A Yelping Hand To The Small Business Owner

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As a chronic Yelper since 2008, I’ve reviewed over 700 businesses. It’s a genius free-labor model that I wouldn’t take part in if it wasn’t fun – made extra cool with my Yelp Elite status, granting me access to free stuff, exclusive social gatherings, etc. And I was recently contacted by a business because I am good at it.

This niche little shop in Sanford, NC is struggling for business. To the point where the owner and, presumably the owner’s friends, posted a bunch of favorable fake Yelp reviews about said failing venture to make it shine. But Yelp’s bullshit detection algorithms shuffled these bogus posts into the “non-recommended” pile to be ignored. So, apparently at his wit’s end as to what to do to save his livelihood, the owner reached out to me, a stranger, for help.

To anyone not in the know, Yelp is a business review site and its battery is members – normal folks like you and me – who write the reviews. It’s the most popular review site on the planet and its power can make or break a small business. But they also have a preferential member tier called the “Elite” which is supposed to be its most trusted review source. Reviews from Elite members never get thrust into the “non-recommended” file. And this business owner knew this when he contacted me.

It was a simple message: “I’m a small business owner not getting a lot of traffic. I’ve only been open for a few months and I’d rather not close down in a few months. I was wondering if you had any interest in my product, and if so, would you mind paying a visit and reviewing your experience? I’d be happy to admit you free of charge for your patronage.”

Cut and dried. No bribery attempt, no innuendos, just a businessman with an honest invite for me to do something I’d have probably done anyway (700 reviews, remember?) And don’t think I wasn’t leery at first. After all, I’m a victim of attempted bribery. While I was in NYC, this Moroccan place offered me a free dinner for a POSITIVE review and I told them to hit the bricks. Different ballgame here.

So I checked out the place and it looked really nice. Cool renovations from the last tenant’s textile production house. Really sweet staff. So very strange that this place was being so largely ignored. And that’s when it hit me: the location sucks! What was he thinking? Behind a strip mall?? That’s the first thing they teach you – location, location, location! Can’t see it from the street and if you’re not looking for it you’ll never find it!

And that’s what I said in my review. Four out of five stars, because though everything was really cool, it wasn’t an incredible experience and the location choice was just bad business. And though I’m merely just one goofy-ass internet addict, hopefully my review counted as the kind of help he was looking for. I honestly mean that because hell…I’m terribly biased toward small businesses. Good ones, anyway. So if you’re like this poor fellow and you’re worried about whether your little nest egg will last or vanish, reach out to a few Yelp reviewers personally and ask them over. It works…as long as you don’t suck, that is. Have your shit together or it will backfire.

As well it should.

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