As we all know the pen is mightier than the sword and freedom of speech is still a constitutional right at least for now. It's in that spirit that I'm picking of my pen, or in this case my keyboard, to defend small business owners who can't afford an ad with Yelp and end up paying the consequences. And also to defend the rights of those who write reviews on Yelp in support of such businesses.
Yelp has recently introduced a program on their site to "filter" out any seemingly phony business reviews. Apparently, some businesses have figured out how to beat the system by asking customers to write positive reviews on the site or by writing them themselves using a fictitious persona. In theory the filter is good because it allows new customers to see only honest reviews by real people. Kudos to Yelp for trying to keep the internet a honest place.
However, this same filtering system has removed all positive reviews from my listing, even though they were unsolicited nor written by me. I can only assume this was done because every couple of months a Yelp salesperson calls me asking me to purchase an ad with them. I've politely told them on numerous occasions that I'm not interested. I've tried to explain how small my business really is and that I keep my overhead low by not paying for advertising. After all, the best advertising is word of mouth.
After declining several times, I took note of the number from which the Yelp salespeople call me and started ignoring them when they call. Seriously, I just don't have time for a 20 minute phone call each time where I listen to the same information only to have to argue my way off the phone.
Then lo and behold, my reviews and ratings all disappeared. Even the one that had been up for over a year and a seemingly innocuous one that just said she was looking forward to checking out my studio and would report back.
I've heard from others that I'm not the only business that this is happened to. Is it possible that Yelp's review filtering system is just too sensitive or in error? Possibly. But I suspect that more is going on here than a glitch in the software. Especially, since they state specifically in their rational for filtering reviews that they aren't punishing the non-advertisers.
Yes, I know I can't prove it but it does seem a bit suspicious, doesn't it?
Yelp, if you are going to try and keep everyone honest and accountable for their reviews, how about starting with yourself? Just because I'm not giving you money doesn't entitle you to edit out my positive listings and ratings. Freedom of speech is a constitutional right that shouldn't be guaranteed with money. You are perpetuating the system of corporate greed and power where the small businesses get pushed out because they don't have the deep pockets to compete with the big-boys.
You might be able to edit my listing on your site but you can't touch my blog. Yogis know how and when to speak up.