Friday, December 26, 2014

Yelp Lists Made

So, what is a Yelp List?

List is a feature to group reviews to tell a story. I didn't know about List until early 2014 from a Talk topic. Then, I began to use List to group reviews. However, I don't like the user interface to organize it. I spent a lot of time organizing my "Yelp Challenge 2014" to look correctly by rating.

In 2014, I also created these lists:

  1. Sincere Apology - These are my below-average reviews - 1 or 2 stars.
  2. My Firsts List - Only shown the biz with First to Tip from the app version.
  3. Events I Yelp About - My love on the OYE, YEE and UYE.
  4. Be Kind to Your Mother (Nature) - My love with our environment.
  5. Crowd Pleasers - Lots and lots of people.
  6. Auto 'n Mobile of Houston - My experiences in car shopping is over.
  7. Soups Made from Scratch - Yummy. I love real soups.

I plan to create more lists in 2015, including:

  • From Outside Looking in - Being a tourist, I view the businesses differently than the locals. I plan to travel more next year.
  • Most Improved Mentions - I want to revisit those in the "Sincere Apology" list.
  • Yahoo! Local List - I will revisit those businesses I reviewed on Yahoo Local before it was decommissioned.
  • Merchants of Chinatown - There is more other than just restaurants in Chinatown.
  • 麵食 Chinese Noodle Stuff - My love with homemade noddles from Northern China. 
  • Noodles - Other specialty homemade noodles, including ramen, udon, pasta, pho, etc.
  • Chinese regional category (undecided)

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Photo on App

I like how Android app displays photos compared to iOS.

GPS Marking on the app

July 2014, San Antonio

I drove from Houston to attend a reunion near Ft Sam Houston. Once I arrived at the city limit of San Antonio, I started to plot my route to the hotel. The location and address contradicted each other. I had no choice because I wanted to arrive during daylight to meet people I haven't seen for decades.
I'm anal retentive when it comes to location accuracy. This could help Yelpers only depend on map apps. 

As soon as I arrived at the address, the Apple Map app quickly changed the target to a 12-mile away location. So, I couldn't use Yelp app to check in. After the event, I decided to explore that mysterious location. Finally, I reported this error to HQ.

I'm very fortunate to have GPS built into Yelp app. I use the GPS marker religiously. It's paramount to have accurate location on the map, hours and a storefront photo. Not just for the out-of-towners to find the business, but the locals need to identify the correct business in order to write a review.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Budget Planning

I was approached by a few acquaintances who were not familiar with Yelp. They often ask, "you had so many check-ins. How much do you spend to eat out?"

Yelp is not just a review site for restaurants, it is a resource for different types of businesses in our community. Really, I don't eat out much. However, I like to cook my own food. So, I'm always shopping for good values. 
I'm out there searching for outrageously low prices.
As I said in my check-in chat:
  • Don't go broke when you think you have to eat out to be active.
  • Don't think eating out often is the ticket to be an effective Yelper.
If you can't control your spending, try to log your spending and tally up at the end of day. 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Imperial Medical Center page

To HQ,

Where was the page I added
It's redirected to Imperial CPR Training Center. CPR training center is at suite 220. As soon as you sent an email to confirm the  page I added on August 6 was approved. However, it was redirected.
My intention was to mark a general area for this awesome location.

So, all of my check-ins, tips, photos and video are merged with a place I never intended to be. Imperial Medical Center exists on Foursquare, why couldn't it be one on Yelp?

Please remove the redirect and restore the link.

Thank you.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Puerto Rican Festival 2014

Who is not excited with street festivals or block parties in Houston? For a city of 40% Hispanic population, you ought to love Puerto Rican and Cuban Festival in late September.

I'm all about cultural festivals. This festival covered 5 spokes: 2 music stages, food vendors, porta potties and kids playground. The entrance fee $13 was well worth it. I was very glad that they expended ticket vendors to include all Fiesta stores. As previous years, there were only selected few.

Just like any outdoor events, we need good weather and mild temperature to draw the crowd. Lucky us. The sky cleared out right before the first day of festival. This event was held at Tranquility Park for many years. I think it was the renovation caused them to move to the streets.

Non-stop entertainment and delicious regional foods from local restaurants were the main focus of Puerto Rican & Cuban Festival. Watch a short video on Instagram to see salsa dancers everywhere.

Parking wasn't a problem for me. I found parking just a short walking distance to the site. I just had to rely on GPS to find my way back.

I posted this on Yelp's event page. Since there were no Yelpers interested, I didn't create a festival page for reviews. However, I encourage you to explore other festivals at

Monday, October 20, 2014

Check-in Meter on Yelp App

This is one of my favorite feature - Yelp Royalty but I call it "Check-in Meter". I had the opportunity to see both Android and iOS to choose my next Smartphone.

