What in the Yelp?! The Billion Dollar Bully Documentary Director and Producer Kaylie Milliken

Show Notes

Do you need help with YELP?! The Billion Dollar Bully Documentary Director and Producer Kaylie Milliken shares about how and why it’s impossible to improve your YELP review score without paying them.

AMPLE EXAMPLE – https://www.yelp.com/biz/elephant-in-the-room-tulsa 

AMPLE EXAMPLE – https://www.yelp.com/biz/colaw-fitness-bartlesville 

AMPLE EXAMPLE – Yelp on Yelp – https://www.yelp.com/biz/yelp-san-francisco 

Meet Kaylie Millikenhttps://www.prostfilms.com/about-us/

  1. Yes, yes and yes! Kaylie Milliken welcome onto the Thrivetime Show. How are you ma’am!? 
  2. Alright, so before you decided to DEEP DIVE into this project what were you doing? What is your background?
    1. I used to use Yelp often to find businesses. 
    2. I was at my doctor’s office and she asked me if I used Yelp and started asking about what I knew about their aggressive sales process.
    3. After listening to her go on about it, I started to think, this was not just aggressive, it sounded illegal
  3. Have you directed/produced other movies in the past?
  4. Now I understand that you decided to take on the project when your doctor told you that she had begun seeing negative Yelp reviews for her practice that she was unable to reconcile with actual patient visits, and that she had become convinced that some of the reviews were fictitious when a complaint was posted describing symptoms she had never seen in her practice. Kaylie, why were you so inspired to take on this project?
  5. Based upon your research…what is YELP doing that you find to be disagreeable?
  6. What was your process like for raising over $90,00 on Kickstarter, how did you market this?
  7. Did you receive any negative pushback from YELP while filming this movie?
    1. Yes, YELP tried to undermine what I was working on and poke holes in my credibility
  8. Fast Company reported that Yelp is still hoping to avoid a Blackfish-style takedown after the recent release of a long-gestating documentary in which business owners take aim at the review platform for what they say is an extortion scheme. The company purchased the domain Billion Dollar Bully.com and bought Google ads for the search term “Billion Dollar Bully,” the movie’s title, which redirects to a page on Yelp’s website explaining that Yelp does not, in fact, extort local businesses or manipulate review ratings.” What happened there and how did you deal with it?
  9. What was your process like for gathering video testimonials from business owners?
  10. How much are bad YELP reviews impacting sales for business owners?
    1. People can lose business very quickly, because YELP’s search engine optimization comes up top
    2. One business owner lost his restaurant
    3. It really holds business owners captive
  11. What was the process like trying to find ex YELP employees that were willing to testify?
    1. It was extremely challenging, because when you leave YELP you sign an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement)
  12. What was the most surprising or shocking thing you found during this journey?
  13. If I’m listening right now and I have bad YELP reviews and can’t seem to get my good YELP reviews to show up, why is that?
  14. What can listeners do to make their positive reviews show up and not be listed as “not currently recommended?”
    1. If you talk to a YELP salesperson, they would tell you to pay for advertising – between $300-$2,000 per month
    2. I would just advise that people don’t use YELP
  15. For the listeners that haven’t seen the documentary, can you share the most extreme example of Yelp filtering reviews in the film?
  16. What is the future of YELP in your mind?
  17. What can listeners do if they want to get involved with your cause?
  18. If a YELP executive is listening to this…what would you ask them to do, to make it right in your mind?
  19. Where can our listeners go and see your film?
    1. You can rent or download it on YouTube.com or Amazon.com
  20. What is the best place for our listeners to learn more about you and the projects that you are working on?
  21. What projects are you currently working on now?
    1. I am in the early stages for a new film about Wikipedia. 
    2. It’s a very different piece from Billion Dollar Bully – more of a feel-good piece
  22. What is the best way for people to get in touch with you?
    1. Website: ProstFilms.com
    2. Email: [email protected]

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Audio Transcription

Facebook Kaylie Miliken Thrivetime Show

Have you ever Google searched your own company name and found a review that was written by somebody who has actually never been a customer of your business? Have you ever found yourself with a bad Yelp review and not sure of what to do? Have you ever noticed that your good reviews on Yelp don’t seem to show up unless you’re a paid advertiser? Well, on today’s show, we interview the director and the producer of the award winning documentary that has finally exposed Yelp for what it is, the billion dollar bully.

