May 15, 2015

Freedom of Speech Deserves Better Federal Protection

Businesses and powerful interest groups routinely threaten the rights of consumers who speak out on matters of public interest on sites like Yelp. Many of them try to pervert the legal system with Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) and bogus non-disparagement clauses in an effort to silence their critics.

In the United States, Yelpers enjoy broad protections based upon the First Amendment of the Constitution, but procedural legal protections are still regulated by individual states. Unfortunately, those protections are spotty at best. Almost half of our states have no protections at all against SLAPPs, and the states that do are constantly under attack by those with a vested interest in shutting down free speech. See: Steve Wynn’s attempt to gut Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law.

That’s why Yelp strongly supports the “SPEAK FREE Act of 2015” and the “Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2015,” recently introduced federal legislation that create efficient procedures to safeguard free speech for all Americans no matter what state they live in.

Whether people are expressing their opinions in the form of a consumer review, an editorial in a newspaper, or commentary on a blog, it's important that they not be bullied into retracting their criticism.

The SPEAK FREE Act will allow federal courts nationwide to determine whether a lawsuit targeting speech is a SLAPP. For those living in states still lacking an effective anti-SLAPP law this will provide a robust way to fight abusive litigation at the federal level. Plus, it will allow defendants who prevail on an anti-SLAPP motion to collect attorneys fees from the plaintiff to make up for the financial burden of having been targeted with a meritless lawsuit in the first place. Of course, the proposed law would still allow plaintiffs to move forward with valid defamation claims if they have them.

The Consumer Review Freedom Act of 2015 will outlaw non-disparagement clauses in consumer contracts nationwide. While these contracts would likely be unenforceable anyway (many businesses know this and hope the mere threat is enough to get their way), this law will both provide clear protection to consumers and establish penalties for businesses that try to push these unlawful provisions on their customers.  

Having both of these laws in place at the federal level will ensure that Yelpers, and all Americans who care about their freedom of speech, are protected from wealthy bullies and powerful special interest groups. While Steve Wynn and others like him might be trying to erode your free speech rights, Congress has a real opportunity to pass a law that will help protect the open speech platform that the Internet has come to be.  

Click here to find your member of Congress and tell them to co-sponsor these two important pieces of legislation.

May 08, 2015

We Want YOU to Become a Part of Yelp’s Small Biz Advisory Council

Public service announcement: Yelp is searching for amazing small business owners. Do you own a small business and consider yourself a Yelp aficionado? Do you want to act as a representative for business owners around the world and share your insights with Yelp execs? Fear not, superstar biz owner - we’ve got the job for you.

Every year, Yelp selects a diverse group of people from around the world to serve as the collective voice of small businesses on Yelp. Those chosen will join in on regular conference calls to provide insight on existing Yelp features, policies, products under development, and to brainstorm new ideas. Even better, new members will also travel to Yelp HQ to participate in our annual summit where they’ll meet with Yelp's top executives and department heads to share their perspectives as small business owners. The feedback provided during these sessions are often used to shape new tools and features like the Yelp For Business Owners mobile app.

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Ready to sign up yet? Good. We’re ready for you. The official call for new Yelp Small Business Advisory Council members is here and all are welcome to apply. Our council members are thought leaders who enjoy sharing their insights with other business owners. This year's group will have an opportunity to:

  • Make connections with small business leaders from around the world
  • Travel to San Francisco for a summit at Yelp HQ
  • Provide input on products under development
  • Brainstorm new ideas for Yelp executives to consider
  • Be a resource for other business owners who have questions about the services and tools on Yelp

If you’re a business owner with ideas for how Yelp can better serve the business community, we hope you'll consider applying. You can submit your application by clicking here. SYOY!

 

May 07, 2015

Ready For Our Close-Up! Announcing Yelp’s First TV and Digital Ads

Posted by Geoff, COO

Yelp has built a recognizable brand over the last decade through word of mouth from loyal users who love Yelp so much they told all their friends about us. While 10 years may not sound like a lot, that’s like 90 in Silicon Valley years, so it’s pretty cool to see how far we’ve come. That said, this is still the beginning of our story, and our goal is to help people the world over get to know Yelp, so we’re excited to announce Yelp is releasing its first TV and digital ad campaign. 

