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Billion Dollar Bully | A Documentary Examining Yelp

‘Yelp started a fire & is selling the water to put it out”

One of the most highly anticipated films of 2019 is Billion Dollar Bully, a documentary film about Yelp’s alleged extortion of small business owners. This topic was so popular, after the trailer was released in March of 2015, Yelp’s stock fell by more than 4% .

From the filmmakers of Super Size Me (2004) a poke at McDonalds that forced the company to rethink it’s marketing strategy to put it mildly and the new 2019 release of Super Size Me 2 – Holy Chicken , filmmaker Kaylie Milliken produces this new investigative documentary Billion Dollar Bully released on Amazon and iTunes in May, is funded via Kickstarter – one-third of the funds were from “anonymous” Bay Area funders — the film takes a critical look at Yelp’s questionable business practices. According to a number of customers, ex-employee’s and business owners Yelp extorts small business owners for advertising fees in return for helping to manage and improve reviews.

In an effort to keep Yelp relevant, CEO Jeremy Stoppelman went running to Capitol Hill to cry about Google not highlighting Yelp enough in Google’s search results. Stoppelman has called Google a monopoly (which they are) and claims that “great platforms like Yelp” (which they are not) aren’t seen quickly enough.

A Yelp salesperson – soon fired – was even caught using various friends to write bad reviews for businesses that did not sign up with her. How was it discovered? As the film notes, the friends were part of the salesperson’s social network.

The tactics seem to work. One restaurant owner in the film says “I paid them $270 to shut the f*** up.”

But Yelp’s purported evils go well beyond the posting of corrupted reviews. Some of the Small and Midsize Businesses contend that Yelp’s salespeople actively edit which reviews appear, and in what order. Worse, Yelp’s filter software – theoretically designed to cull phonies from the system – may downgrade or even eliminate legitimate positive reviews for non-advertisers. The filter also doesn’t factor these positive reviews into Yelp’s all-important star system.

As expected, word caught on quickly upon the project’s posting to Kickstarter. It was a highly publicized campaign that was chosen as a Kickstarter staff pick and far surpassed it’s fundraising goal of $60,000. In the end, the documentary raised over 150% of their initial goal and became the talk of the town. But that was only the beginning….

Sources

Support the filmmakers: https://www.prostfilms.com/

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