There’s nothing you can do. You created the monster you need to contain the monster, a kind of Scarlet letter on the internet. Excuse me. They’re avoiding liability just doesn’t seem right. Nope. Sales people called me at three to five times a week, I think to not stop

calling me and emailing me and calling me and emailing.

I was harassed by yellow Bain explosion. It’s a mafia and done what y’all is doing writing every County in every jurisdiction States by doing it openly. I never imagined yo my business. To me it’s mafia, distorted and harass.

No, we’ve been extorted by Yelp. Give people so much of a sense of entitlement. There’s going to be abuse again. Yelp, the online review side is buying and selling positive reviews. I can add any people search results. I cannot account they’d show up in all these places.

There’s something here and if it hasn’t happened to you yet,


Ready to enter the thrive time show on the bottom, it will show you how to get it started.

Bottom now on the top, top knew the systems to give what we got. Come Dixon’s on the hooks. Coppertone the books. Who sees brick of wisdom in the book as the father of five that’s why I’m a dive. So if you see my and kids, please tell them hi. It’s a seat and seat upon your rate. D O and now three, two, one. Here we go. Yes, yes, yes and yes nation.

If you own a business and you’ve ever received an favorable Yelp review, but you’ve found yourself unable to get your positive reviews to stick or, or to show up, today’s show

is the show for you. On today’s show, we are interviewing the lady who put together, who created the, the documentary, the billion dollar bully. Kaylee, welcome on to the thrive time show. How are you?

I’m very well, thank you so much for having me on.

Hey you, uh, when you release this billion dollar bully documentary, so many of our listeners were fired up about it because I don’t think a lot of people, uh, recognize how difficult it is to get your positive reviews on Yelp to, to show up. And it gets infinitely frustrating once you see that you have all these reviews but the world will never see them. Um, what motivated you? My friend had to deep dive into this project. I mean, what was your background and you know, what, what got you motivated to make this movie?

Well, I used to use Yelp often to find businesses and I had no idea that there was this dark side to the company. And I was at my doctors one day and she asked me if I ever used Yelp and I said, yeah. And I wasn’t really a reviewer. I had probably like seven or eight reviews ever. Um, but I, I said, yeah, I am. And she, she and I started talking about it and, uh, I just started listening to what she was saying about the company, about how aggressive their sales people are. And I said, Oh yeah, I’ve heard, I’ve heard they’re kind of aggressive and annoying. And then she continued on and just the things that she said, did it sound aggressive? It sounded illegal. And I thought if what she is saying is true, how is this multibillion dollar corporation getting away with it?

And I had no reason to doubt her, but it was coming from a business owner’s perspective. So I went home and I just began researching it and I found thousands and thousands of business owners all making the same claims. And I thought, okay, well this is their perspective. What is the health response? And I, um, I started researching that and I found that any time anybody complains about Yelp, they jump to three things. They say there was an FTC investigation that was closed. Court cases have all been dismissed and there was a Harvard business study that shows we do nothing wrong. Those are the three things they always, always go to. So I started looking into it and I read the Harvard business study and as I read it, I thought, this cannot be the study that they’re always referencing because it doesn’t make any of the claims that Yelp says it makes.

And I went to Yelp’s website and sure enough, that’s the, that’s the study that they have linked. And um, I also found that they later paid the person who wrote that study, which is an unpublished paper to, uh, do some other studies that were very pro Yelp. So I thought, okay, this is a big smoke screen. Uh, if this is what Yelp’s always going to, what else is happening here? And the more I looked into it, the more surprised I became and pretty disgusted with the company. I was pretty annoyed that as a consumer I had been very misled and I thought that it was information that people should hear.

Well, you know, I, I, I’m really, really, I’m excited to have you share this story with so many people. Um, but for people who are out there right now, who immediately want to go see this billion dollar bully documentary, where can they watch your, your billion dollar bully, Yelp, a documentary? Where can they find it right now?

