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Marsha’s Industry Standard: A Yelp in the Wilderness

by Robin Garr » Wed May 30, 2018 9:02 am

A Yelp in the Wilderness

By Marsha Lynch

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I answered the phone at work the other day, and a guy from Yelp was on the line. He gave off sort of a greasy vibe, if you know what I mean.

When I answered the phone with our business's name, as we always do, his first sentence was “Hahahahaha! I love that name! This is (guy from Yelp). I'd like to speak to the business owner!” He sallied this forth with a kind of loud-tie, polyester-suited used-car salesman's enthusiasm. When I politely let him know she wasn't available and asked if I could take a message, he switched his well-oiled gears. “Well, let me ask you something,” (the added “little lady” wasn't audible, but definitely implied), “How do you feel about Yelp?”

I gave this a few seconds' consideration. Huh. How do I feel about Yelp, right now, in this moment? My internal emotional needle immediately plunged deeply into negative territory. I stammered something along the lines of “well, I, uh...” and he steamrolled right over me. He didn't really care so much how I felt about Yelp. His question was just a verbal can-opener he used to gain access to the next part of his spiel. He asked me if I ever used Yelp myself, to help me make decisions about whether to patronize or visit various businesses. My honest answer was yes, occasionally I do. He went on to paint a flowery picture of how he could help our business owner learn to navigate the deep waters of Yelp and turn its many features to her advantage. I managed to end the call fairly quickly, miming writing down his contact number in the air above the desk and promising to pass it along.

When I had to time think about it later, I wondered why, aside from his shtick, I had that immediate negative reaction. After all, Yelp is an easily navigable platform, available to most of the developed world. It provides the user with information submitted directly by patrons of businesses. It has a star-rating system that's easy to understand. And although I don't often write Yelp reviews, I have used it from time to time in making a decision – where to dine when I'm out of town, which nail or hair salon to visit, what auto-repair shop to use.

But as a business owner, or someone emotionally invested in the place one works or a business owned by a friend, it's difficult to think positively of internet reviews – despite the fact that 99% of them are positive. Those dozens of atta-boy, 'this place is FANTASTIC!' reviews are sweet when you read them, but when you hear the word “Yelp”, you don't think of those first. You think of the two one-star reviews still hanging out at the bottom of the list. That lady who was dissatisfied and didn't bother to tell a manager, or that guy who created a big stink about something he misunderstood about your policies, - never having availed himself of them, even though they were obviously stated and readily available. I can't think of a single owner or manager I know who would say “Are you kidding? We LOVE Yelp!” when asked their opinion.

The truth is, it's easy for a dissatisfied customer to do a drive-by negative internet review. I don't say “too easy” because, let's face it – that's the world we live in now, and we're never going back to letters to the editor of the local newspaper as a means to express dissatisfaction with a business. Owners and managers are then forced to defend themselves against such reviews with carefully worded responses and attempts to make things right, publicly, on the same platform where the complaint was lodged – rather than in a face-to-face interaction or a simple phone conversation. Reviewers tend to really pump up the outrage factor online, too, since they aren't faced with a concerned representative of the business who might try to mitigate the situation one-to-one.

So please think carefully when you post a negative review, and do so only after you've tried to get some satisfaction from the establishment in question and made no headway. People's businesses and livelihood are in the balance.

After all, do you ever read the three-star reviews? Me neither. Just the great ones and the stinky ones. Am I right, little lady?

Marsha Lynch has worked at many Louisville independent restaurants including Limestone, Jack Fry’s, Jarfi’s, L&N Wine Bar and Bistro, Café Lou Lou, Marketplace @ Theater Square, Fontleroy’s and Harvest.

Read it on LouisvilleHotBytes:
http://www.louisvillehotbytes.com/yelp-wilderness

Read it also in LEO Weekly’s Food & Drink section today:
http://www.leoweekly.com/category/food-drink/
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: A Yelp in the Wilderness

by Mark R. » Wed May 30, 2018 11:33 am

Certainly a well written article as usual Marsha but I'm surprised that you have a relatively good feeling about Yelp in general. I've become less and less trusting of its reviews. It's too easy for the owner of a business "to stuff the ballot box" so to say with good reviews and it's just as easy for someone to trash a place with bad reviews for no reason. There certainly is no give-and-take in the review process nor is there any checking for validity.

Too many times have I seen glowing reviews for a restaurant that is mediocre at best or I've seen reviews for 1 of the top tables in the city. Sure, I'm sure some people have great experiences and some have terrible experiences at every restaurant but when the scale tips one way or the other too far it certainly makes me suspicious.

I've also heard too many stories about a Yelp representative like the one that called you pressuring businesses to advertise or do other things with them in order to get good ratings! I'm sure some people have good experiences with them but.....
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: A Yelp in the Wilderness

by Marsha L. » Wed May 30, 2018 11:57 am

Mark, I'm surprised you got that I have a good feeling about Yelp in general from reading the column. After all, I did say "When I had to time think about it later, I wondered why, aside from his shtick, I had that immediate negative reaction." My whole point was that even though it's popular and easy to use, I generally have a negative feeling about it as someone who works at a place subject to its drive-by reviews.


I gotta work on my communication skills :mrgreen:
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: A Yelp in the Wilderness

by Mark R. » Wed May 30, 2018 2:31 pm

You're certainly correct, I assume that you at least halfway respected it because you said you use it sometimes. I can't even think of the last time I ever looked at their website.
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: A Yelp in the Wilderness

by Marsha L. » Wed May 30, 2018 5:14 pm

I don't use it to choose restaurants in Louisville - that's what I have YOU guys for. But I have used it to help inform my choice about out of town restaurants and even in-town contractors and auto repair shops.

Of course, I always take the reviews with a large boulder of salt. :wink:
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: A Yelp in the Wilderness

by Gordon M Lowe » Wed May 30, 2018 7:23 pm

I can usually tell a fake positive review on Yelp. They usually gush about things in an overly generalized way, plus you can usually get clues by looking at the Yelper's previous reviews.
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: A Yelp in the Wilderness

by Mark R. » Wed May 30, 2018 7:35 pm

Gordon M Lowe wrote:I can usually tell a fake positive review on Yelp. They usually gush about things in an overly generalized way, plus you can usually clues by looking at the Yelper's previous reviews.

Yes, you can do that if you want to spend the time doing it however I just generally Ignore Yelp altogether instead of having to worry about sorting through what reviews are usable and which ones aren't.
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: A Yelp in the Wilderness

by Marsha L. » Thu May 31, 2018 3:22 pm

You guys! That Yelp guy called me back today. He read my column!

He was, shall we say, displeased with my characterization of him...
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: A Yelp in the Wilderness

by Steve H » Thu May 31, 2018 3:48 pm

Is there a website where people can post their reviews of Yelp sales reps?

Asking for a friend...
:lol:
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: A Yelp in the Wilderness

by Robin Garr » Thu May 31, 2018 8:11 pm

Steve H wrote:Is there a website where people can post their reviews of Yelp sales reps?

Asking for a friend...
:lol:

We could probably add another forum ... :twisted:
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Re: Marsha’s Industry Standard: A Yelp in the Wilderness

by Christina Hall » Thu Jun 14, 2018 6:21 pm

I use Yelp, but I also read the "not recommended" reviews. I use Trip Advisor much more often though, and try to compare the reviews between the two. Yelp usually has higher reviews if you don't take into account the "not recommended" ones. That's why when I review a restaurant, I do it on Trip Advisor.
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