The article by Ellen Lee over at the SF Chronicle about merchants getting all pissy at Yelp seems to have made it on to TechMeme. Yelp has become the destination for a business’s reputation. I don’t advocate that anyone try anything in SF unless they have Yelped it first and they are comfortable with the ratings and reviews. And the crux of this article is that a bunch of merchants have started favoring each other on Yelp.
Fundamentally, I believe that these reviews should not have been deleted. There is no way to prove that these “band of merchants” were actually working together to up each others’ Yelp ratings. Do I find this cheesy? Absolutely. I have personally flagged reviews by merchants who up their own Yelp rating. Or if I find a user with zero friends and 1 review about a business. Which leads me to my point…
These reviews should have been left on Yelp. However, Yelpers should be given a way to figure out whether these reviews can actually be trusted. And that’s where a company like Rapleaf could help. Perhaps Yelp could provide a way to get a user’s (online) reputation for other Yelpers. This way Yelp is not having to get in the middle of figuring out who is a valid Yelper or more importantly, what constitutes a valid review. Leave it up to the Yelpers to decide once they have been given all the right information.
That said, I think it’s a little absurd that merchants want to “artificially” inflate their ratings. If we think of the problem Yelp is trying to solve, it’s to provide a better ecosystem for service. By cheating the system, these merchants are really only fooling themselves.
While I’m at it, let me tell you how I Yelp. When my friends and I decide to go to a restaurant, for example,
- we Yelp it (duh)
- we see which of our friends have Yelped it,
- we look at some of the Yelp Elites reviews on it, and,
- we look at how many reviews the restaurant has had and how it has fared – for example, (as of today) Kara’s Cupcakes has 3.5 stars and 439 reviews. Guess what, I decided to try it. I can see why they’re being docked a star and half (probably because of their prices)
Yelp is really changing the way we choose who we want to give our business to. If merchants can think about maintaining a great Yelp rating from the get-go, we wouldn’t have to deal with bad customer service.
PS: On a somewhat related note, should Yelp have gone with the Digg like thumbs up or thumbs down as opposed to the 5 star rating scale they have today?