They can rent or uh, download it on Amazon or iTunes or YouTube, Vimeo. Those are the big ones.

Now, right now I have two examples. I want all the listeners to check out. If you do a Google search right now, all the listeners for elephant in the room and the word Yelp’s, elephant in the room, Tulsa and the word Yelp, you’re going to find our reviews for one of my companies on Yelp called elephant in the room. And uh, right now, um, we have a Kaylee, uh, a score overall on Yelp of three and a half stars. Okay, so you have 37 reviews and three and a half stars. And at the bottom it shows that I have 74 reviews that are not recommended that won’t show up. And the vast majority of the ones that won’t show up our five star reviews. Can you explain why the reviews at the bottom? What that means? What it says, 74 reviews are not recommended. What does it, what does it mean?

So those are all reviews that are hidden and if you don’t, if you’re using your phone to look, if you don’t have their app downloaded, then you aren’t going to be able to see them. And those reviews are all filtered so they don’t factor into your overall star rating. So if all all 74 of those reviews are five thorough reviews, it’s not going to increase your rating at all. Um, and it’s just harder for people to go see. So it’s there, people can see it, but you usually as a consumer, don’t take the time to go through that.

So like a colo fitness is another great client I’ve worked with for a long time. These guys have gyms and to Pika and on Joplin, Missouri and Bartlesville and they have a score rank ranking right now of two and a half stars. And they have a total of a nine reviews that have shown up. And then they have a, let’s see here, 23 that are not showing up, almost all of which are positive. What could they do to make those reviews show up?

Well, if you talk to a Yelp salesperson, they’ll say, pay for advertising and a, that’s going to help you increase your rating on Yelp so you can do that. Um, I wouldn’t personally, uh, give advice on bringing that up because I’m more of the party of just don’t use Yelp. It’s a bad company with bad morals. And so I would just be, I know that that’s not practical for all business owners, but, um, I also don’t want to jump into, I don’t want to be Yelp’s mouthpiece. Yeah, let’s do. Um,

well, I, I, I bring this up because I was, I remember years ago there was a local magazine that called me and said, clay Clark, you’ve been nominated for this award, you know, for the top entrepreneurs or something and in Tulsa, you know, however, we find that advertisers in the magazine typically win because it’s about who gets the most votes. And we’ve never had somebody win who doesn’t get the most, who doesn’t advertise. So I thought, okay, well I don’t really want to advertise in your magazine, but okay, I’ll do it. I was like 2223 whatever. And I did it. And lo and behold, Kaylee, I won the award. It was like a 40 under 40 award or something. Then the next year I didn’t advertise, but I had a ton of people nominate me because our business was actually significantly bigger and I didn’t win. And I went back to the ad rep and I said, did I not win? Cause I don’t advertise. Just know we’ve just never had somebody who doesn’t advertise when and with my clients, I’ve never had a client ever get their positive reviews to show up unless they’re paying a ton of money to Yelp. I mean like $500 a month, $600 a month. How much money does somebody have to pay to Yelp to get the positive reviews to show up?

Usually it costs anywhere between 350 to $2,000 a month.


Crazy. And most small businesses, that’s just not in their budget at all.

So do you, um, do you think that Yelp has lost any credibility as a result of, of your film or have your view, have you as, as Yelp taken shots at you and tried to take away your credibility?

Oh yes. I would say yes to both of those things. Yes. I think they’ve lost credibility and yes, they have taken shots to attempt to lessen my credibility. But really I think that backfired. Uh, when I was working on raising funding for the film, I ran a Kickstarter campaign. And, uh, the day after I opened up the campaign, Yelp stock went down 4%, which was $150 million hit. And instead of just keeping quiet like they w w w that would have been in their best interest was to not say anything. They, uh, started firing off shots saying, uh, the director of the film has a history of trying to mislead the public while this was my first film. And that just brought a lot more attention to the project and it helps me out a great deal. So that was, that was nice. Um, yeah, they, they’ve tried to just undermine who I am, what I was working on and that it backfired though. So I was happy.

