closer to home. That being said, it does not seem that this is a very uncommon occurrence.

Slashdot Submissions (4, Insightful)

lymond01 (314120) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919481)

Maybe you don't like to look at ads. Maybe you wants them to go away. Let's say you become a member. I would not be at all surprised if you found yourself +1 Insightful in the very near future. Think about it. Let me know.

Re:Slashdot Submissions (5, Funny)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919871)

Maybe you wants them to go away, Precious?

Re:Slashdot Submissions (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26920743)

DO NOT WANT!!1

Another useful site succumbs to greed? (5, Informative)

PapaBoojum (232247) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919501)

A friend who manages a restaurant in Watertown MA asked me what Yelp was... She was contacted by someone claiming to be from Yelp with the same pitch.

I knew of Yelp, and used to trust the reviews. But I had already lost respect for them when they obviously sold my e-mail addy, despite claims of confidentiality and my opting out of their mailings.

Re:Another useful site succumbs to greed? (4, Insightful)

Thelasko (1196535) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919593)

Yelp succumbed to greed a long time ago, when they implemented Facebook's Beacon. [wikipedia.org]

Re:Another useful site succumbs to greed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26921199)

That was lovely when they did that. I review with a fake name and different email account for yelp because I don't want or need my reviews under my name. It was just great that facebook did that. Simply marvelous. It goes well with the physically threatening email I got from a coffee shop that threw a hissy fit that I thought the coffee sucked.

Reviews in Santa Barbara (0, Offtopic)

DeathOverlord3 (645635) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919513)

Thankfully my town has a really great local source for impartial reviews of every restaurant in town so we don't have to deal with yelp or citysearch or whatever:

http://www.santabarbara.com/Dining/ [santabarbara.com]

That's not extortion (2, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919555)

What they're allegedly doing is scummy, but not extortion. Or rather, it's only extortion if Yelp itself is generating the negative reviews. Accepting cash to remove legitimate negative reviews is just slimy.

Re:That's not extortion (2, Informative)

sdaug (681230) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919659)

Or rather, it's only extortion if Yelp itself is generating the negative reviews.

If you RTFA, you'll see that Yelp employees do write reviews, including negative reviews.

Re:That's not extortion (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 5 years ago | (#26921235)

That probably depends on jurisdiction, but in general I'd say extortion is a broader term than you think and this could be construed as extortion.

The elements of extortion are typically a threat, intent to take money to which one isn't entitled, and sometimes the actual acquisition of the property as a result of the threat. The question is, does the threat to leave negative reviews visible count?

You appear to be asserting that the threat has to be affirmative in nature -- i.e. "give me what I want, or I will do something to you". But that's not necessarily the case. Threatening to withhold testimony can be extortion; so at least some of the time, the threat can be one of omission -- "give me what I want or I will not do something that would prevent harm to you".

That the threatened action be illegal, or that the harm be unjust by any particular standard, are not typically elements of the crime.

Awww. Yelp is all growed up. (4, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919559)

Their advertising side dominates their editorial side, just like the respectable old media guys. Web 2.0 made good, I think I'm tearing up...

Re:Awww. Yelp is all growed up. (1)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920797)

Tearing up what? Newspapers? ;)

Related News (5, Funny)

Fuseboy (414663) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919561)

In related news, Yelp has announced that it has reached a $300 cross-advertising relationship with Slashdot to "do something" about a prominently displayed news item.

Finally (4, Funny)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919603)

We all now know what the ... step is: Extortion.

Not so much Yelp as a Growl (1)

Presto Vivace (882157) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919627)

Shake down marketing, in desperate times men do desperate things.

If you don't by an ad, we shoot this puppy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26919643)

And then thinly slice it and place it in a broth that perfectly balances sweet, sour, salt and heat.

Four stars.

Yelp bends over to restauranteurs already (5, Interesting)

leroybrown (136516) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919681)

I lost confidence in Yelp after I posted a negative review of an Italian bistro in Haddonfield, NJ (which I won't name to avoid giving them any free publicity) and it was removed after about a week. Over time other reviewers for the restaurant made references to their previous negative reviews being removed as well. My girlfriend and I had dinner at this place for Valentine's day last year and the experience was miserable. The food was bland and overpriced, and the kitchen manager was making very rude sexual comments about his dating life and experience with women. I wrote to the owner first explaining the problem and he responded with suggestions that I'm a prude, obviously don't know good food, would not be happy anywhere, and suggested that if I'd like to come back sometime (I live in PA), he'd be willing to settle this outside. So since I wasn't getting anywhere with that route, I posted both my and his emails into a yelp review. Gone a week later. I've watched the review section since then and have noticed several negative reviews go up and are then removed shortly after. Currently there are only two reviews up, with 3 and 5 stars. My only idea at this point is that the owner of the place (whose email address looks suspiciously like the word "douche") badgered Yelp into removing them.

