Yelp: A Billion Dollar Bully?

By | August 13, 2015

Yelp is a mobster! Yes you are reading this statement correctly. Michael Levine, Hollywood Public Relations man, will be doing a documentary entitled “Billion Dollar Baby”. The documentary accuses Yelp of mob-like behavior, allegation that the online review corp. denies. The documentary also alleges that the online reviews website demands “protection” money, lest your business will be overrun with negative reviews. This will be Levine’s first attempt at filmmaking.

Of course Yelp will not sit around and do nothing without at least a fight. It accused the filmmaker, Kaylie Milken, of purposely setting out to harm the company because of a conflict of interests involving her husband’s law practice.

Apparently, Miliken became interested in making this film after an alternative doctor she was seeing mentioned to her that she was having trouble maintaining steady stream of business after negative Yelp reviews were published about her. Milken tried to help the doctor by posting several positive reviews, but never saw them published. Instead, they were hidden under “filtered reviews”. The experienced encouraged her to set up several Yelp accounts and see what she could discover.

She was able to raise $150,000 through crowdfunding and several business owners who had beef with Yelp also invested in the film, which will ultimately sport about a $500,000 budget.

A trailer posted on YouTube, and shared below, gloomily refers to Yelp’s “filtered reviews” and features legal experts and others alleging horror stories about the service.

Miliken is not the first to accuse Yelp of mob-like behaviour. In 2014, the FTC revealed that they had received over 2000 complaints about Yelp’s practices, including allegations that Yelp buries positive reviews and displays negative ones for sales purposes. According to the FTC, customers are saying that Yelp hopes that it forcing more businesses to pay for advertising.

Yelp is supposedly the last place or website on the internet for honest reviews. It’s a place where consumers are allowed to speak freely about their experiences with a business and help others find services that will be useful for them. Unfortunately, that is far from being the case.

With problems mounting over anonymous reviews and poor business practices, it’s looking like Yelp is becoming less and less user-friendly as they have always claimed.

Is Yelp Guilty?

As a PR manager, I deal with lots of clients, including myself, that have issues with negative reviews on a daily basis. I analyze Yelp results and have a great deal of knowledge about how the the filters work. I do not think that Yelp would purposely filter reviews of those who refuse to pay them money. I believe that they have filters that detect fake reviewers and reviewers who post multiple times from the same IP address.  However, this could have been a practice done a few years back and it is also possible that a few sales people have tried to say this to potential clients to get a sale. Hence why we are having this problem in the first place.

About Alex Noudelman

Alex Noudelman is a digital marketing expert at iRISEmedia. He received his Honors B.A. from York University and a Masters in Adolescent Education from D’Youville College.

One thought on “Yelp: A Billion Dollar Bully?

  1. Kevin Carney

    For a business I once owned I received one of those mafioso sales calls from Yelp. I was shocked. Whether it was a policy at Yelp or a rogue salesperson I don’t know, but he clearly said that for $300 a month the positive reviews would appear first and negative reviews would be off the main review page for the business. At the time, the negative reviews were promonently displaced and the positive reviews were off the main page.


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