Yelling ‘Bout Yelp


The San Francisco-based website Yelp allows users to post reviews of businesses. The idea’s simple enough: trust consumers to tell you the truth about the kind of service you’ll get at this or that restaurant, or the kind of waits you’ll experience at this or that tire shop. Yelp reviews can send a formerly obscure operation—a local babysitter, for instance, who otherwise would depend purely on word-of-mouth—into the stratosphere, popularity-wise. But what if Yelp’s reviews were shuffled around—and even generated—based on how much the business is willing to fork over? It’d be a scam of epic proportions, a classic case of back-scratching for a price. Yelp says no way, but according to the East Bay Express, that’s exactly what’s happening.

Jesse Nathan is an editor at McSweeney’s and the managing editor of the Best American Nonrequired Reading. His poetry and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, the American Poetry Review, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Nation. He was born in Berkeley, grew up in Kansas, and lives now in San Francisco. More from this author →