What's Next for Yelp?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Luther Lowe, director of business outreach for Yelp, explains how trust is built online and whether online reviews help or hurt business.


Luther Lowe

Comments [32]


if, you had a first time bad meal, and you post or criticize on yelp,you are a lowlife. people are running a biz folks; and, you could be taking food out of kids mouths,get a soul,now......

Oct. 14 2011 01:56 AM
Todd from NYC

Based on these comments, it appears that the reviews of Yelp are overwhelmingly negative.

Oct. 12 2011 12:10 PM
ldg from brooklyn

That guy made me feel a lot less favorable towards Yelp and if anything confirmed the shady business practices at Yelp are probably true. Those 100s of salespeople are probably on commission and will say anything.

Oct. 12 2011 11:41 AM
Nino LeBoeuf from Manhattan

I'm a long time reviewer on Yelp and here's the bottom line: if you post your real picture and regularly write reviews, it's very very rare that your review will be filtered, regardless of whether it's a scathing review or high praise.

Also, you can usually assess the relevance of a review rather quickly by simply reading it. Many of the negative reviews, like complaints about Restaurant Week meals or slow service on busy nights, can be readily discounted.

Oct. 12 2011 11:36 AM

I have mixed feelings about how best to improve this situation.

It would seem that some kind of user reputation mechanism would be useful. Somehow where readers know that reviewers are real people, with real links to their personal websites or maybe even their email addresses. Though this does not eliminate the need for fraud.

On the other hand, there is value in having a system which allows for anonymous reviews. Some people may have legit reasons to be fearful of leaving their real name. Maybe they still want to frequent the restaurant, but have some minor issue in a luke-warm review, or in an extreme case, perhaps the establishment is a front for drug dealing.

Oct. 12 2011 11:33 AM
Robert from NYC

I agree with Kate from Washington Heights. I once had a horrible experience with a Vet in Houston, and I posted it on Yelp. Within two days it was deleted --- I am assuming due to some 'pressure' from the Vet.

So, I am somewhat sceptical about how objective a sight this, really is.

Oct. 12 2011 11:31 AM
Sheila from Cliffside Park, NJ

When we signed up to advertise with Yelp, we had no idea about their filtering. Nobody had warned us that new customers who made new accounts to review would be filtered out.

Now that we have the page, all those were filtered out, and we have a reviewer who left 1 star with NO other reviews still on that page!

Oct. 12 2011 11:30 AM

Who can possibly believe what this guy says?

He "believes" a lawsuit against him was dismissed? He's not sure?

Who on this planet is not sure whether a lawsuit against his company was dismissed or not?

Oct. 12 2011 11:29 AM
Jesse from Brooklyn, NY

My business has a great reputation on Yelp. But recently, we were basically held hostage by a frequent Yelp user who manipulated my office manager into getting services for very cheap and then complaining days later that he required a different service at a higher level of quality. He threatened to leave a bad review if we didn't, and we refused to do this and refunded him. He went ahead and left a bad review anyway, and we had to respond with the truth, but the damage is done.

Oct. 12 2011 11:28 AM
Donna Weinstock from Cliffside Park, NJ

I own a small business in Midtown. A patient refused to pay her deductible and left us a terrible review on Yelp. She named me personally, calling me a liar and a fool. Soon after I received a call from Yelp saying if I signed a contract to pay Yelp about $300 per month for advertising, they would be able to take the bad review off. We also have some wonderful reviews that don't show up.

Oct. 12 2011 11:28 AM

How is that hot seat feeling, Luther?

I hope that business owners who have been unfairly compromised by Yelp ban together and find a solution.....

Oct. 12 2011 11:28 AM
John from NYC

As a side note, my review was DELETED! What is the issue there?

Oct. 12 2011 11:28 AM
Sarah from New York

As a server in NYC, a bad Yelp review can mean getting fired. I'm not sure if people understand this... I'm all for Yelp--I use it. But I find the ease with which people call out individual servers after one bad experience scary and mean. I have many friends that have been fired for this reason.

Oct. 12 2011 11:26 AM
sarah from Sunnyside

I recently read an article about Yelp and the negative impact it has had on large chain restaurants. I wonder if this was ever forecasted by the company, or even part of the plan.

Ps: Just want to send a hello to Luther from an old Arkansas friend.

Oct. 12 2011 11:24 AM
Tamara from NYC

One of the major problems with Yelp is that there is no standard of knowledge required for the "reviewers". I recently opened a restaurant for a well known chef, and reviews (good and bad) consistently misidentified key ingredients in dishes, (often clearly printed on the menu correctly), and sometimes entire meals. There is no way to answer these complete fabrications.

In addition, Yelp is a shakedown organization-- often offering to "manage negative reviews" after you get a few. It is heinous.

Oct. 12 2011 11:24 AM
Bowl Of Pretzels from Jersey City, NJ

My permanent home is in Reading and there is at least one angry vegan that pans EVERY restaurant (even steakhouses) if they don't have vegan options. Her reviews are funny but useless.

Oct. 12 2011 11:23 AM
Jack from Brooklyn

Did the person who was reimbursed due to his complaint on Yelp return to Yelp and report the business's positive response?

I use Yelp quite a bit, and I try to be even handed with compliments and criticisms.

Oct. 12 2011 11:23 AM
Sylia from Brooklyn, NY

I use Yelp all day every day, whether I need a haircut or a place to eat for the night.

