Yelp, which is in a partnership with Github, and hence shares a portion of the revenues, is publishing false phone numbers for a restaurants in order to generate promotional fees with Github.
This is flat out fraud. They are generating false calls to make fees for their partner, who kicks the money back to them.
It probably won’t result in criminal charges, but it really is Silicon Valley Douchebaggery in its truest form:
A few months ago, I opened the Yelp app, typed in the name of my favorite sushi restaurant, and clicked on the phone number. Two options popped up: “Delivery or Takeout” and “General Questions.”
That’s new, I thought. I dialed the number for “Delivery or Takeout,” which played a perky greeting—“This call may be recorded to ensure awesomeness”—before a woman at the restaurant picked up. I asked why they were recording the call for awesomeness; she had no idea what I was referring to. I asked about the number I had just dialed; she didn’t recognize it.
The Yelp app lists a restaurant’s direct phone number on the actual listing. That’s (212) 262-8300 in the case of Judge Roy Bean Public House. But when you click on the phone number, this dialogue shows up: Delivery or Takeout and General Questions.
When a user clicks on the “Call” button labeled “Delivery or Takeout,” they are taken to a different number, (646) 394-9837, which is owned by Grubhub.
The “Call” button next to “General Questions” leads to the restaurant’s real number.
Even though restaurants are capable of taking orders directly—after all, both numbers are routed to the same place—Yelp is pushing customers to Grubhub-owned phone numbers in order to facilitate what Grubhub calls a “referral fee” of between 15 percent and 20 percent of the order total, I learned while researching an episode for the podcast Underunderstood.
Yelp has historically functioned like an enhanced Yellow Pages, listing direct phone numbers for restaurants along with photos, information about the space, menus, and user reviews. But Yelp began prompting customers to call Grubhub phone numbers in October 2018 after the two companies announced a “long-term partnership.”
This is fraud.
State Attorneys General should be proffering criminal charges under fraud statutes against Yelp and Grubhub, and federal prosecutors should be pursuing them under RICO statutes.