How Yelp Encourages Pons Behavior


It does seem as though Yelp “feeds” the pons . . .

Yelp and the Pons

Yelp is probably one of the best examples of an internet business that encourages people to react in their pons, as well as an example of a site that promotes distorted views (also a sign of an underdeveloped pons) as though they were shared by the majority.  Here’s why I say that.

First, the name Yelp (versus calling it Help) kinda says it all if the “Y” in Yelp represents “yelling” for help. Or, perhaps, the name was chosen to reflect the literal definition of yelp: to utter a short cry of pain or alarm.

Either way, the Yelp name does not invoke anything positive.

Of course, since the creators of Yelp know that people are more naturally inclined to be negative than positive, they capitalize on that. Note that Yelp posted nearly $138 million in revenue last year.

In short, Yelp needs and wants people to “bellow” what’s wrong, rather than encourage them to take care of business—which would mean they would express their concerns to those directly involved, give people a chance to clarify before acting on (whatever), and explore how to move a situation forward in a positive way.

But nope, Yelp is set up to encourage people to stay in their pons since the format promotes fight and flight reactions (both are red flags of an underdeveloped pons). For example, reviewers can do flight behavior by hiding behind their Yelp post without ever sharing their real, full name or without ever expressing their thoughts directly, in person, to the people targeted in their review.

Yelp additionally encourages fight behavior since people can go on the “attack” whenever they aren’t happy with an outcome. Yelp requires no cooling off period or “statue of limitations.” Instead, Yelp makes it possible for people to post a review at anytime—while in the heat of the moment or months or years later after whatever happened (and the situation has now festered in the reviewer’s mind).

In fact, reviewers can shoot as many poisoned arrows at as many businesses as they want, whenever they feel like it—without ever putting themselves “out there.” It’s like open season on businesses, where Yelp reviewers are always completely “safe” as they remain under cover.

There are also themes among negative posts that further suggest many of these reviewers do have an underdeveloped pons. For example, the review will often focus on being duped or slighted or wronged, personalizing whatever the reviewer perceived happened through a “victim lens.” Yet that, too, is often how people with an underdeveloped pons often view the world—as victims.

Adding to that . . .  people with such underdevelopment don’t always even process what was actually  said—even though they’ll insist that what they “heard” was correct. But, again, since Yelp’s format doesn’t require any verification of the “facts” presented in a review, such people’s version of events is then portrayed as  . . . being accurate.  In other words, Yelp does not ever hold reviewers accountable for writing the truth.

To be clear . . . my problem is not with Yelp reviewers. After all, they’re just doing what’s been presented as possible. And, of course, I’m not saying that every Yelp reviewer has an underdeveloped pons or that people in their cortex never have a negative experience. Hardly.

But my problem is that Yelp takes advantage of and then exploits people with an underdeveloped pons. For example, if Yelp mandated that people had to submit their full name (as required when people send letters to the editor in newspapers), then that would eliminate much of the  “flight” potential that’s present when anyone can say whatever they want and remain anonymous.

What Yelp Doesn’t Tell You

Yelp has a filtering system, where Yelp decides which reviews remain visible and which are filtered—and they do this without ever making this process common knowledge to the public.

So, if you have X-ray vision, you might note some very fine print at the end of the chosen reviews that says “filtered.” And if even if you find this microscopic word—and understand what it means in terms of Yelp–you still have to click on it and jump through a few more hoops before you can finally read those hidden reviews.

Now, I need to write that Yelp claims they use an algorithm that determines which posts remain visible and which are filtered. However that algorithm is “top secret,” and even Yelp admits that it sometimes affects perfectly legitimate reviews and misses some fake ones, too.

However, there has been A LOT of discussion that suggests Yelp’s review selection process is not as random as they claim. For example, many business owners contend that “bad” reviews stay visible while good ones are filtered if the business does not purchase advertisements on Yelp.

Our own Brain Highways experience gives some credence to such concerns. We have been continually asked to pay to advertise on Yelp, but we have not done so. And guess what? We have just three visible Yelp reviews of Brain Highways. Two of those reviews are not positive, while the one that appears . . . is like the shortest review ever.

