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September 02, 2014

Yelp Consumer Alerts: Helping You Make Educated Spending Decisions

Yelp goes to extraordinary lengths in an effort to protect consumers from fake reviews. Our recommendation software is at the center of our operations, highlighting only those reviews that we think are going to be most helpful and reliable for consumers.

In addition, we employ a team of investigators who track down the most egregious offenders. We share their findings with consumers on Yelp through our Consumer Alerts program, which allows consumers on Yelp to make more informed decisions about where to spend their hard earned money.

Today we’re releasing 61 new Consumer Alerts on the Yelp pages of businesses ranging from dentists and hairdressers to plumbers and car dealers. These alerts warn consumers about instances where someone was trying to pay for good reviews, give discounts or exchanges for reviews, or cases where a substantial number of reviews originated from the same IP address. The alerts will stay up for 90 days.

Consumer Alert IP Address

Online reviews are incredibly helpful to consumers and impactful for businesses. A Nielsen survey revealed that 82% of Yelp users visit the site when preparing to spend money at a local business, and a Harvard study found that a 1-star increase in Yelp rating can lead to a 5 - 9% increase in revenue for a restaurant. That’s why, although the temptation may be there to cheat, it’s even more important for everyone to play by the rules.

Yelp particularly comes in handy when making a purchase decision on a big ticket item, like buying a car or mattress, or a service a consumer is not familiar with or doesn’t use often, like a chiropractor or moving company. All the more reason, then, that we want to warn consumers about questionable business practices before it hits their wallets.

For example, imagine you were considering using Atticare, a home cleaning company in New Jersey, or JCA Mechanical Plumbing & Heating in New York City, each of whom were the subject of private messages through Yelp offering money or gift cards in exchange for reviews on Yelp. Or if you decided to buy a car from Hooman Nissan in Long Beach, CA, where an employee was caught sending messages to Yelp users offering Clippers tickets in exchange for a 5-star review and even requested including his name in each review. In Las Vegas, Yelp’s detective team found that more than 50 reviews for towing company AAA Anytime INC came from the same IP address, indicating that someone may have been trying to goose their rating. And what’s worse, this is the third time we have warned this particular company about their behavior with a Consumer Alert. Those 50+ new reviews have been submitted since their last alert in February of this year.

Hooman

The evidence Yelp’s team discovered of a Hooman Nissan employee attempting to purchase reviews for the business.

You’d probably want to know about that behavior, right? These businesses may actually be providing great products and services, but that’s really what their Yelp rating should be based on, not fake reviews. That’s why Yelp goes to such lengths to protect consumers from this behavior in the first place and inform them of it as well.

The good news is that Yelp’s team caught this behavior. We just think consumers have the right to know what’s happening behind the scenes when deciding what businesses to patronize.