‘No Yelpers’ Says One Local Cafe

I was taking a break from the screenwerk yesterday and having coffee with a friend in the Piedmont Avenue neighborhood of Oakland. We were at a place I’ve been to before called Café Rooz.

Rooz

I noticed the sticker below (“No Yelpers”) on a computer behind the counter at the café and so I asked about it. The story I heard was an interesting illustration of the challenges and potential issues caused by user-generated content and pervasive ratings and reviews of local businesses.

No Yelpers

What I was told, in a nutshell, is that the café staff has encountered a stream of would-be critics “with attitude,” predisposed to take issue with or be critical of the business. Whether or not this is a correct perception, there are many more outlets (Yelp being only one) for customers and consumers to voice opinions about businesses on the Internet. And there’s little most of these businesses can do about it, for better or for worse.

The staff said to me rhetorically, “If you’ve got a problem with something, you should tell us first rather than going online and posting.” They also expressed the view that amateur reviewers, in this case from Yelp, were not making distinctions between local coffee houses and large corporate outlets like Starbucks. They were, the cafe staff argued, being “snarky” for entertainment reasons or to impress the Yelp community but not being respectful or mindful of the potential impact their reviews might have on a small businesses.

(One could argue “the truth will out” in the aggregate body of reviews.)

To combat some of the negative discussion about the café that was appearing the staff encouraged loyal customers to go online and write positive reviews. You can find the discussion, especially of the sticker, here (scroll or search for “no yelpers”).

On balance it appears the controversy has helped rather than harmed business, although there was no plan for that to happen — there was even an apparently aborted Wall Street Journal article about the controversy. Here are a few verbatim excerpts from the Yelp discussion:

The “no yelping” aspect of this has my panties in a bunch.

How DARE you ban my opinion??

And for this, I shall not return.

EVER.

Not the best business plan in the world buddy.

Another user:

Dyed hair, dirty, gothic type staff. Very rude. This business will collapse into an utter pile of vile soon enough due to the Cafe Nazi.

Was in SF on business, will never step foot in here again.
Oh and the place has more “rules” than an elementary school.

EDITED 8-17-07 (I edited the cursing, not him)
Response from the Stan, who I assume to be Steve/Cafe Nazi’s lover:

who gives a F%%K what some red neck from Texas thinks about this shop in Oakland!
Everyone in oakland probably comes across as a goth to someone from Texas…
Lame ass hick…..

Hmm, I’m a hick? You have 457,000 people in Oakland. My metroplex in Houston has 5 million +. You exude class, it simply drips from you. I like your flippant use of the word F**K in your emails to customers. Class..you got it in spades.

Another user:

I feel like such a renegade yelping this place.

“NO YELPERS!”

Oh man, yelping a place with THAT sign while sitting at one of its lovely tables “planning” my school year? I’m so bad ass. Watch out now.

Rooz is a great cafe on Piedmont near Pleasant Valley Road. Perfect for people-watching if you can snag a table by the windows. If you’re turned off by the hoards of people at Gaylord’s or are sick of the creepers hitting on you at Starbucks, I suggest giving this place a try.

Another (partial post):

I know people have complained about the service here. Not sure what to say about that. Should one bad experience with an employee change your entire opinion of a place? Here’s my experience-she says hello. I say hello. I ask her a question about what’s on the veggie bagel. She answers my question. She makes my bagel and latte. She says thank you. Gives me a little smile. Fine. It’s not like I’m at Delmonico’s Steakhouse where I expect them to actually lick my ass before I leave the restaurant.

And I did look for the infamous NO YELPERS sticker. It’s small, behind the counter. Owner guy is taking somewhat of a risk having that up and I admire a man who takes risks. I also think it’s hilarious that he wrote someone back explaining why he got treated like shit when most owners would either contact you and totally apologize or ignore you. I’m a firm believer that the customer is not always right-I have huge respect for people who support their employees.

It goes on and on.

The debate within the reviews has equally become about the cafe’s attitude toward “Yelpers” as much as it is about the food or the service. If you read carefully through the discussion you get a sense of the darker side of the user-generated content phenomenon and the problems it poses for small businesses. (See the similar discussion of the Community Generated Local Search panel debate at SMX Local-Mobile.)

The Rooz café staff felt that many of the comments were personal and unfair. They also complained that they had no official way to respond to these reviews (they could have become a member of the community and responded accordingly.) They cited Citysearch as an example of a site that did provide business owners with recourse.

There will have to be a set of best practices that emerges around allowing businesses to react or respond to unfair reviews. The cafe staff said that the owner did attempt to contact some of the people writing the negative reviews.

