September 03, 2015

Consumer Protection Initiative Uncovers Shady Group of Movers

Earlier this week we announced new Consumer Alerts, part of our Consumer Protection Initiative, to protect people from attempts to mislead them on Yelp. Although most businesses earn their reputations fairly, some are becoming sophisticated in their attempts to manipulate their online reputation. Fortunately, Yelp is just as committed to protecting the integrity of our content and we are constantly learning and improving our mechanisms to detect suspicious behavior.

Today we are protecting consumers (and businesses who play by the rules) by taking additional measures to shut down attempts at review manipulation. Yelp has issued a new Reputation Warning on more than 100 listings for moving companies across the U.S. who are connected to the Movers Alliance, a group that operates many mover and relocation businesses under several names and listings on Yelp, other consumer sites, and government databases. We have evidence that this group and the businesses connected to it pressure customers into writing positive reviews (sometimes on the spot) in exchange for a discount, manipulate customers into posting reviews to listings other than the one they transacted with (sometimes in an entirely different state), ask customers to sign a contract preventing them from publishing negative reviews in case of a dispute, and purchase fake reviews online. Here is a small selection from our evidence file:

Mover Alert Evidence

Click here to see a business with the alert and full evidence file.

Due to these extensive and widespread efforts to mislead consumers, some of whom may spend thousands of dollars moving, we cannot recommend any of the reviews for these businesses. Listings with this Reputation Warning will not have any reviews or star ratings and will display instead a warning with a link to Yelp’s evidence about this group.

Yelp employs advanced recommendation software and spends countless hours investigating deceptive behavior to protect the trust of the millions of people who use our services every month, but we couldn’t do it without the help of our community of users. If you see a review or message that doesn’t feel right, you can use this link to flag it for our team to evaluate. Messages shared by several Yelp users already helped us crack the Movers Alliance case.

Yelp's Consumer Protection Initiative, which began with our Consumer Alerts program in 2012, will continue to evolve as we double down on our effort to have consumers’ backs. It has since extended to include providing public health scores of restaurants, government ranking data on medical service providers, taking a stand against misleading “reputation management” companies, and our ongoing efforts to protect consumers from lawsuits by businesses. Is there an issue you think Yelp should pursue? Please let us know here.

September 01, 2015

Consumer Alerts: Continuing to Protect your Peace of Mind

Consumer trust has always been Yelp’s number one priority. From our LIVES open data standard integrating restaurant health scores onto business pages, to our more recent ProPublica partnership incorporating health care statistics onto the Yelp business pages of medical treatment facilities, our goal is to provide people with as much information as possible before they make a spending decision.

As part of our ongoing Consumer Protection Initiative to empower consumers, Yelp launched its Consumer Alert program in 2012 to track down people who might be trying to manipulate ratings and reviews. This week, we’re releasing a new round of 51 alerts, because consumers deserve to know when someone is attempting to deceive them. The consumer alerts will be clearly posted on affected Yelp listings for 90 days.

Since the start of the program, our trusty team of investigators have caught hundreds of attempts to artificially inflate ratings through a number of tactics. In 2015 alone, our sleuths have issued 185 consumer alerts. Cheaters beware: our team WILL find you. 

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Wouldn’t you want to know that Spokane Laptops was caught threatening customers and offering to pay $50 in exchange for the removal of negative reviews before taking your broken laptop into that shop? Likewise, you’d probably appreciate a heads up that this MedRite Urgent Care was caught twice attempting to inflate their ratings before rushing in with a medical emergency. Similarly, you’d want the tip-off that a large number of five-star reviews for Family Dental Care came from the same IP address used to claim the business owner’s account before heading in to get a tooth pulled.

Spokane_laptop

In addition to giving consumers a false perception of the business where they are about to spend their hard-earned money and violating Yelp’s Terms of Service, buying positive testimonials without revealing they were paid for is a form of  false advertising.

