Yelp was created with the best of intentions: to help the public find the best businesses in their area based on the reviews and star ratings by the customers of the businesses themselves. Unfortunately, when you give the public a voice, their voice isn’t always the most unbiased, fair, or even tactful.
Sometimes these reviews are warranted. After all, Yelp was created to highlight what some businesses are doing well while pointing out what and why others are failing.
However, sometimes a lot is lost in the details. Maybe that food took a half hour because the restaurant was understaffed, or maybe that bartender was brooding because he was recently dumped. Everyone has their bad days, but that doesn’t mean that they deserve to be crucified by an angry customer because their off day was an inconvenience to them.
That said, for those of you who do Yelp, I strongly advise for you to go someone at least two or three times before making a solid opinion if you’re going to be negative. And if you go to give a scathing review about a certain individual, I would strongly suggest taking other avenues instead, such as talking to a manager.
Unfortunately, like trolls in blogging, Yelp has its fair share of Yippers (or, at least that’s what I call them). Yippers are the obnoxious underbelly of the review world. They’re usually anonymous and get a satisfaction in having their voice heard while they passive-aggressively bring others down. They’re like that inside ring of a toilet bowl: you can’t see it or how dirty it is, but you know it’s there.
Nearly everyone in the industry has been the victim of a “yipping”. I once had someone “yip” that I was giving free drinks away to customers. Unbeknownst to them, these “free beverages” were purchased with drink tickets that this “yipper” didn’t notice that I’d been collecting. Did I still have to explain that to the owners of the bar? Yes. Did it piss me off that some passive-aggressive jackass or jackassette that knew nothing else about me felt the need to Yelp about it anonymously instead of approaching my manager (who was on duty at the time) where they would’ve received their answers? Yes. The review hurt our bar’s rating. It made me look bad for like, two seconds, and it was about as frustrating as an itch on the inside of a cast.
Business owners are usually used to seeing these kind of Yippers spamming their Yelp pages with reviews created by the scrapings of hateful talons on keyboards. Sometimes they’ll respond, other times they’ll ignore it. If their review is justified, you might have to answer for your actions—but if it’s not a common occurrence, you shouldn’t receive too much of a backlash. If it IS a common occurrence, then what the customers may be right about you, and you should figure out how to fix the problem.
As a member of the industry, all you can really do is chalk it up to a bad experience or say to yourself that “that person was just a pretentious asshole” and move on with your life. Your regulars are your regulars for a reason. They’re there not just for the drinks or food, but for the experience and the role that you play in it.
The majority of the reviews will be the ones that make the difference. It’s easier to notice that one bad review because it’s different than the ten good ones.
As for the idea of the concept of Yelp, it has proven to be a successful tool in effecting the development of a business. A Harvard Business School study in 2011 found that each “star” on Yelp affected the business owner’s sales by 5%-9%, while a 2012 study done by two Berkeley economists found that an increase from 3.5 to 4 stars on Yelp resulted in a 19% increase in the chances of a restaurant being booked during peak hours.
Every business has its flaws and every person has their bad days, but luckily, since Yelp usually has multiple reviewers that come in on different days and have differing experiences, the Yippers are the outliers of an otherwise working and more socially engaging way of reviewing… as long as it’s handled responsibly.