CORAL GABLES, Fla. - A Coral Gables restaurant was busted for offering discounts to diners who reviewed it on Yelp.
When Yelp users look up Cava Restaurant in Coral Gables, a warning appears over the reviews, reading: "We caught someone offering up cash, discounts, gift certificates or other incentives in exchange for reviews about this business. We wanted you to know because buying reviews not only hurts consumers, but also honest businesses who play by the rules."
"If someone offers to give you a discount if you write a review, you're probably only going to write a positive review and that ends up skewing the views and leaving consumers without trustworthy information," said Vince Sollitto, the vice president of Yelp.
Yelp's consumer alert teams said it found an offer posted online in May that offered a 10 percent discount to Yelp reviewers.
"It's incredibly fraudulent. Paying someone to write a fake review is deceptive at best and fraud at worst," said Sollitto. "Our main concern is making sure businesses stop this practice."
Jose Canto, who owns Cava Restaurant, said he didn't remember if he was offering a discount for a positive review.
"For people who come here to give us a review. That was really it. Good or bad, just give us a review," said Canto.
"What do you think of Yelp saying you're a bad guy?" asked Local 10's Jeff Weinsier.
"They can say what they want. The only thing I can say is they're bad for us as well. It works both ways," replied Canto.
Sollitto said the warnings show users that a business has tried misleading people.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, if someone reviews or endorses a producer or business for money or a discount, it must be disclosed. Yelp said Cava Restaurant didn't do that.
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