Our Consumer Protection Initiative is continuing to grow and more announcements are on the way. In the meantime, if you’ve spotted some suspicious behavior, please let our investigators know. Together, we can continue to protect consumers and promote the honest local business owners who make our communities so awesome.

August 27, 2015

Digesting Yelp Photos Just Got Easier: Now Browse by Category

One of the best parts about working at Yelp is knowing that every day we get to contribute to people having great experiences at amazing local businesses. Whether it’s the perfect sandwich for your lunch or the right plumber when you’re in a jam, getting you the information you need is our highest priority.

Sometimes that information comes from the high quality reviews our enthusiastic Yelp community provides, but other times the best answer lies in a photo. As the old adage goes, a photo is worth a thousand words. ;-)

Today I’m happy to announce a new way to help users find just the right information they need within the vast collection of photos our users have submitted. Photos for restaurants are now classified by category, including food, interior, outside, drink, and menu. Each photo a Yelp community member takes provides meaningful information to other people, but sometimes the exact photo you need gets buried under several screenfulls of other photos (I’m looking at you Food).

Yelp has been experimenting with using neural networks to understand the content in user photos (keep an eye on the Yelp Engineering Blog for a deeper dive into the complex world of neural networks!), so now when you need to find that interior shot to survey the ambiance of a restaurant before a birthday dinner or maybe an exterior shot to find that great tapas bar you read about in the Weekly Yelp, you can get to those photos with only one click. Now that’s service.

To check out this new feature, click on the ‘See all photos’ link on any restaurant around the world with at least 18 photos (that’s how many fit on a laptop screen without scrolling).

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You’ll notice links above the grid of images to different types of photos. If you have an idea for a new photo category, tweet it to @Yelp with the hashtag #photobucket. We’re always looking for feedback!

Photo tabbed browsing

We’re starting small with this experiment - just restaurants at first - but we’ll be exploring what other categories of businesses make sense. Also, we’re very aware you may sometimes encounter photos that we’ve misclassified. If you see one, just flag the photo and pick ‘wrong category’ as your reason from the drop down.

To leave you with a moment of zen, behold some of our mis-classified photos. Everyone can have a bad day, even a computer.

Photo tabbed browsing collage
Mis-classifications, left to right: Food, Outside, Drink

August 25, 2015

Yelp Foundation Awards $1.2 Million in Grants to 14 Nonprofits

As chairperson of the Yelp Foundation, calling nonprofits to surprise them with the news that they’ve won a Yelp Foundation grant is one of my favorite moments of the entire year. This year, I was able to make 14 calls and award $1.2 million in grants to nonprofits that advance the Yelp Foundation’s mission of supporting access to information, education, local economic development, and freedom of expression in local communities.

I am proud to announce this year’s recipients of Yelp Foundation grants: 

KIPP Bay Area

Kiva Zip

Aim High

Playworks Arizona

Great Hearts

Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix

Great Lakes Academy Chicago

i.c. stars

Friends of the Children New York

Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship

Demand Progress

826 National

Room to Read

Positive Tomorrows

Yelp Foundation Grant Recipients logo collage.ppt (1)
Each year since 2013 the Foundation has enlisted the help of Yelp employees to recommend which organizations should receive a grant. Employees can nominate any 501(c)(3) that is aligned with the Foundation’s mission for consideration, and out of that group a handful of the frontrunners are identified. An employee who is passionate about each organization acts as its champion, presenting to the company and Foundation board on how the grant money will make an impact and help drive the Foundation’s overarching goals. Many of the champions have actually participated in the programs they are presenting and share personal stories about the impact it has had on their lives, leading to the jobs they now hold at Yelp. Based on those presentations, Yelp employees vote on their favorite nonprofits, and the Yelp Foundation board considers those votes when making their final decision.

A record number of Yelp employees participated in the voting process, nominating more than 100 nonprofits and championing 26 organizations before the winning 14 were chosen. Since some employees may not be able to make their own personal donations, this is our way of getting folks involved to make sure the Yelp Foundation is supporting organizations they care about. For those who are able to donate, the Foundation will again match Yelp employee donations of up to $1,000 per employee through the end of 2015 to effectively double their impact.

