When a Bad Yelp Review Gets You a Bigger Discount

bad yelp review

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The feud between a small Italian restaurant in California and the Yelp review site is getting more intense. The owners of Botto Bistro, an Italian restaurant in Richmond, California, are upset with the review site for its policy of running competitors’ ads right next to Botto Bistro reviews.

In the past restaurant owners have claimed the policy is probably an effort on Yelp’s part to get restaurants with free review pages on the site to buy an ad, as well. There have also been claims the site is deliberately highlighting negative reviews of  businesses for the same reason.

But a recent decision by the federal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Yelp’s ad sales practices did not violate any laws and equated them to “hard bargaining” and nothing more, Ars Technica reports.

Now, Botto Bistro is offering 50 percent off any pizza for customers who leave a low 1-star review of the place at Yelp.

That’s upping the stakes. Botto Bistro had been offering 25 percent off meals in exchange for the bad reviews. That discount program was stopped after Yelp charged that this was in violation of the site’s policies.

The idea behind the discount plan is to lower the rating of Botto Bistro enough that it doesn’t appear on search results.

The owners also tried to remove the restaurant entirely from Yelp, but the site said that violated its policies, too.

Owners of the restaurant even posted defiantly to their Facebook page recently:

“We are proud to be part of the Italian-American community, we don’t want to be part of the Yelp community and we will not be part of it in any way. Our [sic] is an idiot free environment, we like to keep it that way.”

The last time Botto Bistro ran this discount-for-bad-reviews promotion, business spiked so much it had to hire five new employees. It may not be as successful this time, though. Yelp seems to have caught on to the practice and begun removing these intentionally bad reviews. In a lot of reviews posted to Yelp about Botto Bistro, customers say that previous reviews they had posted were deleted.

In this second go-round, it will be interesting to see if the discount promotion works as well as it did the first time.

Image: Yelp/Botto Bistro


Joshua Sophy Joshua Sophy is the Editor for Small Business Trends and the Head of Content Partnerships. A journalist with 20 years of experience in traditional and online media, he is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. He founded his own local newspaper, the Pottsville Free Press, covering his hometown.

6 Reactions
  1. I guess some just want to get out of Yelp. It’s weird because some people are willing to give up their arm and leg to get good reviews on Yelp. This is quite unusual.

  2. It is not just Yelp. Yelp got a bad name when it started blackmailing businesses but the other companies are equally bad. Watch your listings on Google vanish after they reach out to show you the benefits of ppc advertising and you decline. Angie’s list may be the same. Or so I’ve heard. (I go out of my way not to respond to them after my google experience.)

  3. I agree that the restaurant has a right to be upset when it sees a competitor’s ads right next to their own reviews. I understand why Yelp doesn’t want companies incentivizing reviews (though usually they incentivize positive reviews). However, this has become a somewhat ridiculous fight and definitely not something that should have ended up in front of a panel of judges. Can’t people just resolve their differences?

  4. I think it is a pretty inventive way to fight back.

  5. Any person or business should have the right to have their data taken down. I believe Germany and much of Europe has evolved to accept this principle. Unfortunately companies like Yelp take advantage of the loose laws. Yelp should have been put out of business a long time ago when it became public their official reviewers were blackmailing the companies they were reviewing. Now they have moved on to this method…

  6. I think Botto Bistro may be going too far with this fight, personally. The first time is a novelty and a good promotion but this place should get on with standing behind its product and service.