My next and most real experience with Yelp occurred with my father's dental office a few years later. At the time, without any efforts, he had 5-star reviews and told me that Yelp had not stopped calling him to advertise with them. "Why would you need to advertise with them if your reviews are solid?" I told him. No need. The phone calls continued relentlessly and eventually they told the reps to stop calling.
That's when things got weird.
In a matter of weeks, good reviews were missing, and only negative reviews showed up. Even negative reviews that did not previously exist. The office received another phone call from the company asking if they wanted to advertise with them and it may help them clear the bad reviews. At this point, my father wanted nothing to do with them and asked them to remove his name from the website. They refused. Since that point, any good review written about the office has been filtered out…amounting to dozens at this point. During that same period of time, the company began its public share offering.
Knowing this about Yelp has forever tarnished them in my eyes. A profit-seeking company who utilizes the free work of its users when it serves their purposes, which then turns around to strong-arm small businesses into paying them for keeping those reviews.
My favorite response thus far has been a small restaurant in the Bay area which hilariously turned the tables on Yelp to fight its tactics. http://www.inc.com/jill-krasny/botto-bistro-proves-yelp-reviews-are-meaningless.html
Who is going to come up with the next peer-to-peer advice/info sharing network to compete with this one? I'm considering doing it myself.