“You can dish it out but you can’t take it,” we’ve all heard the saying at least once in our life.
Do you remember having a rumour spread around you when you were in the 6th grade that may or may not have been true? How did that feel? Did you stand up for yourself?
Local businesses, not only in Bushwick, are playing an equivalent to the 6th grade rumour game on a daily basis thanks reviews on Yelp. And while Yelp is essential for a business to get discovered online, a bad review can literally ruin it. So how do Bushwick businesses hold up in this often cruel and crazy game of online reviews?
Karla Munoz, the owner of La Lupe, is no stranger to fighting the trash talkers on Yelp. She responds to each unfavorable Yelp review thoroughly and vehemently. My initial thought was that it was bad form to respond in the sometimes curt manner that Munoz chose, but then I thought: “What is bad about trying to defend yourself and your passion?” As Munoz puts it:
“A lot of competitors playing dirty games go in this site to lie and lower stars in the business to make sure no ones comes to your business, luckily more and more people are becoming aware of yelp not being a reliable source of information and just a site for crazy, angry people to write away.”
Unlike Ms. Munoz, the owner of Fairweather, a coffee shop at 274 Wyckoff Ave, Ebru Brun is quite enthusiastic about Yelp. She says that she owes the popularity of her establishment (aside from great reviews and consistently good food and coffee) to the SEO of Yelp; stating that the café rose from number 17 to number 1 after typing “food in Bushwick,” thanks to the advertising component of Yelp.
“We have so many people coming from Yelp and finally recognizing us as a food place as well. But obviously what helped us were the great reviews and the consistency of the quality of our food,” Ebru Brun told us and suggested that Yelp’s job ends after a repeat customer is made.
Bryan Quackenbush of Old Stanley’s bar at 226 Wyckoff Ave gave a very nonchalant, la-de-da opinion on Yelp.
“Besides the fact that I think the bad reviews are usually the best ones to read, we’re just a bar so we don’t get the Yelp traffic that a restaurant does nor does it affect our business as much,” he told us admitting that the reviews that Stanley’s receive usually have to do with its atmosphere. “If it’s a negative review, I prefer that it is a grammatical nightmare, long winded and incendiary,” he laughed.
Kristen North, who has opened two Bushwick establishments in the past nine months, Boobie Trap and Pizza Party, sells t-shirts that say F#CK YELP on the front. North echoed a similar sentiment as Quackenbush in stating that restaurants are held to higher standards by the public, causing the Pizza Party reviews to hit harder.
“I have had people straight up lie and I have a video proof that they were lying and Yelp still wouldn’t take [the review] down,” she said believing that Yelp should care much more about protecting the integrity of a business.
“It’s your entire life and yet people are so quick to tear you down via the internet,” North added.
This lit a fire under me, making me wonder if Yelp ever thought its business model would manifest itself via adults participating in socially constructed cyber bullying…
Yelp was created in 2004 after a former PayPal employee Jeremy Stoppelman caught the flu while out of town. He had no trusted recommendations on where to seek medical attention, and so he created a portal where friends could clue each other in on local businesses via email referrals. Later the company pivoted, utilizing only the smaller component called Real Reviews, which was the only part that Yelp users were actually regularly accessing.
Today, having a Yelp page for your business is as ubiquitous as humans having a Facebook account. The main feature that Yelp offers is to let the world know that a business exists. As these Bushwick businesses suggest, tread lightly and take all Yelp reviews with a grain of salt. If you have a bad experience somewhere, collect your feelings off the floor, calm down and ask yourself if writing a negative review will do more harm than good. Contact the establishment directly. And lastly, consider the idea of taking advice from people whose tastes and personalities are likely very different from your own, and decide for yourself. After all, we are all our own unique cosmic snowflakes.