November 1, 2014


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We are currently working on a documentary about the effect Yelp has had on small businesses. If you have a particularly compelling story to tell, please contact Kaylie!

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11 thoughts on “Projects

  • I love what you are doing.

    I owned a small 38 seat restaurant in Burlington, Vermont that was 4.5 star rated. Until I received the phone call, asking for advertising. Not more than a week later, I was a 2 star rated restaurant in Burlington.

    The funny thing is, people that reviewed my restaurant, reviewed the bar a block away, and a bunch of other places.

    Those reviews on my profile were ‘filtered’ by their system. Those same end users’ reviews were not filtered on the bar’s profile, or other places.

    The timing was within a week of the phone call solicitation for advertising. They are criminal.

    I love what you are doing, as well as these businesses that encourage bad yelp reviews for discounts on goods and services. I feel like if the truth is exposed, through your actions, and the law suits and business owners stand up to them, they will get theirs.

    Thanks for this project, it’ll be fun to watch what you uncover.

    former owner of ONE Pepper Grill, Inc.

  • We experienced this a few weeks ago. First a nasty review, second a phone call from a Yelp rep named Brian, who happened to notice “recent negative activity” on my business page. Next he started asking me to advertise with Yelp, we really can’t afford it so I declined.
    Then all of a sudden within a day or two my page was FLOODED with negative reviews. This is still happening!!! I’ve flagged the reviews to Yelp, emailed Yelp directly as well and they refused to do anything and I believe it’s because Yelp is writing these reviews or at least filtering negative reviews to the top of the page (that were not at the top before the Yelp sales rep phone call). After doing research about similar situations it occurred to me that this is corporate racketeering on a grand scale. The reviews are outright lies and inconsistent with current state of our business and we have real example with photos, yet they refuse to take the fake negative reviews down. Our business is OVERWHELMINGLY successful, I’m not saying we’re perfect but we never have received negative reviews since we’ve owned the business it’s all coming about now after this phone call from Yelp! Further, our primary customer demographic is not the type that would even ever post anything on social media. We are in an extremely rural community with a very small population they are not the demographic that utilizes Yelp. I would love to participate or help this documentary with our story or anything else to move this forward. Yelp must be exposed to the public, many many small business owners reputations and lively hoods are at stake and the general public has no idea that Yelp is manipulating data and continue to try and extort money from business owners in exchange for favorable review placement.

  • I am so glad you are doing this! I run a gluten-free restaurant in a small, rural coastal town in California. Yelp has been trying to get me to advertize with them for the last couple of years. We typically get great responses to our food but it seems that when Yelp is trying to get a hold of us and we don’t answer the phone, we suddenly get a crappy review out of nowhere. Recently we had a couple come in after we closed, I we alone but said I would feed them as there is no other restaurant open for hours of driving and I am a sympathetic soul. The couple did have to wait a bit as I had indicated they would, because I was finishing the previous table and was, as aforementioned, alone. Yes! I was alone on a very slow Friday night when my business partner was sick and I was closing up. Anyway, after the couple ATE EVERYTHING and left, we received an awful review from them in which they lied about the cost of the food, said it was too greasy and basically inedible (weird that you would finish something inedible…) but the part I love is that they claim to be gluten-free. I looked at the one other review they left at that time for the coast and low and behold it was a glowing review of a really great greasy spoon place where they loved the burger and the tuna melt. Both on large slabs of gluten. I feel not only punished but also that at least when Yelp pays scouts they could school them on what exactly things like gluten are so they don’t look stupid when their reviews are put side by side.
    Anyway, sorry for the ramble- I am just so very excited that you are doing this documentary- it’s about time they are shown for the manipulative liars that they are.

