Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman responded Monday to a lawsuit filed by a veterinary hospital in Long Beach, saying the site's review rankings are automated, and Yelp's sales staff is barred from meddling with the review rankings.
The lawsuit accuses Yelp of extortion -- negative reviews would be highlighted on the page of a local businesses if that business didn't buy advertising, according to the claim.
Stoppelman blamed local business owners of being confused by the system.
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"We'll be the first to admit that, by conventional standards, Yelp can seem weird," he wrote in a post on the company blog.
Stoppelman then lays out the scenario he believes lead to the lawsuit:
Business owner gets sales call; owner, who now knows about Yelp, tries to game the reviews; magical algorithm detects the shill and hides those reviews; owner assumes that after declining to buy ads, Yelp is doling out retribution; owner hustled by shady, conspiracy-addled lawyers out to separate Yelp from the startup's venture capital.
So in five strokes, Stoppelman manages to paint small business owners of being Web-illiterate shills who in their paranoia fall prey to greedy lawyers.
Guess he won't be writing positive reviews of Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital, or its counsel Beck & Lee Business Trial Lawyers and The Weston Firm, who have put up a contact form for other business that feel victimized.
Earlier, in a relatively measured first response on the blog, he called news news coverage of extortion allegations "inconclusive" and the lawsuit "without merit," promising to fight it "vigorously."
Jackson West does not, personally, agree that the customer is always right.