Scarehouse Yelp #Fail
For many people the Scarehouse in Etna is associated with the scariest night you’ll have any Halloween season. Oh, and with an evil bunny whose picture haunts this blogger all the way til Easter’s over.
When @ScarehouseScott tweeted this morning that his glowing reviews on the Yelp site for this season were filtered out, leaving only a negative one, I was stymied.
If you aren’t aware of what Yelp does, it appears pretty cool in the description. From their site (with minor editing for space issues)
- Yelp is an online urban city guide that helps people find cool places to eat, shop, drink, relax and play, based on the informed opinions of a vibrant and active community of locals in the know. Yelp is the fun and easy way to find, review and talk about what’s great — and not so great — in your world.
- Is Yelp free? Yes! Other than some of our advertising features, you can use the site for free.
- You’ll find a wide range of people on Yelp, including locals who are “in the know” about what’s cool and happening in their city, visitors who want to get an insider’s local perspective, and anyone trying to find a great local business.
But what “Scarehouse Scott” is feeling today is a little more of the literal definition- Yelp- noun: A short sharp cry, esp. of pain or alarm. And not the good, haunted kind.
It’s best if I let him tell you. The story, in his words:
So, The ScareHouse is a professional haunted attraction owned, operated, and financed by myself, my wife, and my dad. I actually met my wife while working at a volunteer haunted house fundraiser for charity more than 20 years ago.
It has grown from a modest small business into a very large production, with 150 employees (primarily seasonal) – and very elaborate sets and special effects. You can see our website here: www.scarehouse.com.
It is our “day job” now. The ScareHouse is our year-round job, and our primary source of income. We start design work in January and construction in February. It’s a very expensive production that requires significant expenses for 12 months of the year on rent, payroll, promotion, and the actual production … And yet we have less than 30 days to earn our annual income.
Every year our audience has grown, and we’ve been blessed with repeat attendance – not to mention great results on the multiple surveys and exit polls we do. I’m also a huge proponent of social media, particularly when it is utilized as a form or customer service and feedback, and make a point to respond to all emails and facebook messages and posts.
This is why our YELP situation is so frustrating. We make it a point to respond to all negative reviews, even the ones that seem suspect – or the ones that quite possibly originate from our competitors. Ie “this place is hurting other haunted houses, you should go to (blank) instead”
Last year, on 9/28/10, a negative review appeared on Yelp from Evan M. appeared on our page. I think much of his post was done for comic effect, but it still was filled with inaccuracies. The most damning of which is his claim that the experience last just 4 minutes. Our attraction is in a 14,000 square foot building with a minimum of 65 actors — and the average “walk through” time is about 25 minutes.
On June 23rd, I responded to his post publically, commenting on the multiple errors and generally trying to stay positive. He messaged me privately saying that he refused to change anything.
This was when I noticed that a positive review on 10/1/2010 – posted just one week after the negative review – was mysteriously “flagged.”
I commented on this shady phenomenon online in late June. 4 more reviews were posted. Three of which were flagged for violating terms of service (two from people tangentially connected to our haunt, another from Evan further slamming us) – and the 4th, yet another positive from someone I don’t know, was also filtered.
Sunday night, a popular blogger from New Jersey posted a glowing review of our attraction – http://www.onezumiverse.com/2011/09/2011-review-pittsburghs-scarehouse-has-been-maligned-by-yelp-com/ – in which she not only gave us rave reviews, but mentioned that the only reason she didn’t visit us last year was because of the negative YELP reviews.
I posted this review to our fanpage and my Twitter feed. That post, along with the fact that we just opened for our 2011 season last weekend, prompted 3 new and positive reviews yesterday.
Just in case, I took a screencap . On 9/26 we received two 5 star and one 4 star reviews.
This morning? FILTERED!
Blogger added this screenshot for you to see.
I (Scott) posted about this on Twitter and at least for now, there is one more positive review currently on our Yelp profile from Brad B (who I do not know) – http://www.yelp.com/biz/the-scarehouse-etna … Will it still be there tomorrow? Who knows…
I rant about this not because I have a fragile ego or because I don’t expect to receive the occasional negative review, but because the system is so clearly not telling an accurate portrayal of our experience. Customers are avoiding our business (which is only open for less than 30 days) based on a negative and inaccurate review, and most likely not even aware of the multiple and unsolicited positive reviews that have been posted.
And, as other businesses have said, good luck trying to find anyway to reach a human being through Yelp. There are no phone numbers or email addresses listed anywhere.
“Pittsburgh’s Ultimate Haunted House”
Now, at the time Scott was sharing his Yelp #Fail on Twitter, I replied to him and included @Yelp ‘s handle, hoping we could get a real person to respond. They did at least respond and send a link that explains filtering on their site. I get it. But, I’m still not cutting them a complete break, although I give them some credit for not making it a complete fail. Responding in some way to your users problems is a start. Finding a way to correct it would be even better.
Here’s the actual tweet from @Yelp
(Blogger would like to clarify, no one offered them money from our end to manipulate anything- not sure what that has to do with Scarehouse’s issue.)
So, since they responded, let’s use this as a motivating factor to fix whatever bugs are in that fancy algorithm they created. Could it be that since The Scarehouse operates on a short term basis and its reviews spike during an 8 week or so period, that Yelp’s filter caught that as some kind of bot or personal association in their filter? I don’t know, just guessing. But, I’d hate to see any good business lose business because of a site that is obviously passionate about showcasing the best places to visit not, well…showcasing the best because their review filter process is flawed.
Now, Scott and I communicated about the response from Yelp after they tweeted it and he is very logical. On the subject of review sites, he told me via email, “you have to work with the systems they create.“
Not being sure that Yelp will give a gosh darn about this issue, I suggest working within the framework they provide to resolve the problem.
Here are a couple suggestions: NOTE: I have since rescinded this- see post #2 about this
If you are a blogger with no ties to the Scarehouse and have visited, consider linking this post in your upcoming Halloween themed posts and asking your readers if they will go to Yelp and rate a review after visiting the Scarehouse. If you are reading this and have been to the Scarehouse consider doing the same. But be honest. Only review if you’ve been.
And Yelp? How about some help? You talk in your filtering video about how we trust our family and friends to make recommendations on doctors, restaurants, mechanics, etc. But then, you leave good businesses to the mercy of strangers (which can be mostly good), who may have ill intent because they aren’t connected to the business and you have created a filtering process that seems to be pro-negative, based at least on the facts of this particular instance.
Has anyone else had problems/issues with Yelp reviews? Can anyone offer suggestions for dealing wit and resolving them?
And Yelp- A video is worth a thousand reviews.