Typically, when we want to visit a new restaurant, store, or any other unfamiliar business, we turn to Yelp as we read reviews on previous customers’ experiences. Notably, businesses with good reviews attract many new customers while those with bad reviews repel consumers from a business’s services. Because customer satisfaction is essential to the success of any business, Yelp holds great economic power.
However, many Yelp users tend to illegimatize the site by utilizing it as a platform to lash out their emotions into an exaggerated review that may negatively affect an innocent business.
Though fabricated reviews pose a problem to the website, Yelp is adding a new policy that may further this problem by adding an alert on a business’s page if they are associated with racist behaviors.
Today, we’re announcing a new consumer alert to stand against racism. In the last few months, we’ve seen that there is a clear need to warn consumers about businesses associated with egregious, racially-charged actions to help people make more informed spending decisions.
— Yelp (@Yelp) October 8, 2020
2020 has brought lots of attention to the Black Lives Matter movement, inspiring Yelp to take action in eliminating systemic racism. As part of their mission to end racism, Yelp partnered with ‘My Black Receipt’ to launch a black-owned business attribute encouraging consumers to spend $5 million at black-owned businesses from Juneteenth to Independence Day. Yelp also joined the ’15 Percent Pledge’ that urges major retailers to commit 15% of their shelves to black-owned businesses. After these initiatives increased the amount of Yelp reviews on black-owned businesses by 617%, Yelp decided to take their fight against racism one step further with their new policy warning consumers of a business’ racist activities.
Why Are People Upset?
Yelp may be making progress in the social justice realm, but many are apprehensive of the possible effects on the economy. Because negative reviews steer customers away from a particular business, people are worried that consumers will be more reluctant to spend money at a business that is accused of racism – even if the review is fake. This consideration has led people to question how Yelp will isolate real and fictitious accounts of racism.
Yelp needs to explain how exactly they plan to investigate incidents of racism.
We know of the fake reviews on Yelp, do you honestly feel that all Yelp reviews are legit? This is a power move by Yelp, they now have more power than ever with this policy! #WakeUp pic.twitter.com/rMFry48cfn
— DJfirewood (@JfirewoodD) October 9, 2020
Many are also concerned that people may falsely accuse a business of racism out of dissatisfaction with an aspect unrelated to racism – attempting to ruin a business.
Racist behavior in business go either way @Yelp you are gonna burry business to the ground because an entitle prick needed a refund
— soignepapi (@soignepapi) October 9, 2020
However, Yelp has stated that the new ‘Business Accused of Racist Behavior’ warning is an extension of their ‘Public Attention Alert’, which “warns consumers that a business may be receiving an influx of reviews as a result of increased attention.” In other words, a business will receive an alert on their page when it is publicly exposed for racist behavior – a link to a published news article will be provided in the alert.
— Yelp (@Yelp) October 9, 2020
Although Yelp has moral intentions, many are bothered by the possible repercussions this new policy will have on struggling businesses as we are currently in a recession due to the pandemic.
I won’t be using @Yelp anymore. I encourage you to join me. This is going to be grossly abused and will result in lots of good business owners and employees falling on even harder times after having to endure COVID lockdowns. #CancelYelp https://t.co/WbuE2Jqj8i
— Cal Jameson (@JamesonCal) October 9, 2020
Others are frustrated with Yelp as they fear people will use this new policy to push their own political agendas at the expense of many businesses.
So basically they’re now allowing BLM to do virtual looting.
— Lauren Witzke (@LaurenWitzkeDE) October 9, 2020
With @Yelp announcing it is going to put notices on businesses accused of “racist behavior,” one #antifa group responsible for organizing the violent protests in Portland is now compiling a list. pic.twitter.com/EubfxcztuD
— Andy Ngô (@MrAndyNgo) October 9, 2020
One Twitter user points out that the policy itself is racist as it neglects to consider other minority groups such as Asians, Latinos, Native Americans, etc.
I see you added a feature where you can find black owned businesses. What about asian owned? What about Mexican owned? Native American owned? Focusing on one race and leaving out all others is pretty much racist. @yelp app deleted.
— OKLady🇺🇸 (@ok_debra) October 9, 2020
Yelp may be urging businesses to stand against racism, but many are calling them out as hypocrites because Yelp has been involved with many instances of racist and sexist behaviors in the past.
Why not fix your own first. pic.twitter.com/h4QY5QW59n
— Slumber (@Slumber_666) October 9, 2020
— Y.R. Sparks 🌕 (@yellowredsparks) October 9, 2020
— Texan703 (@RyanCribbs2) October 9, 2020
Because many view this new policy as unfair, Twitter users are encouraging business owners to team up and sue Yelp.
It's funny, sorry, really, but you're not thinking. I think that there will be such an overflow of remarks that #yelp doing the investigating will think it's true, and you'll eventually get sued by a group of restaurant owners. It will be an interesting class-action lawsuit. https://t.co/sLZbHsvUj9
— Antonio I. Borroto X (@AntonioIBorroto) October 9, 2020
Just like the rest of big tech, remove section 230, and they will be sued into bankruptcy if they don’t stop their tyrannical actions. @Yelp has been hurting small businesses for years. They hide good reviews and highlight bad reviews.
They need to be sued.
— Derek Utley (@realDerekUtley) October 9, 2020
Every small business owner needs to organize a class action lawsuit against @Yelp for defamation, slander, and reckless endangerment of their property and finances
— Etherium-Apex✝️ (@EtheriumApex) October 9, 2020
People Who Support Yelp’s New Policy
Although people are furious with the new policy, there are many who support Yelp’s decision to implement this new feature as they believe it will help businesses be more cautious of racism.
Here's what they never tell black people: almost at all restaurants, I get served before people of color, many waitresses have told me they wouldn't seat black people next to me, and my food always tastes better than what the colored folks get.
This happens everywhere.
— TaylorGardens (@TaylorGardens1) October 9, 2020
It’s funny how the only people that are complaining are the melanin-challenged individuals who haven’t experienced racial profiling a day in their life. Forgive me if I take your opinion with a grain of salt.
— 𝚅𝙾𝚃𝙴 𝙵𝙾𝚁 𝚈𝙾𝚄𝚁 𝙻𝙸𝙵𝙴 🗳 (@endoftheweekxo) October 9, 2020
For businesses that are worried Yelp may penalize them for racist behavior, Yelp partnered with ‘Open to All,’ which serves as a toolkit for small and medium businesses to learn how to foster an environment that welcomes diversity. Included with ‘Open to All’ is a 60 minute unlearning bias video for training employees, outreach language for customers and employees, and social media assets. Currently, there are about half a million businesses enrolled in this program.
🔊 Calling all #OpenToAll businesses! We're proud to partner with @opentoallofus to release this toolkit designed to support your commitment to being a safe, inclusive, and welcoming place to everyone! Access the toolkit today. https://t.co/QBHrwGuJgr
— Yelp (@Yelp) October 9, 2020
Though Yelp has the right intentions, will this new policy hurt the economy? Also, how effective will this policy be in combating racism? Do you think there will be fraudulent claims of racism out of spite?