Yelp says sting catches somebody paying for a five-star review of an East Boston company

If you go to the Yelp page for A-Plus Moving and Storage on Border Street today, you first have to click through a popup that reads:

We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business. We weren't fooled, but wanted you to know because buying reviews not only hurts consumers, but also honest businesses who play by the rules.

Attached to that is a copy of an e-mail string between somebody on Yelp's "secret ops" team and somebody willing to pay $30 for a really good review of the company (along with evidence of another paid-for review for a Malden restaurant).

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Comments

How often do you travel?

If you are in a city that you don't live in, and are surrounded by other visitors, Yelp can be a very useful tool to find what you need. Ditto for TripAdvisor when travelling abroad.

I don't so much use them in Boston though, because I can usually just ask somebody to recommend something.

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It depends

If you are looking for a place within five blocks in a particular price range that is open now, takes credit cards, and can take a party of 16 ... well, Yelp has filters for that.

If it is just me, well, Chowhound can be useful for that. If I'm herding PhDs on an expense account, Yelp it is!

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Alas ,Swirls ,I would be at

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Alas ,Swirls ,I would be at a loss how to advise. My experience on the expense cuff was mainly involving the drink, food wasnt that important. it was more like a speed bump to a serious session. Altho, in my opinion , you could do no wrong frequenting the Irish Village in Brighton if you had to include grub. Do the PHD's eat burgers? Heavily onioned , of course , side order of pints , endlessly.......

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"Secret ops team??"

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This is not from the "secret ops" team of Yelp, unless that includes a few concerned business owners conducting their own "sting," gathering evidence for well over a month and forwarding it to the yelp staff numerous times, pleading with them to do something since A-plus with their fake reviews is false advertising and constitutes fraudulent trade practices, which steer potential clients away from legitimate businesses.
The other business mentioned in the email thread, Bento restaurant does not seem to have been "caught" even though you can plainly read it in the thread.
Get it together Yelp, you're losing all credibility.
Anytime a business posts 40 reviews in the span of a month or so should raise a red flag, but the "filter" doesn't seem to catch that.
I doubt if there even is a "secret ops" team.

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Keep in mind that big moving

Keep in mind that big moving companies such as A-Plus are extremely busy during moving season, which just ended. It's not that suspcious to have 30-40 reviews during their busy month, considering they have over 100 reviews.

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A Plus's Craigslist campaign

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A plus went on a 9-10 month campaign of buying reviews on Craigslist. The information on yelp is only the tip of the iceberg. The paypal transactions clearly state that payment is coming from the owner of A Plus Moving. He's been using the email address [email protected], among others. The model was always the same. He would ask for a review of some seemingly random business, pay for it, and then request a review of his company.

They also have a highly suspicious amount of reviews for A Plus on BBB.com, citysearch, yellowpages.com, and google plus. Since they have exhibited a clear record of buying reviews on yelp its reasonable to expect the others are fakes as well.

Its true that a moving company gets more business in the summer, for sure. However is doesn't make sense that a company could get more reviews in one summer than many other highly rated companies on yelp have gotten in a 5 year period.

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There was a class-action suit

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There was a class-action suit a few years ago which alleged that Yelp hid or removed positive reviews when a service listed in Yelp didn't purchase advertising. And, I know a restaurant owner who, when he declined to purchase advertising on the site, saw two positive reviews go "poof."

Ever since, I have not been able to take Yelp's reviews seriously.

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Ayup

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I would not be surprised to learn they're still adhering to this practice. My (valid) reviews frequently get shunted to the screened part of the review page (where you have to get past a captcha to access them), and I believe it's because Yelp has an idea based on advertising money received or whatever of what a business's rating "should" be and it tweaks the review accordingly. They're dirty and I hate them. I've found Tripadvisor to be more useful. I'll still use Yelp if I have to, but only after I skim the screened reviews as well.

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Not really surprised by this at all.

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Not really surprised by this at all.

I almost want to say that the moving company tried to beat Yelp at their own game and lost. I don't care what anyone says, or how that lawsuit came out, Yelp still sorts the reviews in the manner they see best. Which could include businesses being extorted for money to pay for a service, just to have better reviews appear higher up in the list (and there's a way around that, too folks).

Now I don't agree with what the moving company did, but really maybe if Yelp wasn't so slimey about how their listings appear, that companies wouldn't need to do this. Yelp reviews really can make or break a company.

Speaking of which, recently a TV restaurant reviewer, who will remain anonymous (but I will say it wasn't Billy Costa), totally ripped Yelp a new a$$hole on his facebook page. He claims that Yelp users post crap about restaurants he reviewed and/or events he runs and leave 'untrue' review about the events he runs (I disagree with him, and agree with many reviewers on yelp). Needless to say he was pretty ticked off about, and said Yelp should be shutdown for its sorting of bad reviews, and how it can make or break a business because of these 'user reviews of untrue facts'.

Funny.

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I miss ideas...

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I really don't give a crap what people write on yelp or most other review sites. People bitch about the smallest things, making it, for the most part, useless for anything but extremely positive or extremely negative (eg waiter didn't refill my water six times, my food was good but not great)

The internet used to be a place of ideas and interests, now it is a self absorbed bitch fest. I really don't give a shit about what you think, so shut your pie hole.

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Yelp customers services.

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Yelp could setup a better customers services program or a customers services program. It would expand Yelp participation.

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