It’s not easy running a business in the age of Yelp and other online review sites. Everyone’s always been a critic, but now your average dipshit with a wifi signal can have a big impact on your bottom line simply because they had to wait an extra 14 seconds for an overworked server to refill their soda for the 7th time. Making things even more difficult is how some sites, most notoriously Yelp, seem to operate with strong-arm advertising tactics that, a lot of businesses have said, pressure them into buying ads in return for making favorable reviews more prominent, and negative ones disappear. (A federal court recently sided with the company in a lawsuit brought by a group of businesses, ruling that Yelp didn’t technically traffic in extortion.)
It’s enough to drive a small business owner insane, which appears to be the case with the owners of Richmond, CA’s Botto Bistro. Fed up with what they see as predatory behavior, owners Davide Cerretini and Michele Massimo are trying to beat Yelp at their own game by hacking the review process. They’re actively encouraging customers to leave bad reviews. It’s ironic as hell.
“I don’t have anything against Yelp. The idea is fantastic, but the blackmailing thing is ferocious,” Cerretini told SF Gate. “I think I should be the one deciding if I’m on the site or not. At least I can be there on my terms. The only power they have is they make you reliable to them. So, I’m going to be one of the most unreliable restaurants.”
SF Gate has a series of images of the types of reviews guests have been leaving. Surprisingly, Yelp doesn’t exactly appreciate a business trying to run an end around on their model, and they’ve said that false reviews like this could jeopardize the restaurant’s standing on the site. That’s exactly what they want.