There's a Zen Buddhist saying that I'm probably butchering here, but it's something like: "Be the leaf, not the current pushing it along the stream." Funny enough, this applies -- sometimes -- to social media. I stumbled upon this post on the blog of a Brooklyn bike shop, wherein the owner blasts Yelp for using something called a "black-out ratio" on his profile. He also mentions, perhaps sarcastically, how he "hired 68 people to write his reviews." (I didn't hear back from the author of this blog in time for this story.)
So, I got in touch with Chantelle Karl, Yelp's senior public relations manager, to find out what all this fuss about a "black-out ratio" is. Here's what she told me (emphasis added is my own):
"So, I've never heard of the term "black-out ratio" before either, but assume he's referring to his filtered reviews," she said. "As you know, we don't disclose how our filter works because that would make it a moot point. That said, we do note that the review filter simply syndicates established users' reviews from their user pages onto businesspages. This is also why we caution businesses against asking for reviews. It can be a pretty weird concept for some given we're a site built on content, but we outline the reasons why here (and what businesses can focus on instead, including using our free suite of tools."
Karl also explains that it's simply impossible to throw money at Yelp to manipulate reviews. A lawsuit on this very accusation was thrown out last year for having no merit.
Karl also concludes, ironically: "Looking at 718 Cyclery's reviews, he has a great rating on Yelp. We'd encourage him to keep focusing on the awesome customer service he seems to already be delivering."
So, here's the deal. If you get negative reviews, calm down. It's bound to happen. Don't let it fester and trip you up. And most importantly, don't ask people to write positive reviews for you. In other words: Be the leaf, not the current. Namaste.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.