You may recognize our bearded spokesdude...he’s Ben Sinclair, the writer and star of a cult comedy web series on Vimeo called “High Maintenance,” which was just picked up by HBO. His comedic style couldn’t be a more perfect fit with Yelp and we’re excited to see Ben’s hard work paying off as others discover his talent.

For all the Yelpers out there, this spot probably hits home. We’ve all had those moments where a bit of Yelping saved us from a potentially disastrous situation.

Like when you picked the first result for a body shop that popped up on Yelp and it was the 5-star experience the reviews promised you’d get:

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Or when that hot new restaurant turned out to be terrifying so you bolted and ordered delivery from Yelp instead:

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Or when Yelp makes you look cool without even trying, like when an out-of-town friend visits and can’t get over how “connected” you are:

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Or when you’re on a first date and you nail your order thanks to Yelp’s review highlights:

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...so Yelp it first. We know just the place.

May 06, 2015

Don’t Let Steve Wynn Destroy Nevada’s Online Free Speech Law

On March 3, 2015, Steve Wynn lost a defamation lawsuit in California based off of an anti-SLAPP motion. Who is Steve Wynn and why the heck should I care, you ask? Well, he’s got money and isn’t afraid to sue his critics.

Less than three weeks after Wynn lost the defamation lawsuit, the State Senate, with Wynn’s support, introduced bill SB 444 gutting the new and robust anti-SLAPP law in Nevada, Wynn’s home state.

Generally speaking, when people or businesses file a SLAPP suit, they are hoping to intimidate the defendant through large legal fees and pressure them into removing their original statements altogether.

It’s understandable that Wynn may not like Nevada’s robust anti-SLAPP laws since he recently lost under a similar statute in California, but it would be a tragedy if the state of Nevada allowed the interests of one man to gut a law that is meant to protect the freedom of speech for all Nevadans. Nevadans deserve to be able to share their experiences and opinions, positive or negative, without having to worry about people like Steve Wynn intimidating or censoring their speech.

We encourage Yelpers in Nevada and around the country to let members of the Nevada State Assembly and Governor Brian Sandoval’s office know that they strongly oppose SB 444 or any legislation that will roll back the state’s anti-SLAPP law.

Southeast Asia’s Melting Pot Just Got Hotter: Now You Can Yelp in Malaysia!

Yelp Jejak Kaki ke Wadah Tumpuan Asia Tenggara. Kini, Anda Boleh Yelp di Malaysia

Dalam peta dunia, Malaysia ibarat dua telapak tangan terbuka yang terpisah. Di sebelah baratnya adalah Semenanjung Malaysia, yang berkedudukan paling selatan di penghujung benua Asia dan di sebelah timur pula di mana terletaknya Sabah dan Sarawak. Gabungkan kedua-duanya, maka terbentuklah sebuah negara berpopulasi 30 juta penduduk yang menjadi pasaran antarabangsa Yelp ke-31. Selamat datang Yelp!

Malaysia merupakan sebuah negara unik dengan sejarah dan reputasi yang boleh dibanggakan sehinggalah ke hari ini apabila menyentuh tentang penyatuan masyarakat berbilang kaum, etnik, budaya dan agama. Apabila pengaruh budaya Melayu, Cina, India, Thai, Jawa dan Sumatera kesemuanya dicampur aduk dan digaul bersama 130 bahasa dan dialek berbeza – maka tidak syak lagi Malaysia adalah wadah tumpuan Asia Tenggara.

Kepelbagaian di Malaysia tidak terhad kepada budaya semata-mata. Malaysia juga merupakan habitat kepada hampir 20 peratus daripada spesies haiwan di dunia, sekaligus diletakkan sebagai antara negara paling kaya dari segi kepelbagaian bio di dunia ini. Kebanyakan spesies haiwan boleh ditemui di Taman Negara, iaitu hutan hujan tropika yang dikatakan berusia 75 juta tahun lebih tua daripada Amazon!

