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YELP ATTACKS THE PRODUCER OF BILLION DOLLAR BULLY

Producer Kylie Milliken is currently in production on documentary Billion Dollar Bully which is an  investigative documentary about Yelp that examines the claims by business owners of extortion, review manipulation and review fabrication.

Yelp, who is notoriously defensive, is not happy and has fired back in an unusual way.  Shannon Eis, vice president of corporate communications, went on CNBC’s “Fast Money,” where she went head to head with Milliken.  She revealed that she had several sock puppet accounts that she used to review her husband.   As you can see, they actually released a screen shot revealing her username, something they claim they don’t do as well as her husbands business name.   After looking at their privacy policy, turns out they are within their right to do this, because if you join Yelp you have no privacy.  They can do what they want with all of your information including giving it to 3rd parties and in this case use it to retaliate by releasing it to the public.

For a company who is trying to defend being called “mob like” and “Bullies” it is very surprising to see their reaction here.  What Yelp is telling people is that as long as you don’t upset them, you have nothing to worry about.  And its  telling us that they must be worried, otherwise why react at all.

The truth is I have more than one account.  If they looked at my IP they would see quite a bit.  Some are clients whose accounts I have created and claimed for them which is not against policy.  And some are accounts I set up to test out accounts I feel are blacklisted.

And I have a couple I have used for damage control.   I don’t feel bad about that at all.  When you have a website that is misleading your customers due to an admittedly imperfect filter system, we need to offset that damage.  If  Yelp removes valid reviews leaving up one fake negative one,  I personally feel a business has every right to do what they must to manage their reputation the way they see fit.

Notice how defensive Jeremy Stoppleman is when he feels anyone says anything incorrect? In fact Ms. Eis said they are responding to make sure that the facts are made clear.  Yet they tell businesses, so sorry, we realize our imperfect system has made you look bad, just focus on good customer service and move on.  And if you try to defend yourself in anyway, expect to be attacked.

Shannon Eis also accused her of ignoring all of the evidence that, according to Yelp, has long since discredited allegations of extortion, including a Harvard Business School study, a Federal Trade Commission investigation and numerous court cases in which federal judges found no evidence of wrongdoing.

First. The Harvard paper cannot be taken seriously.

One important fact that is left out is that Jeremy Stoppleman is a Harvard man.  If someone else from an entirely unrelated school writes a paper I might be more likely to trust it.

The Harvard Paper points out the power of a one star rating drop and also states that Elite reviewers are more trusted and are recognized as more reliable.  My previous post shows evidence that Elite are certainly NOT reliable and in fact can be quite damaging.

But if you combine the facts from the Harvard Paper and that of a Nielson Report you actually can see Yelps whole strategy.  The Nielson Report that was released prior to that which revealed “people are more than likely will leave a negative review than a positive one”.

So if businesses encourage satisfied customers to post positive reviews, the need to market their business via more traditional methods (advertising!) is reduced.  This explains why Yelp has to control businesses so much.

The FTC issue is also not to be taken seriously.  They have historically made mistakes and bad decisions or rulings.  The FTC ruling relating to Amway in the 70’s facilitated product based pyramid schemes.

They area also know to catch on slowly, and as CSPAN said “3 years too late”.  The FTC took forever to finally address all the complaints about DIRECTTV’s hidden charges. And they made numerous mistakes in regards to the Google complaints.

Even the FTC Chairman admits they aren’t perfect, “We’re not a regulatory agency. We’re an enforcement and policy agency, so it’s harder for us to set up rules in advance, so…you’re right…it’s a tricky question…responding to how do we make things better going forward as opposed to correcting mistakes a few years ago…we try our best using the tools that we have”.

And regarding the court cases, Yelp fails to disclose the whole story on some of these.

Yelp actually lost one case and was order to pay the plaintiff,  but then later after an appeal the judge dismissed the case.  Not because Yelp was right (in fact the Judge agreed they were like the Mafia) but because the terms say that you have to go through an arbitrator before court.  So the plaintiff simply made an error in how the case was handled.  The judge initially ruled against Yelp.

Yelp also was sued by a group of its own shareholders. They  filed a class action lawsuit against the company alleging that the Yelp executives sold of more than $81 million in “artificially inflated stock” while deceiving shareholders.

I for one am more than a little interested to see this film.  Anyone who has followed me over the years knows I have heavily disagreed with Yelp as I have witnessed the damage first hand.  It is frustrating to see Yelp dump huge amounts of money into legal fees and creating systems that hurt businesses rather than simply making some changes to the User Operations department so they can fix the issues they know the filter creates.  The problem is that it is hard to get review issues fixed even if it violates policy.  They don’t fix the issues they know exist.

They have an  imperfect computer system that they have had to spend a lot of money defending, that is responsible for our economy and our communities.

If they truly care about businesses like they say they do, they would find a way to integrate  a better system to offset that damage rather than fight against it.

My follow up articles on YELP:

 

YELP EXPERIMENT – IF YELP WAS IN THE REAL WORLD

This video attempts to demonstrate how harmful the Yelp business model is by showing what it looks like in real life at an actual business.   This is no different then what they are doing online. If this isn’t ok in real life, then why is yelp allowed to do this online?

 

More on why Yelp Sucks

This is part two of my original post WHY YELP SUCKS.

By the way, I totally predicted this.

Yelp sent a message out warning businesses about reputation management companies.  To me, they are  trying to put a stop at people’s only line of defense against YELP which is reputation management efforts.  What do you think? Is it legitimate concern, or another attempt to prevent businesses from doing damage control?

The message:

We’ve recently seen an uptick in reports about “reputation management” companies that claim to work with Yelp to remove your negative reviews or otherwise boost your ratings… for a fee (of course!). If you’re wondering how these companies can make good on this offer, the answer is simple: They can’t. There’s never been any amount of money one can pay — to Yelp or any third party — to manipulate reviews.

If you’ve been contacted by someone offering something along these lines, we’d love to get the details so we can prevent them from preying on others. Please use this form to loop us in. For general questions, contact our user support team at www.yelp.com/contact.

Finally, as we’ve said in the past, the best strategy for reputation management is to provide great customer service, and respond diplomatically to your reviewers.

To me this message is under the guise of trying to help you, by discrediting reputation management companies so you wont use them.  Granted there might be a few of these businesses making false promises, much like fixing a credit report.  People cannot promise to remove reviews.  Unless they are some kind of insider, this just isn’t possible.

HOWEVER,  DO NOT DISCOUNT THIS SERVICE AS A WHOLE!  There is many things that can be done to help you.  Many legitimate reputation management services available,  You still have options!

The legit companies simply  understand the system and can help by using perfectly legal ways such as report reviews violating terms of service, investigate reviewers and prove they are competitors, link build to bury bad reviews from searches, create or strengthen your website or web presence,  help claim your listing and optimize, and much more.

Always be wary before hiring a company to help you.  But don’t discount that there is help out there.  Be sure to stay tuned, I am working on some tips on how you can do your own reputation management.