Saturday, January 4, 2020

It Yelps Out In Pain As It Strikes You

I have some friends and associates who've had some recent bad experiences with a certain famous tech company that inspired me to consult Googliath on teh Interwebz. What I found, astounded me. From Hawaii to Alaska, from California to Maine to Florida....all across the country, small businesses everywhere are being preyed upon by this unethical 21st century version of a protection racket.

To summarize before we get into the meat of this post, after a lot of research, this is my recommendations to anyone who is a business owner or makes the advertising/marketing decisions for your company:

Don't create a page on their website for your company.

If someone creates one for you, don't claim it.

Don't let a bunch of 5 star reviews put up by legitimate customers that initially appear on your page fool you and suck you in. Once those start to accumulate, their sales reps will begin to call you to get you to buy in to their scheme.

Once you make it clear you won't pay to play with them, your 5 star reviews will get hidden with a tiny link on the page saying "These Reviews are not Recommended" while the reviews that are allowed to remain posted and used to make your 'official' rating will be your one to two star negative reviews, giving you a bad overall rating.

They'll call you back and imply that advertising with them will get your positive reviews back up and your negative ones to be "not recommended." It may or may not happen once you pay. I've heard of folks that paid, and still had their positive reviews hidden while the negatives remained, and I've heard of others that got what they paid for. Either way, it's just not worth it.

Let the sales reps say whatever they want, just DON'T give them any credit or debit card info. No matter what they promise, once they got your digits and ID, they will bill your account repeatedly until you actually get your card or bank to put a stop on them.

There is no quantifiable results or measurables to definitively show a Return On Investment for their "services."

If your a franchise owner of a large corporate franchise or a Big Biz outlet, have at it. A page on their site will do just fine. It's not the big fish they're after, because what they're doing, skirts the edge of legality. They have been constantly taken to court in the past, so they know the fine line they walk to keep their practice barely above the law. Also, for most small businesses, the owners cannot afford a protracted legal battle and will just surrender and move on once they manage to disentangle themselves...after they already made off with a couple of months of billings you never explicitly agreed to authorize.

You never sign any contract or paperwork...but as soon as you sign up and create a profile and enter your credit or debit card info, they have you right where they want a blood sucking leech. You can only get them off of you with a lot of pain and blood loss. And if you're a small business -start up with very little margin for error and on the cusp of make-or break financially, they will hit you up with excessive charges to your account when you can least afford it.

Worse yet, not only do they do anything they can to convince you over the phone to sign up to get your billing information, they don't even pretend to try and help your business succeed. They do nothing for you except try to sell you on signing up for more advertising contracts.

And if you try to stop their billing and "turn off" their advertising "services, " they will do everything in their power to put the worst face forward on your page on their site. They will deliberately select the least flattering and/or irrelevant photos on the front, they will "not recommend" aka hide all your four and five star reviews, they will feature all the one and two star reviews, and they will put links to all of your businesses competitors all over your page to get visitors to take their business elsewhere.

Here's a video some small business owners here on my island made to demonstrate what these "business" practices would look like in the real world:

Here's one business owner that used to troll other small business owners that complained online about these business practices, until he had his own experiences with them. After seeing the error of his ways, he actually created a wordpress blog to fight back.

Check out his story:

The sad thing here, again, is that I've been saying for years...that everybody who thinks that Y3lp is out to extort you kind of a conspiracy theorist, or ridiculous. I've never been a fan of Y3lp elite culture...but you can see on a lot of websites where I've said that all these people that are like, "I got two bad reviews, Y3lp is extorting me...blah, blah, blah, blah..." I make fun of them! I'll say like,  "You know, it couldn't possibly be that you're charging $100 more than Apple for a crappy has to be that Y3lp is extorting you!" 
I've always trolled a lot of these people that think that Y3lp is extorting them, and that they're getting bad reviews because of Y3lp extortion. I've always thought that was crap. 
Until now.

Here's a roofing company owner warning other small business owners. He includes video clips of his conversations he had with company sales reps on the phone. More importantly, this vid focuses on the sales pitch hook that promises a free $900 advertising credit if he signs up. Looks like they offer this just to get your credit card info which they then begin to bill regularly month after month, way above and beyond that $900 "free" credit they initially offer.

Here's a one man Plumbing company owner sharing his experience:

Here's where I believe Y3lp traps's because businesses cannot opt out of all. Okay, because it's a matter of public record and public concern...and so, anybody can add a business into not for bad reasons. If you, let's say, enjoy the business and they provide a great service, you want to tell other people about it. You post on Y3lp, you're the first to review, you add a business in there...other people add...other people, you know, join in and add there reviews...what happens is that Y3lp calls that business and they say, "Have you ever thought about advertising with us? A lot of people seem to like your business." And what ends up happening, is that the company can either say ya or nay.

