Saturday night apartment funnies and Yelp’s review filter

by Joe Zekas on 1/14/12

The first Yelp review of Reside at Belmont Harbor, 426 W Belmont Ave, dated 12/18/11, was written by a first-time Yelper and flagged as suspicious by Yelp’s review filter:

I have lived at Belmont Harbor for about two years now. I’ve gone through at least three different management companies and during those times, I would rate a one star. However, once Reside took over a few months ago I’ve noticed a tremendous improvement in attentiveness, availability, and overall satisfaction. They are clearly serious about making this place completely much better than in the past.

A definite place to live if you’re a dog lover as you find one in just about every apartment. Units are being renovated so you should always expect some noise and work being done during the day.

The location is perfect for anyone looking for a Lakeview apartment and my only comment is that it’s a bit on the pricey side but in all fairness, these are newly renovated apartments with all new appliances so it should cost a bit more. I have high hopes that the fitness center will finally be repaired and that the laundry facilities will get renovated.

It is certainly worth visiting and you’ll have some excellent people showing all the apartments available. The staff and the tenants are great people and I strongly urge you to take a look at Reside at Belmont.

Two first-time Yelpers have, within minutes of each other, just posted very positive reviews of Reside at Belmont Harbor. Here’s the one from Sabdiel O:

I’ve lived here since November of 2010 and I love it. I love the location, I love my neighbors, and considering the area and amenities offered it is reasonably priced. Brian was a great manager but had limited resources and now that Monica has taken over as building manager and she is backed by Reside, I am hopeful for what’s to come. The building is on its way to being super nice. I’m excited about the new patio and rehabbed hallways and lobby. I’m sad to see the rooftop go but apparently it’s a safety hazard up there and I’m glad Reside is concerned with our safety. I’m also impressed with the rate at which the improvements are being made, the construction guys are doing a great job of getting things done as quickly as possible and when/if issues arise, Monica deals with it promptly and professionally. Also, big ups to Dado for being the one man wonder that he is, the guy seemingly does everything and he seems to do it alone.

Oh and Sara, I doubt that’s u in your profile pic which makes your review less credible…but if it is you, what floor are you on? LOL

But seriously, this building is a work in progress but when all is said and done it’s a great place and it’s filled with great people…both residents and employees.

Chris R, also a Yelp newbie, had this to say:

I have lived here for about 2 years and I have to say Reside is doing it right! It is a bit of an inconvenient right now but you can see that when all the construction is done this place is going to be amazing. I live on a floor that has already been rehabbed and it looks fantastic. You can tell that they are going to make this a much more boutique like apartment complex compared to Resides other sites. But aside from that, this place has the best people living in it. Super friendly and fun. Everyone is very courteous and kind. Monica the building manager is fantastic. She is very thoughtful and tries her best to take care of all concerns and issues that are within her power during the construction. If you want a great place to live that is by the lake with great neighbors, great management and a nice looking apartment this is the place for you.

Why does Yelp have a review filter?

But, while most business owners focus on providing great service and let their business speak for itself, a very small percentage apparently would prefer to take a less than honest approach. That includes writing their own reviews, paying others to write reviews and, at times, even posting negative reviews on competitors’ pages.

Should the filter be applied to tonight’s reviews?

Added: Half an hour ago Reside on Clarendon had its first positive Yelp review, from a second-time Yelper. Reside at 823 had its first review earlier today, 5 stars from a first-time Yelper.

Reside on Morse had two positive reviews, its first, within the past two days, both reviews from Yelp newbies. Reside on Wellington had two new reviews on Yelp within the past week, both of the 5-star variety.

There’s something in the air this evening. A first-time Yelper is trashing one of Reside’s competitors.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

David January 15, 2012 at 8:41 AM

I know someone who used to live in Reside on Morse and it was a pretty nice place for the area. They also run the Chicago Getaway Hostel which I toured when they hired my (photographer) friend to shoot for them. It was also pretty nice, and they’d recently renovated it. Anyway, I’m not sure these reviews are fake, but it is suspicious. Maybe they somehow incentivized people to write them.

The worst abuse of Yelp I’ve personally witnessed is the Townstone Financial page (go to Yelp and search for it if you want, I’m not linking to it). There are 85 filtered reviews and 6 non-filtered reviews. Of those 6 non-filtered reviews, I’d say 2 are actually legitimate (and 1-star). The other 4 are fake. There was a period of weeks recently where four to six new 5-star reviews would show up on its page per day. I only noticed this thanks to Everyblock’s daily emails about new Yelp reviews in the neighborhoods I follow.

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Joe Zekas January 15, 2012 at 10:39 AM

David,

The reviews ring false on their face. Add in their timing and it becomes virtually impossible to believe they’re genuine. The most disturbing aspect of this is the negative review of a competitor.

It’s possible that Reside hired an inept SEO / social media / reputation management company – there are lots of them out there – without realizing how far beyond the limits of the law they operate. It’s also possible that a well-meaning but incredibly ignorant and inadequately supervised employee initiated this effort without corporate authorization. I’ve been given both of those explanations, by different companies, to account for fraudulent reviews posted on their behalf. In both cases they immediately put a stop to the reviews.

Any legitimate company that’s aware of the potentially crushing penalties the FTC can impose for this type of behavior wouldn’t run the risk of engaging in it. In a recent settlement the FTC socked a company for $250K in penalties – and hopefully the company spent at least that in legal fees.

ADDED – Apartment People has 367 filtered reviews at Yelp.

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nwzimmer January 15, 2012 at 1:23 PM

This is also a problem with Cobbler Square apartments in Old Town, with a lot of suspect, almost certainly fake reviews. Actually, the reviews on Yelp seem to be mostly all legit, but if you check out apartmentratings.com, it’s a totally different story.

It’s been well over a year since I lived there, but it was such a ridiculously bad experience, I still check up on it every once in a while.

And there’s still one guy I met there, who lived there until last month, and I visited recently, so I know that a lot of the claimed improvements they’ve made with ‘sound proofing’ between units is not true (which is the HUGE problem with this place).

Reply

Joe Zekas January 15, 2012 at 1:47 PM

nwzimmer,

One reviewer called out what he saw as a flurry of fake reviews. The property manager responded:

Hello, my name is Jeff Janka and I’m the Property Manager of Cobbler Square. Recently we asked a number of our residents to share their feedback about Cobbler Square on this website and always encourage feedback from our residents. The recent postings are a result of this and are all from current residents, and are completely authentic.

I wonder how the property manager can know that the mostly anonymous reviews, with no personally identifiable anecdotes or details, are “completely authentic.”

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nwzimmer January 15, 2012 at 3:33 PM

Well I was one of those people that have called them out ;) but there are a few others that have (very recently) called them out as well. Even more if you go back about 1 1/2 or 2 years.

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