Yelp Accused of Review Extortion

I ran across this interesting post at The Consumerist last week.  It piqued my interest for a few reasons.  First of all, I’ve never liked Yelp.  I have friends who swear by it, but I am highly suspicious of ANY website providing consumer reviews.  It’s difficult to determine if reviewers have the same expectations and needs, and then there’s the simple fact that, on the whole, people tend to leave reviews when they are 1) very satisfied or 2) very disappointed with a product or service.

If claims of review extortion turn out to be not only true, but widespread and part of Yelp’s ethos, I’ll be very disappointed, but not surprised.

So, how does one research products, hotels, restaurants or services?  Is it possible to find un-biased reviews?

In a word, no.  Of course not.  Everyone has a bias.  Personally, I try to combat this by spreading out my research.  I might take a look at TripAdvisor when researching a hotel, but I take those reviews with a grain of salt.  I make a habit of hopping online and bookmarking sites for hotels, restaurants and products I see reviewed in magazines.  Ditto with blogs.  Angie’s List is a good resource, as is The Consumerist, where I generally type in a key word and check out posts/comments.

What about you?  How do you researching products and services online?  Do you trust reviews on sites like Yelp?

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2 Responses to “Yelp Accused of Review Extortion”

  1. Carly Says:

    NOOOOOOOO!

    Admitted, I love Yelp. And I will say my only experience is with Boston-based reviews (though it also led to me to a fabulous Palm Springs hotel). Yelp is slightly different than other user sites because it tries to add the whole social-networking aspect in. Personally, though I’ve reviewed many places on the site, I’ve never jumped into the message board and networking areas. But, the social-networking aspect has an upside: reviewers nicknames and photos are posted, and after awhile you start to get a feel for certain reviewers. Especially when you often search for places in the same neighborhood/areas. There are now a few fellow yelpers who I know have pretty similar standards/tastes to me, and whose reviews I know I can generally trust. But, with sites like these, the reviews are only as good as the reviewing pool, so I could see how this could really vary city to city.

    Okay, diatribe done. I’d be REALLY disappointed if this turned out to be the case because Boston is kinda lacking in a good goto source for lower-end restaurant and bar reviews. Citysearch is worthless, and I find tripadvisor’s UI way clunky and ad-heavy. Yelp, on the other hand, is real-time, honest (and generally pretty balanced) reviews. And, based on the sheer number of reviews, its easy to get a sense if one reviewer’s bad experience was a fluke or if the place really sucks.

    And I swear I got no kick-backs from Yelp for this.

  2. Melissa (Athertonmerriweather) Says:

    I live in Boston too! I’m still a bit new to the area,so I use Yelp on a regular basis to find new and fun pubs, coffeeshops and museums in the area. Citysearch and Tripadvisor don’t review places that are in Davis, Central and Porter Squares. They tend to stick to the swankier, well known restaurants downtown.

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