An Italian restaurant in Richmond, CA called Botto Bistro wants to be the worst-rated restaurant in the Bay Area, and that’s why its owners are encouraging negative reviews on Yelp.
They’re doing so in an effort to undermine the reliability of Botto Bistro’s Yelp page.
According to a report on Richmond Standard, Botto Bistro owners Davide Cerretini and Michele Massimo are even offering special deals for diners who write a negative one-star review of the restaurant: 25 percent off any pizza, plus a chance to win a free cooking class.
“I don’t have anything against Yelp,” says Cerretini. “The idea is fantastic, but the blackmailing thing (relentless advertising inquiries and review manipulation) is ferocious. I think I should be the one deciding if I’m on the site or not. At least I can be there on my terms. The only power they have is they make you reliable to them. So, I’m going to be one of the most unreliable restaurants. I want to be the worst restaurant there is in the Bay Area.”
So far, the strategy seems to be working. We wouldn’t necessarily recommend it to other business owners, but you’ve got to admit that Cerretini and Massimo have come up with a very funny and ingenious way to boost their visibility and business reputation online. The negative reviews are pouring in, and business has grown. “We are getting not just customers,” Cerretini says, “but new friends who like this.”
We tracked negative reviews of Botto Bistro on Yelp and found these gems (as of this writing, they’re still up there, but who knows how many of these Yelp will have to filter?):
So far, Yelp’s response has been limited to slapping Botto Bistro’s page with a consumer alert. According to reports, the site also sent Cerretini and Massimo an E-mail that read:
I’m contacting you from the Yelp User Support Team because we’ve received complaints from the community that you may be offering incentives in exchange for reviews.
To be clear, this violates our Terms of Service (http://www.yelp.com/static?p=tos&country=US), and reviews written under such circumstances violate Yelp’s Content Guidelines (http://www.yelp.com/guidelines). We also often find from user feedback that such practices do more harm than good, as the practice creates distrust amongst customers and users who now eye all reviews on a listing with suspicion.
If you are offering incentives in exchange for reviews, we ask that you immediately discontinue such activity. If we learn that this type of behavior has continued, we may take action on your Business Account which could include suspending access to your listing. It may also result in a Consumer Alert being placed on your listing: http://officialblog.yelp.com/2012/10/consumer-alerts-because-you-might-like-to-know.html
San Francisco, California
Cerretini and Massimo respond to Yelp with the following:
I’m contacting you from the Botto User Support Team because we’ve received complaints from the community that you may be removing reviews in exchange of vague explanations to loyal customers.
To be clear, this violates our Terms of Service (http://www.bottobistro.com/FAQ.html), and reviews removed under such circumstances violate Botto’s Content Guidelines (http://www.bottobistro.com/FAQ.html). We also often find from loyal customers feedback that such practices do more harm than good, as the practice creates distrust amongst loyal customers and users who now eye your site with suspicion.
If you are offering this explanations in exchange of removed reviews, we ask that you immediately discontinue such activity. If we learn that this type of behavior has continued, we may take action on our Business Account which could include suspending all activity to our listing. It may also result on adding a Yelp Customer Alert page on our website and in our Newsletters.
Botto User Support Team