Like many of us businesses, large and small, regardless of industry, we understand and encourage customers to leave online reviews. Not really believing people pick lawyers or any other business by reviews alone, it seemed to be another easy and quick method of showcasing a business, hence this was how I learned from other merchants that YELP was a popular way to let others learn and comment on a business. YELP was first introduced to the office in 2011.
As appropriate as a case closes, I would ask the client to leave an online review. Without stating the obvious, the review was supposed to be realistic and an accurate experience . Citysearch was also a popular place to also leave on line reviews-the more the merrier or so I imagined. I asked clients to e-mail me after the review was posted and rated where I could then read the post. To my surprise, the client said that YELP did not openly published the review but “hid it” what ever that means.
I heard about their filtering process and simply concluded that for one reason or another, it had been filtered out in good faith. A new wrinkle came to my attention that one has to be a frequent reviewer of YELP in order for the review to “stick.” No problem — I asked this of the next client and so forth. Confusingly, none of the positive reviews (which I consider three and above) were published but once again “hidden from view and that feature is hard to find as KRON 4 NEWS GABE SLATE pointed out a few weeks ago on the Saturday Morning News segment from 2-4.
Then I became alerted that two nasty negative reviews had been published (and not hidden) in 2011.
As a small law firm, I keep track of every client and hence I should have the file from either client including the two that were published. I pulled out every single file from 2011 looking for the name on the review. I looked by name and location and address. To my surprise, neither identifying “marker” surfaced. I contacted YELP by e-mail and phone #415-908-3801 explaining that the review was bogus and that the two people seemed to not exist. To my surprise, an e-mail was returned declaring that the review was of quality to them and refused to delete the post.
In the e-mail, I saw a name listed as a YELP employee so I thought as this is a publicly traded company, the name should be in a company directory. To my surprise, no name either by first name or initial could be found. No general number called me back. Was I now experiencing two “fake names” in my review mystery? Why would YELP not provide a real name and phone number or e-mail for that matter. I noticed that the e-mail address was not able to receive a response. I figured out that you have to go to the contact us at the YELP home page to leave the contact.
Through perseverance as any good attorney would do, I set out how to fight back and reply to the negative review as I have worked very hard to build the law practice’s reputation over the last twelve years and “claimed the listing” [another rabbit hole maze of instructions to get there] . Both reviews have since been claimed and though they appear at the end of the “fake client review,” it is better than not responding st all and hence letting an attack float out there on the web
Over a few more months, against my better judgment, I asked clients to try and leave a review on YELP but just to be safe also included them to leave the same review on Google, Citisearch and AVVO. A dozen reviews or so later not one review above one star was openly published by YELP, but all were published by the other review sites! E-mails and phone calls to YELP were made and all fell on deaf ears. This was discouraging, to say the least, and it seems for no reason YELP has decided to put an old two star review up at the top of its results.
I was similarly attacked again on 11/2012 by another phantom reviewer. I, of course, complained to YELP even citing that this “person” had purposefully lied about BBB alleged practices in this “person’s review.” I told YELP “another person who did not show up in the employee directory-to contact BBB for verification and this “person,” refused declaring that the post was legitimate.
Well, I wasn’t the only person who was affected and the reviewer had bashed several other law firms in the same manner.
THE LAW OFFICES OF HOLDEN GREEN -HWG LAW GROUP strongly urges all business to not tell customers to use YELP as its business model is vindictive and simply publishes low star reviews. YELP cannot remove negative reviews in exchange for being an advertiser as the federal court issued an Order halting that practice.
By standing together, and not giving YELP any advertising dollars, the company will hopefully re-work its business plan and publish ALL reviews regardless of stars and find a way to tweak their algorithm in which all legitimate reviews are visible and heard.
If anyone would like to share a comment on this blog about their experiences, please feel free to leave a comment below.
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Holden Green Esq.