Attn Chicago restaurants: Yelp accused in extortion lawsuit

February 26, 2010

I've always had a bad feeling about Yelp. Not sure if it was the amateur postings ("It's‚ amazing!!!!" "Worst Meal Ever!!!") or the fact I had heard rumblings about how they determined which posts actually made it up on the site. Now comes word, almost exactly one year after my colleague Monica Eng wrote a story about the questionable tactics they employ in the Tribune, there's been a class-action lawsuit filed against the rating site for allegedly strong-armed sales tactics that border on shaking down retailers.

The suit alleges that the site tried to get a Long Beach veterinary hospital named Cats and Dogs Animal Hospital to pay $300 a month -- for a minimum 12-month commitment -- to suppress or delete reviews that disparaged the hospital.

Interesting that the site's motto is "Real people. Real reviews." A couple of years ago, I had read a piece in the Wall St. Journal about how they worked the "real review" angle by holding parties for people, giving away free food, and then hoping that they would "review" the restaurants.

Yet another case for why people need to hold "reviewers" accountable, and see that they're dining on their own dime.

So Chicago restaurant community, does this story sound familiar?