Yelp vs ‘South Park’

south-park-yelpIt’s brilliant when you look at how last week’s “South Park” Yelp episode has played out on social media. In its wake, a satirical news article about the satirical television show has ended up touching on some real issues that plague the review site.

Were it not for the dust-up created by the piece on NBC.com.co (a parody site that is NOT the real NBC), a lot of people like me would not have sought out and watched the “You’re Not Yelping” episode. Having now watched it, I agree it would have been foolish for Yelp to do anything other than what it did — absolutely nothing.

The episode was not about Yelp. It was about self-important, overindulgent Yelpers who think their reviewer status entitles them to preferential treatment at restaurants. There is a difference. Those lampooned may not represent the majority of Yelpers, but their actions reflect negatively on all.

What the episode does represent is the way that Yelpers are viewed by many as a joke and an annoyance to business owners.

As a longtime veteran of the food industry, I advise colleagues to not cater to the whims of demanding Yelpers. It rarely improves the quality of their review and it just adds to the user’s feeling of entitlement.

yelp-accusations-unfairThe primary thing that “You’re Not Yelping” exposes is that Yelp could do a better job of taking responsibility for the quality of reviews and the behavior of its users. I have experienced firsthand how people announce themselves as Yelp Elite and even throw hissy fits to try to get preferential treatment. Not doing anything to curb such behavior reflects badly on Yelp, and diminishes the credibility of responsible Yelpers.

One of the greatest innovations launched by Airbnb was letting venue owners review guests. The rating system goes both ways, so if a guest’s score is low, the chances of other owners renting to them are greatly reduced. This makes many site users think twice. They want to continue using Airbnb, so they are more responsible with their reviews and ratings.

There really is nothing wrong with Yelp. They provide a good service. As always, a few bad apples will always ruin things for everyone, and until Yelp does something to reduce those bad apples, the more believable the exaggerated portrayal on South Park becomes.