Merchants Say Yelp Is An Aggressive Suitor

Monday, September 23, 2013

New York Attorney General Eric Schndeiderman has settled cases with nineteen companies that tried to game online ratings on sites like Yelp, Citysearch, and Google. Schneiderman says in some instances “Astroturf” reputation managers sold reviews that were as fake as the “grass” in Met Life stadium.

But three diverse businesses told WNYC they had never been approached by anyone selling “Astroturf." Instead, a spa, a butcher, and a restaurant each reported receiving calls from Yelp itself, promising them a better online presence if they purchased ads on the website. Sometimes, they felt pressured.

“They tried. They called like every day for six months,” said butcher Salvatore Cinquemani.

Other businesses said they had the feeling they could get a bad review removed if they bought an ad, though it wasn't stated explicitly.

Yelp said it does not tinker with ratings to please advertisers. The company does work hard to weed out reviews that are phony, and it cooperated fully with Attorney General Schneiderman’s probe.




Julianne Welby


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Comments [5]

tony from brooklyn

Yelp reviews are bullsht! I had a legit complaint about a skeezy bar around the corner after going there one day and it was there one week.. and magically disappeared the next. You have to read the hidden reviews to see anything negative people wrote.

My friend who runs a business has been paying them to "advertise" to help remove some bad reviews. He's had positive reviews hidden and mostly negative ones on top.

Their business model is very shady borderline extortion. Google Local is trying to compete by requiring everyone to have a verified account. Maybe that'll help.

Sep. 25 2013 03:00 AM
john from The Heights

@K The crime is extortion. If you state or imply someone needs to pay you or pay for your services or otherwise you may be penalized (flooded with bad reviews) than they are forcing you to spend money for something you don't need or want. It's like the old stories of mobsters forcing small business owners to pay protection money when the only people the biz owners needed "protection" from was the mobsters' goons.

Sep. 24 2013 10:25 AM

Anyway, what's the crime? wnyc keeps reporting the catchy headline, but they don't explain what the crime is. What part of this is illegal?

Sep. 24 2013 08:15 AM

Are you kidding? wnyc doesn't care what they advertise. they also have an advertiser for a place that sells exotic animals.

Sep. 24 2013 08:12 AM
Fitzcarl Antony Johnson Reid from new york city

Doesn't npr wnyc have an advertiser who promises to clean up reputations online?

Sep. 24 2013 07:58 AM

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