As for Android, you can see when you last checked in, but you can't see the dukedom status.
For iOS, you can see the dukedom crowns and regular icons.

Uh... I like both versions. I know it's too much to ask to combine them.
Android (left) vs iOS (right) 
According to an article on TechCrunch in 2010, "iPhone app (4.2.1) includes a feature called Yelp Royalty. It rewards users with the most check-ins at a venue the title of 'Duke' or 'Duchess.' Those with the most titles in their neighborhood become the 'Baron.' Those with the most it the city become the 'King.'"

To my understanding, check-in is a way to quantify how often you patronize a business. Yelp created a way to compete. Among the regulars, the most frequent visitor wins a duke or duchess badge. At the end, businesses win customers and Yelp app users win with social media recognition.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Personal Expressions

Once I asked HQ if "ass hole" was appropriate in a review.

I got a reply from Yelp HQ, "We realize that different people have different tolerances for strong language, but our bar is pretty high so that we can allow reviewers to tell their story in their own words even when things get colorful."

I found this review helpful, even with F-words. 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Yogurt to da Max

When you want all-natural homemade yogurt, I have to brag about my discovery. But you have to be in Houston to enjoy it.

There are many yogurts in supermarkets that contain lots of sugar and corn starch. Only few of them contain the active cultures or Lactobacillus Bulgaricus. However, they are too sweet for me.

One day, I ran into a hole-in-the-wall restaurant that made my dream of eating real yogurt come true. Viola, I found Eatwell Bakery Cafe. I go to Eatwell almost monthly to fulfill my crave for enzymes.

I buy the half-gallon container, which lasts about 4-6 weeks. This is far cheaper than White Mountain of Austin, which has additives and inconsistent flavors. According to the owner Ziad, Eatwell uses only the freshest milk from a local farm that meets his high standards. The flavor of its freshness is indescribable.
Only the natural ingredients

Mmm... you've got to sample it. When you go, mention Lou sent you. I eat 4-6 oz a day plain or with agave nectar. If you can't take it plain, add some honey or fruit jams.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Called it a Name Change

Do you ever wonder what happens when a business changed hands on Yelp? Here is an example of Before and After.

I submitted the update on the app as "the owner sold it and new owner changed its name."
Here is how Yelp called it "renovated" on the app and "moved" on the full site.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Friend Request

Oh, hello? You want to be my friend? Read on...

I only befriend with real people have real activities. That means I will screen your profile on app - looking for tips, bookmarks and photos. If you are an Elite or I met you in person at Yelp functions (such as UYE), you're automatically in.

However, I don't friend anyone who lives outside of Houston, never visit Houston, areas I never been to or I had no plan of visiting. Because it will crowd my feeds and I can't filter them out.

I only friend with people think like me. I'll unfriend you, if...
You use the app and you possess dukes or duchesses crowns without any check-in feeds.
You attacked a biz without properly expressed interests for improvement.
You wrote dishonest reviews or contradicting reviews.

My rules on strangers:
  • 20% valid reviews - if I clicked on "Link to this review", and it's not pointing to you, it counts one minus. If you have more than 20% invalids, you're denied.
  • Rescue Team - you posted a 5-star review with generic words to save a business after a 1-star review.
  • Writing mill - you have written over 7 reviews per day consecutively. OMG, are you a full time writer? What's the hurry?
  • Indifference - you rated everyone 5 stars, without expressing your excitements in the reviews. 
  • Belittling - you rated every biz 1 star. You hate everyone without good reason. Yelp is not for you.
  • Keyword flags - you used "I'd definitely return" or irrelevant reference to the business. 
  • Ballot Stuffing - I have seen reviews with "please like this place" or with tones of an owner. I'll deny your request, if you are part of a gang writing short and all 5-star reviews after a 1-star review.
  • Ghost Presence - People who only wrote a few reviews but earned crowns by checking in a business just by driving by, without going inside. I will quiz you on your check in.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Biz Review that Counts

This is one example of why writing reviews is important. 

IMS Beauty Supply is listed as a beauty supply store. If you never been inside, you'll never know that it also sells liquor. Since the account was locked by a business owner, so no one could change anything. My numerous attempts failed to convince HQ that this is in fact a liquor store and it has a regulated store hours – closed on Sundays.

One way to make this business stand out is over-using the word “liquor” in my review. I strategically placed total of 15 “liquor” words. I deployed a sitcom scenario and my personal experiences to tell my story.

With the search engine strategy, the more natural words (keywords) show up with its content should receive a favorable position within the results. 

