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    • henryc7

      I’m a Yelper since 2008 and I no longer trust Yelp. I can’t say anything about the so-called extortion, but this is a fact: the review filter doesn’t work. I have seen this first hand since 2011 when I started managing business locations that have Yelp presence.  For example, one of my locations has 13 5-star reviews, all 100% authentic, all filtered, because the reviewers are not active. Another location has two active reviews, one positive and one negative from active accounts, and about 20 filtered reviews, all authentic from low activity accounts. It’s easy to prove authenticity in our business because we are required to take ID, photos and thumbprints from clients for police records. (Not that we would disclose that information, but I use it to check for shill reviews.) It’s basically a demographic problem for us: our clients tend to be older and less likely to have Yelp accounts. Yet if they are happy, they will often create an account to share their experience, but then probably not use it anymore. Occasionally we get a younger Yelping client who’s review will stick, but it gives their experience undue weight since the greater body of reviews is filtered. Since the filter values activity as authenticity, all a shill reviewer need do is use an active account. I know this works because we had an unscrupulous IT guy (fired) back in 2009 who got his friends to leave shill positive reviews from active accounts. All of those reviews are still active, while authentic 5-star reviews from low activity customers accounts get filtered out. The owner does not want to flag the shill positives, because a good rating is too valuable and he does not believe that playing by Yelp’s rules actually works as evidenced by our many, many, authentic, good, *filtered* reviews. And he’s right. Basically the filter encourages people to game the system. You play by Yelp’s rules and maybe your reviews reflect your service accurately. Or maybe you get stuck with 3 stars because only 5% of the reviews show, whereas you’d be at 4.5 stars if *the majority* of them did. (then there’s the double standard how a business shouldn’t leave shill reviews, but Yelp sponsors businesses to throw “marketing” parties for elites… Free food for two hours at an Elites-only event, though do please drop some of that five star love if you want to keep having these parties…) Remember everyone, Yelp is a NYSE traded corporation who’s main responsibility is shareholder profit. The business model is relevance through user activity and mass, which is sold to you as a friendly consumer advocate community. There is some truth in the sales pitch (some), but bottom line is Yelp is no different from the business that complain about Yelp hurting their bottom line. One last note: Yelp does not allow business owners to be Elite members. One of our owners was invited to be an Elite Yelper but was then turned down when she told them she is a part-owner of a business. She could have lied, but she is honest. I do not understand why being a part-owner of a business should render someone’s experience and opinions invalid as “elite” when in other ways the person qualifies, as if owners are not also consumers and regular people.

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