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Yelp.com (2004-) - A California-Based Review Website, Widely Accused of Extortion in Building Their Business

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This article claims that Yelp has offered to remove negative restaurant reviews for $299 a month.

I really want to make some sort of joke here about running a $249 special on donrockwell.com, but instead I'll just shake my head in disbelief over the accusations.

Cheers,
Rocks.

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This article claims that Yelp has offered to remove negative restaurant reviews for $299 a month.

I really want to make some sort of joke here about running a $249 special on donrockwell.com, but instead I'll just shake my head in disbelief over the accusations.

Cheers,

Rocks.

Dude, I have been hounded by a guy for like 3 weeks to advertise on Yelp. Basically, if you have good reviews on Yelp,(like I do :P ) they want to you to pay to promote your business even more. That newspaper article is a very accurate description of their business practices. I don't mind Yelp for it's user reviews, even though it seems most of the reviews on there need to be taken with a grain of salt. Crazy how the internet has really come to effect a lot of businesses both positively and negatively.

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This article claims that Yelp has offered to remove negative restaurant reviews for $299 a month.

I really want to make some sort of joke here about running a $249 special on donrockwell.com, but instead I'll just shake my head in disbelief over the accusations.

Cheers,

Rocks.

I'm sorry to hear this is going on (what is talked about in the article). It's difficult to see how they could be so stupid as to pee in their own pond this way if that is really what they are doing. Sites like this live and die on their credibility, and if they lose that through the revelations that inevitably will come (like this one), they will regret it.

I have found Yelp to be very useful, particularly when traveling. I used to troll Chowhound, and still do, to find local places when traveling, but it's too disorganized. Reviews here on DR Intrepid Traveler are also useful, but hard to access on the fly and not comprehensive in scope. With Yelp on my iPhone I can just use the GPS to search restaurants near where I happen to be and pick one. The whole process takes a minute or two. A few weeks ago I was in Coral Gables and left the meeting, was driving down the street hungry, pulled up Yelp literally while waiting at a stoplight, and found a Chinese place 3 minutes away that reviews said was one of the best in the Miami area. Checked the map showing how to get there, and went. Presto! It was great; some of the best dim sum I ever had. Tools that can do that are a blessing, and we need more of them.

Of course any site that relies on user-generated content is subject to all sorts of issues (present company excepted of course). The user has to take things with a grain of salt. Still, this seems over the top to me.

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Honestly, and this needs to be said--and this is coming from someone who has gotten literally tens upon tens of thousands of dollars of not always deserved free publicity from this forum (and please, anyone who has had a bad steak or crappy service from us--some times we really do suck--please say so here)--this topic really brings to light the often unrealistic integrity of the mission that Don has set out for himself and has outrageously and steadfastly maintained even at the expense of friendships and mental health over the course of some five years now.

And this integrity has been maintained by every member of this board even with our differences by the sheer force of will behind the guiding principles to which he adheres, just by the fact that anything else would just be so...wrong.

I love Yelp! and the real-world voices it provides and I don't really buy the accusations of this article except for the fact that salespeople (unless you're the really, really hot salesgirl with the nose-ring at Anthropologie in Georgetown or you sell roller coasters for a living--that's you Joe--by the way, how cool is that?) are basically scum--whether it's advertising or mortgages or over-hyped stocks or No Child Left Behind test-prep services (hello, Washington Post) or civilian-murdering "clean strike" missiles.

But if anyone, or anything, can be credited with elevating the DC dining scene from its Tiberian and RAMW-toadies miasma it is you all right here and this board right here that bears Don's name.

And honestly, and this needs to be said--Why the fuck hasn't he been nominated (at least, come on now, fercryingoutloud) for a Beard Award already? I can think of about three awardees off the top of my head that should give up their trophies--if Linda Roth would allow it--in protest, if they had the stones.

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Don

Michael, thank you for the kind words. Everyone here knows I have to take them with a grain of salt, because they could just as easily be followed by criticism of equal intensity.

But for now, at least let me do a "back atcha," and jog everyone's memories with this act of generosity from 2 1/2 years ago: Emmaus Services For The Aging.

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I have had a complicated relationship with the new media landscape as it relates to restaurants. It has been both to my professional benefit (at times greatly to my benefit) and to my detriment. I am not unique in this regard as every good restaurant manager has an added component of his/her job that our predecessors could not even have imagined fifteen or twenty years ago. In the late 80s, the media landscape for restaurants had only the voices of the major critics to consider. Now a weekly Google search for blog posts and other references to his/her restaurant is de rigueur or should be.

This doesn't answer the question of the relevance of these voices. How important are the blog posts of someone with no professional writing experience or restaurant reviewing bona fides? How important are the message boards like this one? I don't answer those questions because they are no longer relevant; there is no way to put the universal access of the internet back in its bottle nor should one try.