If they say ya, then they gotta go in there and claim their business -- and this is what happened to me --  my reviews dropped, because I claimed my business but I don't want to advertise with Y3lp. I had the mentality of 'Hey, everythings doing great, and its free, so why not just keep it going?' My reviews dropped, and they went from the posted reviews to the hidden reviews....or as they call it now, "Reviews not currently Recommended," which actually discredits all of those reviews because "not recommended." cannot opt out of Y3lp....basically you got to pay to play...or else.

These sorts of video's are all over YouTube and Bitchute. One could spend hours watching them all. The sheer number of anecdotal experiences found on teh Interwebz sure makes a compelling case for anyone that runs a small business to avoid getting sucked into their racket.

But there is also plenty of websites of small business owners who got stung and are plenty mad...and you look at their website posts and blogs, and you'll see their comments just filled with angry business owners all over the country. The sheer number of complaints is astounding.

Here's one guy who's business is sales and marketing on teh Interwebz. He does a great post on his website explaining his clients and his own experience with this company, and he offers a great breakdown as to why it is a fraudulent racket, especially when you compare the advertising services you get with this company compared to other big Tech company's like Googliath. Here's some excerpts from his site:

So the idea here is similar to Google AdWords, when someone searches for a term related to your business, your listing shows up (as, “Sponsored Result”) with the hopes that your business gets clicked on.

Here’s the caveat though, Y3lp is charging you per impression basis instead of per click basis.  What this means is that whenever your listing shows up in this manner, it counts against your total allotted amount that you paid of (so you are paying “cost per impression”).  If it were click based (cost per click) you would get charged ONLY if your ad gets clicked.

This brings into a few questions, the least of which are:
  • So how much is it per impression?
  • How many impressions can you expect to get (this is of course dependent on the search volume) – bear in mind that this is a LOCAL search and review online system. Which means that you are really throttling the number of impressions your ads will show up because the number of LOCAL folks doing searches related to you business within your area is a tiny tiny fraction of the searches done nationally combined.
  • Are you able to test different the keywords with which your listing shows up (which is costing you money)?
  • Are you able to TRACK the results you are getting on fine details?  I.e. what keywords are converting, when is the best time to show your Y3lp sponsored listing, etc.  Basically, questions that any savvy AdWords expert would ask.
  • How much control do you have over this campaign?  After all, you ARE paying for it.

Before I Go On, Let’s Talk About Leakage

What is “leakage“?  Well, in digital marketing term, it means actions taken by your website visitor that doesn’t contribute to your ultimate goal (such as capturing the lead, making the sale, etc.)  This often includes having active links which serve as distractions that take the visitor ELSEWHERE.

Now… take a good look at just about any Y3lp review page, do you see leakage? Do you see links everywhere?  But more importantly (and relevantly from a marketing perspective), do you see the box that says, “People Who Viewed This Also Viewed…”?  Do you see how these links tend to be links to direct competition to the business review page you are viewing?

So you are looking at $100 CPM (cost per thousand impressions) to $200 CPM to advertise on their network. In the AdWords world, this is ridiculously high for paying CPM unless you are in some highly competitive and profitable business like real estate and 401k portfolios (oh wait… given the crash of the economy, DOH!).  Even then you are pushing it a bit.  Folks who are paying high CPM on the pay per click networks have thoroughly tested their campaigns, have tracked EVERY single detail, and have all the control in the world.

But on Y3lp?  Hellllll no!  You don’t know what your “campaign” looks like let alone have any control over it.  You are like a blind mouse and they are the big bad kitty toying with you.  And yet, they are still charging you an arm and a leg.  And one quick look around Y3lp will tell you that most businesses are NOT high-price markets, they are mostly smaller markets like restaurants.

This brings me to my second point of frustration when dealing with these Y3lp folks, where’s the proof of these impressions people paid for???  Where are my listings showing up?  And what’s the conversion rate??  Again, they tell you nothing and keep you blind.


Okay, so I had the opportunity to speak to a Y3lp representative on the phone on my client’s behalf.  Armed with my knowledge of AdWords, marketing, the works… I came prepared.  Sadly for the person on the other line, that’s more than I can say for her.
I asked about all the things I mentioned before (about click through rates versus impressions, how I can track my campaign, how much control I have, etc.) and she was STUMPED.  She couldn’t understand why we would care about such matters.  As a matter of fact, I’d venture so far as to say she didn’t know JACK about marketing, and yet, she’s representing a team that’s suppose to help us market.

But what REALLY got to me was when I asked her about a 24 hour backout clause, which means that within 24 hours of the start of the campaign, if I am not satisfied with the results I am seeing, I can cancel.  Nope she said… and the reason is because it takes time for the program to ramp up for me to really start seeing results.

