Does Yelp Extort Businesses? | The Daily Show

Amateur reviewers are
the backbone of America’s consumer culture, and for eating out,
the go-to site is Yelp. But how exactly
do Yelp reviews work? And is it completely unbiased? Well, Desi Lydic
filed this report. LYDIC:
Yelp– the most popular crowd source review forum
online, and a vital resource when choosing which waxing
place doesn’t laugh so loudly. But can we trust everything
we read on Yelp? One extremely Italian
restaurant owner finds Yelp’s
business practices so devious he’s protesting. -How are you?
-So nice to meet you. Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! Mwa! My name is, uh,
Chef Davide Cerretini. I’m a chef-owner.
I bought a bistro, and I give 50% off a pizza if you give me
a one star on Yelp. Why would you want
a one-star review? Sorry, let me ask you in,
uh, terms you can understand. What’s a matta you? If you want to have
a good rating on Yelp, you need to pay for advertise. And at this site,
you don’t pay advertise. So what they do, they,
um, manipulate your rating in order for you to give up
and pay for advertising. LYDIC:
According to Davide, when he refused to pay Yelp
to advertise, he noticed dozens
of five-star reviews disappearing
from his Yelp page. To me, that is extortion. -Money
-Extortion? Yes. I’m Italian. We invent extortion. Well, yeah.
I mean, you’re not just Italian. You’re, like,
cartoonishly Italian. I agree with you. How exactly did Yelp try
to extort you? Walk-walk me through -from the beginning.
-Yes, absolutely. You open your business. In couple of weeks,
you have your business placed in that forum,
you start to have good review. And then in three or four weeks, you start to receive
phone calls. They call you every single day.
They’re pushy. They don’t give up.
They keep calling you. We were answering the phone,
looking at the number, and we would just tell them to
go (bleep) themself immediately. Sure. That’s what I tell
my mother-in-law. After couple of days,
you start to see the results of your bad decision. So immediately,
your ratings change. Somehow these good review,
they’re gone. LYDIC: Davide’s claim
that Yelp extorts businesses was a serious allegation. And he’s not the only one
with a Yelp grievance. In fact, Yelp gets accused
of extortion so much that they have an entire page
on their website dedicated to explaining how
they don’t extort businesses. So I went
to Yelp’s headquarters to meet
with their spokesperson, but not just any spokesperson. My name’s Ben Flajnik. I am currently Yelp San
Francisco’s Community Manager. And…? And I did some television
a number of years ago. You were on…? It was on The Bachelor. -I was the Bachelor.
-That’s right. Forget about Yelp
extorting people, I had to ask
season 16’s Bachelor what really went down on that
horseback ride with Lindzi, or the time he totally dump… I would prefer that we
probably keep this… this conversation
about Yelp today, if that’s cool with you. Yeah. No. Yeah. Absolutely. No, I’m… I am
a hundred percent a professional and I’m here to talk to you
about Yelp. I would never,
you know, want to talk about… Go, go, go, go.
Get out of here. Go. Clean it up. Clean these up. -I didn’t arrange that.
-No, no, it’s fine, it’s fine. Sorry. Excuse me.
What would you say to someone who says that Yelp
extorts businesses? Um, I would say
that’s simply not true. Great. I’m also not in sales.
I don’t… you know, I-I-I run the
community side of things here. Um, Yelp makes its money
primarily through advertising. You don’t have to advertise. Reviews are-are shown
just the same whether you’re
a paid advertiser or not. So businesses can control
the order in reviews that come up, description… Reviews are a bit different. We have… this-this algorithm, it’s called
“recommendation software.” And unfortunately,
the business owners get frustrated
with the algorithm. Alongside that, you have sales
reps that are calling them, and they think that
the two are correlated, but they’re absolutely not. We don’t extort businesses. Bullshit. You are going to work. You are going to be harassed
from these people. It’s blackmail, it’s racket. Bring the money in…
“to the family.” -Mm.
-And that’s the Yelp Mafia. Does it cause you pain
being so Italian and seeing your noble tradition
of Mafia culture be portrayed by these
Silicon Valley douchebags? It is. It’s insulting. The Italian community
got really mad, not because
the intentional extortion, it’s the way
that it’s being done. That a little stupid guy called
me from the Silicon Valley, because he’s manipulator. That’s humiliating for
the Italians. He should know. At least do it the right way. Send couple of guy
with a baseball bat. Do it a classic,
“I’ll give you the money.” Nobody say anything. But what if he was
on The Bachelor? Well, you congratulate him, but also tell him
to go (bleep) himself. These people are protect
by politics, law and lawyers, and we don’t give a shit
anymore. It might be legal,
but it’s not okay. LYDIC: Choosing who to trust
between these two guys was gonna be tough. Yelp’s business practices
are totally legal, but Davide had a point: harassing businesses
and adjusting reviews feels dishonest. Almost as dishonest as calling
this “Italian-style pizza.” In the end,
I had to listen to my heart. (echoing): It might be legal,
but it’s not okay. Just because it’s legal
doesn’t make it right. I was gonna have
to let Ben down easy. Ben, I spent a lot of time
with Yelp today, and I think it… it’s
just that Yelp and businesses are somehow not trusting
one another. It just feels like
there are some things that Yelp is keeping
from businesses. But… I really hope
that Yelp finds happiness. I’m sure one day they’ll make
a business very happy. Oh, thanks. ♪ ♪ -(cheering, applause)
-Desi Lydic, everyone.

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