I happened to be looking at my iPhone to get to my local Trader Joe’s via back roads from where I was. The map program offered me the Yelp review of my store and I decided to take a look. What I found was the strangest mix of commentary with a remarkably low signal to noise ratio. The first one that popped up was 4/5 stars and reasonably to the point. The second on the ‘recommended’ list was a 1 star review in which the author droned on for 440 words. He discussed the awful parking lot, the soccer moms, the crying babies, and finally got around to the stuff for sale. “I will concede that the food is good – especially the wide selection of uppity olive oils and cheeses of which I am a huge fan. And the beer is good. And the wine is good.” A couple dozen words in three sentences. Only this location has no alcohol license. No wine and no beer.
And “the way too small” parking lot is quite enormous, I’ve been there often as there’s a Staples, a Pier 1, and other stores my family likes. Never a problem with the parking. To be fair, not every last review is this way, but for this store, more than half were.
I was compelled to look at other stores I’d been to, along with a few restaurants. Same for most of them. I understand you might not like a restaurant, supermarket, or other business. No problem with that. If half the reviewers on Yelp would stick the point, and not review the neighborhood, the cars, the parking lots, it might become a useful site.For now, it seems a site where people simply go on off topic rants about whatever they wish, unrelated to the establishment they are reviewing. A remarkable waste of my time.
Worse, Yelp has gained a reputation for burying good reviews of businesses that don’t pay for their service. It’s pretty apparent when you go to the reviews buried as ‘not recommended,’ if you can find them. Most curious to me is how long Yelp will even be around. A $4B valuation for a company that continues to spend more on marketing than they book in revenue. Remember, advertising dollars are not unlimited. Businesses spend so much each year and that’s divided amongst all the print and on line places trying to sell ad space.