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Yelp Reviews Brew a Fight Over Free Speech vs. Fairness


Many Businesses Say Anonymity of Comments Is Unfair, Sue to Unmask Users

Yelp Reviews Brew Fight Over Free Speech, Fairness - WSJ.com

Yelp Reviews Brew Fight Over Free Speech, Fairness - WSJ.com

A closely watched Internet free-speech case is headed to the Virginia Supreme Court this month, with many businesses that live and die by online reviews rooting for the owner of a small, suburban carpet cleaner.

In early 2012, Joe Hadeed, owner of Hadeed Carpet Cleaning Inc., arrived at his office atop a 70,000-square-foot warehouse in Springfield, Va., to discover a critique posted on Yelp.com: "Lots of hype, a mediocre cleaning and a hassle at the end. Don't go with Joe!" wrote a "Mike M." A few days later, another review, by "M.P." popped up: "I will never use them again and advise others to proceed with caution!" it said.

Over the next several weeks, a string of similarly harsh reviews replaced more-favorable comments "as if someone had flipped a switch," said the 47-year-old Mr. Hadeed, in an interview last month at his offices, where trucks drop off carpets to be washed, rinsed and dried.

Following the rash of negative Yelp reviews, business sank 30% in 2012, Mr. Hadeed says. Last year, Hadeed cleaned just 20,000 carpets, down from 29,000 in 2011. Revenue fell to $9.5 million from $12 million in 2011. Mr. Hadeed said the business has let 80 workers go and sold six trucks, reducing its fleet to 54.

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Yelp does a lot of good too, it rewards and brings attention to good businesses, and it exposes bad businesses, especially in tourist areas that do not rely on repeat business, allowing them to get every sucker at least once.

The carpet example above shows how it can go wrong.  I've seen it, where people like to jump on the bandwagon with others, and berating a business becomes sport.  If a business has poor ratings, say consistent 1-2 stars, why would you patronize them?  but these people will.

Here is one:  http://www.yelp.com/biz/dantes-on-the-river-pollock-pines  This guy put the restaurant and house up for sale, after many altercations, he probably did play a part in the stirring of the pot, but some Yelper's seemed to go out of their way to try to get a rise out of him.

I am a Yelper, I have over 500 reviews, I see the good and the bad in reviews, the fake reviews by owners, friends, and workers.  I also have come across businesses that use Yelp as a teaching tool, and correct issues, have staff meetings to discuss what was posted.  Some are just people ranting, and you can learn to read between the lines of the reviews, toss the highs and lows, and get a pretty good consensus of what a business is like.

My pizza place consistently got 1 star reviews on Yelp. Not a hipster hangout.

people hate us on yelp

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