Yelp is a Racketteering Fraud

Hello, I’m one of the owners and co-founder of Tech2U and I have a story to tell. Yelp has filtered eleven 5 star customer reviews and one 4 star review (click on the link for filtered reviews at the bottom of Tech2U’s page) but only shows a couple negative reviews in order to retaliate against us for not advertising with them. Many experienced Yelpers have had their reviews removed from our page. Yelp has been accused, and convicted, recently of this unethical practice. However, countless small business owner’s continue to be victimized by their mafia-like shakedown tactics. Below are excerpts from recent newspaper articles on the subject.

Tech2U was founded and continues to be guided by the same principles of trust, honor, communication, care and compassion, and of course excellent technical skills which have allowed us to thrive in a highly competitive and sometimes less than reputable computer repair industry. But we’re not perfect. We sometimes mess up and have occasionally received legitimate negative reviews. We always attempt to go the extra mile to resolve issues for customers at no charge or in some cases we have no problem refunding money. We’re not in this business to take advantage of people. We believe long term relationships are the key to long term success. Negative reviews, which are fair and balanced, are a part of doing business. It gives consumers back the power to stand up to poorly run or unkind businesses. We’re all for that type of transparency. What we’re not for is the abuse of that system of trust by a multi-billion dollar review bully. Reviews should be displayed fairly, not based on who spends money with Yelp.

Here are some clips of recent articles:

Negative reviews are not the only bait that Yelp employees apparently use to attract advertisers. Some business owners believe Yelp sales reps remove positive reviews when they refuse to buy an ad. Robert Gaustad, co-owner of Bobby G’s Pizzeria in Berkeley, said that about a year ago a Yelp sales rep offered to “move good reviews to the top to make us look better.” Since declining to advertise, approximately fifteen to twenty of his restaurant’s reviews — mostly positive — have been removed for reasons he can’t figure out.

Gaustad said his complaints have gone unheard but that a Yelp sales rep told him his complaints would be heard if he advertised. In an e-mail from salesman Ethan Davidoff, which he read to this reporter, Davidoff told Gaustad that if he paid for an ad, “you will have access to an account manager who will help keep your page up-to-date and … you will never have to ever wait again to talk with Yelp about your listing and issue with reviews.”

A San Francisco wedding photographer relayed a similar story. About two years ago, a Yelp sales rep contacted her to advertise. The photographer — we’ll call her “Mary” — declined the offer. But the sales rep was pushy; Mary said she received about three phone calls and as many as ten e-mails per week asking her to advertise. Still, she declined. “All of a sudden my reviews started disappearing,” she said. “I called them up and said, ‘I’m a little curious why my reviews are disappearing.’ They said, ‘Well, people stop reviewing, we take them down.’ … I talked to the clients — they’re still actively reviewing.”

“Ellen,” who only agreed to be interviewed if not identified by name, owns an Oakland business with more than twenty Yelp reviews, and averages a 4.5-star rating. She says she began to receive solicitations to advertise soon after her business began receiving positive customer reviews. But she declined. “The prices were cost-prohibitive,” she recalled telling the sales rep. “I can’t pay $300 a month when I pay $90 for Google AdWords. After that, reviews started to disappear.”

When Ellen questioned her sales rep as to why some reviews had disappeared, the rep told her reviews can be taken down based on the company’s algorithm. Reviewers must follow certain guidelines to post a legitimate review, the rep replied. “They had to have pictures, friends, be part of the community,” Ellen recalled the rep telling her. But Ellen says the reviews that were removed fit the profile of acceptable reviews. Ellen turned down the offer again, and more reviews disappeared. She says she’s now down to 50 percent of her original reviews. “Just today I got three more e-mails from Yelp. They’re aggressive. … But it’s blackmail.”

— Fellow businesses owners — Fight fire with fire. Feel free to copy and paste this review but be sure to give yourself only 1 or 2 stars.. as you know those are the reviews that are much more likely to avoid the filter even though the Yelp profile is newly created.

*Articles cited:

http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/yelp-and-the-business-of-extortion-20/Content?oid=1176635

http://blogs.findlaw.com/strategist/2013/08/yelp-shakedown-complaints-lawsuits-over-review-sites-practices.html

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