Anyone else have this experience?

Re:Yelp bends over to restauranteurs already (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26919955)

the kitchen manager was making very rude sexual comments

Is-a no fair!
Avete dato al mio ristorante una revisione difettosa per formulare le osservazioni sessuali inadeguate.
Ma ho dato alla vostra mamma cinque stelle per il sesso caldo della scimmia!

Re:Yelp bends over to restauranteurs already (5, Funny)

leroybrown (136516) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920035)

Okay, babelfish translated this as:

You have given to my restaurant a defective review in order to formulate inadequate the sexual observations. But I have given to your mother five stars for the warm sex of the monkey!

"Warm sex of the monkey" was about how the food tasted...

Re:Yelp bends over to restauranteurs already (1)

the_B0fh (208483) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920207)

Since I've not tasted the "Warm sex of the monkey", can you please elaborate and tell me what it tastes like?

-walks away hoping it's not chicken!

Re:Yelp bends over to restauranteurs already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26920449)

"Warm sex of the monkey" was about how the food tasted...

Avete giocato molto bene, signore. Molto bene.

I'm curious, why write the letter? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26920059)

My response to a crappy meal and poor service is to just not go there again.

Why write the letter? Was it the leacherous nature of the manager what did it? It seems a letter just adds to the waste of your time beyond just a crappy meal.

Perhaps a letter to the local editor of whatever rags your town has might be a better use of your time.

Re:Yelp bends over to restauranteurs already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26920071)

Anyone else have this experience?

With Yelp? Or with Duo?

Re:Yelp bends over to restauranteurs already (1)

larry bagina (561269) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920559)

Wit his girlfriend...

Re:Yelp bends over to restauranteurs already (2, Interesting)

Culture20 (968837) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920105)

Keep posting them. Eventually that restaurant will run out of money in their "Yelp fund"

Re:Yelp bends over to restauranteurs already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26920117)

I wrote to the owner first explaining the problem and he responded with suggestions that I'm a prude, obviously don't know good food, would not be happy anywhere,

Any chance the owner is correct? Honestly, if I have an unsatisfying meal at a restaurant, I move on with life the moment I walk out the door and just don't go back. Every single person I have met who would take it further than that has been a prissy little wanker with delusions of importance. You *wrote* to the manager? Who even does that? Who cares? The place will live or die on its own merits. That fact that it's not even local to you only make it sillier.

Re:Yelp bends over to restauranteurs already (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26920169)

suggested that if I'd like to come back sometime (I live in PA), he'd be willing to settle this outside.

Doesn't he know that you keep a razor in your shoe?

Seriously, though, I doubt that they'll get a rash of new business from the comment you posted, and Slashdot would *never* stoop to deleting your comment, so you might as well post the name of the place -- starts with a D? Might as well post the address and phone number too.

I live a town over from Haddonfield (2, Interesting)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920281)

Please name names.

Re:Yelp bends over to restauranteurs already (5, Funny)

Hogwash McFly (678207) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920589)

Anyone else have this experience?

Of spending Valentine's day with a female? No, sorry...

Duo Italian Bistro (1)

geoffrobinson (109879) | more than 5 years ago | (#26921437)

Am I right or am I right? I'm right.

Extortion? Not Yet. (1)

moore.dustin (942289) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919687)

First things first, what Yelp is doing is not the most respectable thing, but should not surprise a single person that understands business. Next, what they are doing is not extortion, at least not yet. When they call companies and tell them that a competitor bought a sponsorship to promote themselves and if they don't up the ante along with them, then they 'wont be able to do anything about those negative reviews,' then you have a case for extortion. It could come in many flavors, but you should get the idea.

It is also important to remember that bad ethics is not evidence enough alone to throw around the extortion word. In this case, you merely disagree with how Yelp handles sales, sponsorship and their relation to the reviews on their site.

Re:Extortion? Not Yet. (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919981)

...should not surprise a single person that understands business

And people wonder why the economy's in the toilet.

Re:Extortion? No, more like Payola . . . (2, Insightful)

PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920575)

This better fits the description: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payola [wikipedia.org]

And, considering that it is/was practiced by our pals in the Big Music Industry . . . doesn't make it any more palatable.

Re:Extortion? Not Yet. (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920769)

If they are posting false negative reviews and then offering to take them down for a fee they are engaging in extortion. The false negative reviews may also constitute libel.

