Does Yelp Extort Businesses? | The Daily Show

Does Yelp Extort Businesses? | The Daily Show


Amateur reviewers are
the backbone of America’s consumer culture, and for eating out,
the go-to site is Yelp. But how exactly
do Yelp reviews work? And is it completely unbiased? Well, Desi Lydic
filed this report. LYDIC:
Yelp– the most popular crowd source review forum
online, and a vital resource when choosing which waxing
place doesn’t laugh so loudly. But can we trust everything
we read on Yelp? One extremely Italian
restaurant owner finds Yelp’s
business practices so devious he’s protesting. -How are you?
-So nice to meet you. Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! My name is, uh,
Chef Davide Cerretini. I’m a chef-owner.
I bought a bistro, and I give 50% off a pizza if you give me
a one star on Yelp. Why would you want
a one-star review? Sorry, let me ask you in,
uh, terms you can understand. What’s a matta you? If you want to have
a good rating on Yelp, you need to pay for advertise. And at this site,
you don’t pay advertise. So what they do, they,
um, manipulate your rating in order for you to give up
and pay for advertising. LYDIC:
According to Davide, when he refused to pay Yelp
to advertise, he noticed dozens
of five-star reviews disappearing
from his Yelp page. To me, that is extortion. -Money…
-Extortion? Yes. I’m Italian. We invent extortion. Well, yeah.
I mean, you’re not just Italian. You’re, like,
cartoonishly Italian. I agree with you. How exactly did Yelp try
to extort you? Walk-walk me through -from the beginning.
-Yes, absolutely. You open your business. In couple of weeks,
you have your business placed in that forum,
you start to have good review. And then in three or four weeks, you start to receive
phone calls. They call you every single day.
They’re pushy. They don’t give up.
They keep calling you. We were answering the phone,
looking at the number, and we would just tell them to
go (bleep) themself immediately. Sure. That’s what I tell
my mother-in-law. After couple of days,
you start to see the results of your bad decision. So immediately,
your ratings change. Somehow these good review,
they’re gone. LYDIC: Davide’s claim
that Yelp extorts businesses was a serious allegation. And he’s not the only one
with a Yelp grievance. In fact, Yelp gets accused
of extortion so much that they have an entire page
on their website dedicated to explaining how
they don’t extort businesses. So I went
to Yelp’s headquarters to meet
with their spokesperson, but not just any spokesperson. My name’s Ben Flajnik. I am currently Yelp San
Francisco’s Community Manager. And…? And I did some television
a number of years ago. You were on…? It was on The Bachelor. -I was the Bachelor.
-That’s right. Forget about Yelp
extorting people, I had to ask
season 16’s Bachelor what really went down on that
horseback ride with Lindzi, or the time he totally dump… I would prefer that we
probably keep this… this conversation
about Yelp today, if that’s cool with you. Yeah. No. Yeah. Absolutely. No, I’m… I am
a hundred percent a professional and I’m here to talk to you
about Yelp. I would never,
you know, want to talk about… Go, go, go, go.
Get out of here. Go. Clean it up. Clean these up. -I didn’t arrange that.
-No, no, it’s fine, it’s fine. Sorry. Excuse me.
What would you say to someone who says that Yelp
extorts businesses? Um, I would say
that’s simply not true. Great. I’m also not in sales.
I don’t… you know, I-I-I run the
community side of things here. Um, Yelp makes its money
primarily through advertising. You don’t have to advertise. Reviews are-are shown
just the same whether you’re
a paid advertiser or not. So businesses can control
the order in reviews that come up, description… Reviews are a bit different. We have… this-this algorithm, it’s called
“recommendation software.” And unfortunately,
the business owners get frustrated
with the algorithm. Alongside that, you have sales
reps that are calling them, and they think that
the two are correlated, but they’re absolutely not. We don’t extort businesses. Bullshit. You are going to work. You are going to be harassed
from these people. It’s blackmail, it’s racket. Bring the money in…
“to the family.” -Mm.
-And that’s the Yelp Mafia. Does it cause you pain
being so Italian and seeing your noble tradition
of Mafia culture be portrayed by these
Silicon Valley douchebags? It is. It’s insulting. The Italian community
got really mad, not because
the intentional extortion, it’s the way
that it’s being done. That a little stupid guy called
me from the Silicon Valley, because he’s manipulator. That’s humiliating for
the Italians. He should know. At least do it the right way. Send couple of guy
with a baseball bat. Do it a classic,
“I’ll give you the money.” Nobody say anything. But what if he was
on The Bachelor? Well, you congratulate him, but also tell him
to go (bleep) himself. These people are protect
by politics, law and lawyers, and we don’t give a shit
anymore. It might be legal,
but it’s not okay. LYDIC: Choosing who to trust
between these two guys was gonna be tough. Yelp’s business practices
are totally legal, but Davide had a point: harassing businesses
and adjusting reviews feels dishonest. Almost as dishonest as calling
this “Italian-style pizza.” In the end,
I had to listen to my heart. (echoing): It might be legal,
but it’s not okay. Just because it’s legal
doesn’t make it right. I was gonna have
to let Ben down easy. Ben, I spent a lot of time
with Yelp today, and I think it… it’s
just that Yelp and businesses are somehow not trusting
one another. It just feels like
there are some things that Yelp is keeping
from businesses. But… I really hope
that Yelp finds happiness. I’m sure one day they’ll make
a business very happy. Oh, thanks. ♪ ♪ -(cheering, applause)
-Desi Lydic, everyone.

