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When customers threaten to post negative Yelp reviews

It can be upsetting when a customer threatens to post a negative review, but there are ways of handling any form of extortion when demands are made in order to prevent that negative review.

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The state of online reviews

It is a common behavior for brands to pay for positive online reviews or offer discounts and free goodies, and the same often goes for consumers removing negative comments. Many online review sites have taken extensive steps to attempt to secure valid, untainted reviews so consumers have unfiltered opinions about goods and services, but the system is not perfect, it is subject to offline behavior as well.

According to CBS Sacramento, a restaurant says a customer claimed he got food poisoning from the venue, sought a refund, learned there are no refunds, but was offered a refund in the form of a gift card that could be used at any local restaurant.

In response, the man allegedly threatened to post a horrible review of the restaurant on Yelp unless the restaurant coughed up a $100 gift card. “I’ll be doing a scathing review on you on Yelp… and I’ll report you to the health department. But if you give me a $100 gift card, then I won’t do it.”

The restaurant owner refers to the demand as “flat-out extortion,” and refused to budge. The customer has not received his demanded gift card, nor has he posted the negative review. “I hope this inspires other retail establishments and restaurants to push back on extortion,” he said.

How other small businesses can combat threats

Everyone now knows that they have a voice online and that it is relevant – after all, people trust strangers online as equally as they do their own family members now, and particularly trust online reviews over a brand’s voice. This is empowering and in rare events, the new empowerment has caused people to attempt to abuse their voice in exchange for a payoff.

Public relations expert, and founder of Silver Strategic Communications, Bob Silver said, “This sort of thing is inevitable for any business that engages consumers and encourages social interaction through peer reviews and user generated content. People are going to be people and pricks are going to be pricks.”

Silver added, “These guys handled exactly the right way. Proactively called the bluff of the unhappy customer, made the story public on their own terms and by doing so, set the public perception by being open and willing to engage in the discussion. Everyone’s going to be a critic these days and face it, you’re never going to make everyone happy. So do your best to participate in the public conversation openly, honestly and without being defensive. It may be painful at times, but you’ll benefit in the long run.”

An alternative response

Some will tell you that the customer is always right and that appeasement is the proper route, but Silver asserts that engaging in discussion is the most beneficial in the long run, even though it is difficult.

Christopher Barger, SVP of Global Social Media, Voce Communications/Porter Novelli, and author of The Social Media Strategist suggests three steps.

Barger said, “First, some preventative maintenance: have a presence on relevant networks. Interact with reviewers, both those who love you and those who are negative. Make sure the community gets to know you and trust you. You’ll have a hedge against manufactured negativity if you’ve earned the trust of the community.”

“Second,” he added, “also preventative maintenance: Develop your own “owned” presence online. Make it a blog or something outside of Facebook’s walled garden, something that will show up in search. You need a place to tell your story in your own words. But you can’t just start it up when you have a problem, you have to be out there before there is an issue.”

“Third: When faced with an extortion situation like this, I’d fight fire with fire,” Barger said. “Tell the story of what’s happening to you on your blog. You might well even name names to make sure that everyone who reads (including other small business owners in your field) knows who this person and what they’re about and what they tried to do. Make sure that you include a line in the post telling readers to feel free to share the link or the story. Tell the story or post the link within Yelp or whatever the network is. Be proactive and make the reviewer’s conduct the story, rather than letting them set the story arc and define the situation for you. This is especially something I would do if I had an email or IM or something in writing that could prove my side of the story.”

The risk and reward of being proactive

Barger notes, “Yes, you’ll risk people thinking that you’re picking on a customer or using a bully pulpit. But I’ve found that most bloggers and online reviewers have an innate sense of fairness, and this kind of a story will disappoint and anger them as much as it does you. Additionally, in my experience, bloggers and reviewers realize that brand bullying, when it happens, paints the entire online community by association, gives them all a bad name, and lessens the likelihood that businesses will be willing to work with anyone online or reach out to any of them in the future.”

“Many of them will quickly shun or disown the bad apple out of their own self-interest,” Barger added. “And whether the person ends up posting or not, you will have cast enough doubt on their story by going out first that the bite of their negative review might be lessened.”

