Spring is here and it’s time for some new, fun and healthful recipes.
Stirring documentation of 9/11 has been on TV and in the news over the past few days and continues throughout the weekend. Our town of Ridgefield, Connecticut is dedicating its new 9/11 Memorial on the Recreation Center grounds only 1 mile from green ROCKS inn. The ceremony is going to take place at 6:30 am Sunday morning, and we will attend with our inn guests who have come in from around the country for the dedication. A large piece of steel from the World Trade Center was transported from NYC and has been transformed into a beautiful sculpture. Gardens have been built around it. A “must see” when visiting Ridgefield, CT.
Where were you 10 years ago?
‘Yelp” is an unfair, biased social networking site. We originally believed we were being targeted by an extraordinary disgruntled client as they inappropriately posted multiple slurs against us personally and against our business. Our business rating as continues to be less than poor on this site – 1 star, and if they could give us no stars they most certainly would. No business wants that on their doorstep. As a small independently owned business, we live and die by honest, forthright word-of-mouth. We want to get better … to serve our guests and clients extremely well. However, we have been learning along the way that Yelp is one nasty little site. Extortion appears to be a factor in their filtering out fair and balanced reviews from being published. All of our positive reviews are consistently “filtered” out, we have not been able to speak to a human being at Yelp, they do not publish or publicize phone contact info, and they do not respond to our questions about filtering all other guests’ reviews (which have been consistently positive). Read the below blog and come to your own conclusion about Yelp. We have, and we say “YIKES”!
February 23, 2009
In Yelp we trust?
Yelp has successfully set many standards for democratized participation. It has cultivated a strong, tribe-like culture among passionate, hobbyist reviewers. If a local Yelp tribe falls in love with a local business, that can translate into significant dollars. Yelp is a word-of-mouth ecosystem, and it’s powerful.
That’s why this article is concerning: “Yelp and the Business of Extortion 2.0” quotes Bay Area business owners who said Yelp sales people offered to manipulate the ranking of user reviews based on their willingness to buy an ad. Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman refutes claims in the article here and here.
Trust in user-created reviews is delicate. By extension, so is trust in the platform that hosts them, which must demonstrate uncompromising standards for transparency, honesty and over-the-top concern for fairness. Trust is a bank account that can be quickly depleted. It’s almost impossible to refill.
Update: The New York Times weighs in on Yelp, with a balanced piece, but the coda is direct and uncompromising:
Yelp’s lack of transparency does not affect its relationship with businesses alone. It also risks eroding users’ trust in the site. Eric Kingery, an engineer and frequent Yelp user in Chicago, discovered that a review he had written of a jeweler disappeared. “It just makes me suspicious of the impartiality,” he said. “It is a very useful service, but this kind of harms the integrity of the site.”
Update 2: More allegations of suspicion, this time from the Chicago Tribune. Yelp: It looks as if you’re caught in a storm of bad word of mouth.
Posted by Ben McConnell on February 23, 2009 | Permalink
Other blogs that reference In Yelp we trust?:
Sooner than later, a general consumer review won’t be enough – individuals will want to hear from people they know (enter Facebook Connect, et al). Social media monetization has pushed spam manufacturing into a grey area and it smells pretty rotten to me.
Posted by: Peter Kim at Feb 23, 2009 10:13:04 AM
Is it wiser to believe the CEO who has a revenue/profit motive, or to believe the business owners who have nothing to gain by saying this is happening to them?
Let’s face it. The company was over-the-top brazen to think this would go unnoticed.
Remember Google’s original rule #1.
Don’t Be Evil.
Posted by: Bernard Madoff at Feb 23, 2009 6:13:16 PM
Hah! The excellent Irish boards.ie has unmasked a slightly different (same effect though) piece of duplicity in Ireland: http://www.boards.ie/vbulletin/showthread.php?t=2055397739
Posted by: Simon the pieman at Feb 24, 2009 5:42:37 AM
How sad this is to hear, I’m a true yelper and review every place I eat and many places I shop because I love yelp. I know there is a chance some of the reviews were faked but I wouldn’t have thought this.
