In September, Yelp officially celebrates our 15th anniversary in communities across the country, and around the world. Here in Albuquerque, we asked a 13-year veteran of the Yelp Elite Squad, Rachel C., to reflect on her journey, which began in San Francisco. This adventure, through four cities and countless great local businesses, is perhaps the very best review our company could ever ask for.
Enjoy this interview. Yelp is nothing without our community of compassionate, authentic, enthusiastic voices and small business supporters. And congratulations, Rachel, here’s to the next 13.
- Where and when did you originally join the Yelp Elite Squad?
Thirteen plus years ago a friend in the San Francisco North Bay area asked me what I thought of a company called Yelp. “Yelp?” I replied. “Where /What is that?” He explained that Yelp was a new business review online company based in San Francisco – just across The Bridge from us – with reviews written by everyday folks of local businesses they had visited – reviews not by professional Reviewers. He suggested that I go online, look at the website and see what I thought and, since I like to write, that I might like to review some of our local North Bay businesses. Needless to say, I was somewhat skeptical.
- What was it like to be Elite when you originally joined?
I am not one to ignore a suggestion without looking at it first. I met with Jessica T, the YELP Community Manager in San Francisco, who was extraordinarily enthusiastic about the company and the opportunities it presented for both the reviewers and local businesses.
I went to the Yelp website and read a few reviews and, of course, all the instructions and disclaimers for being an active “Yelper”. At that time, Yelp was a relatively small organization – compared to today’s International Yelp 2019! At that time the Elite Yelp Team were primarily young San Francisco Techies. I was a little older and not a techie, but I jumped anyway into this online review world with enthusiasm. The San Francisco Yelp Team was welcoming and everyone I met was excited about the direction in which this new adventure was headed. The format sounded promising and an opportunity for reviewers to connect with each other and to check-out new businesses that they didn’t go to regularly. It seemed to be a friendly push to explore the local community.
I jumped in and wrote my first review – Avatar’s Restaurant in Sausalito, California. I was hooked. That first month I wrote more reviews than I want to admit. Yes, I do like to write; but even more was the fact that I liked exploring local businesses from a critical viewpoint. Is the Customer Service outstanding? Is the food prepared with care? Does the gas station provide extra service? Where do you find the unique building materials you need for your remodel? Do you have a dentist that you recommend? Is there a trusted veterinarian in my neighborhood? So many questions that needed answers from friends you trust. Yes, I wanted to be one of those neighbors that were trusted to be honest in my reviews, no matter where I lived.
- Where else have you lived since you joined the squad?
With thirteen years now as a proud Elite Yelper, I have enjoyed being part of Yelp Communities in four US cities – San Francisco, Denver, Phoenix and Albuquerque. Each community has been unique, but each one has delivered the opportunity to provide my friends and neighbors with reviews that are helpful and trustworthy. I have met a number of super enthusiastic folks who continue to make sure each Yelp runs smoothly – Jessica T, Nish N, Gabi M, Nichole G, Tiffany N, Hailey P and Howie K. (Plus, a few I may have forgotten.) I wholeheartedly believe in the value of Yelp reviews and the great friends I have made along the way as a Yelp Elite Reviewer.
4. Any memorable events or experiences you’d like to share?
I have had many unique experiences in the last thirteen years as an Elite Yelper; but the one that continues to stand out in my memories was an Elite Event in San Francisco. It was to be my very first YEE. I was excited to have my RSVP accepted. My anticipation was palpable. That afternoon, just a few hours before the Event was to start, I received a message from out-of-town friends that I had been waiting to hear from for weeks. I had presented them with a dinner invitation the very next time they were in San Francisco. It just so happened that that afternoon they were filming in San Francisco just a few blocks from where the Yelp Event was to take place. Before I returned their call, I called the CM and gave her my Regrets that I was going to miss my very first Elite Event. After telling her why I was opting for the dinner with friends, rather than going to the YEE, she asked if I had planned on bringing a Plus 1 to the Event. I said “No, that I wasn’t.” I had thought it best to try out this new adventure alone. She then suggested that I ‘quietly’ bring these friends as my 4+1s. Who was I to argue? My “dates” for the evening were 4 very good looking young men – The Buried Life guys – Ben, Dave, Duncan & Jonnie. When I called them back with a suggested change in plans, they enthusiastically said “YES!” – they had heard about Yelp and were curious to see it in action. After agreeing with their manager to get them back to Sausalito at the end of the evening we were set. So, I went to my very first YEE with four incredible young men who have since taken the world by storm. That night, after the YEE, I took them back to Sausalito – across the Golden Gate Bridge – all crammed into my little Honda (did I mention they were all tall?) and back to their purple bus named Penelope. It was a night to remember – my first San Francisco YEE, a “date” with four guys, a tour of Penelope, and a picture that marks the beginning of many Yelp Elite memories.
5. How did the Elite squad help you connect with Albuquerque?
When I knew I was moving to the Land of Enchantment / Albuquerque, I was somewhat disappointed to leave the Scottsdale Yelp community. I had enjoyed many exciting places around that city and had met many new Yelp friends. When I told the CM I was moving, I asked if she knew the CM in Albuquerque. She enthusiastically said “Yes! It’s Howie! He’s the greatest!” So, with that introduction, I contacted Howie and told him I was moving to Albuquerque and wanted to join the Albuquerque Yelp community. He wrote back and said “Welcome. Our next event is . . . . so, I RSVP’d for it and brought my son as my Plus 1.
As I walked up to Howie to introduce myself, he got a strange “don’t I know you?” look on his face. It turned out that he and my son had worked together a few years before. Yep . . . settling into Albuquerque was going to be a piece of Yelp cake!
6. In your opinion, how has Yelp changed, or remained the same, over the years?
In many ways, Yelp hasn’t changed. Yes, the company has had to tighten up its review guidelines. Yes, they have expanded to more cities and countries. Yes, there are many more of us writing reviews; but with that expansion comes more opportunities to find the very best donut shop, the best barber, and the best mechanic when you are traveling . . . or even in your own home town.
7. When people ask you about the Yelp Elite Squad, what do you tell them?
“Yelp Elite Squad is a community. A community of local folks who care that their friends, neighbors and out-of-town visitors are able to find the best local businesses. We all sometimes need a little help in finding a new doctor’s office, brewery or theater. Be part of the solution. Write a review for local businesses that you love. Direct those searching to Yelp.”
Writing reviews, getting involved in my local businesses, and meeting new friends through Yelp has been just plain FUN! Yes, I am completely hooked on the importance of sharing local reviews and look forward to my next year with Yelp. Who knows . . . next year I may be writing from Seattle? Nashville? London? Or maybe even Okinawa?
Rachel C. 2019
Yelp Albuquerque – one of Howie’s peeps.