This is the best story I’ve heard about Yelp. I know it’s true because it’s discreditable to everyone involved. For reasons that will become apparent, some of the reporting may be a bit vague …
Looking for a mattress for the guest room, I stopped by three or four mattress stores in my new home town. Let’s call it Denver, because everybody else does.
At one of the thousands of outlets of a national chain store, the only one home was the manager. This guy must have graduated — or flunked out — from a Chinese re-education camp. He never outright sneered at me for not knowing about mattresses, but he might as well have.
On the way to a competitor, I saw another of his outlets. What the heck, I figured, maybe the first guy was just having a bad day. So I pulled in, and — I swear to God — the door was locked and the only guy inside — the manager — couldn’t figure out how to unlock it.
I stopped at a third store down the street, a small-time, local one. The manager had an elderly woman lying on a mattress while her husband stood by and they played with the controls to raise and lower her head and feet. They were having a grand old time.
After checking out a fourth emporium, which was pretty good, I returned to the third one, because I liked the guy’s style.
By the time I forked over many ducats for a mattress with all the trimmings, we had been yokking it up for a quarter of an hour, minus eight minutes timeout for him to sell another customer a twin mattress.
As he rang me up, he asked me to recommend his store on Yelp. He doesn’t advertise: One-third of his customers are walk-ins, one-third come by word of mouth, and one-third saw him on Yelp.
“You know, a lot of those Yelp reviews are fake,” I said.
“I know they are,” he said. “You know how I know?”
“Dish,” I said.
“Check me out on Yelp,” he said. “All my ratings are five stars, maybe a few fours, except for one 1. That was because she smelled pot on my delivery guys.”
“Look, do me a favor,” he said. “When my guys deliver your mattress — I’ll send you two guys, to set it up — give them each $10 or $15. But don’t give them pot or beer.”
“Is that a problem these days?”
“It is! All my customers tip my guys with pot or beer. So that day, they smoked their tip and the next customer complained. She gave me one star on Yelp.”
“So did you fire the guys?”
“Hell, no. I tore them a new one, though. But I left the one-star review up on Yelp. I figured, so many of those reviews are fake, if a customer sees that one-star, she’ll figure the rest of them are honest. Which they are. And you know what?”
“Next week a customer comes in and he’s printed out the one-star review, and he shows it to me and says that’s why he came in: because he figured if I left it up there, I must be honest.”
“Did he buy a mattress?”
So there you have it, Young Entrepreneurs.
On The Day In Question, this guy was batting 1,000: three for three in sales — plus extra credit for an old sale that came from an angry complaint.
What’s the lesson here?
Media campaigns, songs and dances and support from a giant corporation might work for a while. But in the long run, it seems to be simpler and more effective to just tell the truth.