No good news.  Especially when Yelp‘s “filtered” reviews aren’t available on the iPhone.

Good news:  If you are here, you know not to use Yelp to find an attorney as Yelp has no help legal reviews.  So, no yelping for legal services.  No no no.  Do yourself a favor.

We recently read some old Yelp reviews about an attorney.  An attorney!   People please.  Do not look for an attorney on Yelp.  Not when there are so many smarter, more reputable ways to find good counsel.  

Below is why Yelp is at the top of our list for not considering Yelp for legal services.

(Although we might, might use Yelp to find a Mexican food restaurant, we would not when it comes to important, legal matters.)

Anyway, the attorney’s current reviews were somewhat hidden under Yelp’s “Filtered” section a few clicks in.

Yelp prefers people believe “Filtered Reviews” are the result of Yelp’s terrific, but mysterious algorithm rating system known as “Yelp Sort.” 

Yelp states: “Yelp Sort attempts to show reviews that helps the consumer make informed decisions.  The order is determined by provide according to recency, user voting, and other review quality factors.  This method is applied to all businesses, sponsors or not.”

Key word:  “attempts.”

Key phrase:  “Other review quality factors.”  (Also known as Yelp Kool-Aid.)

The short version?  “Yelp Sort” doesn’t even “sort of work.

Steven Kellman of Tenants Legal Center, explained how he became Exhibit A in this regard.

Kellman, who doesn’t advertise on Yelp, wrote the privately-held company after some of his positive reviews were replaced by older, negative ones. 

Kellman is the founder of the Tenants Legal Center and the recognized dean of Landlord-Tenant problems in California since 1993.  He’s the go-to guy reporters called when tenants suddenly discovered their landlords were in foreclosure.

Although Kellman’s office walls are lined with letters of appreciation from clients, the State Bar, and he advises the San Diego District Attorney’s office on issues regarding tenancy and domestic violence; Kellman’s reputation is such his client list includes award winning famous people renting pricey LA digs.

(Yes, even stars have landlord-tenant problems.)

But according to Yelp’s prominent, old reviews – one might not think Tenant Legal Center’s been around long, much less continues serving with recognized distinction. Also likely not featured with Yelp’s voodoo algorithms, loyal staff.  Some of whom have been with Kellman almost from the beginning.  Anyone in the legal field understands a firm with long-term employees is several notches above firms featuring a revolving-door staff.

The elephant in the living room

But seriously, who looks for an attorney on Yelp?  I don’t understand why attorneys bother with Yelp.  I suppose Yelp might be okay for finding a good restaurant, but then – that’s a why we are friendly with neighbors.

Also, by Yelp’s own admission only 9% of its reviews are not about legal “services.”

24% are about shopping, 25% for restaurants which makes 49% right there.  4% represents “nightlife.”  So who would seriously look for an attorney on Yelp?

But, we digress.

Kellman noticed Yelp placed two banner ads featuring bankruptcy attorneys under Tenants Legal Center.

The funny twist  – apparently unknown to Yelp

Kerry Steigerwalt, San Diego’s most high-profile, aggressive attorney advertisers, ran ads under Tenants Legal Center.  Less well-known?  Steigerwalt retained Kellman and Tenants Legal Center after experiencing his own landlord-tenant issues with his office eviction…and subsequent year long suspension.

Yelp history.

March 17, 2010, Yelp was featured as the company with creepy sales calls to business owners.  Fairly soon, “Disgruntled” and “Yelp” became synonymous Lawsuits as the Complaints grew loud enough to file.

Fast-forward to comments regarding  responses to Yelp’s problem solving announcement. and I’m beginning to suspect Yelp’s continuing problem is not really a continuing problem as much as it might be Yelp’s business model.

Prior to that on February 18, 2009, Yelp was masterfully taken apart under an “Extortion” headline in the Bay Area a couple of years ago.  Specifically, “Yelp and the Business of Extortion.”

On December 17, 2009, Google was rumored to be in late-stage talks about purchasing Yelp.

(Google let the “opportunity” pass.)

Yelp said they’d work on their “problems.”

USAToday covered a round of lawsuits on March 3, 2010

As earlier mentioned, most aren’t drinking Yelp’s Kool-Aid.  The problem of Yelp’s not appropriately addressing problems raised by business owners, noted by San Diego ABC affiliate Channel 10 during their unsuccessful attempts to reach Yelp’s upper management on March, of 2011; struck me more as their business model.  ABC’s report

“Sharla Delgado, who opened Salon Delgado with her husband a few months ago, told 10News reporter Itica Milanes she saw several 5-star reviews suddenly disappear and get moved to the “filtered” section after declining to pay more than $650 a month to advertise with Yelp”

wasn’t highlighting a new problem.

Same old same old

Operating under the theory If nothing changes, nothing changes; we reviewed Yelp’s history, listened to Kellman’s recent experience, and telephone Laurence Wilson, in-house counsel for Yelp for comments from the top.

Again, if the same problems keep happening then eventually one begins to wonder; is it a problem, or a business model.

Does Yelp staff hurt Yelp

We were immediately and nicely stiff-armed by one of Yelp’s corporate, professionally happy talk, PR people.  Miss Happy Speak, (one of what we assume is a crew) asked the reason for my call to Mr. Wilson.  Apparently my answer:  an interview for an article, wasn’t good enough.  Yelp’s happy triller specifically wanted to know specific questions we planned on asking.  She added her goal was to be sure my questions were going to the right person.

We pleasantly assured Miss Happy Speak we’d been asking questions a long time and had likewise figured out to whom they should be directed. 

We didn’t mention since the last tech bubble burst – in part because reporters allowed themselves to be routed to corporate happy-talkers rather than say, auditors, and others in upper management, our hope was everyone had learned from that.

However, as soon as we declined to answer Miss Happy Speak sufficiently, she reverted to Yelp’s standard, fall-back position.  That’s where every sentence begins with “Unfortunately.”

Which explains

And of course, a Twittering Yelpcomsucks.

What happened after Kellman brought the problem of “filtered” reviews to Yelp’s staff? 

Almost immediately all positive reviews for Tenants Legal Center were sent to Yelp’s filtered file.  So while Tenants Legal Center continues collecting accolades, only out-dated negative reviews are immediately available on Yelp.

To paraphrase the old Judy Collins song….send out the clowns.


Is Yelp bogus? 

That’s up to the individual to decide.  While we cannot technically rate Yelp’s voodoo magical algorithms –  which may or may not actually exist, I can say Yelp’s top feature seems to be making the privately owned company money. 

So we’re rating Yelp with five stars. 

On the Rip-off Report.

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