What me ... Extortion??? (Yelp! spokesperson .... oh wait, that's actually Alfred E. Newman.  My bad.)

“What me … Extortion???”  (Yelp! spokesperson … oh wait, that’s actually Alfred E. Newman.  My bad.)

Below is a real-life case study of a Yelp! review — first the reviewer’s lengthy and numerous complaints, and then a look at the facts.  Unfortunately for the reviewer, everything happened to be recorded on camera . . . ).

For all the many gripes and extortion lawsuits against Yelp! perhaps the most damning critique is a common-sense analogy that’s being tossed around lately.

If you want to find a good mechanic, the best school for your kids, or you’re looking for a reliable open-heart surgeon . . . do you ask the opinion of a perfect stranger walking down the street?

If you’re in an AOL chat room, do you necessarily believe that everything you’re being told is true?  Is the woman you’re talking with online really a 36″-24″-36″ former Playmate model?  What makes us think Yelp! is any better?

The fact that anyone (regardless of their motive, intelligence, or qualifications) is free to post an online review on Yelp! . . .  well, that would seem sufficient warning.  Yet people continue to read it.

And Yelp! continues to grow — and businesses continue to be put-out-of-business by these totally un-verified “independent reviews.”  (Yelp! offers another option.  You just have to pay them hundreds of dollars a month and they’ll “filter” things so that good comments have equal billing with the negative ones.  The good reviews remain buried at the bottom until you pay them money?  Some people think that’s extortion.)

A friend of mine runs a popular Boston area restaurant — and when his establishment recently received a negative Yelp! review, he decided to see for himself what actually happened.  His restaurant has a security camera system.

First, here’s a summary of that published Yelp! complaint.  (So we can keep the identity of the reviewer anonymous, I’ll list the main points rather than reprint it entirely.)

— The reviewer claimed to have arrived at 9:00 PM for a reservation, but not be seated until 9:30.

—  The reviewer stated that their waitperson was “clearly overwhelmed“, and that “it took her forever” to get to them.

— The reviewer said that a burger was delivered without the bacon they’d ordered.  There was also a complaint about the overall quality of their meal.  (Can we trust this person?  Did they actually order bacon . . . or did they mistakenly assume that it automatically came with the burger?  Don’t vote yet . . . wait until we see just how reliable/unreliable this reviewer proves to be.)

— The reviewer said that by the time they found someone to complain to about the missing bacon, they were already “half-way done” with their meal.

— The reviewer complained they received “mediocre” service from a “harried” waitress.

My friend, the manager, wanted to see what had gone wrong.  The waitperson involved was one of his best . . . so he checked the restaurant’s security tapes.  He was able to identify the reviewer by reservation time, and the table’s specific order.

Here’s what the actual recorded video shows.  (I changed the name of the waitperson to “K”.)

Service Timetable for Table 70 (yelp complaint)
9:19 Customers sat (their reservation was for 9:15)
9:22 First visit by “K” (waitperson)
9:25 Food order rung in
9:27 Drinks ordered
9:29 Drinks delivered
9:41 “K” checks on table*
9:45 Food delivered (by expeditor)
9:46 “K” visits table (two bite rule)  “K” goes to kitchen right after
9:47 “K” spoke to table
9:49 “K” brings bacon
9:50 “K” checks on table*
9:53 Looks in on table again
10:02 “K” checks on table*
10:03 “K” checks on table*
10:09 ”K” checks on table*
10:17 “K” checks on table*
10:23 Table gets up to dance. Customer walks to the area where table 102/103 would be for a minute or so then walks around the floor toward table 24. The floor was very crowded.
10:32 Customer returns to the table.
10:33 “K” walks by and looks in on them
10:34 “K” walks by and looks in on them
10:36 “K” walks by and looks in on them
10:37 “K” walks by and looks in on them
10:41 Clears table 71 next to them
10:42 Spoke to table 70
10:43 Gave water to table 70
10:44 Gave one drink
10:46 Spoke to table 70
10:47 “K” walks by and looks in on them
10:52 Cleaned table 71 and looked in on table 70
10:53 Reset table 71
10:55 Spoke to table
10:57 Spoke to table
11.02 Took C.C. from table and returned it to the table
11:11 Picks up the C.C. customer had left

“*” denotes when “K” looked in and may have communicated with the customer, hard to tell

Longest times between visits:
12 minutes while food order is being prepared (customers had drinks)
9 minutes when customer is dancing
9 minutes after dropping off the C.C.

25 Total number of “check-ins” on table over the course of their 1 hour and 52 min stay

Hmmm, I’d say that waitperson was pretty darn attentive.  What was all the bullsh*t about her being “overwhelmed” and “taking forever” to get to them?

