I personally like Yelp. Over the past few years, the only poor dining experiences I’ve had were a result of not consulting with the user-generated review site, usually decisions made not of my own volition. Business owners, on the other hand, have long-since had a tumultuous relationship with Yelp since reviews cannot be altered or deleted and disgruntled customers often leave unfair reviews — but I feel like most informed consumers can effectively weed through the BS.
One Italian restaurant in the San Francisco area, however, has revealed what may be a much more insidious side to Yelp, and — if true — this could potentially mean that Yelp is basically the equivalent of the online mafia. Botto Bistro co-owner Davide Cerretini claims that at one time he was getting as many as 15-20 calls a week from Yelp asking them to advertise. Eventually they did, spending approximately $270 for a six month time period — but once the restaurant stopped, the positive reviews turned negative and a positive review even vanished.
As such, Cerretini decided to give the middle finger to Yelp and aspire to be the worst reviewed restaurant on the site, offering 25% off to customers who left a one-star review — which in turn prompted a threatening email from Yelp due to offering incentives in exchange for reviews.
Cerretini spoke with SF Gate on the controversy:
“I don’t have anything against Yelp. The idea is fantastic, but the blackmailing thing is ferocious,” says Cerretini. “I think I should be the one deciding if I’m on the site or not. At least I can be there on my terms. The only power they have is they make you reliable to them. So, I’m going to be one of the most unreliable restaurants.”
“I want to be the worst restaurant there is in the Bay Area,” he says. “I think this is the best business move I have made in years.”
If nothing else, the whole thing has made for some pretty entertaining Yelp reviews. Here’s a few examples:
Keep fighting the good fight, Botto Bistro.