Like many business owners across the country, Jamie Zawinski, the owner of SoMa nightclub DNA Lounge, was less than pleased to learn that a partnership between Yelp and GoFundMe meant that the Yelp listing for his business now had a fundraising button on it that he hadn’t consented to. “What the fuck?” he said regarding the move in an email to Eater. “Seriously, what the fucking fuck?”
San Francisco-based Yelp had announced its partnership with GoFundMe on March 24, but didn’t make clear that this was in the cards. Its blog post on a donation matching plan said only that:
We are working with GoFundMe to provide a seamless way for businesses hit hardest by the pandemic to start fundraisers that can be displayed on their Yelp pages. Users will see a “Donate” icon on participating businesses’ Yelp page, inspiring them to take action. This gives the community a simple and easy way to show support for their favorite local businesses.
“Restaurants, nightlife, beauty and fitness and active life businesses are eligible for the GoFundMe feature on Yelp,” the company said, linking to another blog post that said:
...an initial set of eligible businesses in the metropolitan areas of Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego will begin seeing a “Donate” button (linking to a GoFundMe fundraiser for the business) on their Yelp Pages. Over time, eligible businesses nationwide will have the ability to set up a GoFundMe fundraiser on their Yelp Pages if they choose to do so.
As many of these businesses are down to skeleton crews that are working long hours to keep their life’s work alive, its perhaps unsurprising that the first some heard of the program was an email sent by Yelp that told them that the company had launched a fundraiser on their behalf, and that the only way to shut it down would be to “claim” the fundraiser, then follow a set of instructions to close it down.
Others, like Nick Cho, the co-owner of Cow Hollow and Berkeley’s Wrecking Ball Coffee, tweeted that Yelp and GoFundMe appended a fundraiser to one of his locations without permission, but not the other. “Wtf is this?!” Cho asked. “Hey [Yelp] please take this down.”
They made one for this cafe but not the other. Can’t believe they think this is gonna go well. Hey @Yelp @yelpsf please take this down. pic.twitter.com/c9nYxmiN3x— Nick Cho • 조근형 (@NickCho) March 27, 2020
East Bay resident Susie Cagle tweeted that she started “going through Yelp and looking up the Oakland bars and restaurants I know to give them a heads up,” and received responses like the one below from an unnamed business owner, who said “I had no idea and I’m outraged.”
Way to have small business owners backs in this time of crisis. pic.twitter.com/QqBPdMHh7J— Susie Cagle (@susie_c) March 27, 2020
“Yelp is fucking scum,” a San Francisco restaurateur texted Eater SF regarding the GoFundMe move last night. “Do they honestly have time to fuck with this shit right now?” texted another.
When contacted by Eater, a Yelp spokesperson says “we have paused the automatic rollout of this feature,” as “it has come to our attention that some businesses did not receive a notification with opt-out instructions.”
However, Zawinski did indeed the notification — and that didn’t seem to be the issue for him, as much as the rollout without consent. “I don’t really have a lot to say about this,” Zawinski told Eater, except, “Fuck all of these people entirely...Really, get all the way right up in there and fuck them.”