yelp paid reviewsYou may have had the experience personally or have spoke to somebody who relies heavily on Yelp reviews for business – such as restaurant owners. What is often heard is “if you don’t pay Yelp, they won’t show your good reviews nor hide the bad ones your competitors have possibly put up.”

In an East Bay Express article from February 18, this same problem was addressed. In the article, restaurant owners complain of numerous phone calls they receive from Yelp offering, for a price, to help them fix their reviews. Within the article, six different people told the reporter that Yelp sales representatives promised to move or remove negative reviews if their business would advertise. Worse yet, in another six instances, positive reviews disappeared or negative ones appeared after owners declined to advertise.

Yelp isn’t the only online review site. Company’s also have to contend with reviews on Urban Spoon, Google, Zagat and more. Everybody wants a good review, some are going so far as to pay people to give them good reviews or even give bad reviews to competitors.

In a LA Times Article, one company sells ID cards to online reviewers, which they can flash to restaurant or hotel owners in hopes of getting preferential treatment in exchange for a great review.

Is this fair? How can any review site truly discern which reviews are now sincere and which are marketing ploys? Even as a consumer, knowing this type of thing goes on, we all still rely on reviews to base our decisions of whether we will eat in a particular restaurant or stay in a particular hotel. What else can we do if we don’t know somebody personally who can give us a word-of-mouth referral?

What are your thoughts on review sites?