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Handling Negative Yelp Reviews: Bombard With Negativity?

By William Peacock, Esq. on September 29, 2014 10:04 AM

By now, you've probably heard the "tin foil" theories about Yelp: The site, which has a filter for spam, allegedly filters out positive reviews until you become a paid customer, after which, they'll boost your positive reviews.

It's all allegations for now, and the Ninth Circuit recently ruled that even if it were all true, it wouldn't amount to extortion under California law. Your best bet, if you have negative Yelp reviews, is to respond with professionalism and niceties.

Or, you could just embrace the suck and tank your Yelp reviews, aiming for a one-star review.

What Botto Italian Bistro Did

Yelp has a one-to-five star system, an Botto Italian Bistro of Richmond, California, is at one-star -- by choice.

The restaurant, tired of Yelp's alleged extortion tactics (which are fully legal) and the company's attempts to sell ads, decided to try something else: a 25 percent discount for anyone who leaves a one-star review, reports Ars Technica

The result? According to the restaurant's website, it's the worst reviewed restaurant on Yelp!

Good Idea?

It's an interesting approach. With such low reviews, one can't help but to click on the business and check it out. And when you do, all of the reviews are blatantly sarcastic.

It's subversive. It violates Yelp's Terms of Service. And it might be deceptive -- some of the recent reviews point out that all of the fake reviews are burying all of the real negative reviews.

What About Legality?

To us, this immediately reminds us of the McMillian dispute: A law firm sued Yelp over its business practices, and Yelp countersued over fake reviews (posted from the IP address of the law firm), alleging breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations (by harming the site's reputation via fake reviews), unfair competition, and false advertising.

Many of those seem like possibilities here -- especially false advertising and maybe even breach of contract, since BIB was once an advertising customer of the startup review site.

What do you think about BIB's Yelp review strategy? Share your opinions via Twitter (@FindLawLP) or Facebook (FindLaw for Legal Professionals).

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