The most disturbing complaint I hear about Yelp is that businesses are beholden to the scrutiny, and there is no way to “opt out.” Businesses are then forced to play ball, whether they like it or not. This complaint often comes up when businesses notice that their reviews are being “filtered” by Yelp. Businesses have alleged that unless you participate in costly monthly advertising, your reviews are unfairly arranged in order to punish you, a sort of extortion scam. I cannot refute or validate these claims. I resent the fact that Yelp has become an unreal success by bobbing around in the backwash of anyone, or in this case, lots of anyones who have enough money for a meal and an Internet connection.
It has been said before that while people who have a good experience at a restaurant tell almost no one, and those who have a bad experience tell everyone. No one likes a complainer, but we all love to complain. It’s this entitled relationship that brings us to Yelp. I am not suggesting that there are businesses that don’t deserve it; and with enough reviews, the universe is bound to deliver a fair sentence. But should a business not have the option to opt out of this circus?
The fact of the matter is that the cream rises to the top, with or without Yelp. The debate should really focus on their business practices, which many people feel are shady. A lot of restaurants choose to simply ignore Yelp reviews. Delfina even made T-shirts featuring their negative reviews, highlighting some less-than-literate reviewers, which was a great way to turn things on their head. Yelp attracts a certain kind of person, the kind that loves the sound of their own voice, the kind of person that feels the need to review the Peet’s kiosk at O’Hare Airport. I wouldn’t ask this sort of person where I should eat for dinner, though I am sure they would love to tell me.