As of today, the Foundation has awarded a total of $2.6 million in grants and more than $400,000 in employee donations and matching.

As the impact of the Foundation continues to grow, it’s exciting to see the difference this money can make to the organizations who receive it. By the numbers, a Yelp Foundation grant can go a long way. Here’s what $100,000 could do at some of this year’s grant winning nonprofits:

  • $100,000 provides 2,500 Aim High teachers with access to workshops taught by expert educators

  • $100,000 will purchase 2,000 textbooks for students at $50 each through the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship

  • $100,000 will fund 3,333 hours of fine arts programming for kids through the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Phoenix

A few nonprofits shared their plans with us already. 826 National hopes to use Yelp Foundation funds to support local chapter expansion, including 826 Valencia's expansion to the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco and 826DC's new home. Kiva Zip hopes to put some of their grant award towards their Kiva City SF program, and KIPP Bay Area will use some of the funding to reach their goal of serving four times the amount of students in the next five years.

We can’t wait to see these grants get put to use! To learn more about the Yelp Foundation and see previous grant winners, go to yelpfoundation.org.

August 20, 2015

Bigger Than a Numbers Story

For the first time last year, we shared our gender and ethnic diversity data with the world. As Jeremy stated then, “Diversity is important to our product, our work environment, and our ability to cultivate a successful global company.” He announced a few actionable items that the company was working towards, one of which was hiring a Head of Diversity. Well here I am, and it’s been an inspirational, challenging and educational 10 months. Since then, we’ve been focused on continuing to build a company that is not only diverse but, more importantly, inclusive.  

I recently spoke with the International Business Times about some of the progress we’ve made, as well as our goals and values. We still have a long way to go. Full representation and inclusion of historically underrepresented groups will take some time. Yet we remain optimistic about the future of our diversity and inclusion efforts given the results we’ve seen over the past 12 months. Here are some highlights of Yelp’s progress:

  • 124% growth rate in women in Engineering globally

  • 86% growth rate in African-Americans/Blacks in the U.S.

  • 88% growth rate in Hispanics/Latinos in the U.S.

Yelp_WorkforceDiversity_Q3_2015 (1)

 

We’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the course of a year, and there’s no doubt that metrics are important. As the saying goes, “What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get done.” However, my vision for diversity and inclusion is to be less tethered to specific numbers and to be more focused on ensuring that Yelp continues to be a “Best Place to Work” for all of our employees, no matter their age, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, disability or economic status.

I’m inspired by the saying: “build it and they will come” (shout out to Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams!). We recognize the importance of creating an inclusionary environment to make sure both current and new employees are comfortable, happy, and bringing their authentic selves to work. Over the past year, we’ve put a lot of focus into elevating Yelp’s Employee Resource Groups. We started five groups across many of our offices, including Women At Yelp, Awesome Women in Engineering, Yelp Parents, OUTburst, and DiverseBurst. These groups are employee-driven and grassroots, with goals of enhancing employee engagement, professional development and providing business insights. We felt it was important to give our employees the power to self-organize and inform the approach the company should take when it comes to diversity. This is bigger than a numbers story - it's going to take changing our employees’ mindsets, and we’ve been educating ourselves and learning from each other along the way.

To further help create an inclusive environment, we’ve offered unconscious bias training, and are currently working with community organizations and nonprofits like Year Up, Skills for Chicagoland’s Future, Hackbright, Girls Who Code, Technovation, and more.

While it’s crucial to foster an inclusive environment, we haven’t forgotten the importance of recruiting from underrepresented communities. So our recruiters have:

  • Set realistic hiring goals for our sales organization, with the aim of representing and mirroring the diverse communities where we have offices

  • Expanded our Campus Ambassador Program and added ten new college/university target schools to our sales recruiting schedule and held more than 40 diversity recruiting events on those campuses

  • Deepened relationships with on-campus women’s STEM organizations like: Women in Computer Science and Society of Women Engineers

Our founders established company values many years ago. Three of those values really speak to our belief in the power of diversity: ‘Play Well with Others,’ ‘Be Authentic,’ and ‘Be Unboring.’ If these core values speak to you too, I think we’ll get along just fine. Come join us by visiting yelp.com/careers.