Posted by: Kim at Feb 24, 2009 1:01:01 PM
We’ve watched Yelp for some time now, as timinganddelivery.com is similar, but different in focus – quality over quantity. I agree with your point on transparency, though…if you don’t have that, it’s hard to stave off manipulation and gaming.
Posted by: darren at Feb 26, 2009 12:31:49 AM
I’ve seen this a lot in the news lately! A lot of people are annoyed at Yelp. I’m wondering if this “conspiracy” of altering reviews has ever happened with any of the other review-based sites like Judy’s Book or InsiderPages. Does anyone know?
Posted by: Long Island Insurance at Feb 26, 2009 9:11:07 AM
Until recently I worked at a veterinary hospital in San Francisco, with 187 reviews on Yelp.
It’s understandable that in a busy emergency veterinary practice there will always be some customers who aren’t happy with their experience. However, over the past couple years there have been a few negative reviews that were just completely dishonest, falsely accusing us of harming animals and other nefarious things. One was posted by a customer who was trying to get out of paying a delinquent bill, another by one who had been politely asked to leave after verbally abusing a receptionist. When we tried to contact Yelp to see about removing the false reviews, we found out that 1) Yelp has no phone number, 2) there’s no way to talk to a live person, and 3) email inquiries resulted in a return message saying they refuse to even discuss the situation, saying “we don’t get involved unless there’s a court order.”
Then we started getting calls from the Yelp sales representatives, telling us that if we pay $299 a month or more we can get negative reviews moved or deleted, and “disappeared” positive reviews reinstated. One rep even suggested that additional negative reviews might appear unless we “improved our image” by subscribing to their business owners plan. They also said that paying business customers can call and discuss the merits of negative reviews with a Yelp staff person.
Small businesses really have no way to defend their professional reputations against dishonest attacks on Yelp, and Yelp seems to encourage dishonesty by its corporate policies and business practices. I am glad this is getting some press!
By the way, if someone at Yelp happens to read this, please don’t punish Pets Unlimited as I no longer work there and do not represent the opinions of my former employer.
Posted by: Used to Work at Pets Unlimited at Feb 28, 2009 4:38:50 PM
i am somewhat relieved to read that others have shared a similar experience with yelp. my flowershop received two negative reviews from the same customer who used 2 different names. we were aware of her displeasure with our flowers prior to her posting on yelp, had contacted her, and the person who sent them to her and tried to do the right thing despite our belief that her complaints were a matter of taste not quality or neglect on our part.
we began getting solicitations from yelp every wednesday morning at 9 for at least a month. they wanted to discuss our “good business experience” on yelp, which was totally not the case.
i was not able to spend “20 minutes” in front of my computer with their sales rep and after 6 weeks the calls stopped.
after another negative review was posted, i tried to contact the unhappy woman to apologize but have been thwarted every which way despite creating a business profile on yelp…which requires an approved photo…rejected twice over a period of a week, bio, history, etc.
some of my customers came upon the yelp reviews posted by those one time unhappy customers and wrote their own lengthy positive reviews based on their experiences with our shop over 30-35 years.needless to say, those reviews were posted, then removed within a day to be replaced by the unhappy post at the very top of our page.
our website also has no link to the site, despite the fact that all other nearby flowershops listed on the site have a connecting link to theirs.
i have looked for a phone # or email address to contact yelp…no success. the one email i sent was never replied to…
my review of yelp: NO STARS….and their manipulation of a seemingly “democratic” site is damaging to small business.
Posted by: fonda at Aug 29, 2009 9:44:52 AM
I have been working with a client to establish his social media presence and online reputation. In monitoring Yelp’s website we have noticed positive reviews posted that disappear within a couple of days leaving only negative ones remaining (which are believed to be fradulent but that’s a different story)
He has not been approached by Yelp, however, is considering advertising based on this history because whether or not Yelp is soliciting directly these practices are still out there and are tarnishing the names of reputable companies
Posted by: BH at Feb 10, 2010 4:47:27 PM
I also have a client who is being assassinated on Yelp, no matter how many good reviews are posted. Once a good review goes up, it goes down within 48 hours. As I have been their customer for over thirty years, I put up a good review of my own only to discover that once mine went up, another good review went down. Other clients have experienced the same thing. The three nasty reviews they have remain the same and are often the only ones left standing at the end of any given day.