Marti Trewe reports on business and technology news, chasing his passion for helping entrepreneurs and small businesses to stay well informed in the fast paced 140-character world. Marti rarely sleeps and thrives on reader news tips, especially about startups and big moves in leadership.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Frugyl

    May 31, 2012 at 7:21 am

    Yikes!

  2. OwnerListens

    May 31, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    The best way for businesses owners to protect their online reputation and combat these problems with Yelp is to use OwnerListens.com. OwnerListens is an alternative to Yelp that businesses can offer their customers. Customers use OwnerListens to send feedback directly and privately to the owner/manger. The owner/manager can then respond and address the issue in real-time and prevent negative reviews from ever being posted online. Over time, this leads to a higher overall rating on Yelp; the best part is OwnerListens is completely free. Sign up at https://ownerlistens.com

  3. Sarah

    December 27, 2017 at 10:01 am

    If given the situation, the negative review is unwarranted, how ethical is it to leave a negative review in return? At my company, we worked exclusively with small business owners. If a negative review is unfounded, I think it only fair that if they don’t remove it, that we leave a review of our interaction for them as well. Technically, it’s not against review rules considering we’ve had a business interaction. Thoughts?

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Business News

Chick-fil-a stops donating to anti-LGBTQ orgs; can we eat hate nuggets now!?

(BUSINESS MARKETING) Boycotts, protests, and media coverage about the controversy may finally be making an impact as the company attempts to alter its reputation.

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After years of controversy for its anti-LGBTQ policies and donations, Chick-Fil-A announced Monday that it would stop funding three faith-based organizations similarly known for their anti-LGBTQ activities. The chicken sandwich empire has donated millions to The Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and Paul Anderson Youth Home, but from 2020 going forward, the chain will cease donations to these organizations.

Controversy over Chick-fil-A’s ethos exploded in 2012 when a Pennsylvania Chick-fil-A sponsored a Christian seminar promoting “traditional” marriage, and its CEO Dan Cathy made public comments opposing same-sex marriage. While these events brought Chick-fil-A’s homophobic politics to light, the chain had already, for years prior, been donating millions of dollars to organizations that either discriminate against or work explicitly to curtail the rights of LGBTQ people.

Some queers put down their sandwiches and joined a national boycott and protests, while others found tongue-in-cheek ways to process feeling guilty for continuing to enjoy waffle fries. At first the boycott backfired, with Governor Mike Huckabee hosting a Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day, encouraging conservative chicken lovers to show up en masse to support the chain and deliver a proverbial middle finger to the LGBT community by ordering extra nuggets.

However, the boycotts, protests, and media coverage about the controversy may finally be making an impact as the company attempts to alter its reputation. Chick-fil-A president, Tim Tassopoulos noted that there have been numerous news stories about the chain’s politics, explaining that “as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are.” Attempts to expand into Europe hit a major setback when one of its two UK locations closed because the shopping center in which it was located took offense to Chick-fil-A’s anti-LGBTQ stance and decided not to renew the lease.

A spokeswoman told the Thomas Reuters Foundation that the company had fulfilled the “multi-year commitments” it made to Salvation Army and Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and that now that their “obligations” were complete, they would focus their charitable giving elsewhere.

Future donations will go toward charities that focus on education and homelessness, such as Junior Achievement USA and Covenant House. Grants will be distributed and reviewed annually. LGBTQ activists are optimistic, but slightly skeptical of the change. GLAAD director of campaign and rapid response Drew Anderson called for “further transparency” regarding Chick-fil-A’s “deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families.”

Anderson further pointed out that Chick-fil-A has no non-discrimination policies protecting LGBTQ employees. The chain is also known for asking applicants about their religious and marital status in job interviews, making discrimination against non-Christian and LGBTQ applicants all too easy. Anderson called for Chick-fil-A to “unequivocally speak out against the anti-LGBTQ reputation that their brand represents.”

CEO Dan Cathy has been notoriously unapologetic for his homophobic views, expressing in 2014 that he regretted getting Chick-fil-A embroiled in controversy, but that his opinions about same-sex marriage had not changed.

While many are celebrating the withdrawal of funds towards certain anti-LGBTQ organizations, there’s no guarantee that more donations of this kind won’t be made in the future. So enjoy those hate nuggets with a large grain of salt.

