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Yelp Wanted: On the Issue of Pre-Opening Reviews

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When it comes to the Yelp empire, the San Francisco site is undoubtedly its crown jewel. There's no disputing that Yelp has plenty of positives; in fact, there's nothing else really like it. Regardless, a lot of people have some issues with Yelp. We're among the ranks that believe there's more than meets the eye with the Yelp world. Hence, Yelp Wanted. Enjoy the show as we pull back the curtain in this on-going Eater investigation. As always, feel free to share your thoughts.

2006_04_helpwanted.jpgWhilst sifting through the thousands of reviews on Yelp, perhaps nothing affects an avid Yelper's decision to try/not try a restaurant like the overall star rating. But what happens when that rating is inaccurate? We're not talking about a difference of opinion; even professional reviews encounter that obstacle. Rather, what happens when the rating for a restaurant is inaccurate because the reviewer has not eaten at said restaurant? In most cases, it's impossible to determine whether or not a reviewer has actually been to the restaurant—another part of the wonder of the internet—but when a small army of unopened restaurants have reviews, there's a problem.

Yelpers get special acknowledgment/blue ribbons when they are first to review a business. On one level, it's helpful to know what's in the cards for a certain space, but on many others, it's just plain misleading. Here are just some unopened San Francisco restaurants that have earned stars and/or had stars deducted based on, well, nothing:

Honeydoo: 4.5 stars
1300: 4 stars
Yoshi's: 5 stars
Epic Roast House: 3 stars
Waterbar: 4 stars
Orson: 3 stars
It's worth noting that, except for Honeydoo (previewed at the North Beach Festival), all of these restaurants are currently under construction.

And (for once), we're not alone, as a good number of Yelpers are getting pretty pissed at people screaming "FIRST!" to snag that elusive "First to review" sticker, as it clearly skews the preliminary ratings.

Since there's no way some people can resist being the first in line (it's a character trait; we often can't, plus look at the people who fawn over free t-shirts), the most likely solution seems to be a creation of a system that allows for a user to bookmark an upcoming restaurant without having to offer a rating. But, hey, that's just a suggestion, for what it's worth. Until then, we've got a problem.
· Yelp Wanted: Yelp Nation Responds ... Boy, Does It Ever. [~ESF~]
· Yelp Wanted: The Curious Case of the Magically-Appearing Five-Star Review [~ESF~]

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