Columnist missed the point on Yelp

In his pieces “Yelp fosters suspicion among small businesses” (April 16) and “Yelp filtered me out — a legit customer” (April 18), business columnist Lee Schafer omitted important information about how Yelp works — and why. He missed an opportunity to educate readers and, instead, merely perpetuated a debunked myth.

Yelp is a branded consumer guidebook that recommends reviews we believe to be most reliable. More often than not, these reviews come from active members of the Yelp community.

We do this with software that helps us identify reviews we might not want to recommend: reviews from people we don’t know much about, unhelpful rants or raves, or reviews that have been solicited from the business owner’s family, friends or favorite customers, as they can provide a biased view. Yelp believes the most authentic reviews occur organically.

We also don’t recommend reviews that originate from the same Internet Protocol address. This is often a signal someone is trying to mislead consumers with fake reviews. This was the case with the bakery Schafer profiled. Immediately after the business received a negative review, multiple five-star reviews were submitted from the same IP address in a matter of minutes. Consumers rely on Yelp to protect them from these attempts to manipulate a business’s rating.

Another Yelp goal is to help local businesses adjust to the new realities of online word-of-mouth. There is a shift in power occurring away from business owners who used to be able to control information through marketing copy, to consumers who can now gather information from peers. Customer service and a good reputation are now paramount, which can be unsettling for some business owners, but good for consumers and those businesses that choose to embrace this new word-of-mouth marketing.



The writer is vice president of corporate communications for Yelp, which is based in San Francisco.




Show misrepresents bipolar disorder

The ABC television network has done a great disservice to people living with mental illness in its new show “Black Box.” The main character embodies practically every negative stereotype of bipolar disorder through her erratic, self-absorbed behavior. In addition, the show manages to glamorize noncompliance and manic symptoms.

As a person with bipolar disorder who works in academia, I must say that such portrayals of mental illness only increase stigma and make life for professionals with mental illness more difficult. The producers at ABC need to exercise more care in ensuring that “groundbreaking” shows do not make the problem even worse.


The writer is president of the Hennepin County affiliate of the National Alliance of Mental Illness.