How Getting Good Yelp Reviews Can Be Like Pulling Teeth-Nazar Kamangar/bridge consulting blogs
The saying “the customer is always right” has been around since at least the turn of the twentieth century. For better or worse, that slogan has persisted over decades and still permeates modern culture. Because this sentiment is so ingrained into the culture, consumers are not afraid to call out a business that doesn’t treat them well. And in the digital age, it is very easy for them to quickly spread their displeasure far and wide.
With the plethora of review sites like Yelp popping all over the internet, and the viral nature of the news, it behooves any business owner to monitor social media sites for poor reviews and attempt to retroactively resolve an unfortunate situation. It is important, however, to tread delicately when reaching out. Some business owners try to defend their business, and wind up looking even worse. While it’s important to try to hold up the good name of your company, legal action is probably not be the way to make that happen.
In 2009, San Francisco dentist Yvonne Wong filed a defamation suit against a couple who had posted a negative Yelp review about her. They alleged that she had used laughing gas on their young son, and had used fillings containing mercury. Wong and her attorney went even further and also filed suit against Yelp, not realizing that the site was protected under U.S. law as it merely publishes third-party content. In 2011, the suit was still pending, but Wong had been ordered to pay legal fees in the amount of $80,000 to the defendants.
Believe it or not, this is not the only case of a dental visit, a Yelp review, and a subsequent lawsuit. In 2011, Robert Lee signed a privacy agreement before his dentist, Dr. Stacy Makhnevich, performed early $5,000 in dental work. She required that he pay the medical costs out of pocket, and assured him she would bill his insurance company. Only, due to repeated screw-ups on the end of the dental office, the claims were never filed. Lee took to the internet, posting reviews of his experience, until the privacy agreement he signed came back to bite him. Makhnevich ordered him to take down the negative reviews, and billed him $100/day for every day the reviews remained online. In this case, the patient sued the dentist; Lee filed a class-action suit against the Makhnevich on behalf of all patients who had signed the privacy agreement, challenging its legality.
The lawsuits don’t end in dental offices, either. As far back as 2008, chiropractor Steven Biegel sued patient Chris Norberg for defamation after Norberg posted a negative review over a billing dispute and possibly fraudulent activity. Norberg started a website, standforspeech.com to raise money for his legal defense. Ultimately the case seems to have settled for an undisclosed amount; Norberg posted a statement on Yelp and on his website which read:
“A misunderstanding between both parties led us to act out of hand. I chose to ignore Dr. Biegel’s initial request to discuss my posting. In hindsight, I should have remained open to his concerns. Both Dr. Biegel and I strongly believe in a person’s right to express their opinions in a public forum.”
Regardless of the validity of the reviews, these business owners only exacerbated the effect by filing suit. In classic cases of the Streisand Effect, their attempts to hide or suppress information only succeeded in publicizing the information more widely. A better approach? Reach out personally and try to make a bad situation right. And if all else fails, rely on the good reviews of hundreds of other satisfied customers to counteract the bad.