Yelp, a user-generated business review website based in San Francisco, has been the topic of many a news story recently related to negative business review postings. And the occasional lawsuit that follows. But things definitely got much worse for the becoming-infamous startup due to a long, long article in the East Bay Express today. The article’s title? Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0. Ouch.
Numerous business owners who have profiles on Yelp have accused the company of using shady business practices in order to make money. Frequent sales calls from the company offering to remove negative reviews for $299 a month are apparently a big revenue driver. Some business owners have stated that negative reviews mysteriously move to the top of their profiles before the business calls, or negative reviews appear if the offer is denied. Many think these negative reviews are written by Yelp employees in order to generate sales leads.
In fact, most of the business owners who came forward with allegations wouldn’t even give their real names fearing retaliation from the company. Obviously a website with 16 million unique visitors monthly has quite the power over mom-and-pop shops. Hence the Mafia comparison in the title of this article.
I’ll let you read the six page article yourself for all the details, but the theme of the article doesn’t differ from page one on. Many a business owner feels Yelp is crooked. Yelp’s response? Denial, denial, denial. If this kind of publicity keeps up for the company, expect a business with great potential to bite the dust.