That Yelp is a leading provider of this equanimity is unquestioned. Yet I still have philosophical questions with unqualified opinions being a high profile source of information regarding restaurants. In a culture obsessed with notoriety as a proxy for ability to inform, entertain or enlighten, I have seen the changes in guest behavior. There are too many people who would rather write their review (or submission to an online chat) in their heads than participate in ensuring their good meal and good time.

Technology cuts both ways, however. OpenTable and various POS systems make it fairly easy to identify complaints on-line, to establish that the "30 minute" wait time was really ten minutes. That a manager touched a table several times rather than being "M.I.A." as stated in an online complaint. I can recall a dozen more examples without straining my booze addled brain, but knowledge of misstatements is small consolation as the words are there for any potential guest to read and opportunities to correct the record are few, and by management axiom, conciliatory.

The majority of people who participate in online forums, discussion boards, restaurant & food blogs are like the majority of all people: good, honest, and honorable, as are their intentions. They are also the influence makers and when the bad seeds among them misrepresent their experience it has disproportionate impact.

This newest information about Yelp does not shock me. For every emerging technological front there are always a few charlatans profiteering on the margins. I am only surprised that it took this long.

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Wha- juh... guh... bah... whaaaaaa???

The singular... absurdity... inability... cogent rebuttal... fahjoobawikiiiyaaaaaaaaaaaaa....

"I can't go to sleep NOW, honey; someone is WRONG on the INTERNET!!!"

Just spreading a little yelp amusement. If I took him seriously I would have sent him my favorite Richard Kuklinski video. :D

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Just spreading a little yelp amusement. If I took him seriously I would have sent him my favorite Richard Kuklinski video. :D
eep he took the world's quota for exclamation points and capital letters. there are none left.

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eep he took the world's quota for exclamation points and capital letters. there are none left.

I want teh exclamation pts back1111

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Hahahahaha!! Scroll down about 1/2 way to the review of the establishment after Guarapo.

:D:blink::(:P

That's the one that convinced me that it's a parody, because I've been in the Royal Palace and " BOOTYLICIUOS!" (sic) is not a word I would choose to describe it.

His review of Marvin is excellent, though:

AMAZING! DOPE! HOT! OFF DA ROCKER! DA BEST SPOT ON U STREET!

If you'd like to find a place that hasn't been overrun by WANNA-BE, COKE-CRYSTAL-CRACKHEADS, GHETTO-FAB HOOCHIES, CREDIT CARD RICH, FAKE ASS, PUNK, ARABS, EURO-GHETTO-WHITE TRASH.....

GO TO MARVINS!! Not only do they have that cool, unpretentious, laid-back vibe, but they also have very delicious affordable food and drinks to match! Great place to take a hot date, or go with a group of friends. I'd get there early esepcially on weekends. My favortie night is Wednesdays after hour parties hosted by some crazy dope DJ Niko! If you wanna dance all night go when he's DJ, cause the music will be ridiculously and spectacularly HOT! So you can't go wrong with MARVIN'S!!!

The only thing I don't look forward to is when this place is discovered by those PUNKS ASS SUCKER CHUMPS from the K Street Club corridor!

5 STARS FOR MARVIN'S ALLL THE WAY CAUSE YOU WILL HAVE A BLAST! BIG SHOT OUT TO COLLINS....GOOD LOOKS BABY!

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Anyone who would give the Royal Palace a higher rating than Good Guys -- not to mention Five Guys a higher rating than Komi -- has a serious problem with his aesthetic sensibilities.

I think.

Maybe I better go double check....

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why on earth would anyone care about what this over-caffienated hyperbolizer has to say about anything?
Yelp is one of the best ways to find out what people in their early twenties feel about anything. I'm sure its useful for some marketing purposes.

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why on earth would anyone care about what this over-caffienated hyperbolizer has to say about anything?

The people who are truly horrifying are the ones who post HERE.

I truly cringe for Tom Sietsema whenever I read that forum. To think that someone of his level of accomplishment has to "play host" to such a group of people who so obviously HATE restaurants and look for any chance they can to absolutely revile both restaurants and the people who work in them--in an obvious, forced-from-above attempt to keep up with Yelp and DR.com--has to be just plain embarrassing to him.

Not to mention how scary it is to think that these are the people who, if it weren't for DR.com and Yelp, would be the only ones determining the public expectations of restaurants. I think if Tom Sietsema is going to hold on to his relevance to the restaurant world for much longer in the New Media Age, he is going to have to learn to stand up to, rather than coddle, these people, whose voice and influence have already diminished to the point of irrelevance anyway.

For what it's worth, I find a refreshing honesty on Yelp. In the past year, I have found more legitimate shortcomings, failures and things which need fixing or improvement from reading comments on Yelp than from any other source.

