Image courtesy of SF Gate.
Most restaurants aspire for great Yelp ratings to bring in new customers through the website, with the purpose of allowing users to leave reviews of businesses. One business owner in San Francisco is going the opposite route, offering customers 25% off any pizza, and a chance to win free cooking lessons, if they write a one star review of their store on Yelp.
David Cerretini, the owner of Botto Bistro, said the promotion was the “best business move I have made in years.”
The promotion, which has yielded plenty of loyal new customers and hilarious Yelp reviews, is all part of Cerretini’s bid to be the worst rated restaurant in the bay area to get back at Yelp for reportedly blackmailing him.
Cerretini claims the website called him about 20 times a week asking him to advertise his restaurant through them. Eventually, he caved and advertised Botto Bistro for $270 for six months.
But when he stopped paying them to advertise, he noticed positive reviews disappearing from his restaurant’s page and a disproportionate amount of negative ones cropping up. According the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, it’s perfectly legal for Yelp to do that.
Rather than go crawling back to advertise with them, Cerretini cooked up the one-star plan. Now, a sign beside the menu in his restaurant lists some of the worst aspects of the restaurant — including charging for bread and lacking ranch dressing — beside a sassy suggestion that patrons give them a horrible review on Yelp.
The new promotion has worked on all fronts — it’s brought in new business, led to some hilarious, Amazon-esque Yelp reviews, and even gotten Yelp riled up.
Read the hilarious email conversation below, addressed to Botto Bistro co-owner Michele Masimo, courtesy of SF Gate:
Date: Mon, 15 Sep 2014 18:28:59 +0000
Subject: Message from Yelp HQ [ 2800338 ]
SEP 15, 2014 | 11:28AM PDT
I’m contacting you from the Yelp User Support Team because we’ve received complaints from the community that you may be offering incentives in exchange for reviews.
To be clear, this violates our Terms of Service (http://www.yelp.com/static?p=tos&country=US), and reviews written under such circumstances violate Yelp’s Content Guidelines (http://www.yelp.com/guidelines). We also often find from user feedback that such practices do more harm than good, as the practice creates distrust amongst customers and users who now eye all reviews on a listing with suspicion.
If you are offering incentives in exchange for reviews, we ask that you immediately discontinue such activity. If we learn that this type of behavior has continued, we may take action on your Business Account which could include suspending access to your listing. It may also result in a Consumer Alert being placed on your listing: http://officialblog.yelp.com/2012/10/consumer-alerts-because-you-might-like-to-know.html
San Francisco, California
Yelp Official Blog | http://officialblog.yelp.com
Yelp Support Center | http://www.yelp-support.com
Yelp for Business Owners | https://biz.yelp.com
Subject: RE: Message from Yelp HQ [ 2800338 ]
Date: Tue, 16 Sep 2014 08:43:36 -0700
I’m contacting you from the Botto User Support Team because we’ve received complaints from the community that you may be removing reviews in exchange of vague explanations to loyal customers.
To be clear, this violates our Terms of Service (http://www.bottobistro.com/FAQ.html), and reviews removed under such circumstances violate Botto’s Content Guidelines (http://www.bottobistro.com/FAQ.html). We also often find from loyal customers feedback that such practices do more harm than good, as the practice creates distrust amongst loyal customers and users who now eye your site with suspicion.
If you are offering this explanations in exchange of removed reviews, we ask that you immediately discontinue such activity. If we learn that this type of behavior has continued, we may take action on our Business Account which could include suspending all activity to our listing. It may also result on adding a Yelp Customer Alert page on our website and in our Newsletters.
Botto User Support Team