Yelp has begun outing businesses which solicit for paid positive reviews. Businesses that are found to have participated in "significant attempts to pay for reviews" will be slapped with a "Consumer Alert" for 90 days.
Anyone who has spent some time reading "consumer" reviews on the internet has undoubtedly come across a few shady sounding reviews extolling the virtues of a product or company you personally know is crap. Given that, and the importance of online reviews for business, it's not surprising that some businesses are turning towards ethically challenged practices like paying for reviews.
The consumer alerts Yelp places on businesses superimposes itself over the user review section. It explains:
We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business. We weren't fooled, but wanted you to know because buying reviews not only hurts consumers, but also honest businesses who play by the rules. Check out the evidence here.
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The evidence is largely Craiglist postings soliciting for Yelp reviews. The going price for a review ranges from a paltry $10 up to $200 from a San Diego jewelry store looking for a Yelp Elite user whose reviews receive preferential treatment from Yelp's review screening system.
Judging from the evidence posted within a consumer alert, Yelp responds to Craiglists ads and then busts the business when they get the details of their ginned up review.
So far Yelp has only outed nine businesses in their entire network. Presumably this is a shot across the bow to warn other businesses to discontinue the practice.