How Yelp Hurts Your Business

It’s usually comforting to not be alone in one’s plight, bad luck or hardcore case of Murphy’s law. However, in this case, it’s tragic when you learn not only are not alone, but that tens of thousands of businesses across America have been extorted and bullied by a billion dollar company with the power to save or kill businesses. And all of it comes down to ad revenue for this bully.

Here’s my (all too common) story. We had 5 stars on yelp at one time, but then about 5 years ago, the phone calls began. Yelp reps telling me why I should advertise with them, and I always said no, and began screening their calls. Not too long after that, my reviews began getting “filtered”. It’s yelp’s unscrupulous algorithm that they say protects the public from false reviews.

Even though some of my reviews were being hidden, I still had 5 stars, so I didn’t care much. We were and are consistently busy and consistently growing, so spending ad dollars seemed unnecessary.

Enter the spoiled college guy. It is generally against my policy to bad mouth a customer, or even a fellow human, and I break my own rule to underscore the intensity of the fraud he committed. Without getting into too much detail, he ordered shirts, had a deadline, which, despite numerous changes to the shirt colors and sizes, plus design changes, we still met. All this with the same high-quality that has kept us running strong for 27 years. After his fraternity event, over a week later, he called us. He claimed he found irregularities in the quality and position of the graphics on a few of the shirts. We asked him to bring them in or send photos, and also inquired why he hadn’t called sooner. At that, the yelling began. He had no intention of bringing shirts back, nor showing us photos. We would just have to take it on his word and he wanted a full refund. It is my belief that he thought if he complained enough we would cave and he could get the shirts for free or at least half off. When I refused unless he returned the shirts, he threatened a bad yelp review. I still didn’t cave, and consequently, there sits the ONLY 1 star review we’ve ever received. It is a lie, and nothing more than vindictive behavior from a spoiled child.

I have chosen not to reply to his review on yelp, because knowing what I know now, I will never visit yelp.com again. I refuse to give them even a single page click, and here’s why:

Each and every time a frantic and desperate business owner calls in to yelp for help removing a false review or reinstating their true customer reviews, they are met with the pat answer: “There’s nothing I can do about the reviews, but advertising will definitely boost your business!” And the pressure begins. Now they put the screws to you. Every objection you make is met with a well-rehearsed pat answer, sounding logical and friendly, All the while insisting that advertising does not change how reviews are filtered. Many desperate business owners will cave in, hoping against hope that even with low stars, putting their business at the top of search results, will create more visibility. I was unmoved by the smarmy rep, and his cold, uncaring spiel.

Funny thing, all of my 5 star reviews are from real customers, including the one where I wrote in and said, this is a comment from a client who requested I post on his behalf because he doesn’t have a computer. This one, the super smart yelp algorithm did NOT filter. (Go figure) The rest of my reviews are 5 stars, and are copied below, so please do not visit yelp.

Here’s another thing we know for sure, it’s human nature to complain more than compliment. Case in point: Most services like mine are on your to do list, for example:

  1. Pickup dry cleaning
  2. Run kids up to soccer practice
  3. Order business cards at AZHG
  4. Call Bob about leaky roof
  5. Get teeth cleaning at 2pm
  6. Get kids from soccer

My service is just one thing on your to do list, and if I do my job, you are satisfied and check it off, and move on to the next item. If something goes wrong, it throws a wrench in your whole day and every item on that list gets delayed. When that happens, you are likely to be upset with the problem, and also angry with the time lost to deal with it, and possibly additionally irked that you missed an appointment, had to rearrange your day, etc. Hence, a lot of emotion gets poured into bad reviews. The bottom line here, is that businesses like mine, where we strive to make every customer thrilled enough to return and recommend us, usually regard silence as satisfaction. We encourage customers to alert us to issues so that we may fix whatever comes up. This is why we have so few reviews even though we’ve been going strong and growing each year since 1992.