It’s now clear that Yelp really does take down legitimate customer reviews – or at least it did once.
The positive review of Lee S. of St. Paul on the Woodbury bakery Sugar Love has been “filtered” and it’s no longer on the bakery’s page on Yelp.
This process of filtering reviews, which business owners suspect happens to good reviews after they turn down a pitch from Yelp to advertise, is at the heart of the suspicion and anger toward Yelp that I wrote about.
My review of Sugar Love was written this week, after I made the drive to Woodbury to shop it. The purpose was to confirm that it was a high-quality bakery, so it was a “blind” visit. Only well after the visit was the owner contacted for a column.
After the visit, both as an experiment with Yelp and as a reflection of what I found, I opened an account on Yelp and posted a review. An accurate one.
As of Wednesday, the review was the top one on the Sugar Love page on Yelp, and it read “I knew to expect mostly sweets and desserts, but for breakfast they had a Cinnamon Brioche Twist, and it was terrific.”
Sometime on Thursday that review left the page. It’s still available, if consumers know to scroll down and click on the “22 reviews not currently recommended.”
The review had been filtered, the term that Yelp uses for its effort to screen reviews for legitimacy. Just how Yelp does that is a black box, not very well understood by business owners as Yelp doesn’t share that much about it.
What made Yelp think this review wasn't worth recommending?
Just guessing, but the review was written in an account opened just this week, and the review of Sugar Love Bakery was the first and only such review contributed by Lee S. The IP address was from a computer in Minneapolis, not St. Paul.
Yelp has said that it screens reviews that are assumed to be from real people, but that its software tends to recommend the reviews of people active in its community. That means a full profile, "friends" on Yelp and lots of reviews. I had none of those things.
So my review is gone, but if anybody from the East Metro asks me, I will tell the truth. It’s a good bakery, well worth giving a try.