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  1. And, if you move your business to new location – yelp will post that your business has closed. Even if the business is still open as an online presence

  2. ive owned a restaurant and yelp did the same thing to me as they did to this guy. i ended up paying. 7k a year. its pure extortion, but i couldn't take a hit on my business.

  3. I love how corporations blame the algorithms as if they had nothing to do with what went into them. They put the rules in the algorithm. The extortion is part of it! It’s a feature, not a bug.

  4. The clearest proof that Yelp manipulates its review scores is that Yelp makes it impossible to give Yelp itself a 1 star review. Yelp removes every 1 star review of Yelp to artificially maintain its own rating.

  5. Yelp, or any one of these opinion companies, the point is, why are we trusting algorithms when they're created by the same greedy people?

  6. I don't understand reading reviews on food, taste is subjective. Things like cleanliness and
    the attitude of the staff is noticeable and some people just HAVE TO be upset about SOMETHING.
    I don't find a need to have my opinion given to me I guess.

  7. Sorry, but thats why “This Week Tonight“ has surpassed The Daily Show by far. Not only the writing on the jokes is often better, but they really dig deep on researching issues. The daily show is looking for the cheap gag, while This Week would actually try to get to the bottom of yelps business practices, while beeing hilarious. Each to their own, but I wonder how relevant the Daily Show will be in the next years.

  8. when a local hospital put me in collections and refused to contact my insurance company to collect payment, but wanted me to do it for them, I wrote a Yelp review and the problem with suddenly solved.

  9. they wouldnt change my vape shop from a tobacco shop to a vape shop without payment but they would call once a week and I would tell them we didnt sell any tobacco. they are fucking shmucks.

  10. I think it kinda said it all, when the Bachelor got all doe-eyed from the get-go and said, "Hey I'm not part of sales." Um 'kay. Btw, wtf, I thought he owned a winery, this seems like quite a downgrade in his career. Also, this nefarious biz and the villain girl he chose to be his bride, hmm, seems he likes villainous ones. Anyhoo, it's good to know Yelp is a sham. Someone shoulda told 'em that trust is particularly vital to such a business.

  11. Yelp is simply a fraud. That is all what I have to say. They deleted my one star reviews as soon as businesses paid them money "for the advertising". Once you buy Yelp advertising, magically your rating goes up and one star customer reviews are deleted..

  12. The same thing happened to my friend’s business. Literally all the 5 star reviews along with pictures disappeared right after he refused to pay yelp. Then yelp said is their software. If he pays they can reinstate all the reviews. His business has slowed since then.
    Bullshit. Class action lawsuit? Anyone?

  13. First of all, who the fuck reads Yelp reviews anyways? Pretty much most of the reviews are completely bullshit and not true at all. I only use Yelp to look for the nearest location to eat. Nobody got time to write reviews , are you serious? Lmao also the Italian chef is dope, I would visit his restaurant because of this

  14. Yelp definitely does this! I run the tech side of a business, I’ve seen it.. and they keep calling and calling… they sound like they’re trying to sell a scam, they’re tone sounds like a scam.. they’re cocky

  15. Yelp = JANKY !!! they are so sideways, they DO call businesses and say "If you pay us we will 'Bury' any not so great reviews "

  16. In year 8 of business, a "yelper" came to my establishment and thus started my nightmare with yelp. She put my business on yelp and gave us a raving 5 star review. After several clients informed me that they found us on yelp I went on and thank the person for the review and thats when they started the nonstop telemarket calling. It got so bad I had to write to my states Attorney General to get them to stop harassing my small business, as I could prove what a distraction and disruption it was to the work day. Shortly after that, we got our first negative review, but unlike a restaurant, we have the names of our clients. The person(s) who left the negative review were never a client of ours. What i noticed is that it was never about the actually job/work that was done. And just like the chef said, the good reviews starts getting hidden or gets placed at the bottom and the bad reviews rises to the top. My business was in its 8th year when this started, so it was a bit laughable, but if it was year 1 or 2 or 3, it would have done serious damage to a small business trying to get a footing. Worst part is, once someone puts you on yelp, you can't take yourself off. Its a racket.

