We all know that Yelp is a powerful tool that businesses both fear and rely on, but now the courts have given the yelp platform even more weight by granting a Massachusetts Jewelry store a $34,500 settlement after a rival jewelry store posted a fake review on their yelp profile.
When Stephen Blumberg saw the long negative review on his Stephen Leigh Jewelers yelp page he knew immediately it was fake and scoured the other reviews of that user to try and track down their identity. When he discovered the reviewer was Adam Jacobs (Adam J. On Yelp) owner of rival store Toodies Fine Jewelry, he took them to civil court over two years later.
The implications of this case are interesting and powerful. When one bad review could determine the fate of any business big or small (but especially small) fake reviews can be considered slander and affect lives in an actual physical and monetary way.
I will be the first to admit that when I come away from a bad restaurant or experience and want to write a review I tend to be a titch dramatic.
Can you believe they served the pizza cold, or have you ever been asked to pay so much for a picture of yourself river rafting? When reading these blurbs people who attended the same brunch or vacation that I did question if it really was all that bad. And I’ll be honest, after a few days maybe the pizza was just lukewarm and not brick cold, or that it was reasonable to ask that much for professional photographs.
So, in the end, could my words be construed as slander in some overly dramatic sense?
If I got someone fired, could they sue me in civil court? And if so, how careful do I need to be that I can personally back up every single statement made in every review up to two years prior?
I have been afraid of posting particularly damning reviews when someone knows me personally and knows where I live. Even if I’m abhorrently dissatisfied with their service and their behavior was reprehensible I can’t bring myself to warn other customers. Even a review from a fake profile would have been obviously me.
Reviews can be intimately personal and their real life implications can be damning.
People can lose their jobs, customers, or even their entire business. Even though that’s the way the free market should work, the review culture does make the cause and affect a little more immediate.
Obviously the precedent in this case was a bit different.
One business was trying to get a leg up by slandering the other, but the fact that yelp was involved does leave me wary. Our internet lives, including our wine addled reviews have consequences that do not end at the login screen, and it’s important for all of us, businesses and consumers alike to realize this.
Or just don’t
I guess the moral of the story is don’t leave fake reviews for your competition, and try not to leave glowing reviews for yourself.
If you’re going to do it anyways, make a fake account and try to remain as anonymous and vague as possible. But, really, just don’t do it.