That's the power of writing a review.

The search function is based on your behavior. Example here, Android (left) and iOS as first time searching.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Rating Scale

From a scale of 1 to 5 stars, not all my reviews are rated equally. Sometimes, you'll find a happy review with 4 stars while other problematic ones still at 4.

Here are my rules:

  • Outside of Houston Metro, esp when I travel: 2 to 4 stars - since I don't visit them often, I can only write my review based on my one-and-only experience.
  • Government, Facilities, Events, & Festivals: 4 to 5 stars - minor problems don't bother me. Five is absolutely flawless.
  • Failed to provide basic customer service - automatically 1 star and I won't be embarrassed to tell you about it.
  • Food just absolutely tasteless, awful service and I'll never come back: Not worth of my energy to write a review. Unless I contacted the management for corrective action which turned my experience around.
  • Trying on a new business that I added: 3 to 5 stars - I have to check in at least 3 times to try 50% of items from the menu. Most of time, I start off with 5. Often times, I give the owners direct feedback and watch them make changes. They lose stars as the degrees of my satisfaction drop. 
Yelp is not a place to vent your frustration. If you have problems with the goods and service received, tell the business owners or management. Check for signage at the cash register or at the door for toll-free number or answer a Voice of the Customer survey to address the problems is more appropriate.

You'll notice, I don't waste my words in my reviews to express how I rate them. My reviews contain facts that I collected by talking to staff or doing my own research. I have business owners telling me that my reviews were used in their own promotional verbiage or testimonials. That is my biggest reward on writing Yelp reviews.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Bug Reported on Android app

Just reported a bug to the Yelp Android Beta Testers group on Google +. 

I've been an active tester on the Android for a few months. I'm a mobile addict. I like to help with R&D. There were several new features added since then. 

If you are interested to participate, click on Yelp Android Beta Testers

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Courtesy to Religious Practices

I started a "post cultural events" thread 5 months ago on Yelp. It's going strong. 

I just posted a "happy Ramadan" greeting and started to have strange feelings. It's a religious event not a cultural event, right? I also noticed a deleted reply and thank you messages. 

I have no regrets. It's my respect to people who practice Muslim as a religion. This is America, we have the freedom of religion. my experience with Ramadan was rejection when I offered food to some people before sunset. After reading some articles, I understood how everyone live their lives. We need to respect each other and live in harmony and peace.

Ramadan runs different dates, just like Chinese New Year based on the lunar calendar. This year, it starts 6/29 and ends 7/28. So, don't be offended if someone don't eat your food offering before sunset. Plan your party after sunset will allow more participants.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Review Writing Tips

  People often asked me about how to write a good review. Let me share my secret with you.

When I was in college, my classmates refused to read the weekly newsletters that I produced. So, I took few courses in journalism and basic writing. 

Most of my reviews are in the form of short feature story: opening lines, story with facts and figures. Then, closing thoughts. I often use Google to search on common words or phrases, colloquial, thesaurus. I use Microsoft Word for spell checking. My biggest pet peeve is typos. 

The simplest way to write a review to tell a story with your own experience. Take some photos to remind yourself on that experience. Write a draft first, then simplify your thoughts with fewer words per sentence. Make sure there are punctuation marks. Finally, apply your personal style.

Go ahead and give it a try.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Little Sheep Hot Pot Ads

If you are in Houston, pick up a Chinese newspaper. These ads are on section B. Coupons for Little Sheep Hot Pot restaurants.


Top - Westheimer Location
$19.99 All you can eat Summer special "7 days All You Can Eat"
coupon: $10 off on $50 purchase

  • Limit 1.5 hour to consume
  • Restaurant reserves the right to serve
  • Reservation welcomed with 8 or more people

Bottom - Bellaire Location

New item: Jumbo sized for 2 just $27.95 - select 2 meats (lamb, beef, pork, chicken, fish)
Also available for 6, 8 or 10 people specials

Special lunch Monday to Friday $9.95 includes soup per person
Starting 6/1, free ??? or "lamb in red wine" with $50 purchase

Monday, June 2, 2014

What to do with bad experiences?

My rule of thumb: 

anything less than 2 stars, it goes to the  "pending review" category. 

I have to decide if I should give it another try, contact the management/corporate, or simply walk away. I use the amount of check-in to represent how serious I want to help them to improve. 

But, I normally won't say how many stars I used in my review. And, I have very high tolerance on poor services in Houston. I'm already used to it.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Warning: I Yelp a Lot!

Lou: I Yelp a Lot!

This is a blog associated with my Yelp account Lou C. (

There are much more to say about a business than just posting photos, reviews and tips. It's like my life circling around the world of Yelp.