Yelp: Full of altruistic, food-loving people who get a kick out of highlighting restaurants they love, right? Wrong. The "Yelp Mafia" is a violent ravenous mob, bound by a shadowy covenant whose only condition is power—and free food.
In every online community, there is a group of users who wield outsized influence due to the amount of time and effort they spend on these sites—Power Diggers, Wikipedia editors, etc. But Yelp Elite users seem especially cultish, as portrayed in a new Businessweek article. Rather than induction through a democratic process of earning the respect of peers, the Yelp Elite are plucked out of the masses by a mysterious "governing body known as The Council" through a "clandestine Skull and Bones-like process." No doubt, chanting is involved.
The sense of elevation has turned some Yelpers power-mad, according to Businessweek:
Houston Elite member Edgar V maintains a Web page of businesses he feels are 'Evil and Must be Destroyed.' And while this includes massive corporations such as Bank of America (BAC), it also lists Van's Chinese Seafood Restaurant in San Antonio-on whose Yelp page Edgar V's scathing review is listed first.
Then there are the meet-ups, which appear to be the main perk of Elite status besides a little badge on your name. The meet-ups are booze-and-food-stuffed bacchanals, which have in the past degenerated into such chaos that it prompted a letter from Yelp HQ which read, in part,
In the interest of everyone's enjoyment, please do not camp out wherever food might be emerging, and fight tooth and nail to snatch multiple samples before the rest of the crowd is able to try even one. These events are not supposed to provide you with dinner; rather, they are designed so that each guest can taste what the restaurant is all about. Much to our chagrin, the staff at several events has commented on the fact that occasionally some members of the Elite Squad at meals can be likened to an Animal Planet feeding frenzy, as certain people descend on appetizers as though they have not eaten in weeks.
The Businessweek article also mysteriously alludes to "a recent fracas among Elite users in Los Angeles and Vancouver" which resulted in account deletions. Are we witnessing the start of an international Yelper civil war, waged between rival Elite gangs? Remember, these are the people who are generating a large portion of the reviews on Yelp. If you start seeing a restaurant praised for its "high-backed booths and dark interior, perfect for avoiding sniper fire," it's time to take cover. Elite Yelpers aren't fucking around. [Businessweek, Image via Flickr]