Yelp… helps?

Guest Post by Christyn K.

Picture this. You are driving through a new town on your annual family vacation and in need of both a place to eat dinner and also a hotel for the evening. You exit the freeway and stop at the first restaurant the catches your eye: a local Ma and Pa dive with a $6.95 Salisbury Steak special. After sitting your whole family down for a nourishing meal, you come to realize that the only thing special about the Salisbury Steak is it’s green moldy glow, and the waitress is too indifferent to take it off your bill. Next, you drive down the local interstate and stumble into the first hotel you see at a fabulous rate of $45/night. It doesn’t take you long to realize why: the sheets have cigarette burns, the TV only receives three channels, and the “pool” has become a deposit spot for local habitat. Great start to your vacation.

Enter Yelp, a modern social network “Yellow Pages” of sorts that would have saved you from your vacation woes (and subsequent children’s disdain)! Yelp is a free online local search network for any and every kind of establishment out there – from doctors to restaurants to churches to parks. Reviews are submitted by Yelp members (free to those who sign up) and rated according to accuracy, cool and funny-factor, and most viewed. Combine these reviews with the social networking of creating lists, adding photos, and submitting events, in addition to lots of apps, and you have yourself an interactive local tour guide.

So think back on that disappointing vacation evening. Rather than showing up at the first restaurant you found, you could have accessed Yelp on your phone using their interactive map app and found listings of all the restaurants within a 1000-foot radius. Then you could have read the reviews and known what you were really getting yourself into: a green glowing Salisbury Steak, or a prime-rib that would make Ruth Chris blush. Next, you could write your own review of the place (even from your booth!) and have it automatically upload in your Facebook feed. And if that weren’t enough, add it to your “Vacation 2011” list and enjoy member feedback and ratings.

Yelp is funded by local businesses through advertising space and sponsored ads, clearly marked and in no way related to the reviews members post of related listings. Community Managers and Yelp staff work hard to ensure that businesses sponsorship is in no way related to reviews, making Yelp one of the most honest-to-goodness review sites out there. Membership is free and rewarding – those who list several dozen reviews with good ratings are offered “Elite” status, which included invitations to restaurant openings and private Yelp parties (which means lots of free food and drink)! Sticking it to the man (in a review form, of course) never tasted so good!

Give Yelp a try if you are looking for a new recommendation, want to praise a local favorite, or need passive aggressive revenge on a horrible dining experience. You – and your wallet – will be happy you did!

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Christyn has been a Yelp Elite member for three years and has written over 350 reviews. View (and feel free to rate) her Yelp reviews here: http://christyn.yelp.com

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