The Verge had Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of Yelp, on their podcast. He was talking up his anti-trust talk against Google. The article that accompanied the podcast didn’t mention anything about how much Yelp is dispised by small business owners. I pointed that out in a series of tweets. I decided to turn that tweet thread into a blog post.
According to the dictionary, a yelp is a quick, sharp, shrill cry. And that is exactly the sound emitted by the owners of most, if not all, small businesses when they think about the San Francisco-based company that goes by the same name.
You are likely familiar with Yelp because its listings are shoved down our throat by Apple. You might also know them for being a festering wound harboring negative reviews that can destroy a small business. And sometimes (just sometimes), it is helpful. Yelp imagines itself as fostering the local community, but in reality, it does anything but.
For a while, Yelp and its CEO Stoppelman have been beating the anti-trust drum against Google. I don’t have problems with Google’s search monopoly coming under the regulatory microscope. But let’s not make Yelp a martyr — and let’s not give it a free ride in the media. Lately, it seems Guy Raz, The Verge, and many other publications are happy to carry Yelp’s water because it fits the big tech is evil narrative. Most conveniently overlook the fact that small businesses hate Yelp, and many think it is downright evil.
For starters, the company is thuggish in its sales tactics. Try to use its search function, and you are going to be looking at sponsored results. You pay to become a sponsored listing. You pay to become a verified listing. And if you don’t, you are buried way below the fold. Pot, meet, kettle!
I have yet to meet a small business owner who loves this company. Many have told me about the high pressure, bullshit tactics of the company and its sales team. In my own backyard, I can give examples of a dozen companies that have had terrible experiences. For instance, a Yelp salesperson might call a store when the owner is not around. They get an employee to sign up for a free plan — as long as they provide credit card information. Two weeks later…Bam! A charge for a few hundred dollars shows up. And by the way, this unexpected investment did nothing in terms of delivering new customers. And if you want to cancel? Good luck.
Actions represent a company’s culture and intention. It is a crucial part of what I call the corporate DNA. You can’t change a company’s DNA. That is why no matter what happens, Facebook can’t and won’t change. And neither can Yelp.
Yelp is the same company that routed customers through its own phone numbers instead of the numbers of actual restaurants. It created COVID-19 GoFundMe fundraisers without the knowledge of the restaurants. “I truly cannot believe that Yelp and GoFundMe thought this was a good idea,” Nick Kokonas, co-owner of Chicago’s Alinea restaurant group, told Eater. “It’s the worst kind of fake stewardship in a crisis, crafted to look like charity but taking advantage of a horrific situation.”
That action shows absolute disregard for the businesses that are its raison d ‘être. Yelp is a wolf in sheep’s clothing company. It is hard not to see them as one of the worst representatives of Silicon Valley ecosystem. I wonder why people reserve all the outrage for Uber and Instacart, when Yelp is no different.
Those in the media need to be more careful and keep Yelp and its management team accountable for their actions. It is fine to go after Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple. But let’s not give bad actors a pass just because they don’t belong to the big tech.