Local Business Owner Claims Employee Safety Is at Risk Due to Yelp Posting Policies, ‘It’s Just Not Safe’

By: Lauren | Published: May 25, 2024

When it comes to owning a small business, online reviews are incredibly important. In fact, many agree that they can either make or break you.

But one small business owner recently told the press that the online review site Yelp is actually extremely dangerous for independent owners. She is hoping that by bringing this issue to the public’s attention, Yelp will change its policies to keep her, her family, and her business safe and thriving.

Jessa Slaven Says Yelp Is Dangerous for Business Owners

Jessa Slaven, owner of Jessa’s Tea Parlor in Woodstock, Georgia, recently checked her business’ Yelp page to find out what customers have been saying about her quaint cafe.

A photograph of the interior of Jessa’s Tea Parlor in Woodstock, Georgia

Source: Jessa’s Tea Parlor

When she did, much to her surprise, Jessa saw that in addition to her 57 five-star reviews, she had also received a scathing one-star review.


Jessa’s Tea Parlor One-Star Review

The review by Robin K. said, “The decor was great but the service and food were awful. The waitress was very rude. But like I said the place was cute. Food we didn’t even eat.”

A person is holding a smart phone with an icon above it showing five stars

Source: Freepik

It continued, “Don’t recommend. Was there for my birthday and had my service dog with me and they gave me attitude about it. Will never go back.” However, when Jessa spoke to the press, she told a much different story.

Jessa’s Version of the Event in Question

Jessa told WSB-TV 2 that she absolutely remembers the customer who left the review. She reported that even though their dog had no vest or other indication that it was a service dog, she still tried to accommodate them.

A person is sitting with their dog on their lap and feeding it with a fork at a cafe

Source: Freepik

However, when the dog was sitting on the table eating off the plates, Jessa had to ask them to remove it for health and safety reasons. Jessa explained, “We were trying to be patient. We asked her to put the dog in her lap as it was up on the table, eating off of our China.”

Jessa Planned to Respond to Yelp But Ran Into a Problem

When most users sign onto Yelp to assess a business, they check the one-star reviews first to find any glaring issues with the establishment.

A photograph of a laptop opened to the online review site Yelp

Source: Depositphotos

Therefore, Jessa wanted to reply to Robin K.’s comment and tell her side of the story so potential customers understood what really happened. But when she did, she ran into a problem.

Yelp Requires Small Businesses to Post a Photo of Their Faces

Jessa attempted to make a profile for her tea room with a photograph of the business, but Yelp wouldn’t allow it.

A screenshot of online review site Yelp’s photograph policy page

Source: ReviewTrackers

According to company policy, any business with less than 10 locations must use a photograph of their face, not of the business or its logo, to create a profile and comment on the site.


Yelp’s Policy Could Potentially Be Dangerous to Business Owners

Jessa was shocked by this policy; she did not feel comfortable posting a photo of her face for an online public profile that is solely focused on business interactions, not personal ones.

A woman hangs an “Open” sign in the front window of her business

Source: Freepik

She explained to the press that she simply didn’t feel safe uploading a personal photograph because as “a small business, all women-owned, all of my girls are young, you know, it’s just not safe.”


Online Trolling Can Lead to Physical Violence

Sadly, Jessa’s concerns are not unfounded. There have been countless cases of online issues turning into real-life physical abuse over the past two decades. So, as a small family-run business, Jessa wants to ensure that she and her children remain anonymous for their own safety.

Photograph of a cyber criminal in a black sweatshirt and gloves on a laptop

Source: Freepik

Realistically, even if it wasn’t a safety issue, it would certainly be a privacy one. No one should have to use a photograph of their face if they’d prefer to use one of their business for their professional profile.


Yelp Responded to Jessa’s Complaint Regarding Its Photo Policy

In response to Jessa’s story, Channel 2 Action News contacted Yelp to confirm whether or not that truly is their policy.

A hand holding a smartphone that is open to the Yelp app

Source: Adobe Stock

Surprisingly, the company corroborated Jessa’s experience by telling the press: “Aligned with our mission to foster connections between local businesses and consumers, Yelp’s policy requires business owners to represent themselves with a profile photo to respond to reviews.”


It’s “Uncommon” for Hostile Responses on Yelp

Yelp’s response to the news outlet continued with, “Our records indicate that it is uncommon for business owners to receive hostile remarks or negative scrutiny when they respond to or acknowledge low-rated reviews.”

A photograph of a man sitting at a restaurant with a laptop, clearly yelling

Source: Freepik

However, Jessa and millions of other small business owners are not comfortable with a policy based on “uncommon” hostility. Jessa explained, “In this world, you just don’t know what’s going to happen. And I feel like putting personal information in your picture is just not safe.”


Google Allows All Businesses to Use Professional Photographs

What’s interesting about Yelp’s policy and its decision to defend it is that its largest competitor, Google Reviews, implements no such rule.

A smartphone displays the Google Reviews app on top of a laptop on a wooden table

Source: Adobe Stock

Any business on Google, big or small, can use a photo of their choosing for their profile. So, the question remains: why can’t Yelp simply make it an option for those who wish to remain anonymous on the public forum?


Jessa Says She Hopes Yelp Will Change Their Dangerous Policy

Jessa explained that even though telling her story would eliminate her anonymity as a business owner, she believes it was worth it if she could help change what she considers to be an exceptionally dangerous policy.

Photograph of the reception desk at the Yelp offices

Source: Yelp

It’s too soon to say for sure, but since Jessa’s story has gone viral, it is possible that there will be enough backlash to force Yelp to change its policy and allow business photos for business profiles. When you say it out loud, it’s not such a radical idea, is it?