Terry Thomas’ guest column, “What is Yelp? An impartial review site or an aggressive ad company?” [Opinion, Jan. 16] and the letter from Nete Olsen, “I’ve also been extorted by the online reviews site” [Northwest Voices, Jan. 21] rehash a conspiracy theory that lacks evidence (see: Woozle effect) and has been debunked by an independent study by a Harvard Business School professor.
Yelp does not extort small businesses. We have been transparent with the fact that we do not recommend every review that is submitted. Why might a review not be recommended? It might be a fake, an unhelpful rant or rave, a review that the business owner asked a customer to write, or, simply, a review that was posted by someone we don’t know much about.
Let’s spend a moment on that last one: We feel the most useful reviews come from active members of the Yelp community — those who regularly return to the site to share their opinions, who engage with other members of the community and share more information about themselves. After all, whose opinion would you trust more: a friend who you know is an expert in that given area, or a faceless stranger just shouting out a drive-by suggestion?
Vince Sollitto, VP of corporate communications at Yelp