Their practices are shady to say the least. And the worst part? No way to contact them as either a business owner or a user. It’s truly frightening and, needless to say, I no longer believe they are fair or impartial. They’re just creepy.
Posted by: AJ at Mar 5, 2010 3:01:31 PM
I am happy to hear that we are not the only company that has had many of these experiences on Yelp. I have never felt soooo powerless and frustrated about how Yelp works. My company has had such a great reputation and while we can always do something to improve our processes I am shocked that Yelp has taken down our great reviews and put up bad reviews. We have a very people intensive business in the area of employment and people are frustrated at this time more than I have ever experienced. Also, we believe that there is some sabotage going on from someone who is systematically putting up bad reviews. Never in my years of experience have had an experience like this Yelp company. They should be out of business or at least change some of their procedures. If I could sue them I would. Good Luck Everyone!
Posted by: Charlene Gorzela at Mar 11, 2010 11:46:06 AM
We are in a similar situation. All positive reviews were removed with 24 to 48 hours, for no reasons at all!! No way to contact Yelp either. Extremely frustrated. We are a startup business, and every piece of positive review counts! So glad to know that Yelp is facing a series of lawsuits which it deserves.
Posted by: John at Mar 14, 2010 9:17:18 PM
It’s rather interesting that I did leave a rather negative feedback way back on one that I can see ~ only if I log in. However, as a visitor my feedback is not there. This tells me that indeed Yelp may not be participating within a democratic system but more like Bush-era type in favor of corruption and profiteering. Pretty clever in fooling us by playing around their web content management system, eh? Oh well, like in here ~ word is indeed getting around about how Yelp’s truly is. Too bad.
Posted by: S Richardson at Mar 16, 2010 7:31:47 PM
Found this number for Yelp, apparently you can leave them a message! 1-415-908-3801
SMB New Media Marketing
Posted by: Richard at Jun 22, 2010 10:13:56 AM
I had a customer who owed me money write a horrible review to get out of paying. I even told yelp about situation and they still refused to take it down. The two good reviews I did have just randomly disapeared. It as if they only want you to have bad reviews. It sucks for a small business like mine that doesnt get reviews often or everyday like a restaurant. I even tried to post a response to her review and they wouldn’t allow that either. They should at least be fair about it.
Posted by: Dave at Aug 13, 2010 11:25:10 PM
I need HELP WITH YELP! so if anyone has ideas for me…. i did a search and nnoticed yelp had a listing on my business and there were inaccuracies. So i was able to go in and change these, but it was “subject to review” ~ now if you do a search on my business, yelp shows up #1 and it reports my business is CLOSED.
How can they get away with this? From reading your posts here, I suspect that I’m supposed to become a member and pay money to get this CLOSED removed. It comes up at the top of the search page ~ someone did some work to achieve that….
Posted by: marcie smith at Oct 28, 2010 10:50:25 AM
I reviewed a new restaurant in my neighborhood that recently opened. They are very small but VERY good. I went into some detail to describe what I had and why I liked it. It is a struggling mexican “hole in the wall” place but with outstanding food. Well, my 5 star review was “filtered” I’m guessing they didn’t pay the extortion fee to Yelp so they are getting shafted by a greedy company who manipulates businesses reviews to harm those that don’t pay and falsify information to the good for those that do pay.
Posted by: dean at Mar 5, 2011 9:35:34 AM
Try the Internet Crime Complaint Center if you have had libelous reviews.
Try calling Yelp at (415) 908-3801 press 6 for “sales” then 4 for “advertising” or 5 for “marketing”. Leave a message and/or phone number. Yelp personnel will call back. Obviously, this is not the complaint number or the legal dept. but Yelp does not make those phone numbers easily available. I believe that letting Yelp employees know how you feel is important. Eventually, it may get through to upper management that extortion tactics are frowned on by users.
Posted by: George at Mar 18, 2011 7:55:58 PM
Transportation — particularly air travel — is where most travelers have the biggest environmental impact. According to USA Today, a flight from New York to Denver produces as much carbon dioxide per passenger as an SUV produces in a month. To minimize your environmental footprint, try the following steps:
- Offset the carbon emissions produced by your flight.
