SF Weekly's 4,333 word exposition about Yelp
delves into many of the recent foibles of the not-yet-profitable community site. Since its inception in 2004, Yelp has played a key part in imbuing
every-day consumers with the powers of professional critics. Now, with consumer reviews posted and shared online, instead of disappearing into the black hole of the customer feedback box, businesses shudder with fear at the potential of a bad review on Yelp. Sure, any business that regularly provides bad service would eventually succumb to the collective ire of community displeasure, but anecdotally, Yelp seems to amplify this effect. Although consumer reviews have been around for ages on sites like Amazon and CNET, Yelp's focus on local businesses expose a vulnerability not really seen in, say, the consumer electronics or book industry. An evening's dining choice is relatively fickle compared to a decision to buy a plasma tv, and one can see how that decision could be easily derailed by one strategically placed negative review. That said, as consumers become more savvy to sites like Yelp, their tolerance for a bad review or two should hopefully build. Or, as seen in the recent case of a San Francisco pizzera, businesses could learn to embrace
their bad reviews.
Here's a thought. Whenever I visit a new city, I ask my friends for their recommendations
, not reviews
, of restaurants in the area. While it might be amusing to hear them rant about how awful such-and-such place was, ranting really does little good when trying to pick a place to eat out of the vast array of options that a typical city has to offer. Instead, maybe it's time for Yelp to put on the rose-colored glasses and offer an alternative view of the world: one where only recommendations exist. This is the approach taken by eats.it
, a restaurant recommendation site that currently only serves San Diego. With no bad reviews to complain about, the complaint that a merchant doesn't get enough recommendations sounds much more like sour grapes. Furthermore, advertising on a page that features only recommendations of their establishment is a much more palatable proposition. Is the consumer less served by this rosy-eyed view of the world? Perhaps, but it would not be hard to see which establishments received less recommendations than others. Maybe mothers everywhere knew the answer all along when they advised: "if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all."