However, I have recently taken on the task of improving the online reputation of a Banquet Hall.
A lot of our older reviews, from back when the hall was a terrible buffet have remained, while our newer happy brides and customers have been filtered out. While I love the service, I'm just so frustrated with the fact that there is nothing I can do about the filtered reviews! We pay good money for our presence on Yelp and I just don't see the benefits, now.

Oct. 12 2011 11:22 AM
Hank from Manhattan

I look at Yelp as one of as many resources as I can sift through as possible, but by no means the definitive authority. I feel that people are far more likely to post very negative reviews than they are to spend neutral or positive reviews.
For example, my dentist, whom I have had now for almost ten years I have been very happy with. But the reviews for his practice are overwhelmingly negative, detailing experiences that are not at all similar to mine and make me question the validity of the Yelper as an agent of reviews.

Oct. 12 2011 11:22 AM
Kate from Washington Heights

Hi Brian - I know you won't deal with this in this segment, but your conversation brings to light the horrible truth, with sometimes devastating consequences, that it is easier to get reviews of restaurants than of doctors. Doctors have massive resources to prevent people from sharing information about their bad practices. I believe it is a huge problem. Maybe someday you'll do a segment about it?

Oct. 12 2011 11:22 AM
Trish from New Jersey

I think a lot of times, people focus more attention to bad experiences than good experiences. After having a terrible experience, they are quick to bad mouth them either online or offline. I think it's important to be aware of that when reading reviews.

Oct. 12 2011 11:21 AM

you can tell when a company has had people post fake positive reviews. They're always vague and formulaic.
Some negative reviews sound like people just want to whine. I look for a pattern of the same type of complaints before I believe them.

Oct. 12 2011 11:21 AM

His answer to the first caller who had a very legitimate question was completely UNSATISFACTORY.

Legitimate 5 star reviews are at the mercy of software algorithms and aren't posted, yet 1 stars get through?

A very hard working small business owner friend has just this problem.

How about solving this problem Luther?

Oct. 12 2011 11:20 AM
Samantha from Greenwich Village

I used to manage a nightclub downtown which receives huge numbers of Yelp reviews all the time, and I used to scan the reviews for comments that could be used in staff training and protocol improvement. It was useful (if disheartening) to be able to use comments like "bouncer X was rude" or "bartender Y wasn't informed on the club's beer list" as impetus to improve specific areas of quality control. Of course, one has to take both compliments and complaints with a certain amount of reticence (regular Yelp searching exposes a lot of serial complainers), but the opinions of actual customers can sometimes hold a bit more weight with staff than the nagging manager.

Oct. 12 2011 11:19 AM
John from NYC

I once wrote a negative review on Yelp for a bad experience purchasing glasses. The company wrote me directly and immediately (which I was surprised by) to apologize for my experience. After about 5 emails back and forth with 3 different people, they provided me with no solution to my problem. At first, they were nice and baited me into detailing my situation. As it progressed they offered no solutions or help and placed the blame on me. In the end, I feel like they used me to gain marketing information for their company. I think that there should be some way to monitor which companies are contacting individual Yelp users without any positive result. I felt in a way that my privacy was violated.

Oct. 12 2011 11:19 AM
Phoebe from Bushwick

I find restaurant reviews sort of useless unless they are really bad because people's taste in food and service varies so widely. When it comes to other reviews though, it is super useful. I needed an emergency vet on Monday, and I went straight to Yelp, with excellent helpful results.

Oct. 12 2011 11:16 AM
yourgo from astoria

I have heard the same thing as Carol Kissling abiout Yelp. They are abusing their power. Yelp are thugs.

Oct. 12 2011 11:15 AM
CBrown from Brooklyn

I occasionally read reviews on Yelp and the like, but always take them with a grain of salt. Often the negative reviews are so over the top and hysterical that it makes me question the reviewer more than the business. If there's only a very few reviews, and they're all rants, I don't take them seriously. If there's a lot of reviews and they all seem legit and there's an overall consensus, then I'll pay more attention.

Oct. 12 2011 11:15 AM
Mike from Brooklyn

Why would I take seriously reviews from folks who I don't know what their tastes are? I went to one restaurant many times over the years and never had a bad meal. Yet I read, at best, luke warm reviews amongst some I agreed with. Many hipsters use this service (it seems) and I feel their expectations seem to be limited to burgers, beer and party, party.(ie; noise), not a decent meal.

Oct. 12 2011 11:12 AM
David from West Hempstead

I once had a horrible experience with a laptop repair shop in Midtown (2 weeks for a simple screen repair), and after writing a scathing review on Yelp, they reimbursed me fully for the cost of getting it repaired somewhere else.

Oct. 12 2011 11:08 AM
amanda from new york

I can't read yelp reviews anymore because so many of them are clearly fake (and crapily written). Go onto Craigslist and you will see people selling Yelp reviews. It sounds good in concept, but like Trip Advisor, yelp and other peer rating systems will have to find a way to prevent fake submissions.

Oct. 12 2011 11:07 AM
Carol Kissling from NewJersey and NYC

As a business on Yelp I have discovered through personal experience and research that Yelp is the perpetrator of an advertising scam. 5-star reviews are suddenly hidden and ratings drop to 0-stars. Within two weeks a Yelp salesperson approaches the business -and persuades with false information- to buy advertising from Yelp.

Oct. 12 2011 09:53 AM

Leave a Comment

Email addresses are required but never displayed.

Get the WNYC Morning Brief in your inbox.
We'll send you our top 5 stories every day, plus breaking news and weather.