To test guest columnist Terry Thomas’ claims [“What is Yelp? An impartial review site or an aggressive ad company?” Opinion, Jan. 16] that the reviews are biased based on sponsorship, I did a quick search for businesses that were offering “Yelp Deals.” This is something the consumer must purchase through Yelp, and a business must pay Yelp for this privilege.
I then looked at the “Yelp Deal” businesses I had visited before and given low ratings. My two-star review was among the first five to come up, along with my Yelp friends’ reviews.
When I browse Yelp through my account, the search engine brings up my review and the reviews of my Yelp friends first, regardless of their ratings.
I then logged out of my Yelp account and searched the same business as a visitor. This time, the reviews were all dated, with the most recent ones at the top. The results were even worse than the first time around, with a plethora of one- and two-star reviews among the most recent reviews. It was obvious that this business had declined since I last visited and that its association with Yelp wasn’t doing anything to help its ratings.
Next, I typed “restaurant” into the search string, thinking perhaps the ones with Yelp Deals or sponsors would get top billing. Not a chance. The ones at the top are usually ones with the most number of reviews, regardless of their ratings.
Susan Chang, Seattle