John Curtas is …

Letter of the Week – Give Us Help From Yelp (Updated: Yelp’s Dirty Secret Exposed)

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Dear ELV,

I agree with your post that Yelp has ruined food journalism.  While I don’t agree with your reviews all the time, I put much more weight into your reviews than any of the amateurs on Yelp.

But I think bemoaning Yelp in general is the wrong tactic here in your case.  I think you should use your journalistic skills to investigate why Yelp is so horrible.  As someone who has an account and has been active in the Yelp community as mostly an observer for the last 6 years, I can note that these people that are being trusted more than you are some of the most uneducated, morally bankrupt people I have ever encountered.  This goes triple for the elite squad.  I think an article (or series of articles) would give national attention to a corporate run corrupt community.

For example, one complaint I made to Yelp that landed me in hot water years ago with Misti Yang, and for which I still receive grief over today, was that the Elite Yelpers, whose reviews are weighted much more heavily than us “regular folks” do not tend to reflect the reality of a dining establishment.  That is, many of these individuals attend sponsored events which are specifically set up for Yelp members, and then review the establishment based on that experience alone.

My original complaint, with regards to this phenomenon, was regarding Sushi Goyemon, which hosted an unofficial Yelp event and then received the unanimous praise of all attendees, who described a much different restaurant than I ever attended.  I, on the other hand, was greeted with poor service and mediocre food, to say the least, when I went there.  And there have been examples, both with Misti and at present, with a new Community Manager, where those attendees who do post criticisms are not invited back to future events.  At least professional journalists tend to be more objective, and have the experience and (usually) the intellect to discern a truly good place from the crap.

In fact, at least in the case of Las Vegas, Yelp’s claim that its content is representative of “real people” is laughable at best.  Opinions and reviews which diverge from the Elite hive mind, or that are deemed offensive or incorrect, are regularly removed from the website via the flagging functionality.  Negative reviews given to restaurants which are considered trendy are reported en masse by the various cliques on the website, are deleted, and the deletion is often justified by Yelp corporate and its community manager based on a technicality, such as an inappropriate word or phrase, or the claim that the review is of an experience that is not recent enough, with no real justification.

I agree with your general commentaries, and your laments, of people placing equal value on the reviews of the often unintelligible masses on Yelp as those from professional food critics.  I even attended your lecture/debate featuring you, Misti Yang from Yelp, Al Mancini, and Brock Radke, and was firmly in the food critics’ corner.  Know that there are still plenty of us out there that value the opinions of you and others like you, and that professional food critics will always have an audience among people who care more about quality, accurate and reliable reviews, and impartiality than about following the trends.  Keep writing, and we’ll keep reading!

Thanks,

Yelp Yak Yoker

ELV responds:

Dear YCubed

Your concern with “hosted events” for “elite Yelpers” (whatever the heck that means) is understandable, but such bought and paid for recommendations by “reviewers” are no worse than the “hosted” dinners every food writer (save Heidi Knapp Rinella)  in this town flocks to because the cheap ass publishers of their free magazines won’t pay their expenses. (In some ways, their ethical breaches are worse since they call themselves professional critics and food “journalists” — which in this town generally means: “I beg for food to write articles for a pittance.”)

As for us, we believe everyone deserves a voice, but not everyone deserves a microphone. Yelp has the same flaws all democracies do: the shouts of the stupid often outweigh the the more measured arguments of the well-informed. The majority is not always right…and more often than not it is the most wrong….but overall, giving even a bunch 0f know-nothing hipsters a voice in telling people details about their meal has been a good thing for the food world and restaurant industry. So I can only go so far in criticizing it.

It would seem, however, that deleting negative reviews to curry favor with establishments (or give that elite set a puffed up sense of their own importance) is Tammany Hall-style governance at its worst. So any other anecdotes or information about such practices are of keen interest to him. (Our day job prevents us from having the time to delve into the  type of muckraking/exposé you suggest.)

In the meantime, ELV is happy that he has a voice, and multiple microphones. He promises to continue calling out the frauds (either behind the plate or the printed word) and thanks you for your kind words.