I’ll say this, however:

  • Online reviews are here to stay
  • Yelp provides a valuable service

Yet there are elements of some of these reviews that reflect a cavalier and one might argue irresponsible attitude on the part of the writers. I tell this story not to be critical of Yelp or the phenomenon of online reviews, which I’m an advocate of, but to illustrate some of the challenges for everyone that accompany it and the need for some mechanism by which local businesses can respond to or address what may be unfair reviews.

That said, recent research with Opus showed SMBs were largely positive about online ratings and reviews and embracing the phenomenon.

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88 Responses to “‘No Yelpers’ Says One Local Cafe”

  1. earlpearl Says:

    For the very first time, and before I read this article, I read emails from Yelp and Yahoo local. Both of course referenced me into their sites and the volume of content for my local region (washington dc area). Clearly the reviews were the most compelling aspects of the sites.

    That sign is hilarious. It is an invitation to post a review. If businesses are that sensitive to the impact of reviews the natural response from management should be to improve and enhance service.

    Quite humerous.

  2. Ben Saren Says:

    Wow! Greg, do you think this is evidence of a sort of backlash? Granted it might be an extreme example, but perhaps we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg here. Part of me thinks that the whole ‘review thing’, while here to stay, still needs to mature.

  3. Montreal SEO Says:

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  4. Quit reviewing us online, café says - - mathewingram.com/work Says:

    [...] Sterling at Screenwerk has an interesting post about a local café in his home town of Oakland called Rooz, which has posted signs saying [...]

  5. Teresha Aird Says:

    Very good post Greg. It probably is an extreme example of what a lot of businesses are feeling about online reviews. Yelp can itself be seen to be a bit extreme due to the target market it serves which is probably why there were some very “interesting” comments about the cafe’s stance and probably why the cafe took that position in the first place.

    Being able to respond to reviews is one thing businesses seriously want. We’re currently working on that now for the http://www.bizwiki.co.uk full launch. I am a firm believer in allowing customers to have their say but I also think it’s only fair to allow the business the opportunity to reply.

    I also think that sometimes reviewers can tend to get a bit “outrageous” with their comments, trying to either vent their anger or maybe even drum up a bit of popularity for themselves rather than actually presenting a well written review for the sake of sharing their experience in the hopes of informing another would be customer. I think it’s down to each site to come up with innovative ways to encourage their users to write constructive and helpful reviews.

  6. xe0 Says:

    The problem is not the web/media, its poisonous personas. I wish it were just tech.

    Here’s a phrase that might describe this “negative meme” poison that shallow small minded people find so entertaining; for the oment let’s call it “bully mouth”.

    Bully mouth is what happens when your standing at your locker in 7th grade wearing a stupid shirt you Mother insisted your wear and you get called out by the bully mouth creating a meme that sticks to you all through High School. Bully Mouth is the rich little fashion puppet that with her other mindless trend whores targets an overweight book worm who’s labeled a sexless loser. Bully mouths create Columbine; their victims go insane.

    On the web there is both the wisdom of the crowd and the madness of the mob. The problem is the self righteous bully mouth who thinks hate speech and toxic sarcasm is something they invented and have a right to spew. If it were just speech the range is relatively contained but on the web Bully Mouths have a global range. Although being a bully mouth used to be the actions of a 15-22 year old, now because of its pop culture amplification i.e; gangsta rap and Hollywood star drunks, Bully Mouth afflicts people into the late 20s. It would be sad and pathetic if it weren’t so pervasive and perverse and intuitive on the web. Too bad people in their late teens and early twenties don’t have more insight to the real personal and intellectual power they have. They can lead us all to a better now.

    Memes are a powerful virus on the web and are part of the ecosystem. But bully mouths , which always been part of the online landscape, need to be called out and intimidated for their worthless and destructive bullshit. Better yet they need to get validated as real people, get a good life and heal their torturous cultural wounds.

    The web has a mild case of turrets that needs a non-tech remedy. Sure Rooz is going a little insane, someone needs to out the buzzkill and let Rooz be what it is.

  7. OurFaves Creates ‘Positive’ Culture « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] Creates ‘Positive’ Culture Andrew Goodman cites my No Yelpers post and discusses the issues it raises, pointing to Tornoto’s OurFaves as an example of a kind of [...]

  8. To Accept Reviews or Not To Accept Reviews — That Is The Question  »TechAddress Says:

    [...] Greg speaks about an experience he had the Cafe Rooz where a sign said that Yelp’ers are not welcome. After speaking with cafe management, he noted, "What I was told, in a nutshell, is that the café staff has encountered a stream of would-be critics “with attitude,” predisposed to take issue with or be critical of the business. Whether or not this is a correct perception, there are many more outlets (Yelp being only one) for customers and consumers to voice opinions about businesses on the Internet. And there’s little most of these businesses can do about it, for better or for worse." [...]

