Could Yelp Be A ‘Billion Dollar Bully’?

Yelp has been my steadfast companion since I first downloaded it on my mom’s iPhone at the tender age of 12. From that moment on, mine has been a singular quest: find the most stars for the least dollar signs. Though my review history is limited to a few smear campaigns against touristy seafood restaurants, not a vacation goes by where I don’t fill my Yelp app with bookmark after bookmark.

Suffice to say, Yelp is my jam. I have long considered myself a brand evangelist for the platform. I have a word document sitting on my desktop entitled “The Yelpers Manifesto – Rough Draft”. Seriously.

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Photo Credit: Imgur (texted to me by my grandma)

But my blind love for Yelp has been bludgeoned by frightening new accusations. It all started when my friend interrupted one of my pro-yelp rants a few weeks ago. She warned me silicon valley’s darling wasn’t all that.

She informed me that Yelp hides good reviews under the guise that they are “filtered out”, and instead pushes bad reviews to the top of each restaurant’s page. How can you make these “not recommended” reviews appear front and center? Why you have to pay hundreds of dollars per month for a Yelp premium business plan!

Impossible, I said. Wouldn’t that be extortion? But the next time I looked up a restaurant, I scrolled down and saw an inauspicious little button for “not recommended” reviews. Sure enough, I clicked on it and found a dozen 4 and 5 star reviews — although admittedly there were a handful of bad ones in there too.

Then I read yesterday about “Billion Dollar Bully” — a muckraking documentary that, according to filmmaker Kaylie Milliken, will expose Yelp to the world. I don’t know when this film is coming out. I certainly don’t know if their accusations have any merit. Innocent until proven guilty, as they say in the biz.

But I’ve read, and heard, enough to be concerned. Yelp and I have a long and illustrious history. I would hate to find out that the dice are loaded.

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