August 18, 2015

Review Federal Agencies on Yelp...and Maybe Get a Response

Yellowstone Yelp listing

Full functionality is now offered on pages of federal government services.

Yelp is excited to announce that it has concluded a negotiated terms of service agreement with the federal government that will allow federal agencies and offices to claim their Yelp pages, read and respond to reviews, and incorporate that feedback into service improvements.

Yelp encourages its users to review any of the thousands of agency field offices,national parks, Social Security Administration offices, landmarks and other places already listed on Yelp if you have good or bad feedback to share about your experiences. Not only is it helpful to others who are looking for information on these services, but you can actually make an impact by sharing your feedback directly with the source.

It’s clear Washington is eager to engage with people directly through social media. Earlier this year a group of 46 lawmakers called for the creation of a “Yelp for Government” in order to boost transparency and accountability, and Representative Ron Kind reiterated this call in a letter last month. Luckily, there’s no need to create a new platform now that government agencies can engage directly on Yelp.

In the weeks and months ahead, we’re excited to help the federal government more directly interact with and respond to the needs of citizens and to further empower the millions of Americans who use Yelp every day.

In addition to negotiating a terms of service agreement with the federal government, last week we announced our our partnership with ProPublica to incorporate health care statistics and consumer opinion survey data onto the Yelp business pages of more than 25,000 medical treatment facilities. We’ve also partnered with local governments in expanding the LIVES open data standard to show restaurant health scores on Yelp.

All of these things fall under Yelp’s Consumer Protection Initiative, a concerted effort to empower and protect consumers on our site. We’re constantly looking for new ways to improve our user experience, so if you have other ideas for this initiative or feedback on efforts Yelp currently has underway, including this new agreement with the federal government, please share it here.

August 05, 2015

Yelp’s Consumer Protection Initiative: ProPublica Partnership Brings Medical Info to Yelp

Yelp exists to empower and protect consumers, and we’re continually focused on how we can enhance our service while enhancing the ability for consumers to make smart transactional decisions along the way.

A few years ago, we partnered with local governments to launch the LIVES open data standard. Now, millions of consumers find restaurant inspection scores when that information is most relevant: while they’re in the middle of making a dining decision (instead of when they’re signing the check). Studies have shown that displaying this information more prominently has a positive impact.

Today we're excited to announce we’ve joined forces with ProPublica to incorporate health care statistics and consumer opinion survey data onto the Yelp business pages of more than 25,000 medical treatment facilities. Read more in today’s Washington Post story.

We couldn’t be more excited to partner with ProPublica, the Pulitzer Prize winning non-profit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest.

The information is compiled by ProPublica from their own research and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) for 4,600 hospitals, 15,000 nursing homes, and 6,300 dialysis clinics in the US and will be updated quarterly. Hover text on the business page will explain the statistics, which include number of serious deficiencies and fines per nursing home and emergency room wait times for hospitals. For example, West Kendall Baptist Hospital has better than average doctor communication and an average 33 minute ER wait time, Beachside Nursing Center currently has no deficiencies, and San Mateo Dialysis Center has a better than average patient survival rate.

Now the millions of consumers who use Yelp to find and evaluate everything from restaurants to retail will have even more information at their fingertips when they are in the midst of the most critical life decisions, like which hospital to choose for a sick child or which nursing home will provide the best care for aging parents.

Nursing Home Yelp highlight

Beyond providing all kinds of helpful information, we also protect consumers by shielding them from attempts by business owners and others to mislead them with false, incomplete or biased information. That's why we launched Yelp’s Consumer Alerts, why we actively enforce our policy requiring firsthand experiences and relevancy, and why we use recommendation software to only recommend reviews that best reflect the opinions of the Yelp community.

