Today, Yelp announced a new consumer alert for its website, the “Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert.”
On the surface level, this sounds like a good idea. We all want to end racism, and we don’t want to give our money to companies whose values don’t align with ours. But will this new alert have unforeseen consequences? Is it just a way for people to cancel a business, a business owner, or an employee they personally don’t like?
Why Yelp Did This
Yelp has a zero-tolerance policy for racism. And they’ve seen how “reviews mentioning black-owned businesses were up more than 617% this summer compared to last summer.” This increase in black-owned business reviews is correlated to the increase in reviews “warning users of racist behavior at businesses.” Consequently, Yelp decided to create a consumer alert specifically for racism to warn consumers and “to help people make more informed spending decisions.”
How It Will Work
According to Yelp’s blog, the "Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert" will only appear over the review section of the business’s page if certain conditions are met. If a business or employee is accused of racist behavior in a review, then Yelp places a “Public Attention Alert” on that business’s page to alert consumers. If the business is “accused of overtly racist actions, where we can link to a news article,” then Yelp will post the “Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert” and provide a link to the news article.
Yelp states that its policy is that “all reviews must be based on actual first-hand consumer experiences with the business” to ensure that reviews are not fueled by social media reports and fake news.
How It Might Actually Work
While Yelp might think they’re providing a new level of socially-aware service to their users, they might also be opening a way for woke consumers to cancel businesses they deem aren’t “woke enough.”
Additionally, a business is more than it’s employees. An entire small business shouldn’t be destroyed because they made one unwise hire. Imagine you own a pizza shop, and you hire a high schooler for the summer, and he makes a racist comment that makes it way into a Yelp review. Your business gets flagged. Even if you fire the teenager, that “Racist Business” label may continue to haunt you and consumers may continue to punish you, because wokeness doesn’t forgive and forget.
Yelp is trying to keep up with the times, but they might accidentally end up helping people go on digital witch hunts that have real-life consequences.