  9. Sindy Says:

    In most instances, reviewers are going to write negative comments, people rarely write positive comments; that’s just human nature. Morever, some of Yelpers are actually paid to write reviews. There’re many sites out there such as herfablife.com, metro mix etc that actually provide more neutral reviews.

    • juliafairchild Says:

      I write lots of reviews on Yelp, I have for several years now. It’s untrue (in my knowledge and experience) that Yelp pays anybody to write reviews. I have more 3, 4, and 5 star rated reviews than 1 or 2 – so I do write several positive comments. It does seem more likely that people who never used Yelp before create an account to write one bad review, but Yelp has a filter for these.

  10. Fired AOL Employees - Get Resume Visibility On CenterNetworks  »TechAddress Says:

    [...] Greg speaks about an experience he had the Cafe Rooz where a sign said that Yelp’ers are not welcome. After speaking with cafe management, he noted, "What I was told, in a nutshell, is that the café staff has encountered a stream of would-be critics “with attitude,” predisposed to take issue with or be critical of the business. Whether or not this is a correct perception, there are many more outlets (Yelp being only one) for customers and consumers to voice opinions about businesses on the Internet. And there’s little most of these businesses can do about it, for better or for worse." [...]

  11. Controlling My Brand Says:

    [...] By the way, here’s an example of a local café trying to control their brand in an internet age and having the opposite of their intended effect. var [...]

  12. Startup Review: Bug.gd, TokBox, Dripbook, ShowHype, OfficialSpoofCard  »TechAddress Says:

    [...] Greg speaks about an experience he had the Cafe Rooz where a sign said that Yelp’ers are not welcome. After speaking with cafe management, he noted, "What I was told, in a nutshell, is that the café staff has encountered a stream of would-be critics “with attitude,” predisposed to take issue with or be critical of the business. Whether or not this is a correct perception, there are many more outlets (Yelp being only one) for customers and consumers to voice opinions about businesses on the Internet. And there’s little most of these businesses can do about it, for better or for worse." [...]

  13. Susan Kuchinskas Says:

    It’s a fascinating story, Greg, and you’ve identified something that may indeed become not only a problem for local businesses, but also for Yelp. I have used Yelp successfully to help me find local businesses, and I like it. I’ve also posted a couple of reviews.

    Bad reviews are as helpful as good ones; if a company has mixed reviews, I look at whether factors important to me have been criticized.

    What would not be helpful to me as a user would be if every set of “reviews” was full of the interpersonal, message-board type ranting and back-and-forth in the Rooz reviews.

    Every internet mailing list or forum seems to eventually degrade into such aimless animosity, as the most vocal and opinionated people drive everyone else out. If people flock to Yelp, this bored-at-work syndrome may replace serious reviews with drivel and Yelp will cease to be useful.

    One thing that might help would be moderating the reviews. A live human editor might delete reviews that don’t meet guidelines, such as, “address the business, not other posters.” Of course, that would eliminate Yelp’s business model of making a pittance while spending no money on content.

  14. Emily Buenting Says:

    Having a sign that says “No Yelpers” seems like a great way to promote the Yelp.com AND to ensure tons of bad reviews for the cafe at the same time!!!

    Quite a marketing strategy……

  15. Greg Sterling Says:

    Susan, you’re right that negative reviews are often more valuable than positive ones.

  16. Chris Vinson Says:

    In this case I think many people will now stop at ROOZ when they are in Oakland. It’s getting to be like the Soup Nazi in Sienfeld. I think if they are innocent they did the right thing taking a stand. Best of luck to whoever is telling the truth.

  17. John Says:

    Is this really any different from many book, movie, restaurant and music reviews in the mainstream media? MSM reviews usually hide their bile in a veneer of analysis, but a witty put-down is more fun to read than a bland analysis.

  18. Blah Says:

    Dude. It was a @#()!@* JOKE. That is some guy’s Sticker Nation sticker.

  19. thatpessimist Says:

    Haha.. You would think somebody at this company would have known that this would be a big hit on wordpress!… what ignorance.. maybe i should add something like this to my blog about things that piss me off.

  20. Lisa Says:

    Here’s the thing. Sure, people are generally more likely to complain about something negative than praise the positive. This rule is seen less and less on Yelp in the Bay Area these days – you’d better believe that stories like these are big “news” on Yelp and most people are aware of situations like these. Also, because Yelp has such an active user base in the Bay Area, people tend to write reviews for the positive things as well – I don’t think that reviews on Yelp are skewed towards complaints. Do some research.