Re:Extortion? Not Yet. (1)

WNight (23683) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920863)

extort - obtain by coercion or intimidation;
"They extorted money from the executive by threatening to reveal his past to the company boss"
"They squeezed money from the owner of the business by threatening him"

Seems to be common usage.

Yelp is essentially lying to customers. ('reviews' implies all reviews, not just selected ones.)

I can't imagine the life of anyone here would be enriched by listening to a lawyer yammer on about the technicality in the legal definition of extortion merely makes this jackassery instead of criminal. It's still antisocial and the people involved need to be ostracized.

Re:Extortion? Not Yet. (1)

ericrost (1049312) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920993)

More aptly, just like with Microsoft, the Television Studios, etc. You're not the customer, you're the product. The advertisers and, in this case, restauranteurs are the customers.

Sucks, but its more and more true.

Sounds pretty damning (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919699)

The article sounds pretty damning-- if they move bad reviews down based on whether you advertise on the site (or even, apparently, actually write bad reviews if you don't advertise), that's extortion.

I'm wondering if they can be sued for that. If they really write bad reviews for restaurants that don't advertise, I would think that this would count as libel, even if you can't sue for extortion.

Re:Sounds pretty damning (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920653)

> I'm wondering if they can be sued for that. If they really write bad reviews for
> restaurants that don't advertise, I would think that this would count as libel,
> even if you can't sue for extortion.

I think that they could be sued for both libel and extortion, if anyone wants to bother.

Restauranteurs (1)

SoupGuru (723634) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919709)

Does Jack White have another side project?

Hahaha!! Oh man, I crack myself up....

Bucket of salt (5, Interesting)

Joe the Lesser (533425) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919715)

after RTFA I am not so sure what's going on is clearcut, so take this story with some salt.

Clearly the sales reps are 'shaking down' some restaurants, but I think it's more likely that they are trying to inflate their own numbers and don't have the power they pretend or are wording it in such a way that it seems they can do more than they can.

What you get is just the ability to choose one review to be 'front and center'. Otherwise all reviews are placed by an algorithm. So a sales rep says 'we could help with that negative review' but what they mean is 'because you get to place one featured positive one at the top'

Re:Bucket of salt (1)

garcia (6573) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919877)

Lots of media groups are doing shit like this. Take for instance Minneapolis/St Paul's CityPages [thedeets.com] and what they're doing with their restaurant reviews.

Re:Bucket of salt (1)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919927)

In other words...

"Nice restaurant youse gots there. Be a shame if you had lots of negative reviews, now, wouldn't it, Vinny?"
"Yeah, Guido, it sure would!"
"Well, we's got an offer for youse that youse can't refuse...."

New job opportunities for the MAFIAA bunch (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26919819)

Also, who else thought it was this yelp [gnome.org]

6 Pages!?! (2, Funny)

DrWho520 (655973) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919823)

How is this article 6 pages long? I cannot help but snicker reading the first paragraph. I get the image of a restaurant owner cringing every time the phone rings, dreading the voice of Henchman Number 24 on the other end.

"Would you like to purchase advertising on our site? We can rearrange the order of your ratings. The Monarch Mobile will be right over with the paperwork."

Food Establishment Inspections not reviews... (4, Informative)

kabocox (199019) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919841)

I live in Texarkana AR. I eat mostly in Texarkana, TX. The Bowie County has this nice report http://www.txkusa.org/health/Food-Report.pdf [txkusa.org]
It lists: Establishment, Address, Date of Inspection, Type of Inspection, and Score. My wife and I check it every time we consider trying something new. We first look 'em up. If they don't have an A; we don't eat there.

I just wish Miller County had the same thing. Heck, it would be nice if there was an easy federal health website that it was trivial to search for this info. Heck, it would be nice to have those GPS units be able to poll for that info when you are "out of town." Just so you are sure to pick a clean place to eat.

Re:Food Establishment Inspections not reviews... (1)

SatanicPuppy (611928) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920753)

All the information is "free" but it's not put together anywhere. So you're depending on your local news organ to get the information, and publish it. Most papers put it in the actual paper.

I agree though, it should end up online either through local government or a local watchdog news organization.

Re:Food Establishment Inspections not reviews... (2, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920899)

an easy federal health website

Because we all know that if the government is involved, bribes and money and bias don't have any affect anymore. :)

That's too bad (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919849)

I use Yelp regularly and have found some good restaurants through Yelp that I would have never visited on my own. It seems like they can't simply leave good enough alone.