Best and bon appetit,

ELV

Postscript:

We received two “comments” about Yelp from a couple of friends (both of whom are experienced restaurateurs) which we feel merit inclusion into the body of this article.

Mario Maccioni wrote on our Facebook page: A top F & B director in Las Vegas once told me his division relies heavily on Yelp. I was so shocked I told him “God help us if we run our businesses by Yelp.” He told me, “We do.”  That factored into my decision to move back to New York.

LaPorte Haiku added this in our comments section:

As a restaurateur, I can confirm that I have NEVER been able to get Yelp to remove a single comment or “review.” Not once. I once had someone review one of my restaurants by saying “it would be better if I stood outside the restaurant and punched you in the face.” That comment was flagged by not only me, but my team at the restaurant, and it was never removed.

LaPorte continues: So here’s Yelp’s dirty little secret…

Yelp makes money off restaurants and other businesses by selling Yelp ads. This alone shouldn’t be a conflict of interest. However, Yelp runs a 1950’s style mafia protection scheme which at it’s core “helps” business owners keep their Yelp page looking it’s best. Yelp sells your direct competitors ad space on your Yelp page, unless you buy their ads. This will keep that ad space free of competitor ads. Yelp has no direct line of communication unless you buy ad space. Then you are provided with a Yelp account manager who can help you maximize your page effectiveness. When there are “reviews” of your business that you would like removed, you can’t call them, you can’t write – unless you are a paying client. In essence, if you don’t buy Yelp ads people can run amuck all over your Yelp page.

And I refuse to pay the person who is bullying me, to stop bullying me.

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136 Responses to Letter of the Week – Give Us Help From Yelp (Updated: Yelp’s Dirty Secret Exposed)

  • Oh no!!!!!!!! Drew Applebaum deleted the Yelp thread and now the elites have no safe place to post!

    Yelp is always so smart about how to handle problems. Instead of actually addressing them and resolving issues, and allow people to communicate without fear of backlash, they just make things go away and pretend they don’t exist. How mafia of them.

    Drew Applebaum’s

  • Dear god tricia and reza get a life already. Why do the two of you put so much time and effort into a site and people you don’t like? Usually, normal, sane people, when having a bad experience with a business or restaurant or what ever don’t go back. Getting bullied, people attacking you, wouldn’t you just stay away from those people, weather in person or online? But you just can’t can you? Your lives are so pathetic and meaningless you just can’t go away. No one likes either of you. Your computer cowards. It’s so sad. I would say I pity you but your so far beneath me I just can’t. I just laugh.
    You mad bro?

  • Going away is exactly what you, Dana, and the others want. Sorry, no bueno, no comprende, Reza, Tricia, and I are not going anywhere. And yes, you have no idea whom I am, and I like it, because I watch all of you and flag you.

    I feel bad that so many of you cannot at least stay on topic here for one paragraph. At least readers will see how bad Vegas yelp really is. BTW, I tweeted this comment section the COO of yelp and yahoo finance discussions and Bloomberg news….Yelp allowing Dana’ minion to rule is going public, just like yelp…..

    And these are the people that are writing reviews and opinions on yelp Vegas, should give the reader pause.

  • Oooooooo you tweeted the comments. You go you crusader of nerds and losers and mentally Ill social misfits. Bravo. Your changing the world, your making a difference. BWAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • This sucks. People on yelp (really just one specific person) always have some type of drama going on but because some come off so nasty and low grade that it detours from the actual troublemaker. Cowards don’t hide. Wait they do… then wait for the pigeon shit to fall on their head and beg someone else to dig them out. Many valid points have been made here that should have had certain peoples yelp accounts closed down, but because they contribute a half ass review and a few blurry pictures they skate by and are right there on yelp harassing whoever they think doesn’t belong. Asshole or not the links DocYelp posted are just yet more proof that high school shit goes on way too much. Think about who you are friends with on yelp. Have they ever personally said something negative to you or about you? Have you ever witnessed them doing the things that another yelper accuses them of? Then why not give that person a chance? Just because you have met someone at a event and they later tell you gossip about another yelper… doesn’t mean it is fucking true! Stop the madness! I’m coming back to Vegas in a month damn it and I want peace in the neon desert!