  21. blog.mattgoyer.com » links for 2007-10-17 Says:

    [...] ‘No Yelpers’ Says One Local Cafe « Screenwerk (tags: yelp ugc reviews) October 17th 2007 Posted to Links [...]

  22. Kathleen Istudor Says:

    Running an online restaurant site with reader generated reviews, I know that ‘online complaints’ can be a SERIOUS issue for restaurant owners. A complaint with foundation should be brought forward to the restaurant owner FIRST, so it can be addressed. But what is seen more often is that reviewers brow-beat a restaurant’s reputation without accountability or repercussions. Additionally, the restaurant owner’s competitors are pretty savvy guys, and you can bet some of those complaints come from them.

    MenuNetwork.com not only has reviews, but a place to find just about anything on restaurants – services, coupons, ratings, reviews, menus, even live events. Online ordering of over 2000 restaurants– we love dining out and we love our reviewers! Yet, our customers are restaurants, so we had to really think about what type of reviews we want to encourage.

    Grant it, we’re a new site, still gaining content with more than 660,000 listings across the US – but we want to have staying power in the market. So, we decided that only members can post reviews and we have a moderator that keeps to our commitment to our clients; the restaurants and people using out site.

    MenuNetwork.com promises to provide Real Content: Usable, Relevant, Distinctive, Searchable, and Integrated so that diners searching for a great place to eat can find it on our site—without nasty, sometimes cowardly comments that aren’t reflective of any actual dining experience.

    To meet that commitment we encourage authentic reviews – the kind we ALL like to read when searching out restaurants, but our site is not a gathering place for complainers. We want to provide an open forum that shares hot dining spots, experiences, and generates genuine content for people looking for great food and good times.

    Don’t get me wrong, complaints are welcome as it keeps the restaurants on their toes, but it is not the focus of Menunetwork.com.

    I agree that ‘Restaurant Reviews are here to stay,’ but I believe that Americans want to read reviews of substance so they can discover new restaurants and share good times with their friends and family.

  23. Hurricane Shirley Says:

    Basic manners are an endangered species. With every right comes responsibility. A criticism is much more effective when constructively presented.

  24. fersure Says:

    Oh, please. This is clearly just a bid for attention from a coffee place that is overshadowed by the other million coffee places on that five block stretch of Piedmont Ave. God forbid that customers fight back against bad service! Instead of whining, maybe they should pay their employees more so they actually have some sort of job satisfaction, and hence, better attitudes towards their customers.

  25. Kelly Says:

    I agree with Kathleen above. Some comments are posted from competitors and businesses themsevles. There are fake reviews showing up in the “local search” services. Messages have been tracked to competitors, and fake good reviews have been tracked to businesses themselves. I can usually spot the fake positive reviews. I tend to look for a mixed review — after all I have never been someplace that was perfect.

  26. kevmoore Says:

    Hurricane Shirley wrote:

    “Basic manners are an endangered species. With every right comes responsibility. A criticism is much more effective when constructively presented.”

    and boy to I agree with THAT statement! I admire a coffeeshop owner that doesnt collapse under pressure, but I also think online reviewing is an untamed beast. Saying anything you like in an offensive manner and hiding behind “free speech” is unhelpful. Also, lets be fair even some people with dyed hair and piercings have manners, and aren’t necessarily dirty, that kind of pigeonholing went out with the Ark, surely?

  27. My Biggest Post « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] I’ve never had as much traffic to my blog or to a post as did yesterday, with ‘No Yelpers’ Says One Local Cafe. The post got over 3,000 views, which is larger than normal for [...]

  28. lanaberry Says:

    this is like a dork on the playground putting a “don’t kick me” sticker on their back.

    as for the user-generated reviews…i like them. to me, living in L.A. and probably similar to Oakland, “blue hair” isn’t going to be enough to turn me away from anywhere. however, reading repeated comments about slow service or lackluster food is helpful to me.

    thing is, living in L.A., there are so many foodies around me that i tend to go to places recommended by word of mouth, rather than word of internet. but i will use yelp.com often to learn more about the place, and get specific order recommendations.

    i also wonder if the negative reviews actually correlated with less business. or if they were just paranoid by butthurt online trolls. i have seen many posts where biz owners come on and defend their establishment, and that is helpful as well.

    GREAT POST!

  29. jgrab1 Says:

    > If businesses are that sensitive to the impact
    > of reviews the natural response from
    > management should be to improve and
    > enhance service.

    You’re approaching this with the presumption that there was something wrong with the service in the first place, and the yelper wasn’t just someone wanting attention for themselves on some web space.

  30. Walt french Says:

    You’d think a small shop would have enough to do with making decent espresso drinks, keeping fresh pastries in stock, etc., without spending half an hour a day scanning the Yelps of the world for random dissing.

