When I was a kid, there was a photography shop in my town. A real mom-and-pop joint, it had been owned and operated by four generations of the same family. Those folks loved cameras, but one day the customers dried up, and the business died, and the store closed.
This thing was happening everywhere at the time, and a lot of old shops that couldn’t handle the digital revolution and the rise of e-commerce simply ceased to exist. Nowadays, if you’re lucky, you can still find some small independent stores that still give you good merchandise and warm, friendly service. Only now, there’s a new threat: Yelp Extortion.
Now with More Filter!
I’m all for the natural order of things. The strong will overcome the weak. Natural selection has its place in business, too, I believe. But there should be some ethics in there too, not because ethics has anything to do with profits, necessarily, but because all business is founded on human relationships. And if you can’t trust the ethics of the person you’re buying or selling to, can you really trust their business?
Now, thanks to the internet (which brought you such amazing things as BitStrips, Gangnam Style, and the MoneyPak Virus) comes Yelp Extortion.
Cool, but not as cool as extorting small businesses.
In case you haven’t heard about this, its this teensy weensy little thing where some people are claiming Yelp employees manipulate reviews before, after, or during sales pitches for Yelp’s advertising services.
Yelp would have you believe this is the direct result of A.) raving lunatics or B.) people who aren’t happy with Yelp’s status as the go-to source for consumer reviews.
The stories about Yelp Extortion are real. They aren’t coming from raving lunatics (how many raving lunatics run a business successful enough to warrant paid advertising on Yelp?), and they aren’t coming from shady business owners (who need to have at least 3.5 stars and a certain amount of reviews to get the advertising pitch from Yelp in the first place).
Backdoor deals and faked consumer reporting FROM YELP, WHO WANT YOUR MONEYS, doesn’t help businesses and it doesn’t help consumers. It uses consumer reviews (or the guise of consumer reviews) to extort businesses into paying money to Yelp.
A Yelp apparel advertisement. Yup. Gotta make them bucks somehow.
Yelp Extortion is real, and it doesn’t benefit us, the consumers. It manipulates data and damages the reputations of businesses that can’t fork over the cash.
Are you ready for the part where I recommend the solution?
Stop using Yelp. Just stop. I know, I know: Where will you find a good coffee shop that serves a soy latte just the way you like it?
Let me repeat: Stop using Yelp.
Walk or drive (or hopscotch or pogo-stick) to an actual business and see for yourself how well they treat customers, what kind of goods they sell, and what the prices are like.
If it’s horrible beyond belief, just do what people used to in similar situation back in the days before Yelp: get up and leave.
If it’s truly terrible, at least you’ve got an interesting story out of it.
Then when you go home, sure, tell someone about it. But putting your review on Yelp won’t help the business or other consumers, ‘cause Yelp is just gonna do what Yelp wants in order to make money.
Do you really want to be Yelp’s biatch? Do you want to be the leverage the company uses on small businesses to further Yelp’s profits?
Next time, don’t order the lobster.
I think, at the end of the day, it’s better to know for yourself – and yeah, talk about negative experiences – but there’s already so much crap online to begin with, do we really need consumer reviews that can be manipulated by the same company trying to sell advertisements to the places you love or hate?
Whatever happened to the joy of discovery, anyway?