Yesterday, I started my day by reading a Craigslist ad in need of a writer for a Christian publication that didn’t pay monetarily. Payment, the ad said, would be “heavenly” and writers would have the chance to fulfill the promise of the Bible verse Revelations 12:11. I didn’t think I’d see anything more ridiculous all day long.
I was wrong.
At the end of my workday, I was led to a Techdirt piece that beat out the triumphing-over-Satan-as-payment promise in ridiculousness. A group of Yelp reviewers has filed a class-action suit against the review website, claiming they are really “unpaid writers” and deserve to be paid for their reviews of restaurants and other businesses.
Yelp, if you are unfamiliar with it, is a user-generated review site. People who write reviews on the site voluntarily create an account with Yelp. They voluntarily write reviews about businesses. It’s not employment. It’s not an internship. It’s not anything but their opinions, which they voluntarily offered.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that the information on Yelp is created by “a large and ever-growing stable of non-wage-paid writers.” They want to “recover unpaid compensation.” They claim that Yelp is their “employer” by “virtue of its management and control over the nature of the wages and work of its employees.”
They claim Yelp has “domination” and “control” over “non-wage writers.” You can read all the specifics of the Yelp Class-Action Lawsuit.
Who are these people who are so weak-willed that they can’t hit “delete” on their Yelp account? How is Yelp controlling them? Apparently, Yelp controls them with parties. Those who have Yelp Elite status get invited to parties with free alcohol. The legal document refers to Yelp as a cult, but instead of drinking Kool-Aid, these Yelpers drink alcohol. I’m not joking. That is actually in there. So, Yelpers who are afraid of not being invited to a party where they get to drink free alcohol keep writing reviews, including sometimes dishonest ones.
The lawsuit states that at least one reviewer lied in reviews, giving some places poorer evaluations than they deserved. To maintain Yelp Elite status, someone must have reviews with every level of rating. So, this reviewer chose to lie about a business just to keep the status.
Yes, the people who want to influence the restaurants you eat at will lie for their own gain, harming the business and misleading those they wish to influence. If they really were employees, they’d be bad ones.
This is absolutely ludicrous. In my opinion, no one is controlled or dominated by Yelp. No one who reviews voluntarily on a website is an “unpaid writer.” They’re social media users who do what they do because they want to.
I’m not a fan of Yelp or most other review sites because I always question a reviewer's motives. This is just one more reason to question these reviews. I hope a judge throws this lawsuit out the window as quickly as possible. (And wouldn’t it be satisfying if the judge could smack the lawyers upside the head who brought it to the courtroom?)
Do you think these plaintiffs have any justification for their lawsuit?
Related files on MNN:
- Online reviews, a new form of extortion
- New Yelp restaurant scores include hygiene ratings
- How to post an online review (and not get sued)
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