    Yeeps = Creepers

  • Now go get some Ronald’s Donuts before they sell out!

  • As far as I’m certain Michael, as my consensus go for breakfast eateries, you can design better and tastable dishes at home w/ an ez bake oven then to expect a stellar breakfast eatery that delivers the wholesome goodness you (and not pay an organ for) hope to be served at said restaurant.

    There are too many sandboxes out here and very few are even worthy of to dine at more then once a month. (Especially if your a local and you work in casinos? You hardly ever visit the strip. Or frequent anything remotely associated w/ a hotel or casino.)

    I’ll be disappointed if your the flock of flacks who may be regulars of babystacks. (Blegh. Cardboard pancakes drizzled in heavy syrups coating what little flavor the cakes are to taste like?)

    I’d like to hear what you got mention though. ;(

  • @QuiteRight: ?

    On breakfast, I’ve always been quite fond of Bouchon, although it is pricey for a regular breakfast spot. For tomes that I’ve just wanted to consume mass quantities, Hash House A Go Go is my go to place, but I’ve always had indifferent service no matter which Hash House I’ve gone to.

  • Since the Elites are quiet here I would like to show another link that is a great example of how Elites talk Yelp on a daily basis. Half the Elites are flaming the other half. All drama, all the time.

    http://www.yelp.com/topic/las-vegas-it-makes-me-sad#eJb2mH4-l-hz4arNTQKSXQ

    These are the people whose reviews are more coveted than a professional food critic. It’s sick and someone from Yelp HQ needs to dissolve the squad in this town, fast.

  • The external links to this post, along with the followup thread with the remaining elites trying to reestablish the circlejerk have been deleted. Big surprise! It seems as though honest criticism, backed by evidence, is too much for both the Yeep ringleader Drew Applebaum and his corporate backers!!

    This drama has reached a whole new level with the screenshots of Dana Spahic being a clear racist against muslims. I suspect there are more posts to come with more of the downtrodden and uneducated Elites and their ineffectual attempts to flame those who would dare cross them. Let the high school drama conspiracies continue!!

    This entire drama bomb has transpired exactly as I prescribed 40 posts above. The Elite Yeeps, incapable of arguing anything and having been forced to retreat their stronghold, return to Yelp to post self-congratulatory garbage about how everyone needs to get along. Little did they know, the dissension in the ranks that I identified has manifested, and their fellow Elites have called them out, for hatred and fear of women, for prepubescent drama, and much more!

    And how could I forget that my first prophesy, of the Elite Yeeps never being able to formulate a coherent response to the original post, has come to pass? All you Yeeps are left with is one of your own proclaiming that your rampant antisemitism is no big surprise!! What’s next? A UYE protesting the NAACP? Burning down the cherry blossoms in DC?

    You Yeeps just don’t get it. You slander and libel those who would threaten your ability to influence businesses and individuals in your otherwise meaningless lives. Is this a Vegas thing? Perhaps, considering the majority of people in this town work in inconsequential jobs and are likely looking for a way to effect the outside world beyond grumbling about a missed tip.

    As long as you have a corporate-backed goon squad full of people who tolerate racism, threats of violence, spilling of real-life details, and otherwise act as if they are prepubescent teenagers, the rest of us who have a conscious will fight back, either here, on Yelp, or in any other venue that we have access to without being censored.

    Your Vegas Yeep Utopia is beginning to crumble, as you have already seen from the threads that have been deleted. Dissension is legion among you, and it is only going to get worse. Continue to lash out, as you have, and we, users of Yelp, and those who just happen to browse a popular website, will continue to see the metastasis of the cancer that is Yelp Las Vegas.

