Inside the profitable world of shill Yelp reviews


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After speaking with several small business owners, I have very little trust for Yelp to begin with.

They’re basically the modern BBB, review extortion and all.


The restaurant where I was married had a weird mix of reviews. Some were glowing; others oddly negative. I almost didn’t even talk to the owner based on these strange review trends, but I had a co-worker who was married there and was super happy with her experience, so I took a chance. He was lovely in every way.

I once mentioned his reviews to him and could tell it was a sore point. I suspected competing businesses or the review places themselves had bid out these negative comments - or just, you know, New Yorkers being New Yorkers.

At any rate, he clearly purchased a service that would flood these sites with fake reviews, because the next time I looked there were a lot of suspiciously positive and obviously fake reviews, but at least they drowned out the nasty stuff.


Yes, I know of other small businesses that have been put to the thumb screws by Yelp itself. It seems that not only do reviewers game the system, but for the right price, negative reviews can be pushed to the bottom or removed. I don’t have specifics, but heard this from a reputable source that has no interest in even being on Yelp to begin with. [They list you even though you don’t request it, then let the reviews begin…]


We need a Metacritic for things Yelp reviews. :slight_smile:

Also…“best and only”…hahahahaha


Their sales staff offer burying the bad reviews for 300/mo., a number I have heard repeated several times.

I know one business owner that declined this fee, and customers who would post positive reviews would not see them shown. Only new negative reviews would be shown.


Yeah I’ve worked at a number of restaurants that have gotten those calls. And even more where they contacted Yelp to complain about an obviously false, inaccurate review only to be pitched the service or an ad buy plan. But Yelp is better than most (mostly because they try to hide and deny it so they can only go so far). Trip Adviser is rumored to actually create the negative reviews themselves, and requires you to pay for their removal. And they call places constantly making pitches that sound suspiciously threatening. They’ve got some seriously sketchy stuff going on in regards to their advertising/promotional programs. will actually go so far as to distribute coupons for business that haven’t signed up to participate in their coupon promotions and ad program. Oddly enough a lot of your newspapers are just as bad. Our regional (Newsday) picks which restaurants to promote and review (repeatedly and glowingly) based on their total ad sales. Don’t buy (astronomically expensive) ads in Newsday? Don’t get recommended for the cheap eats or weekend section. Which are surprisingly huge drivers of summer tourists business out here. I keep getting tourists asking me why such and such columnist recommended such and such restaurant when its turned out to be so awful.


They need to scrap that site and start over… Clearly that’s not going to happen, but it would be nice.
They are very shady. I helped my barber get a web page going and review on yelp a LONG time ago and this one man operation gets hounded and held hostage by them for money.
5 star reviews are hidden from other people - he can see them in their hidden state.
Some kook that doesn’t even live in the area gave him a weird one star review. Guy never used yelp before and has never since and it’s still there.
Some cranky college kid left him a rambling review a part of which said he was creeped out because “this old guy” (he’s like in his 50’s) was talking about the girls in bikinis on the beach… And somehow he managed to work it in there that he thought he might be a racist. Yelp won’t pull it. Kid had like 3 reviews total.
The intimation from yelp was that a monthly payment would make all these problems go away.
I left two similar 5 star reviews a few years back for places I very much liked, in which I called into question some of the lower reviews and the logic behind what was being said. One was pulled for “cause” per an email that I got from them, the other stayed.
Guess which restaurant was a paying yelp customer and which was not.
Go into small businesses and do a search for local businesses and see how often the very one you are standing in doesn’t get near the top of the list. Not even the first page!
I take it back, rather than scrapping and starting over they should have RICO charges brought against them…


The fact that businesses are willing and able to raise their rates based on favorable Yelp reviews should be a big red flag.

I used to know a food critic who had two solid rules when reviewing restaurants: she waited until a place had been open six weeks regardless of how many people gave her glowing reviews, because she wanted to give every place a fair chance to get established, and she ate there at least twice before making a judgment.

Too bad we can’t get that kind of dedication from Yelp.


i love yelp. warts and all.

Why? because I am a semi-intelligent human with powers of reasoning. If I see an AVERAGE of good reviews, I can make a decision. If I see one or two outliers? I check the reviewer/person out… Is he/she bitchy about everything? do they have a photo with a pomeranian sticking out of their purse or pants? are they so hip and trendy they slam everything?

then I discount the outliers, and look at photos.

I make a visit, and think “hmmm, is this good or bad, will I die eating here?”

As an ex-bartender? I check out the bathroom. is it clean? then so is the kitchen. is it filthy? well, so is the kitchen"

I chat with my wait staff. they know everything. are they normal and as-happy-as-one-can-be in that job - or are they heavily medicated?

After looking around, you can usually tell “add to my regular haunts” or “move on”

When travelling, play yelp against tripadvisor, and make some choices…


I agree with your usage 100 percent.
If I see a reviewer for a Sushi place that starts out “I don’t like fish, but…” OK, one more dipshit to ignore.
But for Yelp corporate themselves… If only they wouldn’t operate in the background so shady.


There’s probably a better, more mathy way to do this but if 10-15% of all online reviews are fake and they tend toward the extreme, couldn’t companies like Yelp get more accurate results by eliminating the top and bottom 10% of reviews from their score calculations?


I’ve had Yelp salespeople cold calling me for years about advertising with them (14% of my website views are directed from Yelp) but I’ve always declined their services. Not once have they ever suggested that I could pay for negative reviews to dissappear (I don’t have many reviews less than 4 stars so that may have something to do with it, idk).

The salespeople are very annoying and aggressive, every quarter it seems like a new tween intern is calling to “introduce” themselves as my new “point of contact”. Honestly if they ditched the annual contract and went to a pay as you go or monthly subscription I would probably become a comstomer.

I agree with @caryroys it’s the modern BBB, except for profit so non tax deductible (another reason I’m not a customer).


we are in firm agreement on that too - yelp - money whores and extortionists - i get it. welcome to corporate america. :frowning:

and? lol Went for Sushi, I hate fish. LOL


:star::star::star::star: I love this comment! I read this on a date and both me and my date absolutely loved it!!!


That sounds like a job for a browser plugin.


i love yelp. warts and all.

Why? because I …I check the reviewer/person out. … then I discount the outliers, and look at photos. … I make a visit, … I check out the bathroom. … the kitchen. is it filthy? … I chat with my wait staff …

Congratulations: you just defeated the very reason that Yelp is supposed to exist.


Trip Adviser is useless. Look at who pays their bills – the very resorts being reviewed. My one experience with reviewing a hotel for them involved the hotel blatantly lying. Trip Adviser said my choices were to live with it or take down my own review.

So yeah. I can believe in shills. Trip Adviser makes no money unless you look at their ads or purchase reservations through them.


Only four stars!? I paid for no less than FIVE!!!


Oh they certainly never come out and say anything about shifting bad reviews down the page or removing them out right. And if you ask they deny that the upstanding Yelp would ever do something so unethical. But its all heavily implied. Often times its tied to complaints filed by businesses (or even by customers) about obviously false reviews. Like say that one star review that seems to think your taqueria is an Italian restaurant. Or the negative review that name drops several employees that don’t, in fact, exist. In such cases it would be obviously unethical for Yelp to remove any reviews for any reason, but you know the Yelp advertising program would be an excellent way to counter such sentiments. HINT HINT wink nudge.