A few months ago, I wrote about my interviews with owners and managers of local restaurants – many of whom were not at all shy in voicing their negative opinions about Yelp. Part of their frustration, I think, comes from businesses’ inability to “opt out” of Yelp. For example, one manager I spoke with said: “I wish I could remove my business from their site.” But Yelp lists businesses whether they want to be listed or not.
I just learned about a West Coast restaurant that has been waging an anti-Yelp campaign and exercising its agency in an unusual way: by offering customers a discount if they post 1-star reviews of their business. Yep, you read that right. They are encouraging people to write negative reviews about their business on Yelp!
This tactic (which I mean in the Certeauian sense) simultaneously taps into some reviewers’ creativity and desire to write witty, parodic texts.
Here are some highlights:
Terrible. They would not allow me to bring my own food from home and enjoy it in their warm and inviting dining room.
The service was way too friendly. I had to take a half day vacation due to the options. Way too authentic and reasonable too. Nothing like Olive Garden where you get all that bread and salad.
I don’t understand how this place is still even open! The place is too clean, there’s tons of alcohol behind the counter, and the food is good?
As one reviewer writes: “Brilliant way to stick it to Yelp.” But at the same time, this tactic creates a conundrum for those reviewers who really do have a complaint with the establishment, since it may be difficult for readers to discern a “real” negative review from the dozens of “fake” 1-star reviews (many of which are ambivalent in the sentiment they express).