Yelp’s Review Filter Needs to Go

I am a big fan of Yelp. When they first launched, I was a big proponent of writing reviews for restaurants, gyms, shops, etc. because I knew as more users wrote reviews, there would be greater benefits for the users as a whole. Recently, I was scrolling down to the bottom of a review page and came across filtered reviews. I know this is the internet and not everyone is honest, but this is Yelp’s definition of what is going on:

We try to showcase the most helpful and reliable reviews among the millions that are submitted to the site. Not all reviews make the cut, and those that don’t are posted to a separate “Filtered Review” page. Filtered reviews don’t factor into a business’s overall star rating, but users can still read them by clicking on the link at the bottom of the business’s profile page.


My girlfriend called me upset that the gym she used to frequent in Los Angeles – Joe’s Gym– has been charging her membership to her credit card after she canceled it four months ago. She has called and emailed the gym multiple times, and the manager assures her that he will take care of it with the billing and exactly nothing is done the next month. Bank of America has also done exactly nothing and told her to try settling it with the gym (they even admitted they have had the same problem with the same business).

I assumed that this has happened to other people and took a look on Yelp. 10 reviews – 4 stars. How is that possible? I scrolled down and came across “Filtered reviews.” – 14 of them to be exact. This is Yelp’s dirty little secret: all the negative reviews were in there, and precisely the same thing had happened to them that had happened to my girlfriend (few have even said the gym’s collection agency ruined their credit after their gym membership was canceled). As a disclaimer, 4 of the reviews were positive and they didn’t look fake. If we include the filtered reviews into the rating, Joe’s Gym would have 14 positive reviews and 10 negative reviews (right now it has 0 negative reviews), drastically altering their perception…

How does a filter that claims itself to portray “the most reliable reviews” eliminate 10 reviews of people who were robbed of their money by a questionably run gym?

The filter needs to go

Clearly, the filter has been wrong many times and Yelp even acknowledges this on their site:

The filter sometimes affects perfectly legitimate reviews and misses some fake ones, too. After all, legitimate reviews sometimes look questionable, and questionable reviews sometimes look legitimate. We think the filter does a good job given the sheer volume of reviews and the difficulty of its task, but it doesn’t really matter what we think — consumers will only use Yelp if we do a good job of showcasing the most helpful and reliable reviews.

I see how this filter can negatively and positively affect businesses, because positive and negative reviews are not factoring in the ranking. But, what if they are really legitimate? The users are the ones who should decide how good an establishment is based on their experience and isn’t that why Yelp was founded?


Yelp should learn from both Amazon and Facebook and get rid of the filter. Amazon doesn’t filter any of their reviews (their problems come from users being anonymous). Facebook also forces people to use their real identity to post reviews. It’s extremely easy in 2012 to verify every account using Facebook, text message, e-mail account, CAPTCHA (which is used to read filtered reviews, but not normal ones), etc. I get the feeling /that Yelp wants to maintain control and manipulate reviews. They use the algorithmic filter as an excuse. People don’t even know how many of their reviews have been filtered until they log out and do a search (and what is the point of doing a review if there is a chance it gets filtered?). There’s also the chance that good businesses are being portrayed negatively and terrible businesses are portrayed in a positive light (as what is currently happening).

Perhaps having an actual team of moderators is a better choice (i.e. what ESPN uses). This is only if Yelp decides to keep a filtering process; however, the current algorithm is clearly missing the boat on what it deems the most helpful reviews – a subjective process. There are certainly still subjective tasks a human can perform better than a computer. This team could also determine who is writing fake reviews and who isn’t – and penalize those who abuse the service and even kick them off.

Joe’s Gym needs to re-evaluate their management and fix their billing (or be reported to the appropriate agency).

Big banks are crap. Even worse is that if they are terrible to YOU, it’s actually good business for them. Read the linked article to see what I am talking about.

Your feedback is also welcome.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s