    You might even get an attitude if you see lots of people buying a $2.75 coffee, abusing the “2 hour max Wifi” sign (IIRC), and connecting people that you’ve had to shoo out to the appearance of crap on some website. It’s always struck me — I go there about 1x/month — how many people have a laptop and an empty coffee cup on their tables.

    And be real: it’s a NEIGHBORHOOD CAFE where you spend a few minutes and $2.75, not a $60/head destination restaurant. Trying to make sense of a “review” that simply sez, “bad service” is an utter waste of time. Hard enough to make sense of the less anonymous Zagat or CitySearch sites when you have an evening and $$$ at stake. There must be a dozen cafes, S***bux and Peets on that little stretch of Piedmont Ave. There aren’t any except local businesses, and no hotels, so anybody who isn’t within range of the local buzz is extremely unlikely to check before they head into the area. They can look in the door and either drop in or go 3 doors up or 8 doors down the street.

    Either the owner is displaying a bit of stressed-out behavior or has cleverly stumbled onto a publicity stunt to draw in non-locals to see the kerfuffle. This story is mostly about how much crap is out on the web.

  31. Bradley Says:

    The issue at hand here is that there really are NO repercussions for users who choose to completely debase a business online. Unlike in the real world, where if you say some of the things said on yelp to a business owner or manager, one would be forcibly removed from the venue, and at the worst, a fight would likely break out. People are protected online and speak freely, perhaps overstretching the truth for the sake of entertainment.

    One of the biggest problems I have with yelp is the voting feature for members to use. The options are: useful, funny, cool.

    In an attempt to be voted best review, the funny button in particular seems to draw out a lot of venemous and angst-ridden posts from users, in an attempt to be witty, snarky, spiteful, etc. Sarcastic humor is usually wasted upon me; I much prefer anecdotes and stories based on experiences. Generally speaking, many users of yelp seem to respond well, if not better, to the disdainful “attitude” displayed in negative commentary and business-bashing.

  32. Trisha Fawver Says:

    Very interesting debate. I’ll have to check this place out just on principal and being a frequent yelp user.

  33. Doctor Jay Says:

    “Dyed hair, dirty, gothic type staff. Very rude. This business will collapse into an utter pile of vile soon enough due to the Cafe Nazi.

    Was in SF on business, will never step foot in here again.
    Oh and the place has more “rules” than an elementary school.”

    I don’t have dyed hair, I’m not dirty, or gothic. But I gotta admit, when I read that, I thought, “Gee, maybe I should check this place out, it sounds fun.” Didn’t anyone else have that reaction.

  34. Oakland Cafe Bans Yelpers « Diners Feedback & More Says:

    [...] Cafe Bans Yelpers While some businesses love the attention they buy receive from Yelp, others are growing annoyed with the empire of would-be critics. Such is the case at Rooz Cafe in Oakland, [...]

  35. Neil Says:

    Greg:
    Great post. User reviews of businesses may yet turn out to be far more of a minefield than yet imagined. At this point in time, most of America’s small businesses don’t really know how to do local search marketing. I think that’s still a given. Much less do they know about these reviews that can be written about them with the touch of a mouse. Look down the road a year or two. When user reviews become common knowledge in the small business community, I see two things happening:
    1. The business owner asks his/her entire staff and extended family to each write a positive review of his/her business
    2. Fewer, but still many, business owners ask his/her entire staff and extended family to each write a really bad review of the competition

    I think it’s only a matter of time, and it may muddy the waters enough to make many user reviews worthless.

    Just because technology facilitates something, such as anonymous reviews of commercial, competitive enterprises, does not mean it’s ultimately a useful idea. In this arena, human nature, and the desire to protect your own business, may yet outweigh other factors. I think the jury is still out on the true utility of these kinds of reviews.

  36. Things I Learned This Week « Kreblog Says:

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  38. Bounce Says:

    Isn’t this just a variation on the same old is-blogging-journalism argument? Yelp, like blogs, has blossomed because the “official” review outlets weren’t providing enough information or credible information or relevant insight. Yelp fulfills a real need. And while some reviewers may be snarky, the total reviews for any given business reveal a fair-and-balanced viewpoint based on multiple, variable customer interactions between a variety of employees and customers over an extended period of time.

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  43. Steve Case Says:

    Yelp is pretty limited. It works if you are a single white male between 22-30 with lots of disposable income, otherwise the opinions are really worthless. All of the reviews of SF venues by bridge and tunnel can be crossed out, and the “Talk” section if proof positive why most of the USA laughs at SF culture/politics.

