Billion Dollar Bully, “a documentary on marketing giant Yelp and their $3.6 billion racket against small business owners”, has reached its Kickstarter funding goal of $90,000. To read more about their plans for finishing the film visit their website. You can see the documentary trailer here.
The “Yelp is an extortionist” meme is one that continues to dog Yelp and its not clear that it will go away any time soon. One wonders what the exact current basis for it is or if it is just the many hard feelings that have existed over the years projected into the moment.
What we do know for sure is that in the past Yelp has used incredibly hard sell & deceptive tactics* against relatively unsophisticated SMBs. We also know that there is an intrinsic conflict in their long standing business model of selling very expensive ads against reviews. When you mix the hard, sharp angle sell with the emotion of reviews bad things are bound to happen even if Yelp never actually used review removals as leverage in their relationships.
We may never know, in a legal sense, if Yelp actually did use reviews as a hammer but I suppose it doesn’t matter. Yelp’s hard driving approach to the SMB market has come home to roost and until such time as they change their business model, not just their sales practices*, this attitude in the market place is likely to persist.
*To either Yelp’s or the salesman’s credit, in my most recent sales experience last month, the pitch and the process were both more honest and less pushy.