And we have much more planned. We're aiming to add more restaurant health scores for cities and counties across the US on Yelp. We're working with cities to provide a feed of Yelp restaurant reviews to aid planning decisions for inspections and faster discovery of outbreaks. We also hope to expand our partnership with ProPublica in the future to include additional categories of information, and have already shared a data set from Yelp’s vast collection of user generated content to inform their research and reporting.

Internally, we refer to all these efforts under the collective umbrella of Yelp's Consumer Protection Initiative. But it might just be easier to say: Yelp's got your back.

If you have other ideas for our Consumer Protection Initiative or feedback on efforts Yelp currently has underway, including today's ProPublica data partnership launch, please provide it here.

August 04, 2015

Your Next Yelp Small Business Advisory Council Unveiled

Fifteen superstar business owners are joining Yelp’s Small Business Advisory Council to represent you. How exactly will they do that, you ask? For starters, the group will head to San Francisco to share their insights and ideas with Yelp's top executives. They'll also join monthly conference calls to discuss Yelp initiatives that impact business owners. These ideas are then used to streamline products, programs, and policies and generally make Yelp better for you.

Business owners from all around the world applied for a spot on this year’s council. The newest members were selected because of their passion and drive to make a difference. They also represent a wide cross section of industries and geographies. So if you don't see your name below, rest assured you're in good hands. With that in mind, we’re excited to unveil the names of our new, as well as returning, members!

2015 YSBAC Pic Monkey Collage.jpg

New Members:

1.   Joe R. Earthwise Hauling And Junk Removal (Orange, CA - US)

2.   Lauren H. The Root Salon (Phoenix, AZ- US)

3.   Alexei L. Union Post SF (San Francisco, CA - US)

4.   Stacy A. Fitness Together (Washington, D.C. - US)

5.   Kyle H. Brooklyn Flea and Smorgasburg (Brooklyn, NY - US)

6.   Bruce S. Manhattan Chili Co. (Manhattan, NY - US)

7.   Matthew M. Jet City Device Repair (6 locations in Chicago, IL - US)

8.   Seth B. Lee (4 concepts in Toronto, ON - CA)

9.   Jason S. The Taco Truck (6 locations in NJ and NYC - US)

10. Jennifer N. Prolase Laser Clinic (Glendale, CA - US)

11. Bodo V. Sushi Factory (15 locations in Hamburg - DE)

12. Alexander R. Sushiya (Munich - DE)

13. Gary B. Four Corners (London - UK)

14. Stephen C. The Lo-cal Kitchen (Dublin - IE)

15. Robert F. Forsythe Cafe (Naremburn, New South Wales - AUS)

Returning Members:

1. Anna W. Jones Family Project (London - UK)

2. Clark S. Northwestern Specialists in Plastic Surgery (Chicago, IL - US)

3. Deborah D. Paradise Laundry, Inc. (4 locations throughout Roseville, CA - US)

4. Diana L. Peaches’ Smokehouse & Southern Kitchen (Los Angeles, CA - US)

5. Heidi L. Spa Lamar (Scottsdale, AZ - US)

6. Isadora M. Bunkhouse (4 locations in Austin, TX - US)

7. Kathy R. Flash Frozen Photography (Woodland Hills, CA - US)

8. Martin G. Auberge Du Dragon Rouge (Montreal, Qc - CA)

9. Steve B. B.D. Riley’s Irish Pub (Austin, TX - US)

10. Matthias M. Der Verrückte Eismacher (Munich - DE)

11. Victoria F. Miss Fox (Melbourne, Victoria - AUS)

12. Valerie G. Les Deux Gamins (Montreal, QC - CA)

13. Mellissa M. Ms. Cupcake (Brixton, London - UK)

14. Debbie G. Fresh Brothers (9 locations throughout Southern California - US)

15. Pam N. Butter Lane Cupcakes (2 locations in New York, NY - US)

16. Carlos R. Mr. Roofing (South San Francisco, CA - US)

17. Jonah H. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (Richmond, VA - US)

18. Michelle H. Property Management Systems (San Francisco, CA - US)

19. Wade L. Square Cow Movers (Austin, TX - US)

20. Patrick C. Affairs to Remember Caterers (Atlanta, GA - US)

21. David P. Lettuce B. Frank ( Food truck in Rochester, NY - US)

22. Michael G. Ellis Island Casino & Brewery (Las Vegas, NV - US)

23. Jose L. Lucha Libre Gourmet Taco Shop (San Diego, CA)

24. Robert H. H & Y Marketplace (Hicksville, NY - US)

25. Ken C. Nexus Brewery (Albuquerque, New Mexico - US)

We love working with the small business community, and the YSBAC is one of several ways that we do this. We also offer free educational webinars, workshops with our Business Outreach team, and tips via our Blog for Business Owners. We're excited to continue our efforts and develop new ways to help you close the loop with consumers.

July 23, 2015

Yelp <3 NYC: CNBC Tours Our New Offices

All work and no play would make life quite dull. The trick is finding juuust the right balance of the two. With Yelp’s new office in New York City, that was our goal.

With large floor plans of our building taking up an entire city block, open space allows employees and departments to co-mingle and communicate, and each quadrant is designed to highlight different local New York City neighborhoods like Astoria, Williamsburg, and West Village, to name a few. Yelp is all about local, so we wanted our office to reflect that passion and be a tool to connect our team members with the local communities they’re a part of. Also, it just looks super cool.

We recently gave CNBC’s Office Envy crew an insider look at a day in the life of an NYC Yelper. Warning: this video may induce strong urges to apply for a job at Yelp.

More than 500 employees are based in Yelp’s NYC digs, enjoying benefits like free snacks, an in-office swing for coffee breaks or meetings with a great view overlooking the city, a full-service coffee barista for employees to enjoy lattes and more, an official Yelp Sales Development Program training room, beer taps with rotating local brews for after work drinks, a group meeting space designed in the image of the High Line with astroturf and sleek benches, game tables, a Lite-Brite wall, and a huge kitchen area for everyone to gather and hang out. Phew!

Check out some pics of our space, and if you are envisioning yourself sipping a latte while answering emails from a Yelp High Line bench, there are plenty of job openings to go around. Apply at yelp.com/careers and join our team!

NYC Office collage

July 02, 2015

Yelp’s Got Pride, Yes We Do!

Following the Supreme Court decision in support of marriage equality last Friday, the San Francisco Pride event was a huge celebration for the LGBT community, and we were in the thick of it. It was an honor to be an official part of the parade, and we were overwhelmed and excited to get so many RSVPs to walk with us and represent Yelp.

SF Pride collage 2

Before marching time, we gathered at Yelp HQ to get Pride parade ready. We danced to a few Pride anthems, blew up balloons, put on our rainbow face paint, geared up in our Yelp Pride t-shirts made special for the occasion, and fueled up on snacks. Then we headed out to the parade where we proudly represented Yelp alongside creative floats and energetic groups from several other Bay Area companies and community groups. Luckily, our parade number was close to the end, so we got to watch most of the parade from our spot on Market Street. Our official Snapchat (yelp_official) and Twitter accounts also shared live moments throughout the day.

 

I’d like to say a big thank you to the Yelp OUTburst group for organizing this event. OUTburst is one of our Yelp Employee Resource Groups, which are formed by employees to support causes or shared interests. We think it’s important for employees to decide for themselves what causes they care about and give them the support to have open dialogue and learning experiences with fellow co-workers. There are lots of resource groups at Yelp covering topics like multi-culturalism, women, moms, LGBT, and parents, with more groups created every day by our passionate employees.

We’re already looking forward to next year’s Pride events and possibly expanding to other cities! Want to join us? If Yelp sounds like somewhere you’d like to work, check out yelp.com/careers and apply today.