The Yelp Mafia

Is today Fraud Thursday or something? Did I miss the email?
Written by Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor
Is today Fraud Thursday or something? Did I miss the email?

One of my favorite iPhone apps (and Web site) is Yelp, the free, San Francisco-based business (mostly restaurant) review guide. Not only is Yelp its own standalone app, but its reviews are also integrated into several other iPhone apps.

The East Bay Express reports that Yelp's integrity has been compromised. Actually, no. They take it step further and accuse Yelp of extortion and compare it to the Mafia. It appears that some San Francisco-based business owners were contacted by Yelp with offers to hide negative customer reviews – for a price. If they agreed to advertise on the site, Yelp staffers promised to "do something" about the negative reviews.

During interviews with dozens of business owners over a span of several months, six people told this newspaper that Yelp sales representatives promised to move or remove negative reviews if their business would advertise. In another six instances, positive reviews disappeared — or negative ones appeared — after owners declined to advertise.

And it gets worse.

Some businesses who declined Yelp's "offer" to advertise noticed new negative reviews of their business appearing on the service. So they're not only deleting bad reviews for money, they appear to be adding negative reviews to businesses that decline to advertise. Welcome to the age of digital extortion.

There goes another app from my iPhone (along with WHERE, which uses Yelp reviews).

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