More than ever, an online review, often anonymously written on websites like Yelp can make or break a small business. If you own your own service business, chances are you’ve already felt the dramatic effects of a single negative review can have. A disgruntled customer can ruin a business’s reputation without ever stepping foot inside, and with little to no evidence of their claims. Search the web and you’ll encounter endless horror stories of distasteful reviews that, regardless of merit, have essentially crushed a business’s standing with the public. Even when countless good reviews outweigh a few bad ones, the systematic way in which Yelp strong arms its business users creates a dead end for a small business on the cusp of greatness. The real problem lies in Yelp’s ability to “filter” reviews in an effort to reduce fake reviews that have plagued the site.
However, the more you look in to this feature, the more you begin to wonder if Yelp is using this as a tactic to scrape money from a helpless business. John, an East Bay Restaurateur explained his experience to the East Bay Express in an article that explores the Extortion tactics that Yelp is using against owners like himself. John received multiple phone calls from Yelp employees after a few bad reviews of his restaurant inexplicably appeared at the top of his page. When Yelp offered to remove these reviews at an enormous price, John knew something was wrong "It totally felt like a blackmail deal. I think they're doing anything to make a sale." John isn’t alone. Hundreds of businesses around the web are stuck in similar situations, all the while potential customers avoid their establishment. Simply google it and you’ll see for yourself.
The lack of a standardized format for reviews means that a business's Yelp profile rarely accounts for an accurate reflection of it’s standings with the public. This is an out of date process that will eventually fail. As the public catches on to the scheme, Yelp will lose credibility and more structured review systems will take its place.