The M Word

Open Letter to Yelp

Dear Yelp Executives and Decision Makers,

I am writing to you to complain about your policies regarding reviews that are posted by honest and legitimate clients as well as your inability to understand that the quality of service from a business such as mine is not intrinsically attached to its physical location (a paradigm that you need to really re-think).

Please be aware that this is an open letter that I am also posting on my blog at\notebook.

In December of 2015, my business, Morpheus Medical Aesthetics proudly moved locations to a bigger, more beautiful space within our same city. At that time, we went into our Yelp Biz application and changed our address. This prompted a sales call from a Yelp representative who wanted to sell us extended services of advertising and pay per click types of marketing. Although in the long run we acquiesced to these solicitations, the process was painful in that the response to our changing our address was to repeatedly reverse this change and seriously confuse our customers. Several clients went to the wrong address because Yelp, after being advised that we had moved, insisted on re-listing us at our old address! I ask of you to consider, how did this in any way serve your constituency?

More recently, after having conceded and signed a new contract with Yelp as a business that is advertising through your services, ALL of our old reviews have been removed. We had nearly across the board FIVE star reviews and the loss of these reviews cannot help but reduce our presence and relevance on the Internet/search engines when people search for our services in our area. As an advertiser, I have neither asked for, nor needed any special treatment regarding reviews. We have had exactly two negative reviews. This first of these was extremely informative to me as a business owner and I was able to reach out to that client, who subsequently commented on her original 1 star review with a new 5 star review based on my response to her compliant. I feel that direct feedback through reviews on Yelp are an invaluable asset to business owners and I relish the opportunity to respond, react, reach out, or in any other way make right, when a client’s experience has been less than ideal. The second negative review was by an anonymous reviewer but still an actual individual who had an experience that she was less than pleased by. She complained that there was an “artistic difference” between what she was requesting and what my provider was willing to do. Yelp elected to remove this review because it was anonymous and she was not a known participant in the “Yelp community.” Although I was not disappointed that the one star review disappeared from our statistics, it would have been more honest to keep it up, and let it stand in contrast to our myriad of strongly positive reviews, especially when in fact, if one read the review carefully, it really seemed to indicate that our providers have standards that cannot be swayed even in the face of pressure from an opinionated and pushy client. I am proud of that standard and support my staff for their unwavering commitment to their desire to do the right thing, consistently.

Doing the “right thing consistently” is at the root of what I am writing to complain about in this letter. Where is there any inclination or capacity of Yelp and its employees to “do the right thing?” Here is another example. I have recently complained on our company Facebook site and my personal Facebook feed about Yelp removing our reviews. I asked followers to consider showing their support by posting Yelp reviews to our new location’s other-wise relatively bare-of –reviews site. I did not solicit positive reviews nor did I in any way imply any sort of compensation for positive reviews. Yelp’s response has been to DELETE legitimate reviews based on an assumption that a business in Santa Rosa, CA cannot possibly have real reviews from people who live on the other side of the continent. This is frustrating because it is an entirely illegitimate assumption. We have clients that have flown from all corners of this country to be seen and treated by us; from Hawaii, New Jersey, Idaho, Florida, Washington, and Southern California, to name just a handful of specific clients. When these clients, who live elsewhere post their reviews, are you going to again delete them? Really? This is infuriating.

As a business owner, I recognize that my recourse is limited to protests such as this letter and other means of attracting media attention to Yelp’s practices. I have given public speeches to industry audiences (physicians and other medical aesthetics professionals) regarding the value of Yelp’s public forum and the opportunities such feedback as negative reviews provides us. I find it ironic to be in my current position of protest. I welcome your response and hope that this can be part of a bigger public discourse that results in a change in Yelp’s practices.

At Morpheus Medical Aesthetics, we have three basic rules that govern our culture. They come directly from the teachings of my business mentor, Keith Cunningham: 1) Do the best that you can. 2) Do the right thing. 3) Show people that you care.

Perhaps the Yelp Team could learn something from Mr. Cunningham. Look him up:


Marisha Chilcott, MD

Physician & Owner

Morpheus Medical Aesthetics

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