    Yelp is a Bay Area phenomenon, and it does not translate outside of the Bay. Compare the NY and Sf boards for proof.

  44. Greg Sterling Says:

    They claim to have 8.3 million uniques, which would mean it’s more than a Bay Area phenomenon.

  45. Blogs » No Yelpers’ Says One Local Cafe Screenwerk Says:

    [...] Read more about this topic from the author here. [...]

  46. links for 2007-10-18 Says:

    [...] ‘No Yelpers’ Says One Local Cafe « Screenwerk There’s no stopping it, might as well play along. There are always going to be people who have what you think are the wrong opinions, but at least you can respond these days, or, you know, provide a service that people are excited about… (tags: yelp nationalmechanics interweb) [...]

  47. Alex Says:

    Yelpers appear to be another manifestation of that unpleasant phenomenon so common among 20-somethings, and tp a lesser extent 30-somethings: the self-perception of being “special,” combined with an over-developed entitlement mindset. Sifting through countless reviews reveals less in the way of thoughtful evaluations of products, goods, and services, and far more in the way of ” I am young, hip, have money, and damn it PAY ATTENTION TO ME!!!” This too shall pass.

  48. CHI 2008 in Florence « travel innovation Says:

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  53. Yelp Gets Big Coverage, Grayboxx Resurfaces « Screenwerk Says:

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  54. Lauren Says:

    Right at this moment I’ve got a situation in which someone with a personal issue against me posted a venomous review about me professionally on Yelp. Yelp admin has been unhelpful to the point of what I’m trying not to interpret as vindictive.

    Internet anonymity is a wonderful way to take cheap shots. Yelp offers a user networking system much like MySpace, & the maturity level seems just as random.

    It’s just my opinion, but I think you could liken Yelp to a pile of excrement, attracting what excrement attracts.

  55. Greg Sterling Says:

    They do compel users to create profiles before they’re allowed to write reviews and then there’s this: https://biz.yelp.com/

    If the case is extreme enough, you can sue the individual (if he/she can ultimately be identified) for defamation, which would be an extreme course of action.

  56. Lauren Says:

    The user edited her review & Yelp User Support has indicated that they have no record of her original post, which was up for 3 weeks, & seen by sufficient people for me to hear about it.

    My name & my place of work have been broadcast by some fat chick accountable only to her user handle. I’m a bartender. While this won’t really hurt me… another bartender less loved than me could be ruined & likewise any other person unlucky enough to be pinned for persecution from anonymous ill wishers. Imagine if someone posted a review describing an employee as being gay in a homophobic town, or accused an employee of making a racial slur? It doesn’t have to be true to hurt a Yelp! member’s target.

    Chances are incidents like this would be rare, but the option is there for any immature soul. And won’t immature souls flock to this cesspool of opportunity?

    There IS accountability, though. When I posted my own comment in defense, it was removed & my account closed for “pesonal attack.” Irony, eh?

    It’s ok. I know who the fat chick is. No lawsuit is needed.

  57. Jim Serchak Says:

    Great discussion on this topic… I certainly understand the bad feelings and potential business loss that a bad review can cause for a small business, but the fact is here we are in the 21st century and the new rules of the game are that Yelp-type sites exist and businesses have to engage with them. A smart owner would be constantly monitoring these reviews, checking what is said against what they see in their business. There’s an old saying, “If one person calls you a horse, it’s their opinion. If two people call you a horse, it’s a coincidence. If fifty people call you a horse, it’s time to strap on a feedbag.”

    A real world example of this is about a pizza place in my neighborhood. Great food, friendly servers, but the music is always on too loud. There are a lot of windows and hard walls, so the music bounces around, making it worse. It’s nearly impossible to converse with your friends while you’re there. There are about 150 Yelp reviews posted. Nearly half of them say “I love this place! Great food, good service. I’d love to give it 5 stars, but the music is always too loud, so I’m only giving it 3 stars.” These posts date back over a full year, and still, the music is always too loud to talk, so I just don’t eat there any more. Turning down the music is a simple fix that could turn this into a 5-star place, but the owners are asleep at the switch.

    So what I’m saying is simply that, bad apples aside, this could be an excellent self-improvement tool for the savvy business owner. And if businesses aren’t getting what they need from the sites for resolving vindictive posts, then they should really put pressure on the site owners to address their needs as well.

  58. Dave Wilson Says:

    We have received a couple of bad reviews from a disgruntled customer who ordered a product without asking the price. She specifically said she didn’t care what the price was. When she got the $87 bill, she flipped out and although we refunded her, she began a crusade. Yelp has removed our account, which means every response we try to leave is removed. But she is allowed to call us assholes.

