The Problem with Yelp

Since starting my newest job at Vostok, I’ve got to witness the benefits of social media and public feedback via online reviews firsthand. Opening weekend alone, the restaurant’s Facebook page was flooded with “likes” and the Yelp page racked up reviews (a few bad, most of them thankfully positive).

As a consumer, I frequently look to Yelp to pick my next meal locale. There are a multitude of options in and around Seattle, and Yelp is a convenient way to narrow my options based on food type, price range, or rating. One of the main components of Yelp is, of course, the user-submitted reviews. But how accurate is the feedback you’re reading?

Here’s the thing: Yelp is rampant with fake reviews. A quick search on Craigslist pulls up plenty of offers where people can get paid (typically $15-20 per post) to post a positive review about a business they’ve probably/definitely never been to. While these reviews don’t always stay up (sometimes, Yelp easily spots the fake ones), many of them stick. So, that sketchy Chinese restaurant with 5 stars might not be so great, after all.

But what about real reviews? Apparently, those get deleted sometimes, too. Out of 15 or so reviews within the first week of opening (all real, mind you), 4 got removed from Vostok’s page. All positive. The reason for this removal is unclear to me– all were posted by actual customers, who left real feedback. As a business, one isn’t left with many options in terms of getting the reviews put back up. As I’ve discovered, Yelp isn’t exactly business-friendly. The positive reviews remain missing.

Apparently, Yelp uses an algorithm to screen reviews. Spoiler alert– it doesn’t work. Curious, I posted my own review for Vostok. I kept my feedback honest, but technically the review should be removed as a conflict of interest. As of right now, my review remains up on the page, with no indication of being removed.



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