  17. we own a business and I agree with the constant phone calls with no end in sight. I haven’t monitored the reviews we have on yelp because I don’t use yelp. Thankfully the locals love the business and are happy to shop there.

  18. As a small business owner, I can confirm Yelp is a POS.
    A pushy Yelp salesman got me to cough up $1,000 for advertising.

    After it did nothing for me, I let them know I would never give them my money again and that I saw no value in advertising with them.
    Slowly, over the course of about a year, half of my "5-Star" reviews started to become "hidden". Yet when I mentioned that and I also reported a totally bogus "1-star" review, Yelp did nothing about it: "looks legit to us".

    yeah…
    Fuck Yelp.

  19. @1:22 DESI: "And you're not just Italian,
    you're like, cartoonishly Italian."

    CARTOON ITALIAN CHEF: "I agree with you." 😂

  20. Google does the same.
    They had this restaurant I used to work at listed as permanently closed on maps, because the owner wouldn’t play ball. All the comments place the date they visited to let everyone know its open and the business is still doing well.

  21. We routinely found Yelp reviews inaccurate and weirdly naive (like once reading a yelp complaint that a French restaurant was expensive and didn’t serve hamburger 🙄.)

    This piece helped explain some of the yelp oddities. Trip Advisor, Open Table and even google more useful and substantive.

  22. This may be made out to be funny but it's also 100% true … We have 3 reviews on our Yelp page from many year loyal customers who's reviews are "hidden" because of the algorithm but the 1 star review from a customer who our policies upset because she couldn't use two discount coupons the help page prominently displays. If Yelp wants to regain the trust of businesses they need to ditch this algorithm. Google also sells advertising and offers people a spot to review just like Yelp … However you don't see Google in this controversy like Yelp because they simply allow all reviews, good or bad to be displayed.

  23. Yelp is biased for advertised definitely we have the same situation. Its real thousands of business they make this extortion. Somebody should stop these crocks!

  24. Desi Lydic is simply not funny. All her jokes are dry and it looks like she is pushing it too hard. Next please

  25. Yelp charged me for advertising of my small business without permission. It cost me thousands of dollars. I spent hours and days dealing with different customer reps and different stories. They could provide no proof that I authorized their advertising charges. It was the most frustrating experience of my life.

    In the end I threatened to sue them and inform as many small businesses about their malpractice. I have neither the resources or energy to sue. I’m sure they have better lawyers then I could afford. Fuck Yelp.

    On the bright side I’m glad this story is getting some big coverage. Thanks Daily Show!

  26. Never used Yelp, because being in the country, every place I can eat at never got any reviews. If you need someone else to review a restaurant for you, perhaps you're too poor to eat in a restaurant or you exhibit poor judgement… or both.

  27. When we had a small business,
    I was constantly harassed by yelp to pay for advertising, but my juice bar had 5 stars already without me paying. But it didn’t stop them from calling everyday. Every time I had a call from San Francisco I would add it to the block calls list. Now my bf has a small business and he’s dealing with them as well

  28. Yeah when I talked to their rep and signed up, the first 8/10 results were advertisers, the ranking in the search list has nothing to do with reviews, just $$$. I suspect their review ranking algorithm is BS too but we don't have enough to compare yet.

    I'm fairly happy with Yelp overall though. We've been getting some good leads/clients from them.

  29. Thank you so much this segment on
    Yelp they have ripped me off for thousands of dollars and never have done anything for me
    They still call me to get my business and like the man said they are very pushy
    I hate yelp I give them zero star

  30. All jokes aside, Yelp absolutely takes down most positive reviews and absolutely leaves the negative ones. They blame it on their "algorithm" . If you want to speak to a customer service rep, you have to have an account and spend at least $450 per month. They are On-Line Gangsters. I no longer respect or trust any of their reviews. So a disgruntled employee can slam your business on Yelp and Yelp will gladly post it with no research, no hesitation. If you want to discuss it with their customer service team, be ready to pay.

  31. This happened to my Atlanta business and I hate them. Call call call and when you tell them no your good reviews start disappearing and don't let a new sales account manager get a hold to your account, they will hit you AGAIN!! So I stopped caring about reviews and it worked like a charm.

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