Yelp Is Terrible for Everyone Involved

“Your Yelp review is ruining my business,” he tells me, clearly gritting his teeth. “How long will I have to suffer from your negative review?” A few weeks ago, a contractor called me because of a review I had left. An oddly emotional conversation ensued that hesitated between harassment and an appeal for sympathy.

I’ve only written a couple of Yelp reviews in my life. Like many people, it was a negative experience because I felt I had to do something. In this case, it was an unsuccessful job renovating my significant other’s house. It was a small amount of work, but costly, and I felt I had to dissuade others from this contractor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not taking it lightly. I’ve had a job in retail, restaurant and blue collar jobs in my life, and I know most complaints about Yelp are garbage from people who just don’t get it . But I also know that finding a home contractor is hard , and the least I can do when I find one really bad is to say, “Hey, don’t use these people.”

The inspection itself was what one would expect from a negative assessment of the contractor. It took them ages to get the job done, they were late, they left a mess, they were unprofessional, and they distorted the quality of their work in many ways. This is the same contractor failure story you’ve heard before. The review was not even caustic, it was mostly a game because the events spoke for themselves.

Things got interesting when the owner called three months later. It all started with hidden threats and then turned into potential bribes. It was as weird as it sounds.

After one bad review, the bullying began …

Initially, the business owner called and left a message in which he mentioned that he had spoken with his lawyer about the due diligence. In retrospect, I realize that this was a simple scare tactic designed to scare me into deleting my review.

The initial voice message was: “I have spoken to my lawyer about this review and I need to speak to you immediately.” When someone mentions talking to a lawyer, the first thing you do is talk to yours (or bluff like me). When I called back, my first question was: “I spoke to my lawyer, do I need to call him back?”

“No, no, of course,” he replied, continuing, “I meant that my lawyer suggested that I call you so that we could decide something.”

Of course, I don’t have a personal lawyer. But I’m guessing that he originally offered libel, which I understand pretty well at this point. When it comes to defamation, Yelp loudly proclaims its support for consumer rights and it only took a few seconds for Google to validate the law . A quick call to a lawyer friend clarified all my remaining questions: as long as I didn’t lie in the review, the owner had no reason to sue me.

Many people don’t understand the intricacies of libel and don’t bother looking for information when threatened by a business owner. I guess the mere mention of a lawyer is enough to get most people to remove their negative reviews. I called it a bluff, so the business owner chose a different tactic.

… then a plea followed …

After it became clear that I understood my legal remedies and understood exactly what libel meant, he switched to another tactic: beg me. Since I’m not a terrible person, it almost worked.

“This is a family business,” he said, “I have children.” He turned to pleading for my empathy: “How long must I suffer?” he asked. I confess I have been pondering this for a while. Was there a universal time frame that the contractor must reschedule before retaliation? Is it even a measurable thing?

“How much business do you think I lost because of your negative feedback?” – he continued, now slightly inflating my ego, he paused and waited for my answer: “I have no idea,” I said, leaving everything as it is. The phone line remained disconnected for a while while we both tried to figure out what the game was. He thought the ball was now on my court. I was too overwhelmed by this guy’s insolence to answer, and decided to remain silent until he spoke again. When he did, he switched to a different tactic.

… and finally bribes

Then a bribe followed. He offered a number of services from his company to “fix it,” which I scoffed at given that they couldn’t get the original work done right. Then, in a truly leftist approach, he moved on to gift cards in restaurants. It wasn’t a $ 20 gift card from Chili’s either. He threw a few trendy restaurants that were too cool for me and his final serve was a $ 500 card for Patina.

It was clear that he was willing to pay pretty much whatever it took me to remove the review. I let him continue a little in stunned silence before he asked, “Thorin, is there anything I can do to fix this?” I thought about it before answering, “I don’t need anything from you, but I will think about deleting.” I would be lying if I didn’t consider any of these suggestions. Free work was a bit of a joke, but who doesn’t want a fancy meal? But it was all too strange. It was a payback, and this idea simply did not suit me.

But more than anything, I just wanted the conversation to end. At that moment, all this was uncomfortable for me. During the five-minute conversation, I experienced a lot of emotions. I started out with a holier consumer advocacy position than you, but ended up in a state of utter confusion. I wasn’t sure what I wanted out of all this, but I knew I wanted to hang up.

Bottom line: Yelp isn’t worth it

Looking through other reviews of this contractor, I found many stories similar to mine. Other reviews describe identical situations where a contractor performed substandard work and a few months later the owner contacted a reviewer with a little intimidation before proceeding to bribery. Many of these reviews were published shortly before me or later.

It’s no secret that Yelp makes it harder to do business. The Wall Street Journal notes that business owners often see profits drop after a lot of negative reviews, and the fact that you can be anonymous on Yelp means competitors can leave as many false negative reviews as they want. A business can also pay someone to write fake good reviews on Yelp to boost their ratings. Business owners have also accused Yelp of extortion , claiming that Yelp moves positive reviews to the top after the business pays for ads. For its part, Yelp generally denies these claims .

Business owners don’t know how to handle Yelp. I had a lot of other weird interactions when a business owner asked me to leave (or discount prices, so as not to leave) reviews on Yelp. I’ve heard similar stories from others. A tire shop recently fixed a friend’s tire for free, but the business owner asked for a Yelp review in return. At first glance, this sounds good, but when you think about it, this is a rather strange business practice. For this company, the $ 5 fee to fix this hole is worth nothing compared to a favorable Yelp review. After looking at their page, it was clear that the tire store had bad reviews for larger jobs. This goodwill renovation was not so much to increase the chances of a business return as to nudge the Yelp stars back in their favor.

By the way, Yelp does not recommend requesting a review . In case of bad reviews, Yelp offers business owners a way to respond , but encourages business owners to adhere to the “customer is always right” principle and be diplomatic.

It’s not just companies trying to figure it out here. On top of all this, I admit that my negative review was a final attempt. It was my sad revenge as a consumer who felt cheated. I might have felt altruistic when I hit the publish button, but it was a selfish decision meant only to make me feel a little better. It was a form of air release. A one-star Yelp review is more of an appealing rant than a helpful review. I could keep calling the contractor every day until they sort it out. Or I could pour myself a glass of whiskey, open my web browser and give them a piece of my mind that other people can see.

Eventually, I deleted my Yelp account , including this review. I did it quickly, in a state of frustration and exhaustion after the company contacted me again , but luckily this particular contractor is floating around in negative reviews.


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