EHHH?  It’s the internet we are talking about here right?  I can track clicks fairly easily right?  Hmmm… okay.

So then I went on and asked what is the minimum sign up period, to which she replied, “6 months” OMGWTFBBQ, 6 month minimum at $325 a month where you have NO IDEA what’s going on? Thanks but no thanks.

As with all the other sites out there, have a gander at his guys comments. People from all over the country weigh in on their experiences.

If you're considering paying for advertising from this tech firm, do some more reading before you agree on the phone and enter your billing information into their sign up page.

Here's another marketing business owner who points out that there is really no legal remedy for what they do. He cites court rulings from the 9th Circuit Court that side with the company, allowing them to continue to prey on small businesses all across the nation:

In September 2014, the 9th Circuit Court decided a case that practically could have been named Everybody v. Y3lp Inc. The case involved a group of companies which believed that Y3lp had “extorted or attempted to extort advertising payments from them by manipulating user reviews and penning negative reviews of their businesses.” In their case, the plaintiffs argued that Y3lp had done this by distorting their rankings - removing positive reviews and publishing negatives ones - and then having their sales people use that as leverage to get them to buy advertisements on the review site.

But the court stated in their ruling, “As Y3lp has the right to charge for legitimate advertising services, the threat of economic harm that Y3lp leveraged is, at most, hard bargaining.”

This subject has been talked about ad nauseam (here’s a good overview from shortly after the case was decided), so I won’t go into too much detail here. Suffice to say, for the past several years, Y3lp’s position has been, “We don’t extort our customers, but hey, we totally can if we feel like it.” They say they don’t extort businesses, but when even your own shareholders have sued you for “undisclosed business practices, including but not limited to requiring business customers to pay to suppress negative reviews,” something ain’t right.

While this company was initially launched as a service to help consumers find good eats at restaurants, they've expanded to all sorts of business ventures. If your a small business owner in any kind of industry, beware! Here's the experience of a small time vacation rental biz in NY:
What is a Y3lp? A short sharp cry, especially of pain or alarm.
So what is the big deal you ask?

Well, in case you have been living under a rock the past 15 years since Y3lp was founded it has put countless businesses out of business simply because of the negative Y3lp reviews they got. In reality, there is nothing funny about Y3lp.

Y3lp is simply a Bully with a cattle prod.

In the rest of this page, we will attempt to politely stick Y3lps cattle prod and illusion of strength up their ***.
Another review website named Trustpilot offers a similar review format, and they have a page for trustpilot users to rate Y3lp. Here's a recent review from one day ago:

If someone calls your business from Y3lp trying to get you to advertise with them, HANG UP ASAP. I work for a small family owned business and I would never speak to them until 11/21/19 when the guy told me my dad had told him to speak with me. My dad was out of town so I just assumed he really did refer the Y3lp person to me. I mean who would lie about that? After a conversation, I agreed to a 7 day trial and provided my company card info. He did NOT tell me that I would be charged automatically after 7 days. I was very clear with him that I would need to speak with my dad before committing to anything. I asked him to send me an e-mail with all of the information he could provide and my plan was to review the e-mail once received and share with my father. The e-mail never came.

Around 12/11 or 12/12/19, somebody in my store was talking about advertising and I remembered the Y3lp conversation and asked my dad why he directed them to me. He said he may have mentioned my name to the guy but that he was very clear about how he had no intention of signing up for anything with anyone until after January 1 2020.

At that point, I realized that I had been lied to and went into the Y3lp for business owners page and made sure I clicked on anything that gave me any option to "cancel" any type of service. At that point, I was unaware of any charges from Y3lp so I assumed all was good. I received my credit card statement on 12/24 and discovered a charge for $148.94 on Dec 1 from Y3lp. How could we be billed for a free 7 day trial??? I called the billing dept for Y3lp and told them I was furious and how the account executive had manipulated me by lying to me. Long story short, she not only could not help me, she told me there was another charge to my card for almost $300 on Jan 1 that I wasn't even aware of!!! I told her I needed to speak with a manager or supervisor to resolve this and she said she could submit a request but that it would take 3-5 business days for someone to call me back!!. ARE YOU SERIOUS?!?!?!?!

The salespeople blow up your phone even after you tell them to leave you the hell alone but I can't get someone to call me back about a problem for 3-5 business days?!?!? I told her not to bother because my next call would be to my bank to dispute ALL of the charges. We will NEVER do business with them and neither should anyone else!

I have a friend who owns his own business, and this is almost precisely what he experienced as well.

Here's a site that has reviews from former employees detailing the corporate culture of a company that practices this barely legal extortion racket.

This company has built a solid reputation of infamy and the point where some people got together and produced a documentary to expose it. The following is the trailer on YouTube:
Click to view Trailer

And here's the movie posted in it's entirety over at Bitchute:

All I can say in conclusion?