How to be a better Yelper
Alumna Gabby Ward on the makings of a five-star review
Superman versus Lex Luther. Rocky versus Drago. No, the tensest relationship is the one between a business owner and a rampant customer on Yelp.
The site, which has published more than 220 million crowd-sourced reviews of restaurants and other businesses, is an American sensation. In other words, there’s a growing army of citizen critics in this country, and we’re increasingly depending on them for recommendations. One survey found the typical consumer is now reading an average of seven online reviews before trusting a business. So Yelpers are having a tangible impact on the bottom line of your local bar and bodega.
Problem is, some of the site’s negative testimonies aren’t valid. Research shows a diner might be swayed in their star-rating by their mood going into a meal or, even, the state of their posture while eating. No wonder one aggrieved business owner called Yelp, in a complaint to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the “thug of the Internet.”
But not all hope is lost.
“There are great people using this site and supporting businesses they really care about,” says Gabby Ward, AS18, community relations manager for Yelp’s Philadelphia region. “It can be a powerful marketing tool.”
As a former server who now works to build relationships between consumers and the business community, Ward’s been on both sides of the screen, and she’s learned a thing or two about reliable post-meal missives. UD Magazine recently asked for her tips on ensuring those critiques are both constructive and fair. Because when it comes to 21st century dining, it’s not just the appetizers that are rife for judgment—your review should be five star-worthy, too.
Be a Karen (it’s okay this time!): If you’ve had a terrible experience, ask to speak to a manager before going scorched earth online. This gives the restaurant an opportunity to course correct—and explain any mitigating circumstances.
Sleep on it: When it comes to writing reviews that impact livelihoods, it’s worth taking a beat. Give yourself a few hours to glean some perspective—did those under-seasoned croutons *really* ruin your life, or could it be that your boss is a jerk and the Eagles lost their last game?
Check your ego: There’s a difference between a truly bad experience and one that simply isn’t your taste (see: reviews that pan the Great Wall of China because “I’m not a wall guy” or the Golden Gate Bridge because “I’m not a fan of the color red.”)
Lay off the caps lock: Sure, CrabCakeLover402, everyone is anonymous behind a keyboard. But this doesn’t give you carte blanche to yell or be rude. “Treat this like you’re talking face to face with a business owner,” Ward says. “If you wouldn’t scream in their face, don’t do it online.”
Avoid abstractions: Saying a meal was “the worst thing ever” or, conversely, “the greatest experience I’ve ever had,” doesn’t tell the reader… anything. Be specific about what worked and what didn’t. And post pictures.
Be a human: If you find yourself seething over your glass of beer or Bordeaux, chances are your servers are even more miserable. Perhaps the restaurant is understaffed; perhaps a computer system went down mid-shift; perhaps the people in your orbit could simply use a break. Before you hit “post” on that review, Ward says, remember: “Empathy is everything.”