Small business owners have criticized Yelp since the company's launch nearly 10 years ago. But dozens of Los Angeles business owners recently gathered together to voice their concerns in person at a town hall meeting in Hollywood, the Los Angeles Times reported.
According to the article, the social review site has organized a series of town hall meetings throughout the U.S. in an effort to clear its reputation and "reach out to business owners." Although the meeting was designed to nullify claims that Yelp manipulates reviews and ratings to favor advertisers, it quickly turned into an opportunity for disgruntled business owners to vent their frustrations about that very issue.
The Los Angeles Times reported that during the Q&A portion of the meeting many business owners criticized Yelp for allowing users of the site to write "inflammatory comments." Several owners were especially angry because the site allows people to rate businesses that they have never stepped foot into. For example, a restaurant owner was upset because his negative reviews were written by Yelpers who had never tried the food.
Not surprisingly, however, the majority of the complaints against Yelp had to do with the site's reviews filter; Business owners are still insisting that the filter is rigged.
According to the article, many business owners argued that positive reviews from legitimate customers had been filtered, prompting the belief that it was because they didn't advertise with Yelp. Yelp has heard this complaint before – many, many times.
In response to the allegations, Yelp's manager of local business outreach, Morgan Remmers, said the company's filter was "automatic and based on 'several objective data points' that aren't tied to advertising." However, she did admit that genuine reviews from legitimate customers sometimes will get filtered, but didn't explain why.
If you can't make it to a town hall meeting, Yelp suggests contacting the company directly to discuss any issues with the reviews filter or to "flag problematic reviews."