  • ^^^^^^^^
    Who cares??????? Really? Seems like a big waste of time and effort on your part. When I don’t like or approve of something or someone, I simply stay away. Can’t be bothered. How is it that you are letting this consume you? Seriously who gives half a crap about this squad, clique, whatever. You obviously. But in the grand scale of life does any of this or them matter? Reading through this article and all these comments…… Your all friggin nuts, all of you.
    Get a life

  • If this squad, clique, and whatever didn’t receive any kind of preferential treatment at private Yelp events exclusively for their Elite members, then no, I would not care. Nor would I care if you Elite Yeeps were representative of any sort of adults, rather than a bunch of unsure women who are stuck in high school, or stereotypical men who are afraid of or disrespect strong women. Compare the Las Vegas Elite Yeeps to those in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, or any other real city, and you will see the difference immediately: you are all outclassed, and out-educated, (not out-gunned thanks to Dana Spahic).

    The fact that people like John Curtas have to attempt to thrive, and have even succeeded in thriving, in a sea of shit, where the Elite Yeeps and others make up the porous brown liquid, is a testament to his ability. That the only thing any of you can fall back on is drama that has been played out, is localized to the Vegas Yelp site, and has really never amounted to anything besides a bunch of manchildren and insecure women whining about people who dare diverge from their accepted thoughts, only serves to further reinforce that Las Vegas Yelp is a toxic waste dump of arguments. You Yeeps love your circlejerk, but anyone from the outside, Elites and non-Yelpers included, see only a steaming pile of brown mass emitting from your self-congratulatory hellhole.

    As for effort, it doesn’t take me an hour to compose a cogent and coherent thought so this really is not that big of a deal. I know this is foreign to many of you Yeeps, as can be referenced from the bare literacy in the vast majority of posts above.

    Lastly, I care because a small minority of people who are proven racists, are uneducated, and who are arguably literate are given the same power to influence local restaurants as those who have the proven abilities to objectively review restaurants. That you Yeeps are somehow endowed with this power by the Internet masses is a travesty, and I and others will continue on our crusade to discredit you.

  • We have all been hearing you and the other nobody’s run off at the mouth for months about how the Vegas elite is crumbling, going down, blah blah blah. Your crusades are nothing more than a insignificant knat buzzing around. Nothing has changed, elite events, UYEs, cmye’s, etc, have continued as per usual. Just fun times with good people participating in the site and having a blast. The only thing that’s different lately is you being removed from yelp. Threads on yt come and go like they always have. Send your tweets of threads and blogs, LOL. To the COO of yelp, Fox News, cnn, etc. hope you cc’d president Obama, I’m sure he needs to know what is going on. You’re a joke. Bottom line. NO ONE CARES but you.

  • I’m glad I dedicated two paragraphs in my last two posts to Vegas Yeeps being incapable of forming coherent thoughts, because wow, #113 really proved it. If anyone needs some ammo for Sandoval to increase government spending on primary education, this thread would be it.

    Keep on keepin’ on, Vegas Yeeps, every post you make is another nail in the coffin of your gravy train. The fact that Yelp, a company traded on the New York stock exchange, is represented by people who have the wits of an AOL troll in 1996, should not instill too much confidence.

    Just keep posting your nonsense Yeeps, and I will keep not answering the door at my office while you attempt to shill your toner, your off-label modeling magazines, or your amateur catering with garbage food. Your posts are all that is needed to summarize the validity of Yelp in Las Vegas.

  • #114,
    Who ARE you, masked man? I think I like you.

  • Yelping Yelpers! ELV has uncovered a lot of slimy bugs under the rock.

    Thankfully I write for a not-for-profit Culinary Society that does not take commercial advertising or solicitations. I have the rare freedom to write openly and honestly without outside influence or shilling a product in return for a free hot dog. That’s not to say I don’t take my fair share of criticism from a very passionate group of readers, I do. Our focus is simply on the food with few outside distractions. Novel concept.

  • Once again, there’s another drama bomb YT thread with the Elites such as Jessie Leigh Bonello and Elizabeth Kirschenbaum, when someone posts an opinion that differs from others. They all jump on one person and gang up on them and try to flag them off Yelp.

    Hello Internet, people always have opinions and it is not worth trying to “win” an argument. And I can guarantee, that because that Yelper said in public that she didn’t care for Nine Inch Nails, people like Michael Uzmann will constantly harass and troll everything she comments on in the future, and not suffer any repercussions from Yelp HQ or Drew Applebaum.

