Roll call: who has used Yelp recently?

I, your author, have. I’m a little ashamed to say it, because as any employee of a PR agency knows, we’ve had to put out unwarranted fires on a client Yelp page—a disgruntled former employee, say, or a customer claiming to have gotten food poisoning at the location with zero evidence.

Yelp is a handy resource, especially when traveling. But it’s also become a battleground for politics—a microcosm of our divided times.

Recently, when White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave The Red Hen, a restaurant in Lexington, VA, the restaurant’s Yelp page blew up with low ratings (from conservatives) and 5-star ratings (from liberals)—most of whom had never been to the restaurant at all.

It’s the latest example of Yelp’s vulnerability to be exploited by activists of all political stripes.

Businesses have long complained that Yelp allows disgruntled customers and former employees to negatively impact business without ever having to prove their claims. (HERE, chefs of all stripes talk about their hatred of Yelp.)

As a PR agency, we’ve seen that play out with clients and other Denver restaurants.

So it begs the question: does Yelp still serve its original purpose? Has it become just another tool used to politicize and divide? Does Yelp suck?

There was a time when, from a PR perspective, Yelp was useful. Yelp Elite events could help spread the word amongst Yelp’s most active users that a given restaurant was worth visiting. But now, if a restaurant hosts a Yelp Elite event, the reviews garnered from the event are placed in a separate silo, not on the business’ general Yelp page—meaning those reviews aren’t factored into the overall Yelp rating. Now, those events amount to a cost without a benefit for businesses.

So, on our end, the jury’s in: Yelp isn’t worth what it used to be.

Do you use Yelp? Do you find it useful, or annoying AF?

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