  59. Ryan Says:

    Who cares if they have the sign out? Either you like the place or you don’t. Everyone is so quick to get political and draw lines in the sand for absolutely no good reason.

    To the people who use Yelp or like as blackmail to get free/privileged service or to people who take offense to the business posting the sign = YAWN.

  60. Paul Says:

    People who like yelp have probably never owned a restaurant. It puts hard working business owners at the mercy of amateur reviewers.

    These are people who generally are looking to bash something. The love to see how clever and funny they can be.

    You generally have a slant towards neurotic and they can say anything, true or not.

    So to hell with slander central, otherwise known as yelp.

  61. Yelp Help Says:

    Check out this CBS story it really sheds some light on how messed up yelp is.

  62. mikey Says:

    These Yelpers who write reviews and complain about the dumbest things are stupid as hell. Let them run businesses and see if there dumb ass can do better. I was given a negative review cause of not giving a customer a ride home and not calling her back.

  63. A Social Media Fall From Grace Says:

    [...] October 2007, Yelp found itself in the middle a social media uproar when restaurant owners began banning “yelpers” from eating in their establishments because they were afraid of bad reviews.  There  were reports [...]

  64. Managing Your Online Reputation Takes Patience, Integrity | HomeStars Blog Says:

    [...] it comes to reputation management, some business owners are still in denial. How about this cafe owner, who – stung by negative reviews on Yelp, a popular local business review site – posted a sign [...]

  65. nleung Says:

    I agree that businesses like Rooz cafe don’t like yelp. Yelp doesn’t give them any just when it comes to bad reviews. A better solution is to allow the customers to post feedback on a site for a specific business and allow the business to reply on that site. This will help resolve popular questions the customer may have. That’s why we created http://www.feedbackjar.com. To allow both parties to engage each other.

  66. Top Posts of 2008 « Screenwerk Says:

    [...] ‘No Yelpers’ Says One Local Cafe         [...]

  67. Loci 2008- Greg Sterling’s Significant Developments in Local in 2008 » Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local Search Says:

    [...] most popular post to date on my blog, from late 2007, is No Yelpers Says One Local Café. It points to the growing challenge of local user reviews and how to deal with them. Another [...]

  68. Loci 2008: Ahmed Farooq » Understanding Google Maps & Yahoo Local Search Says:

    [...] http://gesterling.wordpress.com/2007/10/16/no-yelpers-says-one-local-cafe/ – I absolutely stole this off of Greg’s list, but it kind of underlines what I was trying to [...]

  69. Gabe r Says:

    I think the real issue here is how well Yelp works. Its amazing, a lot like Wikepedia in the sense that there somehow is a kind of accuracy to what emerges. In general I would say that Yelpers are kind to decent places, there isn’t a lot of mean spiriitedness out there.

    I’m the type of person who often becomes friends with cafe owners and users. But some of the servers at this cafe are just plain nasty, I had a bad experience there and it was the kind of thing that leaves you seething. There is something wrong with the cafe culture at this joint and Yelp is just reflecting that. Also people take a lot of time and offer a lot of creativity in yelp reviews. Isn’t the hostlity toward Yelp just indicative of an overall bad attitude at this joint. A more positive response might be, ‘hey we are getting a bad rap, are you a Roost lover, share your experience on Yelp.’ Instead they went Karl Rove negative attacking Yelp. Not impressive

  70. A Recovering Yelper Says:

    Yelpers are assholes, period. Not just targeting businesses but fellow reviewers, that is, if you are not part of the clique. They’re the kind of people you tried to steer clear of in high school. As someone here pointed out, most of the repeat offenders- you know, the ones who have time to sit around and critique/criticize/snark on businesses 24/7 – have probably always worked under someone else. I’d like to know what their bosses have to say about these aforementioned folk sitting in their cubicles posting away on company time. They have no idea how such venomous words—warranted or unwarranted—could impact another person’s livelihood.

    I can understand a company really asking for it, say, if they discriminate, but to target an employee’s appearance, or weight, or breast size (yes, I’ve seen it done) diminishes the intended purpose of such sites and lends little credence to what valid reviewers have to say.

    There’s good reviews, there’s bad reviews, and then there is the Yelp review which I would now label nothing short of blackmail.

    As for my own sordid Yelp past, I posted about a completely and universally unacceptable encounter I had at a hospitality oriented business (yes, it was discrimination related) and I ended up the target of numerous hostile remarks about my physical appearance. I thought to myself how sad it was that these are the sort who would end up on a rape jury and wonder what she did to deserve it. The business was clearly in the wrong, in a lawsuit kind of way. I can now acknowledge that I should have written a letter to corporate instead of posting in on the internet but I wanted to warn other people to be mindful of this particular place.

