Are you a Yelp fan? I have plenty of friends that are and I have had this conversation many, many times but…..I am not a Yelp fan. In my opinion, at the core of Yelp is at the least a bad business model and at the worst a bunch of dishonest “businessmen” that have made millions taking advantage of small businesses. These claims about Yelp have been going on since the company came into existence in 2004. The main allegation is the alleged manipulation by Yelp of pressuring small businesses into participation for its advertising programs. Many business owners say Yelp salespeople offered to removed or suppress negative reviews if they purchase advertising. Others report seeing negative reviews featured prominently and positive reviews buried. Soon after, they would receive calls from Yelp attempting to sell paid advertising. Yelp of course, denies this. They have been sued many, many times. BusinessWeek gave a great quote about Yelp saying “Yelp has always had a complicated relationship with small businesses.” An understatement to be sure. The article below is from National Jeweler and it is about the new documentary being made that is based on Yelp and is aptly named, Billion Dollar Bully. To me, the whole business model is flawed, how can you sell advertising to anyone without the guarantee of positive reviews. Is that not the purpose of advertising? This is especially true for example, if you are talking about a hair salon or a restaurant. If the reviews were bad, wouldn’t you complain loudly at the very least and also drop or sue Yelp? That negative press almost instantly affects your bottom line. Why would you pay Yelp to hurt your business? Is this not usually called extortion?
I would LOVE to hear your thoughts about this.
An investigative documentary featuring interviews with business owners about Yelp’s allegedly flawed review system has passed its initial goal of $60,000 on crowdsourcing site Kickstarter, where filmmakers are raising money to help finish the project.
Led by director and producer Kaylie Milliken and Prost Productions, Billion Dollar Bully will look into “the claims by business owners of extortion, review manipulation and review fabrication,” according to the film’s Kickstarter page.
The filmmakers will interview business owners in person, all of whom have allegations against the review website’s “questionable dealings.” The film has so far been self-funded, with about half of production completed.
Yelp has come under fire before, especially from small business owners who allege that it attempts to coerce businesses to pay to advertise by manipulating which reviews can be seen.
However, the San Francisco-based site said there aren’t any merits to the claims being made in the film, and it calls into question the credibility of the woman making the film.
In response to request for comment about the documentary from National Jeweler, a Yelp spokesperson said over email, “The director has a conflict of interest, as she has a history of trying to mislead consumers on Yelp. There is no merit to the claims they appear to highlight, which have been repeatedly dismissed by courts of law, investigated by government regulators, includingthe FTC, and disproven by academic study.”
The conflict of interest that Yelp is referring to, according to one report, is that Milliken created three Yelp accounts in 2011 to post fake five-star reviews to boost ratings of her husband’s law firm, which Milliken admits she did do but said they were based on real legal services she received from the firm while she and her husband were dating.
Milliken said that she believes Yelp bringing up her fake reviews just “shows that they’re concerned about what’s in this film,” and that they’re trying to discredit her, adding that Yelp won’t agree to an interview for the documentary.
Even though Yelp has yet to agree to an interview for Billion Dollar Bully, the company did appear in a recent interview on CNBC, where Shannon Eis, Yelp’s vice president of corporate communications, went head-to-head with Milliken on the claims made against the site.
Milliken and Proust Productions’ initial goal for Billion Dollar Bully was to reach $60,000 on Kickstarter, which it accomplished less than two weeks after it launched in mid-March, to help finish the rest of the documentary. As of press time, the project’s Kickstarter had raised $79,438.
They will continue to take donations until April 20, with a new “stretch goal” of $100,000 to cover additional costs and more research.
I hope the movie wins an Oscar. I want to hear from you.