Yelp is giving users another way to scold local businesses from a place of moral superiority, launching a feedback feature to reflect how well a business is enforcing social distancing, face coverings, and other Covid-19 rules.
The user-generated review site debuted the new feature on Tuesday, along with a mockup of how listings will look going forward. Under “Covid-19 updates,” in addition to informing users whether a business offers delivery or sit-down dining, user evaluations based on how well the establishment adheres to social distancing and mask regulations will appear.
It’s not clear whether businesses will have the option of contesting bad marks, a major threat to establishments already hanging by an economic thread due to pandemic-related shutdowns, but the app claims it has safeguards in place to protect businesses from malicious review-spamming, having “implemented advanced technology to mitigate potential misuse of the feature.”
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Multiple logged-in users must agree on whether social distancing and mask-wearing are being enforced for such evaluations to appear on a business’ page, and responses are supposedly evaluated on a daily basis, with those older than 28 days excluded. Green checkmarks indicate a majority of visitors observed pandemic rules, while orange question-marks mean customers have complained.
Pandemic-related feedback won’t be limited to restaurants, according to Yelp – bars and clubs, “retail and beauty businesses,” and “businesses in the automotive, professional and local services sectors” will all be outfitted with the new metrics. While the app acknowledged only a few hundred businesses are currently carrying the feature, it is encouraging users to start dropping a dime on their local social distancing violators, offering two ways to give feedback on a business’ page.
Yelp is also offering businesses a chance to get ahead of local busybodies by advertising their rule-obeying credibility right on their page. A bar or restaurant can boast it checks staff for Covid-19 symptoms or uses contactless or disposable menus, as well as advertise the varieties of seating – indoor, outdoor, heated, private – available.
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Yelp recently debuted a ‘kill switch’ that paused the addition of new reviews for businesses ensnared in social-justice controversies. However, the label – “Business Accused of Racist Behavior Alert” – implies guilt on the part of the affected restaurant, rather than the “innocent until proven guilty” approach that previously reigned with Yelp’s “Public Attention Alert.” Similarly, while the company claims to have removed over 4,000 reviews that focused negatively on a business’ obedience to Covid-19 rules, the new feature opens the door to a flood of negative feedback regarding those same rules, and there’s no reason to believe keyboard vigilantes are above flooding a restaurant with negative pandemic obedience ratings now that Yelp has given them the green light.
Public confrontations over coronavirus regulations have become commonplace, with impassioned mask-wearers screaming at their barefaced counterparts and vice versa. Some have taken upon themselves the responsibility to enforce Covid-19 rules, turning themselves into meme fodder.
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