Business' say advertising gets ratings on customer review sites - WFLA News Channel 8

Business' say advertising gets ratings on customer review sites

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TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

Online customer review sites are supposed to give you the good, the bad and the ugly lowdown.

The reviews are written by real customers, just like you. But can they be trusted? How big a part does money play?

"I'm a firm believer you have to earn where you're ranked," said Rami Hajj, of Jed Mechanical.

Business owners nationwide have united to protest various rating sites, such as Angie's List and Yelp.

Rami Hajj says he didn't understand why Angie's list ranks his company 158th on it's list - eight pages in - below companies with lower grades. But then he got a call from Angie's List, asking him to advertise.

"What absolutely stunned me was the cost of advertising to be placed on the first page," Hajj said. "It was in excess of $50 thousand dollars to be ranked above companies that had lower rankings than we did."

The company's founder Angie Hicks says it's true. Advertisers get better placement on the website, she said. But, she adds, they still have to do a good job.

Joe Ferrante Gennaro, who runs a handyman business in Tampa, says he pays to list coupons on the site. In the end, those coupons help him get more ratings and better placement. But he says he's fine with it because he still has to please customers in order to get that good rating.

"The more ratings you have on Angie's List the more people can see the type of work you do, the quality you do. It's more than just about price," Ferrante Gennaro said.

John Mercurio joined a class-action lawsuit against Yelp, claiming the Internet company removes four and five star ratings after companies refuse to advertise on the website.

"I've lost 30 to 40 percent of my revenue and it's really damaging my business tremendously."

Vince Sollitto is Yelp's Vice President of Corporate Communications and said that's not true. Sollitto insisted money never influences ratings or their placement. "Advertisers don't get to control the reviews, reorder the reviews. They don't get anything but an ad at the top."

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