In an email sent to some of the review website's most active users Thursday, Yelp solicited feedback about an upcoming feature that will let businesses post replies to user reviews, the Associated Press reports. As the East Bay Express reported earlier this year, many business owners complained that they were essentially being extorted by Yelp, whose sales representatives told them that the company could move or remove negative reviews only if they advertised.
Following up on its story last month in which business owners said that sales reps from the popular user-generated review site promised to move or remove negative reviews in return for advertising, the East Bay Express talks to six more business owners who allege similar practices. Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman complained about the original article's use of anonymous sources (even though "Yelp is a review site based entirely on anonymous sources," as reporter Kathleen Richards notes) so this time the Express relied only on sources who were willing to go on the record. "Several said that the reps would offer to move negative reviews if they advertised; and in some cases positive reviews disappeared when they refused, or negative ones appeared," the Express reports. "In one case, a nightclub owner said Yelp offered positive reviews of his business in exchange for free drinks."