PHILADELPHIA – Yelp has built an online business around the idea that it produces the best platform for unbiased, first-person reviews. This inkling has been highly contested by a great deal of the small businesses which are reviewed on the site.
According to Bloomberg Businessweek, “Yelp has always had a complicated relationship with small businesses” which goes back to its algorithm for removing certain reviews.
“Yelp’s algorithm is very flawed,” said Tommy Up, owner of PYT in Northern Liberties. “Yelp doesn’t spend enough time or thought in how they screen reviews. I can see how it would be infuriating to a small business.”
Following a highly publicized incident where Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy left a $0.20 tip on a $61.56 bill at Up’s restaurant, the small business found itself in the middle of a media frenzy.
Up posted a picture of the signed receipt to Facebook where commenters began taking sides with some focusing on the poor attempt by McCoy to make a statement about service and others questioning the professionalism of Up.
“The McCoy incident has been a blessing,” Up said. “Many of the Yelp haters actually drove fans of ours on Yelp to self-police obviously biased or fake reviews.”
Up believes that his company’s service and active social media presence before the incident was a major asset in the wake of an avalanche of internet hate on Yelp.
“Yelp can make or break a lot of small businesses and can lead to a lot of first time visitors to your business,” Up said. “After a person has been to my business personally, then the usefulness of Yelp is a non-issue. It’s only important for first time visitors who want a short cut to forming an impression.”
But PYT was not the only restaurant that came under attack by Yelp reviewers.
After a social media witch hunt was carried out to identify the three assailants, a picture surfaced of the alleged attackers eating at center city restaurant La Viola earlier that night.
Through social media, people were calling for the restaurant to identify the group but became angry when La Viola’s response provides no leads.
“It is unfortunate that a few individuals in its comment section took it upon themselves to ascribe unwarranted blame and accusations on the restaurant,” La Viola said in public relations statement I obtained.
“We are grateful that Philadelphia magazine published the report that eventually made it clear that La Viola cooperated with police and tried to help as much as we could.”
La Viola does not use any type of third party online reservation system and by the time police contacted the restaurant, the hand-written reservation list ahs been discarded. La Viola also claims that the party in question paid in cash so there was no credit card trail to follow.
“Yelp understood quickly that La Viola was suddenly getting negative reviews from people who had never dined with us, based solely on their misconceptions. We appreciate their prompt action in removing the unfair and baseless defamation,” La Viola stated.
Although social media can be used for many good reasons, these two incidents are examples of how situations can escalate when people are behind the comfort of screen.
Social media can produce a warped view of reality and sometimes it’s best to experience things first hand than turning to sites like Yelp.