Yelpers say they're slaves, are now suing the website for payment

Yelpers say they’re slaves, are now suing the website for payment

Oct 30, 2013

I have long held a theory that Yelpers are possibly the worst, most annoying humans on earth. I am convinced that they are a miserable breed of human, longing to find flaws in any experience, just so they can run home and kvetch about it on a stupid website.

They’re “the customer is always right” people. They are the kind of people who yell at you if your restaurant does not carry chick peas and you don’t have time to run across the street to the supermarket to buy them some for their salad (true story!), they demand to be given a full refund on clothes they bought a year ago on sale. They go to a notorious “hipster bar” and then write a review complaining about all the “hipsters” there supposedly giving them the side eye. They go to a fancy restaurant and complain that there’s no children’s menu. They go to a high-end boutique and complain that things are expensive there.

Which is why I just cannot bring myself to be surprised that a group of them are now insisting that the website on which they post their inanities is basically making them be slaves and are now suing for pay.

This is a class-action complaint under Section 216(b) of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) based on Defendant’s policies and practices of refusing to pay wages to its workers by designating them variously as “reviewers” or “Yelpers” or “independent contractors” or “interns” or “volunteers” or “contributors” even though they are performing vital work that inures to the benefit of Yelp’s various business enterprises. Defendant could not exist, nor make its enormous returns, without its domination and control over non-wage writers. One of Defendant’s co-founders stated: ‘The site wasn’t set up to serve businesses, it was meant to serve the consumer. Without the community of reviewers, there is no Yelp.”

They also compare the company to an 18th century slave ship, because that makes sense. One user recounted the horror of losing her “elite” status. You can read the whole class action suit here.

Here’s the thing, and I can’t believe we even have to discuss this: No one is required to post on Yelp. One can go their whole lives without ever posting a review on Yelp. If these people were so fabulous at this, they would have jobs as critics. Posting on Yelp is as voluntary as commenting on a blog, posting on a message board, or screwing around on Twitter or Facebook. No one is going to pay you for Facebooking, and no one is going to pay for your stupid Yelp review about how a server didn’t bring you your water fast enough.

People post Yelp reviews because they like to kvetch, and Yelp provides an outlet for this. These are not unpaid workers, these are people who have no other recourse but to go home and type out their little complaints on a website, because their own friends don’t want to hear it any more.

Slavery is involuntary servitude. Yelp, however, is entirely voluntary, and therein lies the difference. If you would prefer to get paid for your brilliant reviews of places, I suggest you apply for a job at Metromix or somewhere similar.

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