I didn’t read all of this Eater piece on Andrew Zimmern and Yelp, but I’m giving my two cents anyway. I think a lot of people in the culinary industry want to discredit Yelp because Yelp is having an impact on their businesses. People use Yelp and a negative review can sway future (and former) customers. Do I think there are fake reviews on Yelp? Absolutely. I think restaurants/businesses post fake positive reviews (and maybe even pay people to do it for them) and I think disgruntled former employees or anyone with a beef against someone post fake negative reviews. However, I think Yelp is a great resource, and I must admit, I check it before I go anywhere new. And guess what Andrew Zimmern? I’m a lawyer–passed the NY bar on my first try, so no moron here.
In this age, we are inundated with advertising information. And a lot of advertising is based on psychological studies of human behavior like where to place items in a store, what colors appeal to you etc etc. What I like about Yelp is that Yelp posters have no agenda. Sure, individual posters may have an agenda, but like I said before, most posters on Yelp just want to convey “Hey, this place is great, you should try it” or “I had a bad experience here, you should think twice.” Yelp is just a virtual word of mouth. And because it’s a virtual word of mouth, it can reach so many people so quickly, and therefore, has power, and that scares anyone with a business.
Like I wrote before, I think it is a good thing, as it gives businesses an opportunity to create a better customer experience. Sure, there are crazy people out there. We’ve all been there when someone goes ballistic that they asked for a burger with cheese and got a plain burger. But we are not so stupid that we can’t tell the crazies in the virtual world from the crazies in real life. I think being a part of Yelp Elite really helps lend credibility to a poster because the Yelp Elite are real people who attend events, so someone knows they are real.
And honestly, if anything, I think more businesses benefit from Yelp than not. There are always Yelp events sponsored by businesses, and a lot of people attend these events, giving these businesses a lot of exposure they wouldn’t have had otherwise. Businesses shouldn’t just support Yelp when it is to their advantage because in doing so, they risk taking away the voice of their customers–you know, the people who pay their salary.