Jika anda seorang yang mempunyai selera makan yang pelbagai, Malaysia sememangnya syurga makanan yang mampu memenuhi segala kehendak anda. Dari santapan harian laksa sehinggalah juadah musim perayaan rendang, atau pun, menghirup telur setengah masak dan roti bakar di kopitiam mahupun roti canai dari warung mamak, nescaya tidak pernah membosankan.

Yelp Malaysia akan menjadikan Kuala Lumpur, bandaraya terbesar negara ini di mana tersergam megahnya Menara Kembar Petronas, sebagai titik permulaannya operasinya. Orang ramai kini berkesempatan untuk melakukan pencarian perniagaan kegemaran masing-masing melalui Yelp.

Muat turun aplikasi Yelp atau log masuk Yelp.my untuk menyelami kepelbagaian yang ditawarkan dalam wadah tumpuan Malaysia. Para usahawan juga boleh mendapat manfaat dengan membina dan meluaskan pengaruh perniagaan masing-masing di biz.yelp.my melalui Laman Bisnes Yelp.

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On a map, Malaysia looks like two open palms. To the west is peninsular Malaysia - the southernmost part of continental Asia - and to the east are the states of Sabah and Sarawak. Bring these hands together and you have a nation of 30 million people and Yelp’s 31st international market. Welcome to the Yelp family, Malaysia!

Malaysia has a long, proud history and to this day remains a magnet for a wide variety of ethnic groups, cultures, and religions. With lots of influence from Malay, Chinese, Indian, Thai, Javanese, and Sumatran cultures - not to mention over 130 different languages - Malaysia is southeast Asia’s melting pot.

Malaysia’s diversity doesn’t stop with culture. It is home to nearly 20 percent of the world’s animal species, making it one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Many of these animals can be found in the Taman Negara rainforest, which is thought to be 75 million years older than the Amazon!

If you have diverse tastes, there’s never a dull bite in Malaysia. Choose a classic laksa or go for the festive favourite - rendang. You can grab eggs and toast at a kopitiam, or scarf down roti canai from a mamak.

Yelp Malaysia kicks off in the country’s largest city and home of the famed Petronas Towers, in Kuala Lumpur. People all over the country can now begin to search for their favorite businesses on Yelp.

Download the Yelp app or log on to Yelp.my to discover the diversity of Malaysia’s melting pot. Businesses can get in on the action too at biz.yelp.my by claiming their business for free and building their Yelp Business Page.



May 04, 2015

5 Tips from Biz Owners on Achieving Yelp Awesomeness

Here at Yelp, we live and breathe all things local. From dog groomers, to plumbers, to hole-in-the-wall sushi spots, we are proud to support the millions of amazing entrepreneurs who bravely set out to start their own small businesses. Their risk is our collective reward because those locally owned businesses are what give neighborhoods like The Mission in San Francisco and Columbia Heights in D.C. their hard-to-replicate, OMG-I-want-to-live-here-forever, unique local flavor.

 

In honor of National Small Business Week (May 4-8), we talked to five seasoned business owners to see what they’ve learned over the years about using Yelp to grow their business (hint: a lot). Get ready for a knowledge bomb!

 

5 Tips for Yelp Awesomeness from Small Business Pros

1. Enhance your Yelp listing until there’s nothing left to enhance.

Enhance your listing, enhance your listing, enhance your listing! I can't say enough about how important it is to not only claim your business page* but to complete all of the information about your hours, offerings and amenities.  - Deborah Dower, Paradise Laundry

*Claim your free Yelp business owner profile at biz.yelp.com to start enhancing your listing.

