As Lawrence Coburn (of competitive review site RateItAll.com) points out today on Huffington Post owners can really struggle with negative feedback. His post does a good job of shining a light on the recent controversy, as well as the landscape for reviews sites in general.
It's very hard to disassociate yourself from negative reviews about your business and it's easy to take it personally. Below is a case study in just that...
Here we have an advertiser that has a 4 star average rating and 375 reviews on their page, yet suggests we remove positive reviews "replac[ing] them with poor quality reviews." To provide readers some perspective this business currently has: 148 five star reviews, 138 four star reviews and just 9 one star reviews.
The owner also complains of a pushy sales person, but actually works with an account manager whose job is to make clients happy, help them use our business owners site, and demonstrate enough value to their clients to encourage them to stay in our ad program.
On 01-25-09, I requested that my monthly advertising be terminated by Yelp. There were two reasons for my requested termination. First and foremost, my sales rep Mandy was pushy, aggressive and insensitive to my needs. She regularly talked over me and treated me more like a used car salesperson would. Second, I could not validate, nor verify the benefits of my $300.00 monthly advertising budget with you.
Since my termination request I have documented copies of my daily yelp reviews. Apparently, you have selectively chosen to pull the 5 star reviews from my site and replace them with poor quality reviews. I must tell you that I do not view this "strong arm" tactic favorably. Although it is well with in your rights to monitor reviews, your recent actions come across more like "payback" for terminating my advertising with you. If I ever were to reconsider advertising with Yelp in the future this would not enhance my feelings to do so.
This morning I met with my some of my fellow Silicon Valley Restaurateurs and this topic came up for discussion. Apparently, I am not the only person who has experienced your company's wrath.
C.c. Gavin Newsome
City of Saratoga
Saratoga Chamber of Commerce
San Jose Mercury News
Hi YYYY (redacted)
My name is Jed and I run the sales department over here at Yelp. Your recent email to “Ideas to Improve Yelp” was brought to my attention and I wanted to respond personally.
First of all, thanks for your previous business and candid feedback here.
I will personally look into the treatment that you received in terms of talking over you and behaving like a “used car salesperson.” You referred to her as Mandy and I believe your Account Manger was YYYY(redacted). She is not in fact in sales but in Account Management and her job is to help you get the most of your account on Yelp. Either way, it is not acceptable that you felt that way and I will make sure that we address the issue.
In terms of validating your $300 per month – I am sorry that you did not see value in the advertising program. You clearly have a great business as evidenced by your 4 star rating and approximately 375 reviews, and I am sure you will do well on Yelp with or without the additional exposure of our ads. For what it is worth, the ads that you bought clearly did work in increasing the number of people viewing your page on Yelp (from 780 per month before you started to 2096 per month in your last month in the program). Ultimately your opinion is all that matters however.
Now let me address the last paragraph in which you accuse Yelp of manipulating reviews as a “strong-arm” tactic and as “payback” for terminating your advertising package.
We categorically would never add or remove reviews unnaturally as a result of an advertising relationship with Yelp. I cannot be strong enough in saying that. Reviews are treated the same for all businesses whether they are an advertiser or not (you have the ability to designate – clearly marked – your favorite review if you are in the advertising program)
I have copied a section from our corporate blog - link as well – that is called “9 Myths About Yelp.” In it you will find a very clear explanation about why your review number may have fluctuated as well as clarifying some other realities of Yelp.
I would be happy to have a conversation to address your concerns and would be available to speak to the group of restaurant owners that you reference. We pride ourselves on connecting people with great local businesses and are mostly doing this for free when most other directories are pay to play. Communication and education are often the key in clarifying these situations.
Here is the link that I referenced before:
I have also copied below.
Again – thanks for the feedback XXXX(redacted) and feel free to reach out if you would like any further clarification.