True (2, Informative)

paimin (656338) | more than 5 years ago | (#26919993)

Absolutely true. I personally know a restaurant owner in San Francisco that complains about these suggestive calls.

Yelp = crap.

Re:True (4, Interesting)

inviolet (797804) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920439)

Absolutely true. I personally know a restaurant owner in San Francisco that complains about these suggestive calls.

Apparently the Better Business Bureau operates the same way, but with more obfuscation.

Membership in the BBB allows your company to 'respond' to customer complaints, which means that your company no longer has a nasty "complaints unresponded" number. You don't actually have to do anything about the complaints; you just have to respond, which requires member$hip.

MBAs are wrecking our society.

Company Policy or rogue Salesman (1)

olddotter (638430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920099)

Of course all companies in this situation would claim its the actions of a rouge sale's person. But I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Pssst! (0, Redundant)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920159)

Hey, Yelp. For the right incentive this whole Slashdot thread can go away.

Restaurants in my city (1)

theredshoes (1308621) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920379)

There are pretty fair reviews on the very expensive restaurants in my city on Yelp, especially the Big Burrito owned restaurants. Maybe there is something to this because in Podunk, PA Big Burrito owns/runs the nicest places in this city. A lot of the independently owned gems aren't even on there, which is a shame. There are a lot of kind of hole in the walls places which are very clean and arty in our city that have great Indian, Filipino and Thai food. I would pick those places over Soba any day.

Hello, and Welcome to the World of Print (1)

painandgreed (692585) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920523)

The same behavior has been going on in print magazines and newspapers probably since the they started. Ever notice how whatever band or establishment is reviewed in a magazine also ends up advertising? What they print and what is advertised is often very related. That's how they stay in business. The cover cost of magazines rarely pays for anything besides distribution costs and its the ad revenue that actually lets print happen. Thus, ad dollars often dictate was is or isn't in print. Sometimes the print media is extorting money out of others, and sometimes they're selling out and accepting the money offered to them for services. If they're really lucky, they're being offered money by people they really like and they don't actually have to edit stories. Even newspapers run into this because what news and stories they cover can offend their advertisers so it must be edited. It's the sad truth of print.

The web is just another form of print. Many websites get their money from advertising and so you see the exact same behavior that exists in dead tree media. Difference in media doesn't mean there's going to be any difference in how the operations are run as businesses. An establishment like Yelp might have their reputation matter somewhat, but only the clicks and the dollars will determine if it is enough.

Yelp has issues... (1)

Fulminata (999320) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920651)

even without this article, Yelp sucks from the perspective of a business owner. The root of the problem is that there is no way for a business to respond to misleading reviews. Businesses are barred from reviewing themselves, which makes sense, but there's no other way to post a comment other than in the form of a review!

As a result, there's no way to respond to information that is simply wrong. For example, if a reviewer says that a retail store doesn't carry 'brand X' when in fact the store carries the complete line, there's nothing the store owner can do to correct the misinformation, short of setting up a shill account and posting a new review.

What happens... (1)

MyrddinBach (1138089) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920847)

when they meet the REAL mafia..

Call up some local italian joint in Chicago and do this offer. Pretty soon yelp will pay THEM to make sure their kneecaps stay whole.

Re:What happens... (1)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 5 years ago | (#26921041)

They already refused two offers - first, for only $500, they could have stopped the article, and second, for only $1000 they could have kept it of /.
Now, for only $2500 ..

Down with Yelp (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26920851)

I can't stand Yelp. Many times the reviews don't match the reality of the restaurant. And what the CEO says about not being true 'coz there are some bad reviews, the question is how many bad are taken out and if only the less bad reviews are left... And probably the restaurant he posted in his blog as an example was one which didn't pay the bribe fee! DOWN with YELP!

If you live in Buffalo (1)

QuoteMstr (55051) | more than 5 years ago | (#26920927)

If you live in Buffalo, NY, check out Bill Rapaport's Buffalo Restaurant Guide [buffalo.edu] . It's put together by a CS professor at the University at Buffalo. Although the web design is right out of 1995, but it's extremely fair, useful, and informative site, and a model for other grass-roots restaurant review services to emulate.

Scummy business practices indeed (1)

BenVis (795521) | more than 5 years ago | (#26921025)

I read a blog post about this case pointing out that East Bay Express also happens to run a restaurant rating service. Conflicts of interest don't always lead to problems, but the conflict should be kept in mind when evaluating the article's claims.

A link to the post [oehlberg.com] .

bad publicity is better than no publicity. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26921383)

Yelp is now known to all of us, and Im sure more of us will probably use this service to find restaurants when we visit other citys. Such a sham.

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