Saturday, January 5, 2013

The dark underbelly of Yelp

I've been on Yelp just over 1 year now.  I've posted reviews of more than 300 businesses and uploaded more than 500 photos.  I've also reported hundreds of false reviews, and corrected a huge number of businesses' information.

I keep seeing information about how Yelp messes with businesses.  Until the other day, I had yet to see anything happen.  There was a certain pizza place in New Jersey that was bookmarked by a friend.  As I read the reviews, they didn't make sense to me.  What's more, I trust this friend to have similar taste in food, given that her family was running a local restaurant where I had eaten a few dozen times.

This pizza place either had really good ratings or really bad ratings, but rarely was anything on the bad side to do with the food.  One of the bad reviews came from someone who had given a 5 star review to another place in the same town.  I don't believe that any two places in Jersey were so divergent that you would be polarized completely.  I call bullshit.

I can appreciate that Yelp is a business and that they want advertising.  Indeed, I had a check-in deal with Hastings books and video store.  I had waited a very long time and kept forgetting to use it.  When I remembered in late November 2012, Yelp said that it had expired and Hastings said that it expired two months earlier than the Yelp date.  It was probably something to do with their advertising contract expiring.  I don't have a good feeling about Hastings anyway.  I started getting their corporate e-mails with my name misspelled and when I tried to correct it online, it told me that my rental card was invalid.  I returned to the store and they told me that they are connected to the company or some such.  If they're not connected, how did they get my e-mail address?

In any case, I've seen people proclaim that they'd been approached by Yelp to provide positive reviews of a business.  I can imagine that it's possible but I wonder why I haven't been approached.  I'm not going to lie for anyone, but still, you'd think if it was that important, I would be contacted.  As far as I know, people who mention it now, without proof, might be working for someone else, trying to discredit Yelp.  I asked someone to provide the text but never even got a response of any sort. The only evidence of any weirdness is that a gas station which I frequented was suddenly gone from Yelp.

As Apple had made a deal with Yelp, I was somewhat pleased to see my reviews and photos show up on Apple's currently-broken Maps application.  I had a similar smile when Google bought Panoramio, and my photos started to shop up on Google's maps years ago.

Am I up for bullshit?  Yel, err, Hell No!

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