Make $20-$40 A Pop Shilling On Yelp

Did you know that you can earn $20-$40 at time just for lying? According to this Craigslist ad, a New York business owner desperate for positive reviews on Yelp, an online yellow pages couples with user reviews, is shelling out for shills.

It reads: “I have a business that is currently on Yelp. Although we’re somewhat visible, we could really use a few more awesome reviews.
We’re located in New York City and would love to have a stronger presence on Yelp.
If you’re an active member on Yelp and looking to make some money – please contact ASAP!

Location: New York, New York
it’s NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests
Compensation: $20.00 to $40.00 a review!”

Just another reason to take online user reviews with a grain of salt, and if you do use them, aggregate the overall signal from multiple reviewers across multiple sites.

Need Positive Reviews on Yelp! (New York, New York) [Craigslist]

Comments

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  1. GitEmSteveDave_Isn'tFreshPerked says:

    OK, I know I’m painfully un-hep, and not with it, but what the heck is “Yelp”? I thought it was the sound makes when I step on Huck’s paw.

    • friendlynerd says:

      @GitEmSteveDave_Isn’tFreshPerked: Yelp is to be taken with a gigantic grain of salt for precisely this reason.

    • ben says:

      @GitEmSteveDave_woot!sOffSoHard: Someone didn’t watch “Big Bang Theory” last night.

    • qwerty001984 says:

      @GitEmSteveDave_woot!sOffSoHard:
      I guess Yelp is a google maps business search clone?

      • kateblack says:

        @qwerty001984: No. It’s primarily a review site. It also provides business locations, maps, public transit options to get to places, and other data, most of which is submitted by users.

        The usefulness of Yelp far, far, FAR outweighs the unfortunate fraud that some perpetuate on the site. Yelp.com corporate does their best to combat that with filters and by promoting those who contribute lots of useful reviews & use real names/photos on the site to “Elite” status. “Elite” users get a little blurb/badge next to photos, so if you look for those when you’re reading reviews on Yelp, you can pretty much rest assured that the opinion posted belongs to a real person who feels some personal accountability to the site.

        When you use the site frequently, you’ll get a feel for who’s a trustworthy reviewer. Beware anonymous writers, and those with 1 5-star review. (Or worse, 1 5-star and a bunch of 1-star reviews of competing businesses.)

        Basically, it’s like any site with user-driven content. There’s disparity in quality. You just have to find what’s useful to you and zero in. And YOU can help make the site better, by joining and contributing.

        [yelp.com]

    • consumerd says:

      @GitEmSteveDave_woot!sOffSoHard:

      he should have just offered them a online coupon. it would have been cheaper and less embarrassing!

    • dantsea says:

      @GitEmSteveDave_woot!sOffSoHard: Yelp is the answer to “What’s red and white and makes business owners scream?”

  2. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I actually do trust Yelp a great deal when it comes to reviews. Any place that’s worth its salt will have a few terrible ones sprinkled in. If the reviews are all positive, I’m wary. I usually use it to look at salons though, and I like Yelp especially because the reviewers disclose their favorite people to work with. I’m trying a new salon because of the reviews on Yelp.

    • AliceMaz says:

      @pecan 3.14159265: I completely agree. For me to trust Yelp, I need to see at least one bad review mixed in with two or more OK or great reviews. People are very sensitive about customer service so every business is bound to have a bad day or two.

      That being said, we’ve found MANY good restaurants while traveling via Yelp that we would have never found otherwise. When used thoughtfully, it’s a very helpful tool.

  3. eccsame says:

    I’ve lied for less.

  4. RandomHookup says:

    It’s only interesting when they start offering sex for good reviews.

  5. HannahK says:

    Here’s my yelp story:
    I left a negative review for my dentist’s office/oral surgeon. I was contacted by their marketing department and they offered to “make it right” with me. Since I didn’t know what that meant (insurance paid for my surgery so it’s not like they could give me a discount) I completely ignored them. Next time I went in for a follow up, the surgeon himself asked me to take down my review! Not sure if this is against any specific rules, but it didn’t seem ethical to try to intimidate me while I was in the dentist chair.

