Yelp, the popular review site, has begun to issue “Consumer Alert” warnings for companies that it has caught buying fake reviews. The San Francisco-based website, which already has an infamously strict review filter, has turned up the heat with a sting operation targeted at companies who attempt to hire people to write reviews for their business.
As the New York Times reports, Yelp conducted a sting operation in which one of their employees pretended to be an “elite” reviewer and responded to review solicitation job offer posts on Craigslist. The article explains:
A pest control company offered $5 to anyone who would post a review that sounded as if the business itself had written it. A moving company was willing to pay $50 but wanted original copy. An appliance repair shop provided a start: “I really appreciate that the service tech was on time, the problem was solved, everything was cleaned up and he was very professional. Please add 50 or more words,” the shop suggested. It would pay $30.
The highest payment was offered by a jewelry store in San Diego, which said it was forced to solicit reviews after others got away with doing it. “We have noticed that some of our larger, corporate-run competitors have been unfairly trying to get reviews written for them on Yelp, which puts us at a disadvantage,” wrote Bert Levi of Levi Family Jewelers. He said he would pay $200 for a review of a new custom-designed ring.
Here is what now appears on the listings of the businesses that have been caught in the act:
Not only does the message point out the fact that the business has done something quite scandalous, it also has a link that takes you to the actual evidence that put the nail in the coffin.
It looks like this is only the beginning. Search Engine Land reported that Yelp went on to say, “If/as we find more, we will put consumer alert notices on their pages, as well.”
“The bigger Yelp gets, the more incentive there is to game the system,” said Eric Singley, Yelp’s vice president for consumer products and mobile. “These notices are the next step in protecting consumers.”
Yelp also stated it will start informing users when a business has a slew of reviews posted from the same computer – often a red flag for inauthentic reviews.
What do you think? Has Yelp gone too far?