In response to businesses being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic, GoFundMe together with Yelp created a Coronavirus Small Business Relief Initiative, which the company claims “is intended to support our friends and neighbours at local businesses facing financial loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. Make a difference today by donating or starting a small business fundraiser.”
The fundraisers automatically appear on Yelp pages for restaurants, nightlife, beauty and fitness & active life businesses. Users just need to click on the “donate” button, which redirects them to the location’s GoFundMe page, to take action.
This initiative however was done without permission from each respective business owner.
“This causes harm to our reputation, is done without consent, and is being done on a mass basis for their own benefit. Unbelievable,” Nick Kokonas, American restaurant executive (co-owner of the Michelin star restaurant Alinea in Chicago) and author stated on twitter.
He added that the entire situation was causing unneeded stress at a time when most business owners are simply trying to survive the current coronavirus-related lockdowns keeping bars and restaurants from fully operating.
This cements @yelp as one of the worst companies in our industry. I want not only this removed but all TAG Yelp pages taken down. I should have the right to not be included without consent. Awful corporate decisions during a crisis. Terrible. pic.twitter.com/d0esAFV2N4
— nick kokonas (@nickkokonas) March 27, 2020
After many restaurant and bar owners lodged complaints that they weren’t informed that their businesses would be automatically opted in, Yelp has paused the initiative.
“On Tuesday, Yelp announced a partnership with GoFundMe to provide a fast and easy way for people to support their favourite local businesses by donating to a GoFundMe fundraiser directly on the Yelp pages of eligible businesses. In an effort to get businesses help quickly and easily, a GoFundMe fundraiser was automatically added to the Yelp pages of an initial group of eligible businesses, with information provided on how to claim it or opt out should a business choose to do so,” a spokesperson said in a statement.
“However, it has come to our attention that some businesses did not receive a notification with opt-out instructions, and some would have preferred to actively opt-in to the program. As such, we have paused the automatic rollout of this feature, and are working with GoFundMe to provide a seamless way for businesses to opt into the program moving forward, as we have received a great deal of interest and support for the program from both consumers and businesses alike,” the statement added.