Okay. So, um, based upon your research getting ready to create this film, could you fire off a line item list of a few of the things that you feel like that you have because you interview, I mean this movie, if you haven’t seen it there, if you’re out there today and you have not seen the billion dollar bully, you have to watch this, this cause you actually sit down and interview all these different business owners who tell you how, I mean this is not funny stuff. People, their entire livelihoods. I mean their families, their income has been destroyed as a result of bad reviews on Yelp. I mean, could you share maybe some of the stories or kind of a, a summary of what kind of negative effects, bad Yelp reviews are having on the lives of, of these business owners?

Well, when consumers don’t know about this darker side to Yelp, they just take what they see online at face value. Especially, because when you do any kind of online search for a business, Yelp’s SEO is so strong that it’s usually the first thing that pops up even before a lot of businesses own websites. So even if the consumer isn’t clicking on Yelp site, they usually see that star rating before they learn anything else about the business. And if you’ve got a bad rating on the site, then you’re most likely not going to go to that business. And, um, it’s so people, yeah, they, they lose business very quickly because in our ability to do quick searches there, they’re not digging deeper there and people have what one person lost a restaurant over it. Um, in the film, you hear about this, this one guy who, he owns a, um, a doggie daycare in New York and he, um, is still going through a pretty bad process right now actually with Yelp, but he, he lost significant business. Um, when he stopped advertising, it was, he agreed to advertise and then once he stopped, that was when he saw a lot of his reviews disappear. Um, a bunch of negative ones up here. It’s, it’s um, it really holds business owners captive.

No, I a pal around with a lot of business owners, so I don’t hang around a whole lot of people that don’t own companies just because the, the, the, the nature of what I do. But I feel like a lot of people that I know just will not use Yelp anymore. They just did this, don’t use Yelp. Um, have you, is there any research that shows, um, if Yelp’s usage has gone down or has it gone up or talk to me about that?

I would look at their stock is somewhat of an indicator to that. I don’t know what that research is directly, but I do know in casual conversations, people talk about Google reviews and Facebook reviews a whole lot more than they do Yelp reviews. And when you hear you for view, when you hear someone talking about Yelp, it usually in a complaining kind of way, as the, the reviewer of people who, who use Yelp to write reviews are only going on there to complain. And that’s what you generally see. So there is, um, there was some podcasts I was listening to where they, it was funny, they just brought up Yelp in, in casual conversation, said, Oh, someone was actually happy on there ones then. Is that, that’s kind of the undertone there I think is that it’s Yelp is a place people go to complain.

Well, Yelp right now the stock price was at a peak of $55 a share in January 2nd of 2015 and now today it’s at $34. So I mean it’s, uh, taken, uh, it’s been, you know, it’s, it’s tanking. Um, and I would be a big fan of it just going down to about a dollar a share, you know, that’d be awesome. But I, I again, I mean, I just know so many people who’ve been ravaged by poor Yelp reviews that have been left by people that didn’t even use the business, didn’t even buy a product from the company. How did you round up X, Yelp employees or were you able to interview [inaudible] employees to get some of your, your research done?

It was extremely challenging because when you leave Yelp, you sign an NDA. And a lot of people were very concerned about that. Um, I spoke to several Yelp employees for alpha boys by phone or in person that just would not go on camera and um, and so that was very hard. And in fact, one person, I, she, I had everything lined up. She lived out of state her, she was coming out here to do the interview and she was the few days leading up to it, she was getting really nervous, really nervous, and said, I’m going to have an attorney look over my NDA first. And then she said, Oh, I’m just going to do it, I’m going to do it. And then she was at the airport and called me and said, I can’t do it. I just, I’m too afraid of getting sued. So that, that was really challenging to get people to go on camera because they can’t go up monetarily against this multibillion dollar corporation.

That is true now. Okay. So you, you, uh, were able to get some people that you interviewed a lot of business owners. Was it hard to find business owners that were not happy with Yelp or was the vast majority of the people that you interviewed? You know, the people that I know, again, I’m just mentioning colo fitness as an example. I mentioned my own company, elephant in the room as an example. Um, at the last conference we had in December, we had, you know, close to 300 business owners. I can’t find any owners that are happy with Yelp and the Yelp reviews. Um, and yet we’re all happy with Google reviews cause you can leave a bad review on Google or a positive one, but you can’t be anonymous. The good reviews actually show up. I mean, were there a lot of business owners that were not happy with the opera? Do you find that it’s like 50 50, or what? What’s your, what’s your take on that?

