This article was published on March 2, 2010

Yelp Blasts Pay-To-Play Criticism As “Conspiracy Theory”

Yelp Blasts Pay-To-Play Criticism As “Conspiracy Theory”

yelpToday, Yelp again took aim at claims that it had blackmailed restaurant owners into purchasing ads.

Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman addressed the claims brought against the company in a pending class action lawsuit by addressing how the company conducts business. As he explained the situation, though, he couldn’t resist the opportunity to take potshots at the plaintiffs by saying that they had hired, “the Orly Taitz of internet lawyers who may or may not have read about our recent funding round.”

Based on the overwhelmingly positive response many business owners have to Yelp, Stoppelman’s story sounds more plausible than the lawsuit’s doom and gloom.

Where the lawsuit paints a picture of deliberate malice and heavy-handed business tactics, Stoppelman’s explanation provides a likely reason for the “malicious” actions. Where the lawsuit has claimed that the business had positive reviews removed from the site as punishment for not advertising, Stoppelman claims that the reviews were likely solicited by the business. Since such practices are against the site’s Terms and Conditions, and since Yelp’s rating algorithm weeds out these shill posts, they disappeared from the business’ page.

Yelp’s business satisfaction rates are quite high, among both paying advertisers and non-paying businesses, so it seems unlikely to be a deliberate malicious move. After all, if Yelp made a habit out of sabotaging businesses’ pages, wouldn’t businesses stop using the service entirely?

Based on these facts, it makes sense to believe Stoppelman’s assertion that, “many might say we’re weird, but we have nothing to hide. We’re doing things differently, but we have never and will never extort businesses; the accusation is beyond ludicrous.”