Student Newswire of The University of Arizona School of Journalism

Arizona Sonoran News

Arizona Sonoran News

Student Newswire of The University of Arizona School of Journalism

Arizona Sonoran News

    No Yelper movement picks up speed

    say no to yelp sign (Sarah Pelfini/Arizona Sonoran News)
    Vero Amore  (Sarah Pelfini/Arizona Sonoran News)
    Vero Amore (Sarah Pelfini/Arizona Sonoran News)

    Tucson’s Vero Amore owner Aric Mussman is giving Yelp zero stars.

    Last month Mussman plastered a sign outside of his Italian restaurant with bold, black letters spelling out “Say No to Yelp.” After years of turbulence between the review site and business owners across the Untied Stated, the Tucson restaurateur is taking a public stand against the multi billion-dollar review website. Within the coming weeks, four Tucson businesses will follow suit and join the No Yelpers movement.

    “There are so many people against Yelp, and yet they are scared to speak up.” Mussman said.

    In the past Vero Amore’s reviews have been largely positive, with an overall four-star rating. But there is a lot that the public doesn’t know about Yelp, Mussman explains.

    “They won’t talk about how anything works,” Mussman said.

    With approximately 79 million unique visitors each month, Yelp has become the leading source for restaurant and business information.

     Unlike other review sites such as Trip Advisor, reviews on Yelp aren’t verified before they are posted.

    Anyone at anytime can submit a review, whether you are a disgruntled patron, a paid reviewer or an accredited food critic. 

    “I could fire someone today, and there could be a false review about rats on Yelp tomorrow,” Mussman said.

    Mussman explains that if you contact Yelp with a problem regarding a negative review, their response is something along the lines of, “if you were advertising with us you would have an account representative who could help you.”

    “The whole thing is just complete extortion.” Mussman said. 

    Yelp states that any claims of manipulating reviews or mistreatment of non-advertisement are false. 

    The restaurateur wishes there was a fact checking and regulation system  in place to sift out the patrons using Yelp for the wrong reasons. He explains that one is more likely to take to the keyboard when they are outraged by a long wait than a satisfactory meal.

    “If you go to a restaurant and you like it you’ll probably tell one or two people if you have a bad experience you’ll tell 10.”

    Roy Baumeister, professor of psychology at Florida State University, explains that negative feelings tend to overpower any positive inkling.

    “Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good,” Baumeister explains.

    Brandon Katz, owner of Tucson’s Obon Sushi + Bar + Ramen, explains “there is a large amount of people that take their voice to the Internet that are frankly not educated to do so.” Katz said.

    After the restaurant opened in August, a wave of exaggerated reviews flooded Yelp. So Katz decided to bring some comedic relief to the situation.

    Katz and his staff posted Yelp’s most outlandish reviews on a large marque for the whole restaurant to see, as well as on all of the restaurant’s social media outlets.

    “When it is straight bullying or criticism without any sort of solution it just becomes funny to us,” Katz said.

    The restaurant hasn’t suffered any large dips in its stream of customers, but Katz makes it clear, “You can say what you want but we have hundreds of people coming in that are leaving here extremely happy.” Katz said.

    Kasey Shores, a server at On the Border Mexican Grill and Cantina in Tucson, has experienced the negative side of Yelp first hand. Shores describes a time when a couple she was serving complained about being given raw food.

    Patrons at Vero Amore  (Sarah Pelfini/Arizona Sonoran News)
    Patrons at Vero Amore (Sarah Pelfini/Arizona Sonoran News)

    “One of our co-workers came out of the kitchen and said, ‘oh my god it is them, they do this all the time,” Shores said.

    The same couple had come in on multiple occasions in hopes of receiving free meals after complaining about a fabricated experience on Yelp.

    “When my manager refused to comp their whole meal they just left without paying.” Shores said.

    There now is a picture of the couple hanging in the restaurant’s office, warning future servers of their ploy.

    “When people post something publicly online, we really can’t do anything about it,” Shores said.

    When people write reviews criticizing a restaurant’s service or food, there is no way to track when they came in, what server they had, or how busy it was that day, Shores explains.

    A frequent Tucson reviewer, only known as Rachel F., explains that Yelp does not promote accurate representations of most restaurants.

    She likes to post on Yelp, “just for fun and also to irritate people, especially when I don’t like a place,” Rachel F. said. 

    Mussman says the biggest problem with Yelp is that it doesn’t do anything to improve restaurants.

    “If there is a problem, tell us.” Mussman said.

    “Were not against criticism, actually I love criticism I want to learn and do better and make sure people are happy.”

    Shores explains that more patrons could easily take advantage of On the Border’s guest satisfaction survey placed on every recipe. The survey allows people sound off on their experience and has the potential to improve the inner workings of the eatery.

    “The fact that people aren’t talking to us, but are going through this third party billion dollar website is just ridiculous.” Mussman said.

    Mussman hopes that the No Yelp movement will help make people more aware of how Yelp affects the restaurant industry.

    In the coming week, Nails-Go-Round, Ghini’s French Café, Monkey Burger, Saguaro Corners Restaurant and Bar will all tote the “No Yelpers” sign. Companies are creating an alliance to take back the power from the multi-billion dollar company. 

    “This is people’s jobs were talking about.” Shores said.

    Sarah Pelfini is a reporter for Arizona Sonoran News, a service from the school of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at [email protected]

    Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.

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