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Cliff Stein, Reputation Changer CEO, Weighs In on Yelp's Political Firestorm

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - Sep 13, 2012) - For an ever-growing number of consumers, sites like Yelp.com provide an easy and accessible place to find ratings and reviews of local business establishments. Whether seeking the neighborhood's top-rated taco stand or wondering what the locals say about a certain salon, Yelp often seems to have the answers. According to Cliff Stein, Reputation Changer CEO, these Yelp reviews are not always as trustworthy as they appear -- and an incident from the 2012 presidential campaign trail illustrates why.

Over the weekend, President Obama, while stumping in Florida, visited with potential voters in a local Ft. Pierce restaurant, Big Apple Pizza. While in the restaurant, the president received an enormous bear hug from restaurant owner Scott Van Duzer, a registered Republican but a strong Obama supporter. The image of the restaurant owner lifting the president off his feet made it into newspapers and blogs across the country.

In the following days, Van Duzer found his pizzeria besieged by negative Yelp reviews -- many of them having nothing to do with the food or service found at Big Apple Pizza, and everything to do with the owner's politics. Then, the backlash happened, with countless Obama supporters trying to counteract the negative press with positive, politically-charged reviews of their own.

Cliff Stein, Reputation Changer Chief Executive Officer, has weighed in on the issue with a press statement. In his press release, Stein notes that the incident is evidence of just how untrustworthy online review sites can be. "We would all love to believe that these sites are honest, and that the feedback they offer can always be believed, but the sad reality is that this is just not the case," says Stein. "The incident in Florida is a prime example. The reviews posted for Big Apple Pizza in recent days don't tell you anything about how good the food is, or whether the waitresses are friendly. It's all a political firestorm, over something the owner did that happened to make the news."

It is not always about politics, either. According to Cliff Stein, Reputation Changer has witnessed companies slammed on Yelp for any number of reasons: "Sometimes, the reviews actually are legitimate, but in other cases, they are planted by competitors or employees."

Stein goes on to say that not only are these negative reviews frequently misleading or illegitimate, but they can also be deeply damaging. "Big Apple Pizza may actually end up benefiting from some of the publicity it has received, especially because its negative reviews are so transparently dishonest," he affirms. "However, not every business is so lucky. The fact is, many consumers simply trust the reviews that they see on these review sites, and they do not pause to consider whether motives might be less than pure."

The Reputation Changer CEO says that the consequences of bad reviews are exceedingly serious. "We have seen businesses brought to ruin by the bad reviews they have received on sites like Yelp, and that is no exaggeration," Stein remarks. "The effects of these bad online reviews can include lost sales, lost customers, an increase in refund requests, and more."

The online reputation management services offered by Reputation Changer offer a solution. "This story out of Florida serves as a reminder of how invaluable a good online reputation management strategy can be," says Stein. "The moral of the story is that any business can be subjected to online attack, at any time and for any reason, and those attacks can prove costly. However, a reputation management company can help to suppress those bad reviews, give the company control over how it is presented online, and ultimately present it as a brand of choice among consumers."

Stein concludes by noting that Reputation Changer has delivered its reputation management services to Fortune 500 brands, small businesses, and even political campaigns.

ABOUT:

Led by CEO Cliff Stein, Reputation Changer is an industry-leading reputation management firm. Founded in 2009 by an elite team of online sales and marketing professionals, Reputation Changer has delivered its services to a wide range of clients, including restaurants and hotels, medical practices and law firms, political figures and private citizens. The company's vision is for giving clients control over how they are portrayed on the Web.