Friday, July 31, 2009

Why Yelp Reviews Are Not Always Trustworthy

Yesterday morning, I was doing returns. In the book industry we have the option to send back titles that don't sell. I had pulled about a hundred books to return, and a lot of them were stacked on the counter in high piles. On the other side of the counter was a customer who was ordering a book.

Another customer walked in and, instead of coming straight into the store, circled around our front table to try to find a book. When she couldn't find it she asked if we had it in stock. I told her we were getting some more in next week, since we'd just done an event with the author and sold all our copies. Then I went back to helping the other customer.

The other lady--we'll call her "Number Two"--stared at me for a moment and then stormed out of the store. Customer Number One and I gave each other a "that was a crazy person" look and continued with the ordering.

Today we discovered a bad review on Yelp, which reads as follows:

"I must have come on the wrong day. I was very excited to check out this local independent bookstore. There was no one in the store when I arrived. I was looking to buy "Zeitoun" by Dave Eggers. The woman behind the counter told me it was out of stock. I asked when it would be in, and she shrugged. I had come in intending to sign up for the notifications of upcoming events, etc, but this staff member clearly had no interest in engaging. I would have been glad to give a phone number or email so that they could notify me when it arrived, but again, there was no involvement-and no one else to distract her. Odd."

Now, I can see how this woman might have been confused if she couldn't see the other customer. I find it hard to believe that she didn't see her--our store isn't big enough to hide a person--but from where she was standing it might have been hard to see the woman I was helping, especially with the towers of books on the counter. And it probably DID appear as though I wasn't doing anything, since I was just scrolling down a list to find the book I was trying to order. But the part about just shrugging and not talking to her? Blatantly false.

This is just an example of how Yelp reviews can be a bit misleading. I can see where Number Two was coming from, although I probably wouldn't have been so quick to storm out if our roles were reversed. Still, her 30-second experience has the potential to harm our business and that's kind of scary.

The moral of this story is that you shouldn't believe everything you read on Yelp. And you should shop at our store, even if I sometimes appear to be ignoring you!


Meaghan said...

Actually if I see mostly good reviews and one bad one I always assume that person is an asshole/weirdo. So as long as there are plenty of good reviews which I'm sure there are!

Jon C said...

Yeah all the other reviews are good from what I can see. I think Yelp also lets businesses respond to reviews - not sure how that works cause I don't have a business, but I think there is a way.

Anonymous said...

A friend of mine got a crazy yelp review. She contacted the person directly and very non threateningly and asked her to come back to the store to discuss said bad service. The woman (why do these people seem to always be women?) was clearly embarrassed and removed the yelp review.

A Million Words said...

I'm thinking of doing that. We have the option of responding to the poster, but I've been out of town so I haven't done it yet. I probably will.

Alyssa Kirk @ Teens Read and Write said...

You definitely should respond, Jake. People should be held accountable for their actions, and since she overreacted and had no qualms about putting up potentially damaging info on the web she should be contacted. I think is was rather cowardly of her to make a b-line for the web instead of addressing the issue directly with you while she was in the store.

Anonymous said...

Reread your post, replacing "Number Two" with it's original meaning: fecal matter. It's really better that way.

A Million Words said...

Way to fess up to writing this, Steve.

Lily said...

Sometimes people forget their bad attitude on the internet still has real-life consequences. That Yelp reviewer has also posted a bunch of other bad reviews on the site.

Perhaps if you contact the reviewer, she will either apologize or be pleased by your customer service? Or, at least, you'll know you did everything you could. (Watch out, though - Yelp has been known to ask businesses to pay for removing bad reviews/promoting good reviews.)