Yelp ethics

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Yelp ethics

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:24 pm

One of our neighbors owns and operates a restaurant here in Sacramento. My wife and I went there for supper with another couple a few weeks ago. It was a really nice meal, with very good food and a competent, if chatty, server. The restaurant's concept is also really good. The atmosphere is very nice but also casual enough that people in shorts and T-shirts won't feel too out of place (which is important as it's right on the river and at least some of their clientele will be coming in on boats).

I would like to put up a review of the place on Yelp. Given my relationship with the owner, though, I'm wondering what you all think is the best way to handle this. The dinner was legitimately good enough to justify a very positive review. So do I just post the review, or do I do so with disclosure that I am friends with him, or do I post no review at all?

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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Karen/NoCA » Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:37 pm

Mike, you are such a gentleman and it shows with your concern here. I've observed that comments on Yelp have first name and last initial. Posting a positive comment on your friends restaurant could be coming from many "Mike F" in and around the Sacramento area. I would leave it at that. Of course, should your friend see the comment and inquire if it was you, and since your comment is complimentary, you will be proud to say, "of course!"
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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Rahsaan » Sun Jan 06, 2013 5:58 pm

Definitely post the review. Note that you may be biased because of your friendship, and all is well. More quality information is useful when compared with all the morons who often post on Yelp.
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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Shaji M » Sun Jan 06, 2013 8:53 pm

Mike,
What Rahsaan said. If I look at a Yelp review with a disclosure that the reviewer may have a bias, it merely adds to the honesty of the review! Is this place along the Sacramento Delta? Just curious.
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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Mon Jan 07, 2013 10:43 am

Thanks, everyone (and thanks for the complement, Karen!). I'll go ahead and write something up.

Shaji - The restaurant is Pearl on the River. It's in Sacramento, right off of Garden Highway, in a complex with a chain Mexican food place and another place called Crawdad's. If you get the chance, it's worth stopping into for dinner or for a glass of wine or a cocktail.

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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Jenise » Mon Jan 07, 2013 9:25 pm

Mike, interesting situation. Personally? I'm 100% with Karen. As long as what you post is honest and fair, I don't understand the need for disclosure. As someone who dines out often and who appreciates good food, your opinion is as valid as anyone's and your ability to write well will make your opinion worth even more. Has anyone considered the possibility that by including a disclosure, you might actually run the risk of undermining your own good words in the eyes of a potential reader? It suggests bias whether one's actually there or not.
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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Mon Jan 07, 2013 11:55 pm

I see what you're getting at, Jenise. It's true that if the review is completely honest and objective, then my relationship with the proprietor is beside the point. I don't know that I can post the review without including the disclosure, though. It just feels wrong to me.

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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Frank Deis » Tue Jan 08, 2013 12:08 am

So just include "I might be prejudiced (etc)" and give the positive review.

Honestly that is worth SO MUCH MORE than "no review"!?!
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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Dale Williams » Tue Jan 08, 2013 11:30 am

Personally, I always feel I should disclose any relationship beyond being just a customer. When is honesty ever a bad thing? When reading a review, a disclosure of a personal relationshp certainly doesn't make me disregard a review. I am far more likely to be jaundiced towards a glowing review from someone without a review history (thinking that is likely to be a plant) than towards a review with a disclaimer.
As to suggesting bias whether it's there or not, the problem with bias is that it's generally subconscious. I respect Mike's opinions on food, and certainly his honesty (and I might suggest trying this place next time we visit MiL in Sacramento). But I'd say anyone who can claim with certainty that a friendship didn't affect their reaction to a meal needs to take a psych course. :)
If nothing else, I'm betting Mike would agree that if the meal was awful he wouldn't have posted any review, which in itself is a sampling bias.
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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Tue Jan 08, 2013 1:04 pm

Dale Williams wrote: But I'd say anyone who can claim with certainty that a friendship didn't affect their reaction to a meal needs to take a psych course. :)
If nothing else, I'm betting Mike would agree that if the meal was awful he wouldn't have posted any review, which in itself is a sampling bias.


Absolutely correct, Dale. If it hadn't been a very good meal, this wouldn't be an issue. Not being a professional critic means never having to give your friends bad reviews.

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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Carl Eppig » Tue Jan 08, 2013 1:32 pm

I don't disagree with anything that's been said here. I do have a problem with Yelp. I don't think there should be an opportunity to destroy the reputation of a restaurant without any controls.
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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Dale Williams » Tue Jan 08, 2013 2:00 pm

Exactly, Mike.
By the way, I just googled the restaurant and thought menu looked quite interesting, and wine list has nice variety (way more old World wines than most CA places) and fair pricing. Might indeed suggest this next time we are in CA.
And since you framed the questions as ethics rather than marketing, it's always interesting to take anonymity out of the equation for ethical questions. So here's another argument for a disclaimer. Say I had asked here for a recommendation for a Sacramento restaurant. You had responded Pearl On the River. So you could either mention relationship or not. And I could like meal or not (I've never heard of a restaurant that everyone liked). So four possible combinations:
1) you told me owner was a neighbor, and I liked restaurant. Great!
2) you told me owner was a neighbor, and I didn't like restaurant. Shrug, tastes differ, places have off nights, etc. No biggie, wouldn't give a second thought.
3) you didn't tell me owner was a neighbor, and I liked restaurant. Great!
4) you didn't tell me owner was a neighbor, and I didn't like restaurant. If I found out later owner was your friend, on some subconscious level I might wonder if I had been conned. Obviously that wouldn't have been your motive for suggesting (the fact that you asked re ethics reveals you don't have ulterior motives) but it breeds questions.
When in doubt, disclose! :)
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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby Mike Filigenzi » Wed Jan 09, 2013 12:55 am

Good point, Dale. Why go to the trouble of contributing reviews in a site like Yelp if you're willing to so easily risk your credibility?

Carl - I know that's been a major criticism of sites like Yelp and Tripadvisor, but I don't think it holds water. If you spend any time at all on such sites, you quickly learn to read through a number of reviews before forming an opinion on an establishment. Once you do that, it becomes pretty easy to get a reasonable picture of what you can expect of the establishment. If there are ten positive reviews and one foaming-at-the-mouth-I-hate-this-place-and-everyone-associated-with-it review, it's pretty obvious that the problem with the last one likely lies with the reviewer and not the business. The reviews of Pearl on the River are a good example of this. Most are quite positive, but there's one where the reviewer slams the place and personally insults the owner (my friend) all because he thought he should have been seated outside on the deck and he wasn't. Rather than making the business look bad, it made that reviewer look like a petulant jerk. It works both ways.

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Re: Yelp ethics

Postby wnissen » Fri Jan 11, 2013 5:28 pm

Amazon bans reviews from people with a financial interest or a "close personal relationship" with someone who has a financial interest. That standard makes sense to me. You have little or nothing to gain from your review, though I agree you should disclose, if only to err on the side of more sunshine, rather than less.

There are actual FTC rules about what constitutes a paid endorsement, this blog post has an excellent summary with lots of links:
http://blog.rafflecopter.com/2012/07/ft ... uidelines/
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