Screw you, Yelp.

A few days ago I received an email from “Yelp HQ” informing me that my review of Case Handyman & Remodeling had been flagged, and after review, they decided that my inclusion of the links to the detailed remodeling entries on my blog were “promotional” and violated their terms of service. An excerpt from the email:

“I’m writing because your review of Case Remodeling of Austin has been flagged by the community, and after evaluation, our Support team has determined that the review violates our Terms of Service (http://www.yelp.com/static?p=tos). Because personal accounts cannot be used in any promotional manner, the links to your blog that you’ve included in your review are problematic and will need to be removed.”

Naturally, I sent a response:

Hi Miranda,

I’m curious what aspects of the Terms of Service have been violated? I re-read the Terms of Service, and the Content Guidelines, and could not really find anything that pertains to my review. I linked to the detailed remodel information at the end of my review because it is too much content to post in a Yelp review; it includes day-by-day breakdowns, a lot of detailed information about the kinds of dysfunctional communication and interaction I had with Case Handyman &
Remodeling, and many photos.

The “promotional content” part of the Yelp Content Guidelines seem to specifically address people who post links that promote their own businesses and such. I am hardly doing that, but rather am instead providing more information and context for other Yelp users. Again, I simply do not see how this violates the letter or the spirit of the Terms of Service.

Of course, just because Yelp emails you, doesn’t mean that you have the privilege of emailing them back:

From: “Yelp Team”
To: XXXXX@gmail.com
Thanks for emailing Yelp.
Unfortunately, you have reached an email address that is not in use.

And now I offer a fun little challenge: try to find the email address of someone at Yelp that you can write about this. No luck? Yeah. You have to use their web form. Fuck that. If you email me, threatening to remove content that I provided for free for your site, then it’s not really right to make me jump through hoops and fill out CAPTCHAs just to respond to you. In the spirit of making a good-faith effort, I even tried tweeting @Yelp, to no avail.

So, that’s it. That’s my last Yelp review. Others who want to use Case Handyman & Remodeling or deal with Ed Dudley and get screwed, you can thank the nice folks at Yelp HQ for removing my review that could have spared you pain.

You know what the real irony is? The real irony is that the person who flagged my review is probably someone associated with the business itself. Good job, Yelp!

For reference, here is my review in full. You can decide for yourself if it is “promotional” in nature about my blog:

I’m currently using CASE for remodeling about 800 sq ft of my house, including building a brand new roof, kitchen, master bedroom and bath, and deck. Thus far, the construction quality and timeliness of the project have been OK. Our construction manager José and his crew do a pretty good job, but some of the subcontractors have left a bit to be desired. On the plus side, they at least showed up on time and got the work done (for the most part).

The financial side of the project is a completely different story. We were initially led to believe that this would be a fixed-bid contract with potentially a few change orders if they discovered things that needed to be fixed along the way. Well, as it turns out, despite the fact that we demolished half of the house and rebuilt from the ground up, there was still a tremendous amount of unexpected work. We are currently a whopping 30% over the contract amount and at change order #23. (I could have bought myself a very sweet car with the overages that we’ve had.)

During the initial discussion phase of the project, Cliff Zoch (who was the remodeling consultant we worked with) indicated that CASE really preferred to do fixed-bid contracts and pooh-poohed the “industry standard” practice of lowballing the inital contract to earn business and making back profit margins on change orders. Well, based on the progression of our project thus far, that is exactly what is happening to us.

We still have about 3 weeks left on our remodel, and I will update this once it is complete. I am also blogging my remodel at https://pwang.wordpress.com/category/remodel/ and I have a fairly comprehensive overview of our project at https://pwang.wordpress.com/2009/05/01/project-overview/. I have posted many pictures and I detail the joys and travails of our ongoing project, including interactions with various subcontractors.

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4 thoughts on “Screw you, Yelp.

  1. Danny says:

    RaveOrBash will be coming out this fall. We welcome all users who can pass our verification test, our application of terms of service will be more realistic and without the angst. We are necessary because this is not being done right. We’ll serve consumers to empower them this fall. Follow us @raveorbash, like us for now on fb @ http://www.facebook.com/raveorbash and like us. http://www.raveorbash.com , http://www.raveorbash.ca , http://www.raveorbash.co.uk coming this fall. Bookmark us and look out for our launch date soon.

  2. No. This is bullshit. I have 11 legit reviews. 5 star. All filtered but somehow the 1 negative went through. Hmmm. Maybe because they call everyday and I still won’t advertise with them. Yelp sucks!

  3. D.A. says:

    They won’t state this explicitly in their ToS. It’s not that you cannot post personal accounts in a promotional manner. It’s that you cannot post personal accounts AT ALL if you give a negative review.

  4. D.A. says:

    You are most likely right that the person who flagged you is someone who is associated with the business. Remember, a lot of the “businesses” on Yelp are set up by store owners themselves. Positive reviews is another way to advertise themselves. You didn’t assume it was set up by a random person, did you?

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