A Review of Yelp Reviews

By Krystyn Lambert
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Photograph by Scott Eells — Bloomberg via Getty Images

A few months ago, my boyfriend and I drove to Santa Fe. While we had most of that planned out, we found ourselves in need of recommendations winding from Flagstaff to Winslow to Albuquerque before eventually reaching our destination. And so began my obsession with Yelp.

Until that trip, I had kind of dismissed Yelp, unless I were in need of good lip fillers, and even then, I weighed options by doing diligence through Google more than anything else. I figured people commenting only did so if they had negative reason to, like with a mental institution. If you had an average to good experience, were you really going to take the time to post a review? And if you had an amazing time, again, were you really going to post a review?

But people obviously do post reviews, and I do benefit from people’s negative reviews, but mostly what I became fascinated by was who these reviewers were. Because as I continuously hit upon good places from my searches, I became increasingly engaged with who these people were who joined the ranks of Elite, and who had the time to write a novel for every place they visited.

What’s especially odd it that some people will review a place some months after their visit. Do they just sit back and think, “You know that place I went to last Valentine’s Day? I think people need my feedback on it”? It’s a mystery.

And indeed, I’m especially interested in people who write paragraphs upon paragraphs for a restaurant that they felt was neither here nor there, but still detail everything they ordered or even considered ordering, what other people in their party ordered or even considered ordering, their opinion of the décor, and how they were treated by their server (especially how they were treated by their server). Granted, even run of the mill places need reviews, but that much review, I don’t know.

Besides obvious food quality, I find myself primarily concerned with atmosphere, volume, temperature, and how comfortable the seating is. Some reviews mentioned elements such as these, and I was sure to rate their review. However, my options were fairly limited: Useful (ok), funny (does this matter?), and cool (what?!). I have many questions, Yelp.

When you go to rate a review, you can see the status of the reviewer, which inevitably (if you’re like me) brings you to their page. Some people have photos posted like it’s Facebook or even products displayed like it’s Etsy. And hey, no criticism, everyone needs a community; it’s just I never considered Yelp as a place to do this. And I’m still unsure if it is.

I wish I had answers to satisfy my curiosities, but alas, I do not. I could quote some examples, but I have no intent of seeming to make fun, and besides, you’ve all read them. The only thing I could think of to come to better understand this phenomenon was to write a Yelp review myself.

I chose an average Mexican joint I frequent, because it’s affordable and near-by, and tapped, “Tap to review…” I offered it four stars, and then noticed that Yelp gives you an example review. It’s a full ten sentence poorly written paragraph, including plenty of unnecessary details that provide pseudo-helpful information.

So I started writing, and a sentence or so in, Yelp weighed in, “Don’t leave us hanging – what else you got?” And that message stayed up for another few sentences until, “Sweet deets. Now put some mustard on that review!”

Again, a few more sentences until you finally achieve, “You wrote the pants off that review. We salute you”. But really, Yelp? One, your colloquial “lingo” is insulting, and two, just lay off. Do we really need your reactions? But perhaps this is what gives Yelp the friendly vibe that encourages people to comment on their opinions of what the staff uniform is or that their girlfriend’s niece enjoyed her chicken enchilada.



However, the fact remains: I love Yelp. Granted, mostly for the somewhat caustic reasons that just keep getting richer the more of a Yelp-hole I get into, but clearly there’s a lot to be gained from having such reviews and also for reviewers. If you can sift through the nonsense, there’s inherent value in reading reviews, hence “as I continuously hit upon good places,” written above.

I hit good places for good reason. And for the reviewers, having an outlet for your opinions online other than traditional social media is worthwhile. You’re not bothering anyone with it, and mostly it can only help.

Anyway, I’ve got to go. I hear they’re opening to new Olive Garden in Encino, so I’ve got 500 words to write to keep my Elite status, pronto.

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