    Is it a testament to the limited intellect of the Las Vegas community that people feel so threatened by other opinions? Or is it just the constant desire for drama over the most minute of topics? Either way, it’s pretty sad.

    http://www.yelp.com/topic/las-vegas-bow-down-before-the-one-you-serve

  • Your need to post people’s full names and harp on every thing they do is what I find sad.

  • ^^^^^ agreed. What a sad and sorry exsistance.

  • ^^^^^ agreed. What a sad and sorry existence.

  • If Tricia is going to post her negative views on threads where no one wants to read it, people are going to reply to her. She is a big girl, she should be able to handle the responses.

    People are not ganging up on her, and there is nothing that indicates that these people have flagged what she said either. If anything, it looks like Tricia and the people that are defending her are the ones that flagged Michael’s post in that thread.

    It is YOUR “constant desire for drama” that is trying to turn this into something that it is not.

  • The indication that these people are flagging is in Tricias posts disappearing.
    “No one wants to read it” indicates the bully pulpit clique sets the bar for Yelp Talk Las Vegas and everything else, including which restaurants get high ratings and recommendations.

    In agreement, we have flagged and been flagging all of you that violate yelps ambiguous terms of service concerning talk section guidelines. And we vow to continue to do so.
    Keep flagging Tricia, we will continue to take screenshots of her posts that are not in any way a violation of the website, and we will send forth to yelps corporate office. That is how it is going work.
    We are going to stay hidden, and watch you and your minions. We are now the Shin Bet of YTV…regardless of if you like it or not.

    I have been on yelp since 2008. I have seen admin. get on talk sections of cities and close down accounts when things get too heated, especially when the integrity of the website is in jeopardy.

    We are there. Regardless of seeing us in some silly avatar.

  • ELV…after wading thru these Yelpista comments I conclude these people are mesugna!

  • I feel sorry for you, you really should try finding a better hobby.

  • Leo, Tricia, reza whoever you are. You are so pathetic. Lurking around this and YT, waiting for someone to make a comment so you can go on and on about your sad little crusade. Well, at least you have a hobby. LOL

  • If that’s the case… Then many of the yelpers causing problems will not be on yelp soon! FUCK YES! Leo, Tricia, Reza, Dana S, Christie O, you all are the problem and need to be removed. Faking scenarios so people feel you are the victim or over. Every time you post on YT and a public compliment it proves the bad yelpers over the great ones. In the 5 years I have been on yelp I have never seen such hatred among everyone. Sad that Misti is gone because she would have fixed all of this but from what I hear she quit because of it. Don’t blame her.

  • I am thoroughly confused at this point. For those of us who aren’t Yelpers or YT’ers (is Yelp Talk distinct from the community threads at Yelp?), is anyone keeping a scorecard?

  • Don’t rely solely on the overall star rating. When I read online reviews, whether it’s at Yelp or Amazon or a specific retailer’s website, I’ll dig a bit deeper than just the overall star rating. I find the total rating can be misleading, especially if reviewers are basing their scores on something I don’t care about (like the person who gives a restaurant one star because it doesn’t have valet parking). Or like a yelp elite that gave one star because the place did not serve fish. Fish being very difficult to add to the menu due to freshnhess issues and the fact that the small place was not very busy.

    When you first arrive at a biz’s Yelp page, it automatically shows you reviews that are ordered according to “Yelp Sort,” which is “determined by recency, user voting and other review quality factors.” Although Yelp says Yelp Sort is applied to all businesses whether they advertise or not, the method raises suspicions that Yelp unfairly manipulates how reviews are ordered. Ordering of reviews is especially important because most consumers just look at the first few reviews.. You can also choose to look just at reviews that have been deemed useful by other Yelpers, or read reviews written only by “Elite” Yelpers, people who are extremely active on Yelp and thus are expected to be more credible, however NOT in the case of Las Vegas yelp elites, as they are the biggest connaurds in the Mississippi Of the West.

    Misti “fixed” problems by allowing the bullies to dictate which accounts she closed. Yes, a CM can close accounts. Betcha Misti regrets now, because she is fired and has no health insurance for her hubby.
    Poor Misti.

