Our former sister publication, the East Bay Express, ran an incendiary story today, reporting how the consumer restaurant review site yelp.com may be shaking down restaurants by offering to alter the reviews that appear in its restaurant listings — for $299 per month. The alteration takes the form of pushing good reviews to the top of the list, canceling bad reviews, and even creating enthusiastic reviews out of whole cloth, so that a casual reader stumbling on the listing during a Google or Yelp search will see nothing but a flood of puff-piece descriptions.
Read the story and then explore yelp.com a bit. I went right to Elmhurst, and the priority of listings that I got seemed a little screwy. Singa’s Famous Pizza Inc. appeared right at the top of the list, before many much finer restaurants, and the enthusiastic string of reviews really was unbelievable. It’s just a pizza parlor after all, and one that doesn’t even make the radar at sites like chowhound.com. Check out yelp.com and see if you think the reviews have been cooked.