    Since this happened, I have stopped using/trusting yelp, because I found out that businesses do this all the time. Yelp is a valuable marketing tool for some businesses, and they treat it like their ebay feedback percentage- they freak out and message you if you don’t give them five stars.

  6. Pixelantes Anonymous says:

    Shouldn’t be too hard to expose the business. All it would take is one email. I wonder why Consumerist didn’t do that before posting the article.

  7. CompyPaq says:

    Gee. I wonder why they need to pay someone to leave them positive Yelp reviews. If they were a good business, certainly they would be able to get them through regular means.

    Oh right, they are the type of business that would pay people to write reviews for them!

    • nbs2 says:

      @CompyPaq: In a crowded market, like NYC, a place without reviews or just a few good reviews is going to be drowned out. Bringing in several positive reviews will help increase a Highly Rated, or whatever they call it, score.

  8. hypnotik_jello says:

    It’s important to look at the reviews but also the distribution of reviews, as well as the freshness factor, a place that never gets bad reviews? pretty suspect, even an awesome place won’t be able to please everybody. As always, buyer (or consumer) beware.

  9. backbroken says:

    Internet rule #544:

    Only pay attention to the negative reviews.

  10. ConsumerPop says:

    @Coelacanth:

    My thoughts exactly. Hope the OP had a good reason to go back! (probably because of insurance reasons)

  11. allknowingtomato says:

    I thought there were murmurs about the FTC increasing regulation of online reviews because of this exact sort of thing (compensated reviews, or alternately the proprietor himself providing his own positive ‘feeback’). AstroTurfing subverts the candor and quantity of product/service information that the internet is able to provide to consumers.

    Harumph. Now I want to know which business this is so I can post about their smarmy marketing tactics on their Yelp! listing.

  12. SybilDisobedience says:

    @moonjest: If the OP has dental HMO and didn’t have time to change preferred providers before a followup, they might have to return to the bad dentist. Still and all, I’d tough it out until my provider change went through so I wouldn’t have to go back to Dr. Crappydentist.

  13. MostlyHarmless says:

    I’ll have you know that my stinging review on Yelp.com brought down a local bakery store.

  14. Mr_Human says:

    I once wrote a critical review of a “gourmet” market in my neighborhood that relabeled its meats daily to show the current date as the one the meat was packaged. The review was deleted within 24 hours. Lame.

    I also contacted the health department, but nothing ever came of it.

    • Tim says:

      @Mr_Human: Ehh, Yelp can be strange like that. Did you have a brand new account? Sometimes if someone’s only activity on Yelp is an extremely negative or positive review, Yelp gets suspicious.

      • Mr_Human says:

        @TCama: It was a new account, actually. I signed up just so I could write that review, so you have a point.

        • NotintheMood says:

          They do that a lot. And reality is not everyone is going to participate with yelp on a regular basis. There a going to be people who only post one or two reviews every couple of months. Just when something really great or really bad happens. It’s not fair that they pull they’re reviews. Especially when dealing with small business. It skews the results. They should leave all the reviews up and allow the like and dislike feature to move them up and down. The mob will figure it out in most cases.

      • kateblack says:

        @TCama: I suspect that’s what happened. Yelp’s moderators have chimed in on the talk threads in NYC-Yelp more than once to talk about what gets filtered out. Reviews by those with new accounts seem to be probationary (this is my interpretation) in that it takes fewer flags for them to disappear from public view. So, one angry business owner flagging a negative review from a newbie w/ one review = review goes away. The same angry owner flagging a review from a heavy user may not get the same results.

        @Mr_Human, I’m sorry your review was disappeared. You should write to Yelp headquarters and write more reviews. This helps them know you’re a real person and hopefully your review will escape the filter’s deathgrip.

  15. coren says:

    Ooh business opportunity – thanks Consumerist!