    Dana, you remind me of honey boo boo.
    Sorry, you don’t know who we are, and hence cannot flag us off, harass us, or flag our reviews etc.
    We will make love, babies, and have life that surpasses anything in your small dreams, all the while doing what we feel is right, as in flagging the potscum of Vegas.

  • All this talk about how the ‘Utopia is beginning to crumble’ yet nothing has changed.

    Dana, Jessie, Christie, Jade, Joe are all still active on Yelp. They all still have Elite badges. Drew has not been fired and is still planning events for Yeeps to attend.

    Actually, I take that back. Now that Reza has been deleted and Tricia has been seen for what she really is, Yelp has become more enjoyable for the clique. So thanks for this letter and all the comments.

    Keep obsessing over Yeeps and their actions. Keep flagging for non-violations of the terms. It’s not making any difference.

  • Jessie,
    It has only been a week. Be patient. We are.
    Now, don’t some of your tattoos need re moisturizing?

  • @Lurker, no longer lurking: While bouchon is an exception, it is not remotely viable for a local to visit everyday. I’ve been twice, and twice was only met with sub-standard expectations. While the flaky pastries were great and the coffee, the breakfast was just ordinary. (Sourdough waffle/crab benedicts.)

    And HHAGG unfortunately lost its touch for me when it began its 2nd outpost into a rathole unfit for rats. Once you breakdown the meals at HHAGG, there is potentially just one significant item they do well, the rest is filler and lacking “full” flavor one might expect from a large plated eatery.

    I’ve tried many items at HHAGG (from specials to lunch/dinner affairs), and each meal made me question why I wasting my time believing I’d get something better then last time. It woo’d me and my coworkers after a 1st trip, then 4+ additional trips. It dawned on me what I disliked about it and what excuses I’d formulate to friends/family of why I didn’t want to go.

    Can’t say I’ve had exceptional breakfast in Vegas unfortunately. Unforgettable meals, sure, but nothing worth raving about for breakfast. Decents jaunts on the strip, yes, but no outpost. Nothing truely worth returning for and ordering it again and again. :\

  • ELV responds: What QuiteRightLv said.

  • i agree with HHAGG comments above. I had the chicken and waffles and although the fried leeks look great the have never been palletable in any dish i have tried them in. Gigantic dish and they give you 2 ozv of syrup. No bueno.

  • oh and chicken was dry and overcooked.

  • QuiteRight: Absolutely. One thing about Bouchon is that I’ve never had particularly quick service there. It’s one thing if I’m visiting Vegas or hosting guests from out of town for the day, but as far as being able to use it as a regular joint for breakfast while I was living there, it was completely out of the question. (Of course, the entire concept of having a regular place for breakfast as a local seems foreign to me. Have I made the wrong professional and personal choices in my life?)

    I’ve been lucky enough to get great breakfasts at Bouchon when I’ve been there, but thinking to what I’d compare it to elsewhere, I end up coming up with restaurants that only serve brunch on the weekends – Marvin, Eatonville, Matchbox, The Passenger in DC, and The Passenger doesn’t start its “brunch” service until 2.

    HHAGG: I moved out of Vegas quite some time ago and missed out on HH’s Vegas expansion (and its Chicago expansion. And apparently its Mohegan Sun expansion); I’ve only eaten at the W Sahara one and the 5th Ave one in San Diego. Is there still one at the Imperial Palace? (I’m thinking that’s a pretty good guess for “rathole unfilt for rats.”) It reallly does seem like their business model is “mass quantities” and hoping that people judge them on a per pound basis, not a per plate one.

  • The Vegas elites are crumbling… Look at the number of threads that have been taken down because Vegas Yelp’s self proclaimed ruling clique got paranoid and started to turn on themselves. Look at the rumors and accusations of who is really whom. Look at all of the paranoid accusations they’re making here… the need to label and scapegoat others, their inability to fathom the thought that not everyone on Yelp Vegas agrees with them. Their inability to accept differing views. Denial, excessive compliance and control patterns and the propensity to threaten, bully and harass others in order to maintain the illusion of a sense of “communal belonging” are pretty dangerous characteristics….

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