2. Yelp gives you free tools...use them!

The automatic email notifications notify me on my mobile that I have a new review, which allows me to keep on top of new reviews for a quick response if needed. The check-in offers allow me to know that A) Yelp sent me the client and B) I can change them up to keep people looking for the new offer. The Activity Feed allows me to monitor traffic over time, so we have come to use this to anticipate busier periods and staff accordingly. - Valerie Girard, Les Deux Gamins

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         Valerie Girard, owner of Les Deux Gamins

 

3. This review thing is a two-way conversation. Respond to yours, both positive and  negative.

I respond to every review personally, within 24 hours, whether it’s positive or negative. If something wasn't right, I apologize and offer to make it so on the next visit. I also consult my managers and staff to determine what happened, if it was avoidable and how to make sure it doesn’t  happen again. Like all reviews, it gets posted on the staff bulletin board for all to see. - Steve Basile, B. D. Riley's Irish Pub & Restaurant

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Steve Basile, owner of B. D. Riley's Irish Pub & Restaurant

 

4. Don’t fixate on negative feedback. As Taylor Swift would say, just shake it off.

Move on. You can't fix all problems...or make all customers happy. Work on getting more reviews from happy customers, and stop fixating on the 2-stars. Ultimately, new customers respect the credibility factor that comes with having lots of reviews - they don't pay attention to the rants. - Pam Nelson, Butter Lane

5. Focus on your moneymaker: great customer service.

Yelp is a megaphone that broadcasts your customer’s version of their experience to the world. If you focus on making sure your customers are overjoyed the rest will take care of itself. - Heidi Lamar, Spa Lamar

April 16, 2015

Yelp for Apple Watch: Going Micro in a Big Way

The millions of Yelpers who help you navigate everything from date night planning to finding a dentist are now piling into the hottest little accessory on your radiocarpal joint: the Apple Watch.

In this new world where your wrist is the landscape, Yelp steps up once again as your trusted compass. Now it’s even easier to access local business information when you need it most - while out and about looking for a place to grab a bite, meet a friend, or find the closest mood-boosting latte.

You’ve got Yelp on your desktop, on your phone and iPad...it’s powering your favorite apps, car in-dash systems and websites…and now Yelp is on your Apple Watch! (You’re welcome.)

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The Yelp app for Apple Watch serves up nearby restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and new businesses along with their star rating, review count, business category, price range, distance from your exact position, and hours of operation. We’ve stylishly packed in millions of local reviews with petite precision so you have vast insider knowledge right at your fingertips. Now that’s what we call a micro machine!

The Yelp app is live today in the app store, so get your Apple Watch and go show us off to your boring-wristed friends.

Yelp Prevails in Fight to Protect Consumer Privacy but Virginia Still Has Work to Do

This week the Supreme Court of Virginia protected consumers’ right to privacy and free speech by agreeing with Yelp that a Virginia court lacked jurisdiction to enforce a subpoena from Hadeed Carpet Cleaning seeking private information about several of our users. If Hadeed wishes to issue a subpoena in the correct jurisdiction of California, we are happy to continue to fight for the rights of these reviewers under the reasonable standards that California courts, and the First Amendment, require (standards we pushed the Virginia courts to adopt). This case highlights the need for stronger online free speech protection in Virginia and across the country, and is a reminder of why Yelp is fighting to expand the protections of consumer free speech and privacy in courts and legislative bodies across the country.

Hadeed undermined its own customers’ free speech rights by trying to force Yelp to reveal their private information based merely on a hunch that they might not be real clients. Fortunately, the right to speak under a pseudonym is constitutionally protected and has long been recognized for the important information it allows individuals to contribute to public discourse. This is also why The Washington Post, Gannett Co. and other media outlets joined the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press amicus brief, while Google, Twitter, TripAdvisor and Pinterest, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and others also argued in favor of our efforts to protect free speech.

Hadeed may still believe those reviews were not from his customers, but he has no evidence of this. In fact, several targeted customers also filed an Amicus brief reiterating that they were actual customers of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning and that their critical reviews were truthful representations of their consumer experiences. They feel strongly enough to come forward to stand by their reviews and share why they feel it’s important for consumers to be able to contribute their opinions online, even under a pseudonym if necessary. In one of these reviewer’s own words:

“Yelp is the standard place for regular citizens to post their experiences about services. The whole point of reviews on the Internet is that you can write your own opinion and other people can read that and make their own decision.

Anonymity helps people express their honest opinions and share their experiences as consumers. I know people who are afraid to post negative reviews online because of retaliation like this. Without negative opinions being available, as consumers we can’t make educated choices. We can read the reviews and either believe them or disregard them.

It seems that Yelp trusts consumers to make decisions on their own.”

