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Yelp faces a “dilemma” as Philly Starbucks gets pummeled with one-star reviews

Yelp faces a “dilemma” as Philly Starbucks gets pummeled with one-star reviews
[Photo: Flickr user Eric]

In the wake of a viral video in which two black men were seen being arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks as they waited for a friend, the coffee giant is facing fierce criticism and calls for a company-wide boycott.

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The incident has sparked accusations of racial profiling, and Starbucks itself has deemed it a “reprehensible event,” with CEO Kevin Johnson apologizing to the two men. Johnson is also meeting with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Police Commissioner Richard Ross, according to Philly.com.

Protests are expected to continue outside the Philadelphia Starbucks today, but battle lines have already been drawn on the location’s Yelp page. Users have turned to the site to vent their anger over the incident. “Delays in ordering come with a complimentary set of cold cuffs and violations of your basic human rights,” wrote one. “If you’re a white supremacist, you’ll probably feel right at home,” added another.

Now, Yelp has slapped an interstitial warning on the location’s page, alerting customers that the reviews may reflect recent news events, and not the quality of that location’s scones and bathrooms. A banner across the top explains “This business is being monitored by Yelp’s Support team for content related to media reports.”

While online activists may enjoy the venting, Yelp says it will remove any reviews that violate its rules, including “ones that aren’t about a firsthand experience with the business.” That means, most of these reviews will be deleted–eventually. At last check, the location had more than 2,000 reviews and counting.

“Our goal is to be transparent with the actions we take to protect the quality of content on our site, preserve consumers’ freedom of speech, and shield businesses from online harassment,” a Yelp spokesperson told Fast Company in an email. “These media storms are complicated situations that create a dilemma for Yelp, but we’ve chosen to take a strong and consistent stance on managing them.”

The removal process will begin soon, meaning customers will probably have to tweet their feelings instead.

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