Yelp-logo-NewAbout Yelp

Yelp, headquartered in San Francisco and founded in 2004, aims to connect searchers with local businesses such as restaurants, hair stylists and car repairers. Users search through the Yelp website or through their Yelp smartphone apps. Yelp users write reviews about businesses, and Yelp uses an algorithm to get what it deems the best, most helpful reviews to searchers.

How Does Yelp Work?

In theory, Yelp works by word of mouth that is honest and transparent. That is, if someone enjoys a restaurant experience, he or she posts a positive review on Yelp in hopes that others will see it and benefit. It works the same way for bad experiences. Yelp earns money by selling paid advertising to local businesses. These ads are designated as “Yelp Ads,” and paying advertisers do not get an advantage in that they are not allowed to hide reviews they do not like. Anyway, that’s all in theory. In reality, Yelp is an outright scam. Its algorithm is atrocious, filtering out legitimate reviews. It is entirely automated; there’s no human to fix mistakes. Only paid advertisements can be corrected by employees.

Cost/Price Plans

Yelp is free to users. As for businesses, the company does not list its advertising rates online. It does explain that it offers self-service ads and full-service ads. It targets two groups of businesses, those that have one to nine locations, and those that have a nationwide or regional presence with 10 or more locations. Businesses can also use free tools on Yelp.

Refund Policy

Yelp offers Yelp Deals, which are like coupons that businesses use to get customers to their stores. If customers buy a Yelp Deal but change their mind later, Yelp offers refunds. It does not allow customers to resell Yelp Deals. Meanwhile, some businesses have sought compensation from Yelp for what they say are misleading or fraudulent reviews.

Customer Service Contact Info

Yelp’s website has tutorials on how searchers and businesses alike can use Yelp. Business owners can call (877) 767-9357 to get started with the Yelp process. The Yelp Support Center online lets both business owners and Yelp users report reviews that they think are wrong or fraudulent.


For many people, Yelp is simply a helpful tool to assist their decisions about where to eat or where to get their hair cut. They enjoy the ability to be updated about events, to get special offers and to follow their favorite reviewers. They do not know about larger problems with the company, for example, that some businesses pay people to post fake, positive reviews (despite Yelp telling them not to). Likewise, customers can use the threat of a bad review to get to the front of a waiting line. And then there is the lack of actual Yelp customer service for questionable reviews or legitimate reviews that get filtered. On the other hand, many businesses like Yelp; it says that simply claiming a free business page can net an owner $8,000 annually.

Common Complaints

  • Poor review verification algorithm
  • Legitimate reviews removed
  • Fake reviews or reviews from competitors left up
  • High-pressure sales to keep positive reviews
  • No quality assurance team to look over flagged reviews
  • Quality assurance process doesn’t work

Editor’s Opinion

Yelp is the go-to for many searchers who have had good experiences with Yelp reviews and who find the site trustworthy. However, it is troubling to hear about accounts of customers threatening business owners with bad Yelp reviews if they do not give them freebies or extra service. It is the nature of the reviews business, though. Unfortunately, it’s fairly accurate to call Yelp a scam. There’s no doubt that Yelp does need to fix its algorithm and explain how it works. Too many legitimate reviews get discounted.

Final Verdict: Outright scam. But at least it’s a clever one. Yelp has successfully tricked people into believing that the platform is a fair representation of business.