Oh, I could not find a business owners that were happy with Yelp. Some of them, there were a few people that would say, yeah, he also helped my business. And then you start talking to them and then they start, um, opening up, I guess about how they really feel about the company that happened over and over again where they would say, Oh yeah, I always like to get feedback on what we’re doing. Uh, and then, and then as the conversation would progress, they would just get, get heated over it. Um, I do know that there are some company that at least I hear about some companies that are not, uh, bitter towards yells that has helped them. But those companies are very few and very far between.

So what are you, what are you working on now? I mean, now that you’ve produced your first film, the billion dollar bully, um, what does the future hold for you and what, what projects are you, are you currently working on?

Um, I am in very, very early stages for any film about Wikipedia, but very different type of film. It’s not, uh, an investigative piece. The way billion dollar bully was. It’s, it’s more of a feel good piece, I guess. And, uh, that’s, that’s fun. I have a co-producer that I’m working with on that.

Where do you live?

Where do I live?

Are you like in the West coast or East coast or where’s, where’s home for you? Yeah.

Uh, outside of San Francisco.

Okay. Outside of San Francisco. So are you, do you do, um, uh, documentaries for the business owner was listening to this and they wanted to hire you to do a documentary on billion dollar bully or to do, do you do that kind of thing or what kind of PR, I mean, do you do those kinds of projects or just these projects that you do that you then, um, are releasing in terms of, you know, film, that kind of thing?

I’m always happy to speak with somebody if they have a great idea that they want to talk about or if they, um, yeah, I’m, I’m happy to speak with people about different projects. This a Wikipedia one is more of a hobby piece, I suppose for the co-producer myself. But, um, yeah, I’m always happy to speak with people about any ideas they have.

So if people want to get a hold of you, what is the best way to do that? Should they send you mail towards the San Francisco area? Is there a website you want to direct people to? What’s, what’s the main place for them to get in touch with you?

Well, my, my website is [inaudible], P R O S T films.com and I’m easily reachable through email, which is Kaylee, K a Y L, I E at [inaudible] dot com

produced films.com. So let, let’s, let’s talk about this. What was the most extreme, um, example where a business was absolutely decimated as a result of Yelp that you found? Did you remember an extreme example where you, where you went? Oh my gosh, that is, that is not a good thing.

Yes. Uh, are you referring to what is seen in the movie or outside or either

it can outside.

It could be whatever. I just, I think [inaudible] our show is for entrepreneurs, you know, so we have about a half million entrepreneurs that listen to the show and every time I talked to an entrepreneur that has bad Yelp reviews, this is kind of how it goes. Kaylee, they go, clay, here’s the deal. And they kind of whisper, they go, God, I got a bad review on Yelp because they almost like, it’s almost like a Mark of shame, you know? And they’re going there. I don’t even know what the person is and it’s killing my sales and I don’t know what to do. And I called kelp and they want me to advertise. And when I was advertising, the reviews would show up and now that I’m not, they die. What am I doing something wrong? They almost feel it’s weird how they flip it. It’s like the sales reps make them feel like they did something wrong.

And so I just don’t want our listeners to feel alone if they’re going through this. Yeah. Um, well side note on that really quickly, Yelp’s own Yelp page. If you look up Yelp on Yelp and type in San Francisco, which is where they’re headquartered, their own Yelp reviews have the net two or two and a half stars, so as a company, they’re not looking so great on their own website. Now they also have thousands and thousands of filtered one star reviews, so if they weren’t filtering all of that there, their rating would be even lower, which is very ironic since the CEO of their company, Jeremy Stoppelman has gone on interviews saying he would only go to a business with three and a half stars or less out of desperation, so he’s essentially telling people, don’t use our website unless you’re desperate.