- For shorter trips, take the train instead of flying — especially in Europe or other regions where train service is fast and frequent.
- When renting a car, choose the smallest vehicle that can comfortably accommodate you. Decline any “free” upgrades (which will cost you more in gas).
- Rent a hybrid car.
- Taking a long road trip? If your personal vehicle is large and not very fuel-efficient, consider renting an economy car instead. You’ll save gas and avoid putting miles on your own vehicle.
- Whenever possible, use public transportation instead of a taxis or rental cars. Better yet, walk or bike.
When it comes to visiting the world’s most beautiful places, the old adage rings true: Take nothing but photographs, and leave nothing but footprints.
- Travel with a tour operator that’s environmentally responsible. Before you book, be sure to ask about group size (smaller groups tend to make less of an environmental impact), whether the tours are led by locals, how the tour operator gives back to the community, and what kind of lodging is included.
- When hiking, always stay on marked trails and maintain a safe distance from any animals you encounter. Deposit your trash in marked receptacles or take it with you when you leave. Light campfires only in established fire rings and be sure they’re completely extinguished before you leave.
- When snorkeling, do not touch the coral or stir up sediment, as these actions can damage the reef’s fragile ecosystem.
- Try to buy local products whenever possible instead of those that have been flown or shipped in from overseas. You’ll support the local economy and get a taste of native cuisine. Do not, however, buy souvenirs or other products made from endangered animals or plants — in most cases you can’t get them through Customs anyway.
- Treat the locals with respect. Learn a few words in the native language, be open to cultural differences, and read up on the area before your trip so you’re sensitive to issues of dress and behavior.
- Consider taking a volunteer vacation to give back directly to the place you’re visiting.
By Sarah Schlichter
Choosing a green hotel
There are a number of Web sites that list environmentally friendly hotels, B&B’s and lodges around the world; these are a good place to start. Keep in mind that each site has its own guidelines for rating properties, so you’ll want to do your homework to make sure that the hotel meets the standards you’re looking for.
A few questions to ask before booking your hotel:
- Is the hotel locally owned and operated? If not, is it at least staffed by local employees?
- What kind of recycling programs does the hotel have (aluminum, plastic, paper, gray water, composting)?
- Do guests have the option to reuse towels and sheets instead of having them changed every day?
- What programs does the hotel have to reduce consumption? Examples include energy-efficient lighting, low-flow toilets and showers, and alternative energy sources like solar or wind power.
- How does the hotel contribute to the local community?
During your stay
Even if you’re not spending the night in an ecolodge or green hotel, there are still several easy steps you can take to make your stay more eco-friendly.
- Keep your showers short, and shut off the water while you’re brushing your teeth.
- When you leave the room, turn off the television, lights or any other electric devices.
- Reuse your sheets and towels instead of having them changed every day. Many hotels will not replace your towels if you leave them hanging up neatly; if you’re not sure, write a note for the housekeeping staff or notify the front desk.
- Bring your own toiletries and drinking cup rather than using the prepackaged ones provided. If you do use the hotel’s toiletries, take them with you and use them at home or during the rest of your trip.
- Know your hotel’s recycling program and sort your trash accordingly. If your hotel doesn’t recycle, consider taking your empty bottles or other items home with you to recycle them there.
- Give your hotel feedback. Express your appreciation for any eco-friendly programs it currently
By Sarah Schlichter
What is green travel?
“Green travel” is one of many catch phrases — like ecotourism, sustainable tourism and responsible travel — that are bandied about with increasing frequency these days. But what exactly do these terms mean?
There are various shades of difference among all these terms, but at the heart of the matter is the importance of protecting the natural and cultural environment of the places you visit. That means conserving plants, wildlife and other resources; respecting local cultures and ways of life; and contributing positively to local communities.
Why go green?
With nearly 1 billion tourists crisscrossing the globe every year, it’s more important than ever for travelers to minimize their individual impact on the earth’s natural and cultural treasures. The potential negative effects of tourism are both local and global; oceanfront hotels contribute to beach erosion in Hawaii, rising numbers of visitors threaten the fragile ecosystems of the Galapagos Islands, and carbon dioxide emissions from planes are a growing contributor to global warming.
