Yelp Doesn’t Suck. Something Else Does.

Google “Yelp problem” and more than 16 million results come up including a website aptly named and a CNNMoney article titled, “Is Yelp on its death bed?” It is very easy to be down on Yelp but complaining about Yelp is like saying The Simpsons isn’t as funny as South Park. Guess what, if there wasn’t The Simpsons there would never, ever have been a South Park. So don’t compare the original to the new improved version.

reviews suck

I believe, amongst many things, that City Walker chose to approach this problem differently that results in a better experience. I have nothing negative to say about Yelp specifically. The issue is with the definition of the word review and it is why City Walker is trying to look at things in a different light.

Let me explain.

There are usually two central complaints about Yelp.

  1. It has devolved into a negative b*tchfest
  2. Businesses are more concerned about their reviews and how they can manipulate them than they are about providing a good experience

The problem with the first argument is that you get what you ask for. Let’s break down the English language a bit.

Here’s the definition of review:


  1. a critical article or report, as in a periodical, on a book, play, recital,or the like; critique; evaluation.

It is important to highlight the word critical. I hate to turn this blog into a dictionary but I do believe words matter.


  1. inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily.

So by the very nature of giving a review, we should expect that there is going to be some serious negativity. There is a fascinating article by the BCG that discusses the fact that in any workplace – we can extrapolate that into everyday life – there are destroyers and there are builders. The review is an attractive outlet for the destroyer. It is a vehicle to share and promote the negativity.

As a result, companies go on the defensive and begin to alter their business to appease the people who – most likely – were never going to enjoy their business to begin with. This is not a sound business strategy.

But you can’t blame them. In education they call this teaching to the test. Review sites exist. Destroyers write negative reviews. Businesses freak out and focus their energy on that. The other 95% of us suffer.

So we need to change the review process. We need to engage the builders who aren’t going to tell you where NOT to go. But are pumped to share with you where to go. That is why we’re asking for recommendations.

verb (used with object)

  1. to present as worthy of confidence, acceptance, use, etc.; commend; mention favorably:

City Walker wants to appeal to the people who have pride in their neighborhood and city and the local bar down the street. We want them to share these places in hopes of spreading the experience to visitors and helping act as ambassadors to the establishments that they love.

It accomplishes the same thing. If you go to a neighborhood and a place has no recommendations then, yeah, you should probably avoid it. But that places doesn’t need to react defensively. It can focus on providing the best experience to its customers. If it does that, it will most likely gain a loyal following and the subsequent recommendations. It is influencing behavior with a carrot and a stick and not an iron fist. In my experience, incentive is a stronger motivator than fear.

So words matter and their impact on behavior matters too. So leave Yelp alone. It doesn’t suck. Reviews do. Wait. That is negative. I’m a builder. A better way of saying it is recommendations are awesome.

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