perating as a small business owner, on a couple of occasions in the past I’ve encountered people that are something less than honest. This is not the norm by any means — and yet one realizes early on to keep a wary eye for those few wolves who fashion themselves guardians of the hen house, so to speak….
I recently received a $300 advertising coupon, alike the sort I’ve received from advertisers like Google.com in the mail. You enter a coupon code somewhere and get to try out the service. I took advantage of such an offer from Yelp in late October of this year — only to start getting transactions mysteriously showing up on my credit card earlier this month, contrary to expectations.
I had taken advantage of the coupon at the time, which did not explicitly advertise there would be debits automatically starting once the $300 had been used up. Nor was I able to readily determine at any point how much of the credit was used.
Finally, when a December bill appeared, I immediately contacted Yelp to cancel any advertising services that might have been procured. I was concerned that it wasn’t generating any business for me and that they were keeping records of user credit card numbers (a practice with which I have issues for both reasons of personal security and privacy).
Contact with Staff was Terse and Unhelpful
The amount of the bill wasn’t too substantial – less than $100 in Canadian funds. However, despite taking this as an opportunity to build a positive customer experience, they responded to my concerns as “threatening” them (when I mentioned I would be describing my interactions with customer service here on my blog) and trying to get out of paying the bill, stopping short of calling me a thief outright. This attitude was evident despite my attempts to voice my concerns to two different parties by phone – the only emails I could receive from them seemed to be automated messages aimed at billing.
After encountering two highly confrontational staff I thought it incumbent to characterize my experience as objectively as I could for the benefit of others seeking a review of the Yelp service.
Doesn’t Follow its Own Advice on Handling Complaints
Yelp’s own advice on the subject of end-user reviews is as follows¹:
Either way, when responding to reviews it is important to have good practices established to make sure your organization and your [customer]’s privacy are protected. In both scenarios, the goal should be to take the conversation offline and to a private channel.
It’s my considered opinion Yelp did not follow it’s own advice in my particular case, nor does it do so when it comes to the privacy of others; whether they are customers or simply users of its service(s):
- retaining credit card information can be a license for the unscrupulous to simply debit amounts indefinitely regardless of customer intent; such as when a company doesn’t bother to take the spending intentions of customers into account and charges for services they don’t want; effectively taking a nickel-and-dime approach to earning profit rather than promoting & selling services on the strength of their own merit, and
- allowing customer service staff to become confrontational with customers is both unnecessary and inexcusable. Worse still, Yelp made virtually no effort to “take the conversation offline”, instead calling my intention to review my interactions with them a “threat” and insisting they’d continue with the charges.
It’s certainly accurate to say I can’t describe my own experience with Yelp as necessarily representative of those one would have with the company and it does appear many have had positive experiences with them. However, I can equally accurately say that my experience was anything but positive from the perspective of a customer and there are many on Facebook and other alternate online sources who report difficulties as well. I can also state with certainty that given my concerns, treated as they were, will result in my never considering business with them again in the future.
My experience also left me with the impression that Yelp is a company governed less by technology innovation and more by a very single-minded focus on earnings from its advertising business. (Although it was not necessarily my intention at the outset to demand no-cost settlement of the bill they sent me, this became an issue when they declined to discuss my concerns in good faith.) In the future, I’m likely to seek out Microsoft, Google or WordPress when considering online advertising. Even should this prove to be more expensive, both companies seem to be paying a lot greater attention to their advertising clientele.
Follow-ups to this story may appear here, should any occur.
¹ See https://www.yelpblog.com/2016/12/experts-guide-patient-privacy-online-reviews near the subheading “Example 1” for source.