Yelp (NYSE:YELP), the online review site, is facing backlash for its efforts to help struggling small businesses amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier in the week Yelp, in conjunction with GoFundMe, launched a campaign to raise money for businesses harmed by the pandemic. Through the campaign, individuals would be able to donate to the businesses via Yelp.
While it was well-intentioned -- Yelp and GoGundMe vowed to match up to $1 million in donations -- neither company got permission from the businesses first. That led to backlash, with some small businesses expressing their outrage on Twitter.
Hey @gofundme, can you shut down this page please? https://t.co/bP97PeRMcS It was created by Yelp without my consent. I'm not comfortable giving you a scan of my ID, and I don't have an EIN, so I can't complete the form myself.— Andy McMillan (@andymcmillan) March 26, 2020
A Yelp spokesperson told The Verge that in an effort to get businesses help quickly and easily it automatically added the initial group of businesses that are eligible for donations. But since learning some businesses didn't receive an alert with opt-out instructions and others wanted the option to opt-in on their own, Yelp has paused the automatic rollout of the donation feature. Yelp said it's working with GoFundMe to deliver a way for businesses to opt into the program.
"We have received a great deal of interest and support for the program from both consumers and businesses alike," the Yelp spokesperson said.
While Yelp said it doesn't get any of the donated money, donations through GoFundMe could be subject to payment processing fees. According to The Verge, critics of the program contend that GoFundMe set the recommended tip at 15%. GoFundMe takes a cut of those tips.
.@gofundme & @Yelp— nick kokonas (@nickkokonas) March 26, 2020
It is unconscionable of you to create a page for my restaurants trying to take advantage of this crisis for your companies under the guise of 'helping'.
Immediately remove all Alinea Group properties. I hope someone sues you... I might once i have time. pic.twitter.com/0xfCK6OnG3
With the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly spreading across the U.S., scores of restaurants, bars, and small businesses have been forced to close. That's putting many of them at risk of going under if the shelter in place orders remain in place for several weeks or months.