I’m going to put a link to this real quick here because this is true. A dead, we’ll put a link to this on the notes here, but it’s a yelp.com forward slash biz BIC forge slash Yelp dash San Francisco. That’s yelp.com forward slash biz forward slash Yelp dash San Francisco. They have 9,495 filtered reviews that you can’t read a, they’ve got to review a two star. They have a two star rating. So Yelp on Yelp as a 2000 or as a two star. That is impressive. That’s impressive. You’re blowing my mind right now. Continue. I’m just sorry that that was blowing my mind.

Yes. So business owner, sponsor fingers take heart. You’re, you’re not the only one suffering at the hands of Yelp. Yelp is also suffering at the hands of guilt. Um,

what in the world?

Well, let’s see. There’s one person that I spoke with after the film with maid who, he is a dentist in South Carolina I think. And he has worked extremely hard to build up his practice and he keeps getting Yelp reviews from patients he has never seen. And anybody that is in the medical field, whether it’s dentist, doctor, a psychologist, um, they’re, they’re bound by HIPAA laws, not to give out details. So they can’t even really reply to these, these reviews. But he keeps getting these reviews from people he hasn’t seen. And he told me that the things that they say are so nasty and it’s affected his dating life because he’ll go on dates with people and they’ll say, well, I was looking you up and I saw people saying these things about you. And he’s like, Oh, it’s, it’s been really frustrating for them. I feel bad probably for him on that. Um, let’s see, there is, um, there are some really good scenarios on the phone, but I would just recommend people go to the room to see that it’s more, um, that my editing is better than my speaking.

So you’re, so you’re saying that it, I just make sure I’m getting this. Are you, are you saying, cause I, I believe this, I just want to, I don’t know if you believe this or you or do you believe that it’s impossible to improve your Yelp review score without paying them?

I believe so.

And that’s based off of how many hours of research do you think went into this thing?

Oh, months and months and years. It was a long time coming and a lot of reading, a lot of speaking with people, business owners and not just business owners, but also people who um, help help others with their online reviews. Um, it, everybody, it’s kind of the known, the known issue with Yelp is you can only get good reviews if you’re paying them.

That is now. Okay. Now I want to ask you this. Where’d you go to school at before producing this? Just to kind of, I want to establish your credibility for the listeners that don’t know what were, where did you go to school? What did you study?

I, my undergrad, uh, I went to a, I went to Viola, which is in Southern California and got a degree in film production. And then I went up to UC Davis several years later to get my master’s in education and teaching credential. So I got into teaching for quite awhile and I think that’s where my mind always goes to research. And I, I, I questioned what I see and that’s how I enjoy teaching with saying, okay, here’s what someone is telling you. Um, and it’s up to you to find out whether that’s true or not. And that’s what brought me to this film.

Hey, well I appreciate your time. Um, more than you could possibly know and I encourage all the listeners out there, if you’re needing some custom film production, go to provost films.com P R O S T films.com. And if you’ve yet to see the movie, the billion dollar bully, check it out tonight. How long is the film?

It’s 88 minutes. So about an hour and a half of your time.

It’s, I’m telling you, once you watch it, you’ll be enlightened that you’ll somehow be able to move until we move on and say, you know what, I’m going to focus on Google reviews and Facebook reviews and maybe online video reviews. And then I’m not going to focus on that, which I cannot control, which are the negative Yelp reviews. But again, Kelly, thank you so much for being on the show. You’re welcome. Thank you again for having me. I appreciate it.

And now without any further ado, let’s end this show with a boom. Mr. listener, mrs. listener, are you? Are you prepared to end the show with the boom? Are you prepared? Okay, I am prepared to end the show with the boom, but before I do that, let me, let me encourage you to focus on what you can control. We know now we cannot remove the Yelp reviews or get our positive reviews to post unless we, unless we pay these people, we can’t get the positive reviews to post unless we pay these people. Thus, I would encourage you to focus on gathering objective reviews from your real clients via Google and Facebook and especially get video reviews on YouTube. It is so powerful when people see your real customers testifying on video about the quality of the services and products that you provide. Again, focus on what you can control. Do not be distracted by the things you cannot control. Don’t worry about the weather, don’t worry about the family you were born into. And don’t worry about Yelp. Focus on the things that you can control. And now, without any further ado, and with that in mind, here we go. Three, two, one, boom.


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