Yelp! About Ratings & Reviews

Bit of Important Social Media (sorta) News: Here’s what happened over about two or three hours Tuesday: I was on the phone with a Yelp sales consultant for just over an hour doing some research for a client. I hung up, scrolled through my email and, boom, there was an article about a law suit over a law firm’s ratings.

For a few comments about both, scroll down past Cartman.*

The woman from Yelp (soon to be the title of a Netflix original series) was sales-y though knowledgeable and took me through a few dozen scenarios. She bedazzled me with data, promises of glowing reviews, and tantalized with dreams of legions of potential clients calling directly from my client’s sparkling new, incredibly well-written Yelp page.

But, there was one thing she couldn’t answer, couldn’t even adequately address – what about bad reviews? By Yelpers told at the initial consultation they have no case and are somewhat disappointed? By Yelpers on the other side of an action pursued by the lawyer? In other words, reviews by people who were never clients.

“How about this?” I asked the rep somewhere along the line, “My client received an Avvo review only a few chapters shorter than the standard Stephen King novel that … ” I went on with a condensed version of the guy’s more salient – though no more sane – points. The short of it was that the guy was a card carrying ‘Sovereign Citizen’ – a fringe group it’s somewhat fun to read about but absolutely no fun to be involved with in any way.

The review was, in short, bonkers. An email to Avvo and the thing was gone in a few hours. 

I won’t leave you in suspense – that ain’t never happening with Yelp. Never. You have to be a member to post on Yelp. It’s about as easy to join Yelp as it is Twitter, with the same rigid screening and strident attribution rules. That should terrify you.

Moreover, Yelp treats it’s members’ reviews like Papal Bulls . . . infallible.  

As the sales rep was taking me through other lawyer’s listings, I kept running across reviews like this, “He’s just a horrible person, glad I didn’t retain him;” “I’m finally posting something about this firm, they represented me in the 1990s and …;” “They threatened to kill me if I didn’t agree to settle . . .”

Really. Almost as scary were the number of people who clicked that they found those reviews helpful.

The Yelp rep response – “Well, sure, but you have plenty of room to reply to those right under them.”

I’ll leave this section with these words of wisdom – ‘No one ever comes off well while arguing with the Cartmans of the world.’

Minutes after that conversation, my news-feed spit this up: a woman is suing a Pittsburgh personal injury firm for fraud, alleging that the firm’s false online reviews tricked her into hiring them.

The woman hired the firm because their high on-line ratings drew her in. She retained them to pursue her sexual harassment case against a former employer, she claims they blew it by letting the statute of limitations lapse.She also claims to have proof that the firm was soliciting fake positive reviews – not just here and there but systematically since 2013. Her lawyers also filed on behalf of a proposed class of the firms clients.

Her last claim was she was threatened with litigation if she did not pull down her own negative review (one-star, who would’ve guessed) of the firm – something I have to believe is moot considering her very public filing.  

I’ll keep a watch on this case for a future newsletter. No idea how it will turn out, but I do know fake/bought reviews are not only a thing, they’ve plagued Yelp (and Amazon) from the start and aren’t going anywhere soon. Fake negative reviews are a thing as well. 

Most of you know how I feel about attorney ratings. In short (you can thank me later) – attorney reviews are problematic, not the least of all because many – many – times a successful outcome is not a successful outcome for someone else. That invites reviews on platforms that allow unverified users to spew rhetoric. 

I would – if you must – stick with platforms that know lawyers; Facebook in a pinch because they won’t allow an anonymous review . . . though a scroll through profiles outside your group of friends will quickly reveal the startling fact that a great many people do very little to hide their particular brands of insanity. 

* For a concise, perfect take on Yelp, check out South Park’s You’re Not Yelping Season 19, you can find it on Hulu.