Yelp is firing back at a Toronto-area restaurant owner who claimed the review site was highlighting negative reviews of his business and hiding positive ones. Someone claiming to be the owner of Ba-Li Laffa claimed on Reddit that his rating dropped supposedly because he didn't pay a "marketing member of Yelp" a fee for "preferential display" on the website for his restaurant. A spokesperson for Yelp tells the Daily Dot that isn't the case and the positive reviews for the Toronto restaurant were hidden because they were all sent "from the same IP address within a short period of time." Yelp even sent a sent a screen shot along to prove the point.
The owner of Ba-Li Laffa — who posts under the name Edmond Dantes, which is the main character in The Count of Monte Cristo — claims that other restaurateurs he's met through Reddit have had a similar experience and dubs the tactic a "blackmail money grab by Yelp." The Daily Dot points out, however, that there is "scant evidence" Yelp interferes with reviews in a negative way. A study by Harvard Business School debunks claims that Yelp "gives preferential treatment to its advertising partners" and that it actually faces a different problem: too many people try to game the system by paying people to write them positive reviews, which has resulted in 16% fake reviews.
The Toronto restaurant owner is far from the first to accuse Yelp of insisting owners pay to play, though: A Texas-based pizzeria also claimed that the review site removed positive ratings because the restaurant did not agree to pay for advertising. On the flip side, Yelp has also been sued in the past for allegedly having reps contact businesses asking for payment to hide or delete negative reviews.