Yelp for Help: A brief look at review prioritization



Welp, Yelp. (retrieved from

Last night, I ordered some food online from a local restaurant. Since I lived within walking distance of the place, I opted for pickup. My food should have been ready by 9:15, but I waited at the bar for one hour before I received it (yes, I did speak with the manager, and I’m only a little ashamed that I did that). This isn’t the first time I’ve had slow service from this place, and many of my friends who have patronized this place have had similar unfortunate experiences. But for some reason, I keep coming back.


I’m sorry to say that if my track record continues on the path it did last night, I may be obliged to get this haircut…(retrieved from

During the hour I waited for my food, I noticed that other people were waiting a while for their drinks. I also noticed that another two people were waiting a while for their food. So, I pulled up the Yelp app on my phone, started to write a negative review, and got distracted by other reviews. It seems that their reviews range from anywhere between 1 stars and 5 stars, so their average is 3 stars. I also noticed that there were an alarming rate of 1 star reviews for a restaurant.

Of course, the reviews that pop up for the restaurant that shall remain nameless are mostly positive. I was curious as to how so many people have had positive experiences at this restaurant, but I have never had one over the six times I’ve eaten there and three times I’ve ordered out. Neither have my friends. So I did some research and found some of Yelp’s interesting business practices.

In fact, many small businesses claim that Yelp filters out positive reviews for negative ones, the complete opposite of my hypothesis. Various blogs and articles have called Yelp out on this.

It is well advertised that Yelp filters their reviews. They even document it on their website. Yelp apparently uses an automated filter meant to help provide more honest reviews to Yelp users. The problem with the filter is that some authentic reviews get lost in the sauce (if you’ll pardon the pun). Some of the reasons why reviews get filtered are because they are too short, too extreme, or because the Yelp user does not have a super active profile, but who has time for that?


I second that. (retrieved from

A particularly colorful and ugly representation of some of these alleged practices is illustrated in a 2014 article in the LA Times. The article interviews some business owners who have worked with Yelp in the past and were exposed to “extortion” practices.

So there you have it. I went into this experiment trying to find out whether or not the restaurant was in cahoots with Yelp to try to make their reviews better, and found that that was definitely not the case. I stand corrected.

As for next time? Probably won’t go back to the restaurant. And I probably won’t use Yelp. I’ll just use Opentable or GrubHub for my takeout needs.


“Yelp?” More like “nope!” (retrieved from

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One Response to Yelp for Help: A brief look at review prioritization

  1. sydhavely says:

    Love your post, Elizabeth. Plus the “can I speak to your manager” haircut. If it makes you smile, I’m sharing it with my buddies. It’s precious. Great post. P.S. Didn’t know that about Yelp.

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