Yelp, the online business rating and review site has received a decision from the court that they are able to change business ratings in exchange for money. This was decided by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco after they stated, “that such behavior wouldn’t be illegal if they decided to try it.” Scary isn’t it? To think the site you rely on to find out if a place is good or not might be telling a boldface lie!
Don’t get too worked up! Currently there is no hard evidence to support that Yelp either does this or will do this for money. There has been claims that they were making some manipulations to their reviews but not necessarily for money, which again there hasn’t been evidence to support. This court ruling was just stating that they wouldn’t be doing anything exactly illegal if they did decide to do this.
If Yelp did decide to begin openly accepting money for review ratings then it would seem that the legitimacy of their reviews would all but disappear. The idea of yelp is for other regular people to post the honest opinions on an open social site. This idea works so well because people want to know what their neighbors or a community feels about a place to make a decision where they should spend their hard earned money.
However most people should realize that all reviews and ratings usually have some influence. It could have been one poor waiter, a mixed up drink order or the opposite like an overlooked item on a check ending up in free food. Either way the people reviewing these businesses are not your friends. They are strangers and who knows why they do the things they do.
Yelp is a publicly traded company which exists to make money. This part is a fact and as long as we are aware of this then the general user should be ok. If this happens the small shops may not be able to boost their reviews while the cash happy big businesses might run wild with their reviews. Eventually though with all “fixed” systems the truth about a business will come out. Bad word of mouth has a way of finding its way to the surface no matter how many times you try to cover it up.
So next time you’re using Yelp imagine you are walking up to a public area of strangers and randomly asking people what they think of the place your interested in. You’ll realize some are shady, some are crazy, and some a real!