San Francisco-based Yelp has a message for businesses that would exchange cash for favorable reviews: don't do it.
The web site is cracking down on businesses that offer money or favorable services in return for five-star reviews, according to the New York Times.
A "badge of shame" is being posted on offending businesses' pages on Yelp, the newspaper reported: to wit, a cartoon image of a detective, with the heading "Consumer Alert."
Those businesses' Yelp pages will be flagged for three months with a message reading, "We caught someone red-handed trying to buy reviews for this business," the newspaper reported.
There is incentive to game some of Yelp's 30 million reviews, the newspaper reported. Commerce is increasingly driven by consumer reviews, so the pest control company, for example, that offered $5 for a favorable review was just trying to keep up with market forces. But they were turned in to Yelp and busted, the newspaper reported.
But one Chicago hair salon owner said she'd been unfairly flagged -- and this was after Yelp plagued her to buy advertising, the newspaper reported.