  • I would love to know when this documentary will be released. I have a small Chinese and Spanish immersion language STEM-based preschool in Washington, DC that is absolutely my life’s passion and my second career. I actually went back to school to earn a degree to be knowledgeable about my business after having practiced law consistently for several years. I opened my school on a wing and a prayer and when I could not get any grants, my husband and I put together what we had and made it happen 2 years ago. My school has begun to experience more success within the last year, but with that success, I have begun to deal with many unstable people. Yelp has reached out to me more during the period my school has grown and has offered to help get my small business reviews and customers if I bought advertising from them. Because my school really goes on referrals for the most part and some signs on the building where I operate, I never purchased any advertising from Yelp. Whenever I do not return phone calls from Yelp deemed as “important to the livelihood of my business,” I get a negative review from a customer who cannot be verified. In the past few months, I have received several very vague reviews on Yelp pointing very vaguely to my supposed instability or something else that is negative, but does not really give any details about my school. The name of the reviewer is always someone who is not and has not been a customer of mine. However, I have noticed that my school has some really good reviews from parents I do recognize, but they are hidden and not recommended. I was surprised to find out that there were any reviews of my school at all because I purposely do not use social media because my business is all about celebrating and protecting children and families and every time I hear something about social media, someone has used it to hurt someone in some form or fashion. I have asked Yelp to remove the false reviews, as they cannot be verified as customers having patronized my business, but I am never appeased. Yet, I am made to believe that if I claimed my business page and bought advertising through Yelp, that I would experience a surge in positive reviews and customers. I feel as if this is some kind of extortion, which I know is illegal and I have also asked to opt out of even being contacted by Yelp, but I still get phone calls and emails from them offering me advertising perks. Earlier this month after I raised hell about false reviews about my school, I was offered a free one month trial for Yelp advertising, but I noticed it was filtered in my junk mail. I never want to be associated with a service that allows random people to comment on things anonymously. Though I am angry and frustrated by the fake reviews about my school and myself that are posted on Yelp, I never provide a comment to them, as was suggested by a Yelp ad agent who told me to try to claim the page the reply to the negative reviews. I’d rather not because it’s not my style–I care about children, families, education, and respect and I would never stoop so low as to get into a bullying match with people who are not even real customers of mine. For all I know, it could be a competitor writing crap about my school–as I have found that this is the case on another site used by parents, but of course allows anonymity. I assume that all of this is designed to bully a business owner and to make them feel small, but to be honest, it has given me more ammunition to keep doing things well and exceeding the expectation of many of our parents in our small program. I absolutely LOVE what I do and I refuse to allow Yelp and the bullies on that site to scare me out of business. It is just horrible and I do have to work hard, but every time I go to my school and see my kids, it makes it all the more wonderful for me to continue to do what I do. Damn Yelp and anyone who maybe can only feel better about him or herself by being an anonymous bully and a coward through a computer screen where they can never be found or confronted. I am disappointed that I never got a chance to contribute anything to the movie that will expose Yelp and it’s shady business practices, but it does make me feel good that someone else sees the abuses Yelp engages in and has actually done something to try to expose them. Kudos to you, Ms. Kaylie. Even though I do not know you, you will ALWAYS be a friend to MindBloom Preschool…

    • Thank you, Susan, for your support! It is genuinely appreciated. If you haven’t already requested to be on our email list, please do so to be kept up to date on when the film will be ready to be screened.

  • My friend’s small business, which has been in business since 2008 is now under the yelp fire! She received calls from yelp’s marketing department asking her if she wanted to get a higher ranking with them. They see she is the only wedding photography and cinematography company in the area. She told them no thank you. Out of nowhere, popped up two bad reviews. So she asked some of her clients to write reviews on yelp. Sadly, any positive reviews from actual customers were removed. Most times that day or the next day! Meanwhile a review from someone who wasn’t a customer and someone who’s husband is a competitor is still posted. Oh yeah, those are both bad reviews. It’s really sad because people have said to her “what about those bad yelp reviews?” She has to sit there explaining why they are there and that she has emailed yelp about taking them down. Yelp told her no but she could get a high rating in her area with them. Code for buy some ads space with us and all your problems will go away. It should be a crime to have a site like this and market to people after blocking good reviews. SMH

  • Hi Kaylie, Mellissa, and anyone else on the team,

    I’ve been working in the Digital Marketing industry for about 10 years now, and a friend told me about your film just a couple weeks ago as we were having a long discussion on just how much power Google has, which led to how much power a company like Yelp has to either make or break a business.

    Just 2 months ago, I saw a part of Yelp that was disappointing and genuinely shocking. A Yelp salesperson just would not stop calling and emailing. It was behavior I could only describe as “stalking”. This was AFTER I gave him about 2 hours of my time to do an entire sales presentation. I had one expectation and request – “please wait for me to contact you… since I am so busy this month, just give me some time and I will reach out to you.” To add to the insanity, even when I sent an angry email asking him not to contact me ever again, hours later I got 2 automated links to 12 month contracts agreements, where I would simply have to click a couple buttons to agree to their paid advertising services. He put it into the system intentionally. It was a big “F” you to my email. There was no other response. I still get reminders to sign my contract every week.

    As someone who tries to help small businesses grow and navigate an increasingly technical marketplace and economy, I wanted to express my respect for what you’ve accomplished so far, as well as the commitment to expose this kind of practice and educate others. Your decision and dedication to this project is brave and inspiring.

    There are things that I’ve seen and learned in the industry… practices that are just horrendous. I feel it’s my duty to share the knowledge but also that I absolutely should not, since there’s a chance it will affect family and friends. I hope to open up some discussions one day… discussions that many will find cathartic and necessary. The kind that will come when this film is finally released.

    Thanks again for your courage.

    Jacob M.

    • Hi Jacob,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to write your message. Receiving two emails with links to a contract is very aggressive and I can imagine felt very infuriating! It sounds very similar to one of the stories highlighted in the film. I’ll send you a private email, but again, thank you for sharing your experience! It’s important for others to see that they are not alone in dealing with a “rogue aggressive employee” from Yelp, but that in fact, this is standard business practice.
      – Kaylie

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