    I now strongly feel that Yelp is not a site for those with more evolved thinking or sophisticated tastes in general. The best way to evaluate a review is of course to dig into that reviewer’s past and analyze their style of writing. Some people are just naturally angry and vile and probably deserve the crappy treatment they receive from businesses (I had seen another review where the woman complained that she was asked to leave a very outstanding restaurant because she spoke on her cell phone).

  71. Jack C Says:

    Good write up. Yelp is great. “Anti-yelpers” get in touch. If your place sucks people should know about it. If your place is great people should also know about it. But people shouldn’t be silenced for fear your place will recieve a bad review. Don’t have shitty service and you won’t get a bad review. Nobody wants to fork over $4.00 for coffee and be treated like an ass at the same time.

  72. San Francisco Cart Project » Be Flexible With Your Vision Says:

    [...] the health department understands that ice alone can keep things under 41 degrees just fine, and customers universally appreciate the care and love that you put into your [...]

  73. Yelp sued for "extortion" Says:

    [...] This was a little better, but businesses still don’t like negative comments (obviously). Rooz Cafe in Oakland even created a “No Yelper” [...]

  74. Yelp me understand! Says:

    [...] cafe in Oakland also displaying ‘No Yelpers!!’ sticker and made a post on his blog Screenwerk.  The owner and the staff of this cafe [...]

  75. To Accept Reviews or Not To Accept Reviews — That Is The Question Says:

    [...] Greg speaks about an experience he had the Cafe Rooz where a sign said that Yelp’ers are not welcome. After speaking with cafe management, he noted, "What I was told, in a nutshell, is that the café staff has encountered a stream of would-be critics “with attitude,” predisposed to take issue with or be critical of the business. Whether or not this is a correct perception, there are many more outlets (Yelp being only one) for customers and consumers to voice opinions about businesses on the Internet. And there’s little most of these businesses can do about it, for better or for worse." [...]

  76. Online Marketing, SEO, PPC Agency » How Businesses Should React to Negative Social Media & Reviews Says:

    [...] Let’s look at the case of restaurant reviews. In the past, small local restaurants had the upper hand. If they offered poor quality service, people would tell their friends–but it would take a while before the message spread. With the emergence of social media, the roles reversed. All it took was one obnoxious, fussy, or overly-particular customer who was active on social media, and a restaurant could meet an early and unwarranted demise. This got so bad it led one coffee shop to overreact and put up a No Yelp Reviewers sign. [...]

  77. Manager Newz » Blog Archive » How Businesses Should React to Negative Social Media & Reviews Says:

    [...] Let’s look at the case of restaurant reviews. In the past, small local restaurants had the upper hand. If they offered poor quality service, people would tell their friends–but it would take a while before the message spread. With the emergence of social media, the roles reversed. All it took was one obnoxious, fussy, or overly-particular customer who was active on social media, and a restaurant could meet an early and unwarranted demise. This got so bad it led one coffee shop to overreact and put up a No Yelp Reviewers sign. [...]

  78. oakland gaming online cafe Says:

    [...] 'No Yelpers' Says One Local Cafe В« Screenwerk Oct 16, 2007 … Running an online restaurant site with reader generated …. Such is the case at Rooz Cafe in Oakland, [. …. is here we are in the 21st century and the new rules of the game are … [...]

  79. Off the Grid SF » Blog Archive » Be Flexible With Your Vision Says:

    [...] the health department understands that ice alone can keep things under 41 degrees just fine, and customers universally appreciate the care and love that you put into your [...]

  80. Jared Thompson Says:

    the controversy continues in Hermosa Beach, CA http://www.easyreadernews.com/29690/rockefeller-yelp/

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  83. Josh Says:

    Ummmmm it’s just the same as trip adviser

  84. Jennifer Paine Says:

    I would love to say no Yelpers! Yelp is a problem. Their review filter is a joke. Then, to make matters worse, the frickin Yelp Elites think that they outrank God Himself.

    http://www.facebook.com/yelpisafraud for more information

  85. Les effets de la recommandation sociale sur les restaurants « Double Rainbow Says:

    [...] exemple emblématique avec ce sticker « no yelpers » collé derrière le comptoir d’un café. Objet de critiques jugées mensongères et trop subjectives sur le site de Yelp, ce café a [...]

  86. Eduard de Boer Says:

    I’ve been invited to a Yelp Elite wine tasting party coming Thursday in Amsterdam (Netherlands).

    Am curious about the opinion of the organizing shop owner about Yelpers.

    Until now, I’ve not encountered any anti-Yelp mentality here in the Netherlands.

    (OK, I just saw that the article is almost 5.5 yrs old ;-) )

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