Taking a green approach to travel is an easy and essential way to protect the places you love to visit, not just for yourself but for the travelers who come after you and for the people who will continue to live there long after you’ve flown home. As an added bonus, it often makes for a more rewarding, authentic travel experience, encouraging deeper connections with the people and places you visit.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t necessarily have to pay more in order to travel green. While offsetting the carbon emissions from your air travel will set you back a negligible amount (usually between $10 and $40 per flight, depending on the length), you can find green lodging options in all budgets, from hostels to hotels, inns and luxury Bed & Breakfasts such as green ROCKS inn. And you can rent a hybrid car, take public transportation and/or use a bike once you arrive at your destination.
By Sarah Schlichter
This is the first in a short series of Blogs dedicated to Green Travel. Over the next few days we will share easy to understand and relevant information. Many people hear the terms “green travel” or “ecotourism” and picture someone sleeping in a treehouse in the jungles of Borneo or canoeing down the Amazon. But this type of eco-adventure is just one end of the green travel spectrum. You don’t need to sacrifice creature comforts or go off into the middle of nowhere to be a green traveler; you can visit big cities or small villages, and stay in small ecolodges or luxury hotels. All that’s required is an effort to preserve and protect the environment of the place you’re visiting — and it’s easier than you might think.
Tomorrow, we’ll blog on “What is Green Travel” and “Why Go Green?”.
The blueberries found in blueberry bagels, cereals, breads and muffins are REAL blueberries right? Wrong! Award-winning investigative journalist Mike Adams, the Health Ranger, exposes the deceptive chemical ingredients and dishonest marketing of “blueberry” products from big-name food and cereal companies. The blueberries, it turns out, are made from artificial colors, hydrogenated oils and liquid sugars. See more episodes at www.FoodInvestigations.com
TRANSCRIPT OF VIDEO:
Pictures of blueberries are prominently displayed on the front of many food packages. Here they are on boxes of muffins, cereals and breads. But turn the packages around, and suddenly the blueberries disappear. They’re gone, replaced in the ingredients list with sugars, oils and artificial colors derived from petrochemicals.
This bag of blueberry bagels sold at Target stores is made with blueberry bits. And while actual blueberries are found further down the ingredients list, the blueberry bits themselves don’t even contain bits of blueberries. They’re made entirely from sugar, corn cereal, modified food starch, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, artificial flavor, cellulose gum, salt and artificial colors like Blue #2, Red #40, Green #3 and Blue #1.
What’s missing from that list? Well, blueberries.
Where did the blueberries go?
They certainly didn’t end up in Total Blueberry Pomegranate Cereal. This cereal, made by General Mills, contains neither blueberries nor pomegranates. They’re nowhere to be found. But the cereal is made with red #40, blue #2 and other artificial colors. And it’s even sweetened with sucralose, a chemical sweetener. And that’s in addition to the sugar, corn syrup and brown sugar syrup that’s already on the label.
A lot of products that imply they’re made with blueberries contain no blueberries at all. And many that do contain a tiny amount of blueberries cut their recipes with artificial blueberry ingredients to make it look like their products contain more blueberries than they really do.
Kellogg’s Blueberry Pop Tarts shows a picture of plump blueberries right on the front of the box. But inside the box, there’s a lot more high fructose corn syrup than actual blueberries. And the corn syrup is given a blueberry color with the addition of — guess what? — red #40, blue #1 and blue #2 chemicals.
Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats also come in a Blueberry Muffin variety, with fresh blueberries prominently featured on the front of the package. But inside, there are no actual blueberries to be found. Instead, you get “blueberry flavored crunchlets” — yes, crunchlets — made from sugars, soybean oil, red #40 and blue #2.
And, if you can believe it, the side panel of this box features the “Frosted Mini Wheats Bite Size” logo, followed by the words “blueberry muffin” with pictures of blueberries, finally followed by “The Whole Truth.” Except it really isn’t the whole truth at all. It’s more like a half truth.
