Stories of Yelp user shakedowns abound, but, perhaps fearing the wrath of angry Yelpers, most businesses have been loath to discuss them publically. Not so Humphry Slocombe ice cream, who proudly announced “Our 1st Yelper shakedown! Yelp girls to me: ‘We’re gonna order then yelp about it-what discount can you give us’? Me: Your joking right?”
Reading about this on SFist, commenter Akit asked “Wouldn’t that be considered extortion?”
We’ll leave that to the legal experts, but we did want to ask Yelp what they thought of this behavior, so we dropped a line to Stephanie Ichinose, Yelp’s Director of Communications.
She pointed us to their Terms of Service, Restrictions on Use section, but we have to say that it’s not terribly clear, from that, that the behavior demonstrated in the Slocombe Shakedown is considered out of line.
Yelp’s FAQ, which Ichinose also referred us to, was a little more helpful, saying:
“What if the business I’m reviewing gave me something for free or at a discount?
“You should never accept freebies or discounts in exchange for reviews. For example, if a bar owner offers you a free drink in exchange for a 5-star review, you should not accept his or her offer.”
She says “If a business owner is experiencing this sort of thing they should report it to us immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org along with any information/evidence. A violation of our TOS or our review guidelines are grounds for having an account terminated.”
Which is tough if you don’t know a Yelping Intimidator’s user name, huh? “A white girl, late 20s” is probably not enough to go on. But, what do you think, are Yelp’s terms and guidelines enough to protect businesses who value their Yelp status? Is there more that they could or should be doing, or is this just the cost of doing business in the age of the cyberhighway?