Yelp This

hate-yelpEveryone’s a critic but nobody enjoys being criticized. If you ask me, that’s a fantastic system. P.S. You suck.

Today we’ll explore another fascinating facet of GUNT (Grand Unification Negativity Theory) that offers supporting evidence that every human enterprise is gamed to the Nth degree.

At the Guru of Negativity I happen to love Yelp. (Their politics aside. That’s another story.) Surprised? Think about it. Start with the word “yelp” itself.

yelp: a short sharp cry, esp. of pain or alarm

Yep! The negativity is built right in. Don’t blame me. I’m not the one who named the service. It’s intended to be a place where you share your sharp cries of pain. Now that’s a blight idea!

The Yelp business model is simple. You criticize each other and we’ll make money off it. What could possibly go wrong?

Some merchants hate Yelp. Mainly the ones who get nasty reviews. I wonder if there’s a correlation. They lamely try to offer grass roots resistance, like, “Close your Yelp account and get a free dessert.” And I thought Don Quixote was crazy.

In Oregon, the Court of Appeals determined that owners could sue negative reviewers including a person who wrote of a wedding venue: “worst experience of my life!” Unless there’s something else to that story, I don’t see how that can suit can possibly stand up. It’s an opinion statement and people have the right to share their opinions, don’t they?

Meanwhile, don’t underestimate the public. They are just as nasty as the things they claim in their reviews. Review services like Yelp and TripAdvisor have given rise to a new class of creative genius. They make Lex Luthor look like small potatoes.

The system is supposed to be gamed like this:

  • You have an allegedly bad experience
  • You go home and Yelp about it
  • The merchant reaches out and expresses false apologies
  • The merchant offers a freebie of some sort (aka bribe)
  • You update or retract your review

The result is a system of reviews that have absolutely no relation to the reality. I don’t know about you, but I love making decisions based on meaningless information.

The problems is, that for some people, that sort of process simply takes too long. Why not eliminate a few steps? It works like this: Walk into a place of business, state that you are a reviewer, and they better give you some goddamned free stuff or you’ll go back to your crib and slice them open with your scythe and write a scathing review. This is pretty much the exact opposite of bribe. It’s called blackmail.

If you’re starting to notice a trend with words like “bribe” and “blackmail” then you can begin to understand the nature of gaming human systems. Fuggedaboutit!

If you think that’s clever you have clearly misunderestimated humanity. In a similar move that’s simply sublime, you up the ante by reviewing a business without the experience. Yes, you’ve never actually been there. The point is to initiate the negotiation process and get the freebie up front. Without the actual bother of having to have been there.

The point is that every new system offers unique and exciting new ways for exploitation and gaming. It’s what humans do.

Does “Homo Sapiens” have an entry on Yelp yet? I’m in a giving-one-star kind of a mood.

12 responses

  1. Yelp is one of those things that sounds like a good idea (tell us what you think!) that ends up being perverted (and not in the good way) so that it’s a sham of the idea that’s behind it. Both businesses and users try to game the system.

    I remember writing a review once on a new restaurant, which was of the good-not-great sort. I got an email from the manager BEGGING me to change it. I hadn’t blasted them or anything, but I guess a “passing grade” isn’t good enough.


    1. Agreed! Of course, companies are cropping up to get in on the action with “reputation repair.” For $500 a month (or more) they’ll use every trick in their arsenal to manipulate the system.

      I did have a good experience on Yelp. I wrote a thoughtful, non-hostile and factual review that was less than favorable. The manager contacted me with an inducement to give the place another try. I didn’t take him up on the freebie but did promise to go back and update. It took a year but I finally did and I decided to upgrade the place from three to four stars. He remembered me and wrote to say thanks. That’s how it should work, I think. Of course, that’s probably anomalous. 🙂

      Yelp does contain useful information but it takes considerable effort to sort through all of the clutter. If there are enough reviews to work with, slice off the top and bottom, then use the rest to try to get a feel for what the place is really like. That works fairly well.

      One good thing about the fake positives is that most merchants are unable to resist the urge to go over the top and therefore they stick out like a sore thumb.


      1. I’m still trying to digest your good experience. I think that’s a faux-comment. 😉


  2. NotAPunkRocker | Reply

    So, Yelp is Ebay, or is Ebay really Yelp?


    1. We got love for sale. Hurry while supplies last.


  3. Snoring Dog Studio | Reply

    Given how cranky some diners can be and how easy it is for humans to criticize versus praise, why would any restaurant take their chances like this? This model makes no sense. I wouldn’t be able to believe any of the negative reviews, yet I’d still be disinclined to try out the place because of them.


    1. One thing I like about Yelp is that each reviewer gets a profile and a little chart that shows how they give out stars. Are they 1-star specialists or do they spread around the love? Judging the identities of the reviewers is a big part of determining if you can rely on a review or not.


  4. Yelp is always a mix bag. Some of my favorite places get slammed in there, while others I hate get awesome reviews (like I really want average food that tastes like dog food?). However, on the flip side I got a really good review when I worked the as a cashier for my cousin’s husband’s gyro café in Seattle. I stopped by to have lunch, ran his till for a while and took some orders, and got a nice review. And Yes, I will be blogging about it so you can read it (Thanks for asking…).


    1. If you asked five friends (assuming you had that many) about a place you’d never eaten, just how accurate would their responses be in relation to your experience? Unlike what Google Plus and Facebook are selling, just because I like someone as a friend doesn’t mean their opinion amounts to a hill of beans. Similarly the information on Yelp has to be carefully judged to look for little nuggets of usefulness. I automatically assume good reviews are biased, i.e., owners themselves and/or their family and friends. A certain percentage of what’s on Yelp is gamed despite their protestations about how fair they are. I take it all with a grain of salt.

      So you’re saying you’ve been yelped? It must be intoxicating to be you! That’s something decidedly not on my bucket list.


      1. Yes, just got a Yelp review. I feel like such a piece of eye candy….


  5. “Now I want to write a negative comment but there’s nothing but good here.”

    Satisfied Customer


    1. Our system is home of the the glorious zero-star. Feel free to use them prodigiously.


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