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An offer you can't refuse?
By Jeni Armstrong, Order Up blog
June 5, 2012




Imagine a customer called your restaurant complaining that one of your meals gave his party food poisoning.  If you’re like many operators, you’d want to make things right — even in the absence of absolute proof.

That’s what Sacramento restaurateur Sonny Mayugba tried to do, with curious results:

Mayugba … offered to give him a $60 gift card to a restaurant of his choice.  The man said he deserved $100.  If the restaurant did not pay up, he said he would write a bad Yelp review and report him to health authorities.

(Source: Sacramento restaurants decry ‘Yelp extortion, Sacramento Bee)

It’s near-impossible to know if this kind of move is isolated or commonplace, but it seemingly occurs often enough to have a name among industry insiders: “Yelp extortion” – when customers threaten to write a bad review if the restaurant does not offer some sort of benefit, such as a gift card, free meal or preferred seating.”

How serious is a bad Yelp review?

According to (PDF), the website averages more than 71 million unique visitors per month, with 27 million reviews now online.  That’s a lot of traffic — and although only a very (very) small percentage of that will touch your business, the impact of a bad review can be substantial.

As Epicurious’ Epi-Log blog put it: “Though the vast majority of Yelp reviews are probably genuine and offer helpful advice for other would-be visitors, it only takes one nasty comment to unfairly drive away customers and potentially destroy a business that doesn’t deserve it.”

What can/should you do about a bad review?

SmartBlog on Food & Beverage recently wrote about how to respond to negative customer reviews.  The full article contains more in-depth advice, but the top-line recommendations include checking review sites daily, leaving negative reviews online, always responding to reviews (good and bad) and accepting that “you can’t win them all.”

How did the restaurateur in this story respond?

The restaurateur who was hit with the pay-now-or-pay-later request ultimately refused to give the customer anything, but said the experience “made him rethink the value of Yelp and websites like it, which he said he loves.”  And it’s worth noting that in the end, his restaurant hasn’t suffered: “The Kitchen currently has an average five-star rating on Yelp, the highest a business can get.”


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