As I was reading through The Social Media Bible I found Stephanie Ichinose’s interview regarding Yelp particularly interesting. In this week’s post, I’ll be discussing whether or not Yelp should be considered a social media platform.
Yelp began as a online forum for reviews for restaurants, bars, and small businesses. Today, it has grown to host an average of approximately 142 million monthly unique visitors in Q1 2015. Yelp is unique in that it doesn’t allow companies to pay for removal of negative reviews. It also encourages users to post reviews and photos frequently by placing more weight on reviews posted by frequent Yelpers.
My Experience on Yelp
Although I’ve used Yelp for research purposes and restaurant recommendation for a long time, I didn’t formally join Yelp until February of last year. The reason I joined in the first place was to write a public complaint about a company called Shari’s Berries. For reference, I’ve included that complaint below.
“Is it possible to give a negative amount of stars?
A few weeks ago, I purchased a Groupon for Shari’s Berries. I then used this Groupon to place an order for a Valentine’s Day gift. I paid extra to have a half dozen chocolate covered strawberries delivered on Valentine’s Day. (The prices on these orders is outrageous by the way.)
However, the gift was not delivered on Valentine’s Day. In fact, the recipient of the gift didn’t receive it until the following Tuesday, February 17. A full three days after the scheduled delivery date. When I called Shari’s Berries on Saturday, February 15 (the day after Valentine’s Day) I spoke with a customer service representative who was very, very rude. She didn’t even apologize for the missing package. When I asked to speak with a manager, she told me that the company was experiencing an “unusually high call volume” and that a manager was not available. She asked me to leave my name and number so a manager could call me back. To this day, I have received no such call. The customer service representative asked me if I’d like to be refunded my money or if I’d like to pay for another order (in addition to the order I’d already placed). The fact that this company has the gall to ask me if I’d like to pay to reorder a product I hadn’t even received is just insulting. I am so appalled by this service and this company. Yesterday, the berries finally arrived – in pieces, and practically rotten.
Although they refunded my money, I am writing this review today to inform as many people as possible of the treatment I experienced. I would definitely recommend STAYING AWAY from Shari’s Berries or any of its affiliates (ProFlowers, ProPlants, ProFlowers International, redEnvelope, Cherry Moon Farms, or PersonalCreations.com). This Valentine’s Day, a sub-par product, lack of communication, and horrifyingly negligent customer service have taught me a lesson: never use Shari’s Berries again.
In addition, I sent an email to the Shari’s Berries informing them of this entire altercation. I received a form email back that said I’d be hearing from a customer service representative within 48 hours. That was last week, and to this day I still have received no such call or email. To add insult to injury, the email I sent was addressed to “firstname.lastname@example.org…”. Simply laughable. Shari’s Berries should be ashamed. I find it very hard to believe that someone who “cares” would fail to call a disgruntled customer back, fail to deliver an acceptable product on time, and fail to even alert a customer to anticipate an alert delivery.
Disappointed doesn’t even begin to describe my experience. Furious is more like it. Save yourself a headache and avoid this garbage company at all costs.
I would however like to note that when I contacted Groupon with this problem, they were very helpful. They contacted me immediately and refunded my money without question. Thanks Groupon for actually caring about your customers. :)”
As you can see from my review and from the Shari’s Berries Yelp page, this is an example of a company that does not interact properly with their customer service complaints via any channel – private or public.
After researching, it seems that this is a rather common way to become a Yelper. People are actually much more likely to spread information about a negative experience than a positive one. However, since then I’ve included several reviews about great experiences I’ve had at restaurants and small businesses.
Sites like Yelp give users a platform to communicate their thoughts in a very public way. Yelp can be either very positive or very negative for a business. It can boost small businesses who work very hard with very little backing, or break large businesses who disregard their customers’ needs. This is the power of social media. After reading through Stephanie Ichinose’s interview and considering my own experience I can clearly see that Yelp is so much more than a review site. Because of the way users are encouraged to interact with each other by rating other reviews as “useful” or “funny” and businesses are encouraged to respond to reviews from Yelpers is a completely social experience.
Photo credit: Yelp
In this series called Social Media Observations, I’ll be blogging about social media observations for the purpose of encouraging discussion as well as fulfilling the requirements Topic 1 for MMIS 0644.