Although many reviewers on Yelp are not anonymous -- they share their real first name and last initial, personal interests, and photos -- it is the right of any consumer to choose to share their truthful experiences anonymously, whether that be for privacy concerns (visiting a therapist, bankruptcy attorney, or plastic surgeon, for example) or for fear of improper retribution from the business. Yelp stepped in to protect these rights and to encourage the establishment of clearer rules in Virginia governing when user information must be disclosed.

Businesses that want to bully and intimidate customers who express displeasure with less than stellar consumer experiences should not be able to obtain their personal information without providing sufficient evidence that they have been wronged, which Hadeed failed to do in this case. 

Thanks to the attention drawn to Hadeed Carpet Cleaning through this court case (an ironic principle known as the Streisand Effect), many more consumers now know of the negative reputation this business has earned. That’s why litigation isn’t a good substitute for customer service, and businesses considering using the courts as a weapon against their customers should consider responding to them with Yelp’s free tools and providing improved service instead.

From Food Craving to Food Coma: Searching Yelp Just Got Even Better

You already come to Yelp to read trusted reviews of local businesses, so today we’re introducing Yelp Now, a new way to search on Yelp and easily reserve a table or place an order for takeout or delivery.

With Yelp Now, you can filter search results to show businesses with available reservations based on date, time, party size and the type of cuisine you’re craving. Users can also now search for the best restaurants that deliver to their home or office any time of day. Need a reservation for two at a romantic Italian restaurant for 7pm on Friday night? Craving a pepperoni pizza at 2am, but don’t want to leave your couch (or put on pants)? With Yelp Now, we’ll answer those questions for you, and get you from searching to eating faster than ever before.

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Ready for the icing on the cake? The future of Yelp Now is even brighter: you’ll eventually be able to search across other verticals like spas, hotels, plumbers and dentists so that you can easily book available appointments, rooms, and more!

Yelp Now is beginning a staged rollout today for reservations and food ordering in select U.S. cities, and will be scaling more broadly over the coming months. Yelp Now for desktop and iOS allows users to reserve tables at restaurants that use Yelp SeatMe and Yelp Reservations. Yelpers can also order takeout or delivery on www.yelp.com with businesses that use Yelp’s own Eat24 as well as ChowNow, delivery.com, or EatStreet. Yelp Now for food ordering is coming soon to mobile, so keep your eyes peeled!

Our goal is to make Yelp the best place for consumers to discover and transact with great local businesses, and to help business owners connect with the millions of people who use Yelp every day.

Whether you’re the couch potato ordering food at midnight or the die-hard foodie planning a dinner at the hottest new restaurant, we’ve got you covered!

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March 26, 2015

An Open Letter to States Considering Imposing Discrimination Laws

A little over one year ago I wrote an open letter to then-Arizona Governor Jan Brewer requesting that she veto SB 1062, a bill that would have allowed businesses in the state to discriminate against consumers. Thankfully she did the right thing and vetoed that legislation, thus maintaining Arizona’s status as a hospitable place for Yelp’s employees to live and for our company to do business.

Since that time, however, legislators in other states have sought to pass, or have enacted, laws that would allow for businesses to discriminate against consumers based on certain traits including sexual orientation. While Indiana is the most recent state to enact a law allowing for this kind of discrimination by businesses, unfortunately measures are being debated in other states across the country that would follow Indiana’s example. These laws set a terrible precedent that will likely harm the broader economic health of the states where they have been adopted, the businesses currently operating in those states and, most importantly, the consumers who could be victimized under these laws.

Just as I said in my letter to Governor Brewer, it is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large. I encourage states that are considering passing laws like the one rejected by Arizona or adopted by Indiana to reconsider and abandon these discriminatory actions. (We’re looking at you, Arkansas.)

I hope that in the future the legislatures in the nineteen states that have these laws on the books will reconsider their actions. In the mean time, Yelp will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books.

I also hope that other companies will draw a similar line in the sand for equality on behalf of their employees and the greater public to persuade legislators to do the right thing and stop or rescind these harmful laws.

Sincerely,

Jeremy Stoppelman

CEO, Yelp