Yelp, the Billion Dollar Bully.
If you’re a business owner and have had any relations with Yelp, you probably already know where I am coming from and likely feel the same way. In 2019 consumers have the right to say their experience with a business online, publically, thanks to reviewing sites like Yelp. Which is great for the person who wants to grab tacos at the local Mexican place, or when you’re trying to find something to do with the fam, it can be a great reference.
Over the past 4 years or so, Yelp calls me daily. Even when I tell them to stop calling, they continue. My number gets passed around from sales person to sales person trying to get me to invest in Yelp. I refuse every single time because Yelp is not where I get my clients. I’ve never actually booked a single shoot from Yelp. Word of mouth is still the strongest way for businesses, especially photographers. Over the years, every time a client leaves me a positive review on Yelp, it gets hidden. Especially the 5-star reviews. Which are all my reviews except for two. One of which was my very first paying client ever, when I first put my business on Yelp in 2011. The second which was a client I had to fire and refund because of bullying. I have ZERO tolerance for people who bully you to get their way.
Other businesses are negatively affected, too.
A good friend of mine, Maxine Evans, Los Angeles newborn photographer, was just on KTLA for this exact same issue. Yelp is also hiding her 5-star reviews. Honest genuine reviews that our clients leave. It’s a great and informative interview if you’d like to watch:
Reviews on Yelp aren’t trustworthy.
However, yelp has also become a place where certain consumers think they can say anything they want online. Even if it’s false, libel, slander, and defamation. With the intent to ruin the business or business owner’s livelihood, (which is illegal, Cal. Civ. Code §45 and Cal. Civ. Code §46. Many photographers have won hundreds of thousands to millions in lawsuits for situations as such.)
I recently had a situation with a client, who demanded I give them $3500 worth of albums and images for free or they would ruin my reputation and business. All of it documented through email. I refunded their deposit at that point, even though my team and I traveled to LA to their home, which meant we lost quite a bit of profit on this shoot, which was ok because my self worth is more valuable than the loss and I was not going to be bullied by these people. After I voided the contract and refused business with this client, they left extremely false and outlandish reviews on Yelp and other reviewing sites. The other sites were able to take down the reviews with the proof of emails. However, Yelp would not oblige. They blamed their algorithm, they blamed their computers.
This is my livelihood. My children’s livelihood.
How fair is it for small businesses these days to go through this kind of thing? It’s exhortation. You run into one bully and it can ruin your entire 10-year career. It can ruin your life. If you don’t pay Yelp, your business suffers.
I closed my business on Yelp.
The fact is, you have to pay for Yelp, for them to listen to you. You have to pay for Yelp for your 5-star reviews to show. Yelp is a scam for the small business owner. It’s “pay to play”. Which as a consumer myself, has made me re-think every single bad review I see on Yelp. I also look for the “hidden review” link at the bottom of each profile to see what those say too. Knowing that Yelp hides the good stuff and shows the false reviews for those who don’t pay, has me second guessing even using it in the first place. How is Yelp even legal when it’s violating libel and slander codes? It also makes me wonder which GOOD reviews are true since you can pay to have good reviews added, too
Want to sue Yelp?
If you’re a business owner reading this and you are thinking about trying to sue Yelp, think again. They are a billion dollar company with the best of the best lawyers. You won’t win. MANY have tried. The best you can do is either make your client happy, which in my case was not possible, have your lawyer write up a cease and desist, or sue that client if you can prove your business was hindered by defamation.
This photographer won $1M for defamation. It’s a serious thing, guys! Your words online have REAL WORLD consequences!!
This is my take on YELP. I do not want my business there. I can’t take it down, but at least I could close it. Yes, I am still in business, but Yelp is not something I support or stand for. I even deleted the app on my phone. I will find my recourses about businesses elsewhere here on out. If you use Yelp, that’s fine, just remember to use it with a grain of salt. Not all reviews on there are accurate or true.
Happy Monday, all!