Last Wednesday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the review site Yelp is allowed to manipulate it’s ratings for money.
What does this mean? The short answer is that restaurants and businesses will no longer be rated by merit, but by how much money they have to spend on marketing.
Businesses, especially small businesses, have accused Yelp of ratings manipulation over the years, but they have always denied those claims. Now, because of the ruling, they could legally and publicly give businesses higher ratings at the highest bidder. Expect bigger businesses with the cash to get better ratings on Yelp, whether it’s true or not. Our hats go off to the mom and pop restaurants out there.
Of course, can you blame Yelp? They are a publically traded company- their prerogative isn’t to consumers anymore but investors. They could always be fair about ratings, but public appearance nowadays is just as valid as the facts it seems.
The good news is a spot might have just opened up for a next generation startup that rates businesses by how good they are or how yummy the food is, not the size of their marketing budget.