  16. laserjobs says:

    It is a lot cheaper to hire someone in India off of http://www.scriptlance.com

  17. chocobo says:

    Pretty easy to deal with this. Respond to the ad, agree to participate, and then give a negative review in which you talk about how they offered to pay you money for a fake positive review.

  18. nurse607 says:

    Is there any citizen coalition working to root out fake review hiring from websites like CraigsList? I’m sure in this economy, a lot of people would do it without hesitation. That’s scary.

    I’d love to join a movement who spends time policing for such abuses and exposing them here on Consumerist!

    Also, why hasn’t Consumerist listed the entity who was behind this scandal??

  19. veg-o-matic says:

    @kateblack: For true. The only conversation to have during any medical procedure is either painfully irrelevant small talk or none at all.

    That oral surgeon a) made it seem that he would trade good work for review favors, and
    b) revealed that the staff had been engaging in inappropriate conversation about patients unrelated to their treatment.

  20. SirTruth says:

    When I saw this posting earlier today, I figured that it would be fun to actually see what this company is all about. I inquired as an interested party willing to participate in their master plan. After going back and forth and even getting the business owner on the phone – he said before paying, he would want me to try the service – which he doesn’t mention in the advertisement. I think that the Consumerist and most of the people on here (rightfully so) jumped to this terrible conclusion. The business owner was an honorable and king man who was actually a little embarrassed that he had to ask people to write reviews – he mentioned that he’s taken extra special care of Yelpers in the past and that once they take advantage of the service, they fade into a dark abyss. I understood his point and really felt for him – here is somebody who puts their life and soul into a business, only to be guided by the internet/review sites who kind of hold a gun to business owners heads until they get what they want. I sincerely think Yelp serves a wonderful purpose, but I truthfully think that they take advantage of business owners (restaurants, services, etc). I’m not sure if anybody will change their minds about this person but I decided not to expose them (little do they know how close they were to being exposed) because of their good intent and how they insisted on me trying the company prior to writing a review.

  21. takotchi says:

    I’ve encountered this on ApartmentRatings. Usually it’s pretty obvious because there’s one glowing review in the middle of a bunch of other reviews talking about how rude the staff is, how many roaches there are, &c.

  22. slippysally says:

    these new york jews are the worst

  23. AK47 - Now with longer screen name! says:

    @pot_roast: Yeah, I never understood why people take the *least effective* route when it comes to complaining. Your waiter sucked? Talk to the manager, who can actually do something about it, instead of just leaving a crappy tip (they’ll think you’re just a cheapskate) or posting a negative online review (a lot of places don’t even look at these!)

  24. tonberryqueen says:

    @pot_roast: I think that if that one experience is negative enough, it warrants posting about.

    I reviewed a restaurant in Providence that we stopped in for dessert and drinks to celebrate my birthday last March. The hostess/waitress was actually HOSTILE toward us from the moment we walked in the door–my boyfriend asked if they still served a particular dessert that they had back when the restaurant was under different management at a smaller location down the street, and the woman became snarky and bitchy.

    The food was also pretty lackluster for what had once been a really good restaurant.

    Looking at the other reviews about that restaurant, this wasn’t one off day. The service and food appear to be chronic problems under the new management.

    Obviously, everything is subjective in reviews. That’s why I tend to scan through a bunch of the reviews for a general feeling, and sometimes check what else some people have reviewed. If it’s a Thai restaurant, and somebody who reviews tons of Thai places hates it, I’ll be more likely to take what they’ve said to heart and try another restaurant.

  25. veronykah says:

    @kateblack: Exactly what I was thinking, why is the OP complaing about yelp?
    Its her dentist that is the unscrupulous one.
    If I had a crappy enough time to write a bad review, insurance or not, I wouldn’t return. But then maybe I only write bad reviews for places that TRULY don’t deserve my business.

  26. backbroken says:

    @dragonfire81: Yes. And it’s pretty easy to see right through those.

    It’s nearly impossible sometimes to see through a well written shill review.