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Business News

Ford rolls out a weird electric SUV that is somehow also a Mustang

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ford’s new Mach E is part of their big electric push, and their plan to get you in one is to appeal to the American dream of a mustang.

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What do you get when you cross a Mustang, Tesla and SUV? A traffic accident!

(Just kidding, bad joke; it’s the 2021 Ford Mach E, one of Ford’s 22 upcoming electric or hybrid vehicles. )

Since when has Ford been pushing for electric cars? Actually, it’s been a while, but Ford’s efforts have definitely increased since Jim Hackett took over as CEO of Ford Motors in 2017.

Hackett revitalized Ford’s mission and began pushing for a greater focus on electric and hybrid cars. In fact, Hackett even created an internal team – Team Edison – which oversaw the development of electric cars. The Ford Mach E is actually the first car to be unveiled.

One down, 21 to go.

Sure, the name Ford Mach E is pretty cool, but how cool can a sports car/SUV hybrid really be? It’s the first non-sports car to use the Mustang name, which is a bold move. Luckily, the Ford Mach E is slated to go 0 – 60 in under four seconds, which means it can keep up with other Mustangs and even go faster than some Porches. It also boasts around a 459 horsepower, which is higher than most SUVs on the market. Not half bad for an electric SUV.

Along with the battery – which will be able to last anywhere from 200 to 300 miles, depending on the unit – the Mach E is chock full of exciting new tech. For instance, it’ll boast hands-free driving assist technology comparable to Tesla’s.

It also includes a sleek interior, a large center screen and Ford’s new SYNC system, which will adjust entertainment customizations based on user preference.

This cloud-based system learns from drivers’ habits: if a driver typically stop for coffee in the morning, the system might automatically suggest routes to a coffee shop.

Kind of creepy, but also pretty neat.

The car is projected to hit the market in late 2020 and will be competing with other electric models from Tesla and Volkswagen.

Prices for the Ford Mach E will range from $43,000 to about $60,000, which is fairly comparable to other companies. With a $500 refundable deposit through the Ford website, individuals can place a reservation on one of these upcoming cars now.

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Business News

Ageism: How to combat discrimination in the workplace

(BUSINESS) Ageism is still being fought by many companies, how can this new issue be resolved before it becomes more of a problem?

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Google recently settled an age discrimination lawsuit to the tune of $11 million. The lawsuit from 2015 alleged that Google favored people under 40 for hiring. The federal case involved more than 200 parties. Part of the settlement requires Google to train managers on age bias in recruiting and hiring. There’s hope that the settlement will raise awareness in the tech industry, where ageism is thought to be pervasive.

IBM is also facing an age discrimination lawsuit alleging the company “systematically removed older employees from its workforce.” This lawsuit was filed in March in federal court in the Southern District of New York.

Both IBM and Google deny that there is any discrimination in hiring in their respective companies. IBM is confident that the case will fail. Google settled the case rather than fight it in court. The IBM case is still working its way through the system. It is highlighting ageism in tech, but the tech industry certainly isn’t the only one that seemingly discriminates against older workers.

Workers over the age of 55 represent the fasting growing sector in labor. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates that 25% of the labor force will be over age 55 by 2024. A 2018 AARP survey found that over 60% of the respondents reported age discrimination in their workplace. The figure is even higher among older women, minorities and unemployed seniors. Age discrimination is a problem for many.

How can your organization create an age-inclusive workforce?

It is difficult to prove age discrimination but fighting a lawsuit against it could be expensive. Rather than worrying about getting sued for age discrimination, consider your own business and whether your culture creates a workplace that welcomes older workers.

  1. Check your job descriptions and hiring practices to eliminate graduation dates and birthdates. Focus on worker’s skills, not youthful attributes, such as “fresh graduate” or “digital native.” Feature workers of all ages in your branding and marketing.
  2. Include age diversity training for your managers and employees, especially those that hire or work in recruiting.
  3. Support legislative reforms that protect older workers. Use your experience to create content for your website.

Changing the culture of your workplace to include older workers will benefit you in many ways. Older workers bring experience and ideas to the table that younger employees don’t have. Having mixed-age teams encourages creativity. There are many ways to support older workers and to be inclusive in your workplace.

What steps are you taking in your organization to reduce ageism in your workplace?

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