Botto Bistro, an Italian spot across the Bay in Richmond, has been using Yelp's own notoriously aggressive (some say extortionist) sales tactics as an excuse to discredit the site completely. As the Richmond Standard and Inside Scoop report, owners Davide Cerretini and Michele Massimo have gotten so fed up with Yelp bothering them and trying to get them to buy ads that they're incentivizing bad reviews from loyal customers by offering them 25% off any pizza if they write one.
"I don't have anything against Yelp," Cerretini tells the Scoop. "The idea is fantastic, but the blackmailing thing is ferocious. I think I should be the one deciding if I'm on the site or not... So, I'm going to be one of the most unreliable restaurants." He hopes to get rated the "worst" restaurant in the Bay Area (despite loyal clientele knowing the truth), and he's already reaping the benefits of the publicity USA Today has picked up the story.
A judge recently ruled that Yelp wasn't acting illegally by implying, or outright threatening businesses with the removal or burying of good reviews if they refused to pay for ads the judge said the manipulation of ratings on the free, user-content-based site simply amounted to "hard bargaining" and didn't rise to the level of extortion or economic harm.
Plenty of small business owners would disagree, of course, and that judge probably doesn't understand how powerful Yelp search results are in dictating a restaurant's success or failure.
Thus you have on-the-ground battles like the one being waged by Botto Bistro, in an ongoing effort to say to consumers, "You can't trust everything you read on Yelp."
Yelp, meanwhile, has sent the restaurant a cease-or-desist, saying that they're not allowed to compensate diners in exchange for reviews. Of course, they're doing it for bad reviews, and what is Yelp going to do besides kill their Yelp listing?