Now, if those three reviews had truly been all that was ever written about Brain Highways, I would still stand by my conviction that the two negative reviews do not reflect the overwhelming positive feedback we’ve received over the years. But I’d accept those posts as reflections of those people’s experiences. (I would wonder, though, why such comments were never expressed either to staff or as responses to any of our questionnaires during the four months the reviewer was in the program.)

However, Yelp has currently filtered TEN Brain Highways reviews—and nine of those had 5-stars. Hmmmmm . . .

So, that’s not only frustrating to us, but it is also greatly misleading to the public.  For example, if people who are interested in brain organization just read those three unfiltered reviews, they may decide that neuroplasticity is not possible or feasible for the average family. Yet, that conclusion is nowhere in sync with 6,000+ participants who have completed the Brain Highways program and have experienced great changes and improvements in their lives.

How Yelp Entices People in their Pons

I also have concerns when people start to get a distorted sense of power—which is additionally common among people with an underdeveloped pons. That’s because, in my experience, such intoxicating power only escalates. For example, with Yelp’s encouragement, the more a person “yelps,” the higher probability reviews from such people will stay posted, rather than be relegated to the filtered junkyard.

So what does that mean? Well, negative people will continue to get some thrills from seeing their attacking reviews remain in print, while positive people will likely get discouraged (and not continue) to write reviews, especially after seeing what they wrote didn’t make the “cut” by Yelp standards. However, that scenario then actually affects the public the most since they now get a distorted view of a business (and most likely, do not even know that other reviews have been filtered).

As a business owner, my only Yelp options are to ignore the review (but then that could easily be interpreted as the reviewer was “right” since there is no response to say otherwise), comment below the review (but doing that then automatically suggest the review is credible and in need of a response) or contact the reviewer via the secret Yelp way (meaning the reviewer’s identity still remains secret).

But since the Yelp reviewer remains anonymous at all times, responding directly to that person may just be a total waste of time since the reviewer could be a competitor who fabricated the review as a way of sabotage. In such case, no response is going to “rectify” anything.

Viewing Yelp from the Cortex

There’s always a chance to learn something from any situation, right? So what might we glean from Yelp?

Well, I for one no longer give credence to any rating or review (and not just on Yelp)—positive or negative—if the person’s full name is not included.  That seems simple enough, and such a stance could greatly influence exchanges on the internet if that mindset became mainstream.

Yelp might also encourage us to reflect on whether we’ve provided a way for people to express their concerns in a positive, productive manner wherever we are in charge—whether it’s at a business or our home. Note that such an approach is opposite of encouraging people to whine and complain.

At Brain Highways, we’ve created a whole system called “Taking Care of Business” that presents a positive approach for both parents and kids to express whatever they’re thinking. But this way of communicating is based on a desire to first connect with someone and then explore ways to find common ground in order to move forward. However, if someone is not interested in making a sincere connection or finding common ground, well then, I admit . . . the Yelp format is going to be a very appealing alternative.

When thinking about Yelp, a positive, new idea also came to mind. I’d love to see someone create an online Help format that focuses on problem-solving, rather than just encouraging a recap of whatever irritated, annoyed, and aggravated someone.  Such a site might have a simple format that looks something like this:

  • Write your full name.
  • Write the name of the business.
  • Write a few statements that describe your original concern with this business.
  • Write who (in the business) you contacted to address this concern.
  • Write how quickly you contacted that person (from when the concern began).
  • Write how you presented your concern to move the situation forward.
  • Write how the person (from the business) responded.

Now that kind of information might actually be helpful to someone interested in learning about a business. It would also require the person who experienced a problem to take responsibility by first directly contacting the business and by attempting to resolve the situation.

Again, please note that I am not judging anyone who has written a Yelp review. I fully acknowledge that people have the right to post whatever review they want, as well as concede that Yelp has the right to also set up its business as it pleases.

Just can’t help wishing there was a demand for a “Help” site, where the focus was on assisting people to move forward in a positive way and ensuring that the public was given an accurate view of a business.


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