Following the “two-bite” rule, the waitperson stopped by to ask how everything was for them one minute after the food was delivered — and then she immediately went to the kitchen.  (The reviewer claimed it took the server “forever” to stop back, and that they were already “half-way done” with their meal before they could point out there was no bacon on the burger.)

The bacon (was it actually initially ordered by the reviewer?) arrived three minutes later.

As recorded on the security cameras, this waitperson was checking on the reviewer’s table repeatedly, if only to look in and give them the chance to request more service.

If the reviewer’s complaints were that far off — on the actual time frame, and the promptness and quality of the service — how much can we trust the rest of what was said?

I think we might get a more honest and accurate review from that self-proclaimed AOL centerfold playmate.

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13 Responses to DON’T READ YELP!

  1. Llylak says:

    You’re taking a week off? It looked like a post to me. 🙂 Good analogy by the way, comparing Yelpers with the on-line chat-room crowd. Convincing, and funny. Who has time for Yelp?

  2. JT says:

    Let’s face people are going to embellish, lie, cheat and just find a negative in any given situation. Some are just unhappy, others just pretentious. When you deal with general public anything is possible….Don’t Yell…Yelp! Last time I paid attention to a Yelp was when I accidentally stepped on a dog’s paw.

  3. MikeQ says:

    Llylak: Glad you liked the analogy, Lly. The chat room one is my own … but the “taking advice from a stranger walking down the street” is something I saw on the web. I think it was on an anti-yelp blog, but I can’t find it again now. (If anyone reading here knows the original source please let me know … I’d like to give them credit.)

    JT: Good to see you here, JT. We missed you at the Jam last week … don’t be doing that. : ) Hope to see you this afternoon.

  4. Jamie says:

    I just found a dentist by using Yelp. He had three 5 star reviews. When I told him that is how I came to find him, he laughed. They were his wife, son, and daughter! I still think he’s the best dentist I’ve ever been to see, but Yelp is like any other tool – you need to know how to use it for the best results. Though, with all my prowess, it seems I just lucked out on the dentist search…

  5. MikeQ says:

    Jamie: Sounds like you did get lucky, Jamie … even though the good reviews were the guy’s relatives. I’m not saying that all Yelpers are idiots, but like you say you have to read through the lines because some of them ARE. Hey, when are you planning to stop in again? 🙂

  6. Colleen says:

    I never heard of Yelp! until you told me about it. I am wondering if “Angie’s list” is the same as Yelp!

  7. MikeQ says:

    Colleen: I think Angie’s list must have the same built-in problem, Colleen. If anyone can post a review, and those reviews are unverified it means that anyone out there can say anything they want! From some of the negative Yelp! reviews I’ve been made aware of — there are a lot of nutcases on the internet (believe it or not.) 🙂 Angie’s list is better I think … Yelp! in particular is much less reliable. Some of their reviews would almost seem written by Yelp! itself (in order to force/extort businesses to pay them money to give the positive reviews equal billing with the negative ones.)

    Hey, did you check your email? I sent you something else to read/look over for me … aren’t you excited!!!! 🙂 I’ll call you in a bit.

  8. Jamie says:

    I missed both you and Carla for the One Fund Benefit, such a great night of music! Though I thought you cut back your hours, what nights do you work now?

  9. MikeQ says:

    Jamie: Right now I’m just doing Sunday night (although I’ll be filling in on other shifts … that’s my only scheduled bar shift for the summer.) And of course, I’m still doing the payroll every week. I’m having a great time! And getting a lot done … I may catch up yet. 🙂

  10. Jill says:

    No way she ordered that bacon.

  11. MikeQ says:

    Jill: You actually know both the GM at that place, and the server “K”. You probably already figured it out. And I agree … no way she ordered that bacon!

  12. Marc T. says:

    I was looking at a user’s review and found these interesting tidbits:

    In her top review of Law Office of Theresa N, this Yelper, Lucy G states that she took 2 bribes to remove negative reviews and then posted a 5-star review.

    a). “She is the one who offered to help review them for free. Why? Because she wanted me to remove my negative review, which I did (and even changed it to a 5-star glowing review). Lucy G” Then she changed it back to negative.

    b). “I had no intentions of coming back to redo my review yet again, but recently got burned with another business that also “BRIBED ME” into removing my negative review.”

    In looking at Lucy G’s profile it appears that she also reviews businesses that she never visited. See owner comments.

    So what reviews of Lucy G do you believe, the negative reviews or the positive reviews? This is why people do not trust Yelp.

  13. MikeQ says:

    Mark T: Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Mark. Good stuff. If more people were aware of all this, Yelp! would only be in the check-out line at grocery stores with the other rag-time pulp.

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