These marketing deceptions even continue on Kellogg’s website, where one page claims, “New Special K Blueberry Fruit Crisps are filled with blueberries and drizzled with vanilla icing.” Except they aren’t, really. What they’re really filled with is apple powder, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, fructose, sugar, artificial colors red #40 and blue #1, all enhanced with a dash of blueberry puree concentrate.
Even seemingly “healthy” blueberry products can be deceptive. Betty Crocker’s Fiber One Blueberry muffin mix enhances its small amount of actual blueberries with petrochemical colors, too: Red #40, Blue #1 and Blue #2.
At least Betty Crocker’s Blueberry Muffin Mix admits it contains no real blueberries. Well, if you read the fine print, that is. It’s ingredients reveal “Artificial blueberry flavor bits” which are made from dextrose, Corn Flour, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Sugar, Citric Acid, Artificial Flavor, and of course the obligatory Blue #1 and Red #40.
When consumers buy blueberry cereals, muffins and mixes, they’re under the impression that they’re buying real blueberries. No ordinary consumer realizes they’re actually buying blue coloring chemicals mixed with hydrogenated oils and liquid sugars. That’s why this common industry practice of faking the blueberries is so deceptive.
Why can’t food companies just be more honest about it? Nature’s Path Organic Optimum Blueberry-Cinnamon Breakfast Cereal contains — get this — both blueberries and cinnamon.
Better yet, you won’t find any red #40, blue #2 or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils in Nature’s Path products. They even use organic blueberries and organic cinnamon.
Health Valley Low-Fat Blueberry Tarts are also made with real blueberries. You won’t find any artificial coloring chemicals in this box.
So why can’t Kellogg, Betty Crocker, General Mills and Target stores use real blueberries in their products instead of deceptively formulating them with artificial petrochemical colors that mimic the purple color of blueberries?
It’s probably because real blueberries are expensive. And artificial blueberry bits, made with sugar, partially hydrogenated oils and artificial colors, are dirt cheap. If these companies can fool consumers into thinking they’re buying real blueberries in their products, they can command a price premium that translates into increased profits.
Once again, in the food industry, deception pays off. And it pays big.
So what can YOU do to make sure you don’t get scammed by a food company trying to sell you red #40 and Blue #2 as if they were real blueberries? Read the ingredients. If you see artificial colors on the list — and they’re usually found at the very bottom of the ingredients list — just don’t buy that product.
Put it back on the shelf and choose something else that’s not deceptively marketed. And that’s how you solve “the case of the missing blueberries.”
Our recent bout with Hurricane Irene (or should I say Tropical Storm Irene depending on where you were at the time she chose to linger) is technically over, but her effects live on. To be in the dark for so many days and nights has proven to be an experience filled with pain, fear and loss, along with their mirror images of peace, serenity and gratitude. Without wanting to come off as Mary Poppins, I can honestly say that we received some clear and amazing gifts from Irene’s visit. This is not to diminish any of the human and animal suffering that occurred and continues to linger throughout the Eastern Seaboard, particularly in the Carolinas and Northern New England states.
Okay, so we had one terrible accident resulting from Irene’s presence. Because we had no power I had to lift and close the garage door manually. On Monday morning I ended up in the Emergency Room of Danbury Hospital with fractured and lacerated fingers after getting my hand caught and smashed in the folds of the garage door as it was closing. And, Natacha backed into the fence doing some damage as she was attempting to get out of the car and to my rescue. The good news is that I, unlike a man that was in the ER earlier than I, did not lose any fingers and I will heal just fine. Now the flip side: We were able to be of service and to assist people in need. Although we could not get the power to come back on for ourselves or anyone else, we spent time with others in need and our presence was their (and our) comfort. We had plenty of food, water and ice to share. We had each other and our wonderful friends and families. We learned that throughout the day and in the evenings there were worthwhile and gratifying things to do aside from working and watching TV … like having meaningful conversations, laughing, being together, dining by candlelight, and planning our future.
So, in earnest we say “Thank You, Irene” (I think)
The inn is almost full – we have one room left for anyone wanting to get to higher ground and away from the coast line both inside and outside of CT. We have lots of good food, clean water, flashlights, candles … all the necessities and luxuries to see the Hurricane through safely and comfortably. Wherever you decide to spend the next few days, be safe!