Thanks to Yelp, there are certain topics on which I no longer have an opinion. I think one person having fewer half-assed opinions is a good thing. And yet there are people who hate Yelp.

Now, if terrible people have ruined your business or the business of someone you care about, then I completely understand why you hate Yelp.  At the end of this blog, I will include links to articles about how Yelp can improve itself. But there are people who dislike Yelp for other reasons.

The people I am talking about are my friends and family. They say Yelp makes people lazy. Or that it drives customers to only a few businesses and hurts others that are just as good. My least favorite argument is that people are stupid and shouldn’t be trusted. I disagree with the last point because it’s mean spirited. The second one I can’t argue with because I don’t know how to quantify my response. So let’s deal with the first one, that Yelp makes people lazy.

I don’t think receiving good value for my money makes me lazy. Here’s an example. I live in California and, in general, every other year car owners must take their cars in to have them smog checked. This was a huge hassle mainly because I had no idea where to take my car. Friends and family had places they took their cars but they mostly took their cars to those places because 1) the place was cheap or 2) the place was close to their work or 3) both.

These are not ringing endorsements. A smog check could take forever if I went to the wrong place. And technicians could be rude or creepy. Waiting areas could be sticky. Or outside in direct sunlight surrounded by dying, spider infested shrubbery. None of these are life threatening situations (except for maybe spider bites), but getting a smog check was an endless hassle for me. There had to be people out there getting their cars smog checked where it wasn’t taking three hours. Or ended in panicky body checks to make sure they hadn’t brought home some nightmare of a spider from the waiting area.

And then Yelp came along. And I found Pasadena Test Only & Smog Check. In and out in 20 minutes. Clean, indoor waiting room with magazines, water and tea, plus little butter cookies in a metal tin! The first time I went there, I had just settled down to eat a cookie and clean out my purse when the technician popped his head in and said, “All done!”

I was disappointed. I hadn’t finished my cookie and my purse still looked like my locker used to look in the 7th grade. There was so much wadded up paper and empty fruit snack packages, I had trouble finding my lipgloss. The technician smiled and made a staying gesture, “Take your time, we’ll park your car. Come get it when you’re ready.”

And I hung out in the waiting room of the Pasadena Test Only & Smog Check, ate my cookie, cleaned out my purse (I took my trash with me because I didn’t want the nice people to know how much crap I’d been schlepping around with me), had a little cup of water from the water cooler then, refreshed and organized and rehydrated, I sallied forth into the world with one of my least favorite chores completed.

Yelp moved me from creepy, time wasting spider hell to 20 minutes in a cool, calm place where I could get myself together. It is highly unlikely I would ever have found that place without Yelp.

And other people have found it as well! All sorts of people from all walks of life now get their cars smogged and don’t have to carve three hours out of their day to do it. Think of all the other things we have to do that have been made easier, more cost efficient and possibly even tastier, thanks to Yelp.

And many will say you don’t have to use Yelp. There are Google reviews and I’m sure a bunch of other review apps.

And I say, “Hooray!” Use those. Use any one you prefer, but use something where other people have taken the time and effort to help you make your life easier, more cost effective and hopefully tastier.

I haven’t been to a new restaurant that I haven’t checked out on Yelp in forever. Is that fair to new restaurants? Yes, because there are Yelpers who make it their mission in life to be among the first to review a place.

Now, if you live in an area where crowdsourcing an opinion is difficult because the population isn’t very large, then you probably don’t need Yelp. You probably know someone who has something to do with the business. Ask them.

I live in Los Angeles County. There are 9.8 million people living in LA County. I can’t ask everyone. I could try, but it would get exhausting. And most of them would try to help me find a good option, probably by getting out their phones and checking Yelp. Or telling me about their cousin’s bakery and then I would have to go and it might not be good and then we’re back to where we started.  

Everybody in LA County has a cousin who owns a bakery. They can’t all be good. I’m sure your cousin’s bakery is delicious. You’re going to send me their bakery info, aren’t you? Okay, fine.

I’d be lying if I said I don’t spend a lot of time in bakeries.

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