Besides, this whole brouhaha about extortion on Yelp is a little bit disingenuous, not to mention overblown. A substantial portion of our local economy is based on the extortionary costs of buying or providing access to media and power. Further, how many local restaurants get any press coverage without a paid PR Agent? Is that not paid access? And most of all, no group is more extortionary to local restaurants than the RAMW--yet everyone laps up the bought-and-paid-for praise that comes from the RAMMIES.

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For what it's worth, I find a refreshing honesty on Yelp. In the past year, I have found more legitimate shortcomings, failures and things which need fixing or improvement from reading comments on Yelp than from any other source.

Are you implying the people here are just a bunch of fawning sycophants (I prefer to use the word "nuthuggers" but the usage of big words is highly encouraged here)?

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That's the one that convinced me that it's a parody, because I've been in the Royal Palace and " BOOTYLICIUOS!" (sic) is not a word I would choose to describe it.

His review of Marvin is excellent, though:

This guy reminds me of a lot of kids I went to college with, unfortunately.

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Are you implying the people here are just a bunch of fawning sycophants (I prefer to use the word "nuthuggers" but the usage of big words is highly encouraged here)?

Not at all--psycho ants, yes (come picnic time); but sycophants, no.

The community here is, however, too knowledgeable (paradoxically and counter-intuitively), too sympathetic and too forgiving to be a useful tool in discovering and measuring a restaurant's shortcomings and failures. (This is a great place to find out what you are doing right, but not a great place to find out what you are doing wrong. Of course, many would argue that my strong arm tactics and intimidation, and those of my adherents, are largely to blame for this, which is unfortunate and also the subject of a different debate).

The people who post on the Post or send comments to Tom, on the other hand, are too dishonest, hysterical, hostile, and vengeful.

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Not at all--psycho ants, yes (come picnic time); but sycophants, no.

The community here is, however, too knowledgeable (paradoxically and counter-intuitively), too sympathetic and too forgiving to be a useful tool in discovering and measuring a restaurant's shortcomings and failures. (This is a great place to find out what you are doing right, but not a great place to find out what you are doing wrong. Of course, many would argue that my strong arm tactics and intimidation, and those of my adherents, are largely to blame for this, which is unfortunate and also the subject of a different debate).

The people who post on the Post or send comments to Tom, on the other hand, are too dishonest, hysterical, hostile, and vengeful.

HERE! HERE! You sir....are CORRECT :D

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Joe,

Many thanks for taking care of me a few weeks back. It was nice to finally visit your shop and I acquired a nice bit of vino. Next time I will have to allow myself some more time to poke arond or at least to talk some more. ;-)

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We stopped by yesterday when we only had a few minutes. I left fully Tiki-fied with Velvet falernum, St. Elizabeth allspice dram, El Dorado gold demerara rum, and a bottle of agave syrup that Mr. lperry grabbed on impulse. He likes tequila.

I didn't have much time (which may be good for my wallet), but the rum selection is the best I've seen outside a Caribbean duty-free shop. Lots of fun!

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I know precious little about Yelp, except that a lot of people write reviews on it, and that it comes up high on Google searches. The reviews I've read seem extremely uninformed and amateurish, but maybe I'm reading the wrong ones - I understand there's an "Elite Squad," and I'm wondering if these folks are good enough to post here and earn respect. My initial impression is that Yelp is like community college, and I'm wondering if it's time for their best reviewers to take a step up, and start working on their graduate degrees, going toe-to-toe with the very best the Washington, DC restaurant community has to offer. Not knowing enough to comment one way or the other, I'd like to turn this question over to the rest of the members here for their opinions.

Cheers,

Rocks.

NUFF SAID...............

Los Angeles Times or

East Bay Express (click here for a thread discussing this article) or

Digital Street Journal

I can't even begin to count how many PR firms have pitched me on their own "Yelp" squads to pump clients and bash competitors. Certain restaurant companies employ bloggers in India ( call center down time) to pump their restaurants. ummm think chains with unusually high comments and stars...........

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NUFF SAID...............

Los Angeles Times or

East Bay Express (click here for a thread discussing this article) or

Digital Street Journal

I can't even begin to count how many PR firms have pitched me on their own "Yelp" squads to pump clients and bash competitors. Certain restaurant companies employ bloggers in India ( call center down time) to pump their restaurants. ummm think chains with unusually high comments and stars...........

However, these three articles are now six-months old, and Yelp seems to be as strong as ever. If there is any truth to these allegations, it won't be investigative journalism that uncovers it; rather, it will be disgruntled, ex-Yelp employees who blow the lid on the entire operation. And as far as I know, that hasn't happened yet.

But I've heard first-hand stories from restaurant owners who have received threatening phone calls from Yelp and are afraid to come forward. So maybe it's just a matter of time before the whole thing unravels?

I *think* that in the long-term, I'm going to owe Yelp a debt of gratitude for doing my own marketing for me, but I'm not sure. Regardless, Yelp reviewers will always be able to find a home here: This website is a permanent document, and nothing written here will ever be lost to the black hole of bankrupt cyberspace.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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