Subscribe    RSS Feeds    Twitter            Contact Us   
728_header.jpg (23748 bytes)
 Home   EB Blog   AB Blog   Letters   Podcasts   ABTV   Forums   EPIS   PR Service   Classifieds   EKG   Ratings 
Web Site     
  Rate Services
  Amazon Fee Calculator
  eBay Fee Calculator
  Etsy Fee Calculator
  Auction Calendar
  Collectors' Links
  eBay Promo History
  Bookshelf
  Fraud Resources
  Drop-Off Store Laws
  Payment Holds
  ABTV
  Ecommerce Resources
  Photo Tips
  Marketing Inserts
  Yellow Pages
  Advertising
buyersmarket2aaa2.JPG (7729 bytes)
Julia Wilkinson AuctionBytes Blog
Covering auctions, collectibles and marketplace selling.

Julia Wilkinson is Editor of the AuctionBytes Blog and is author of the "eBay Price Guide," "eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips and Tricks," "My Life at AOL" and numerous ebooks about selling online. You can also find her writing on Yard Salers.
Mon Dec 10 2012 10:47:33

Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers

By: Julia Wilkinson
Sponsored Link
The issue of online ratings and reviews has come into the national spotlight since the "Yelp" lawsuit, where housing contractor Christopher Dietz sued former customer Jane Perez for $750,000 in defamation charges for her scathing review of his business on the local opinions site. But while the suit may have seemed litigious to the average consumer, for eBay, Amazon and other online sellers, it may have seemed like it was about time, as they've been sweating out bad reviews -- and ones that they've felt were overly harsh or just plain wrong -- for years.



Perez had written that there was damage to her home and that jewelry was missing after she'd had work done from Dietz's company, Dietz Development LLC. The judge in the case ordered Perez to take down parts of those reviews, which an NPR article about the case called an "unusual step."

Her post allegedly included a list of accusations, including "damage to her home, an invoice for work the contractor did not perform and jewelry that disappeared," according to a Washington Post article about the case. The end of her post read, “Bottom line do not put yourself through this nightmare of a contractor.”

Was her review fair or not? If all her allegations were true and could be proven, the review would be fair in my mind. But if not, I think reviewers, and especially those shaded by the relative anonymity of the Internet, can be overly vitriolic, and forget that their words can impact businesses' ability to make money. One 2011 Harvard study  showed that a one-star increase on Yelp leads to a 5 to 9 percent increase in revenue. This could logically be extrapolated to the probability that a one-star decrease could similarly detract from revenue.

In the online selling world, the lion's share of my reviews have been good. But there have been a handful of instances where I felt the negative feedback was unwarranted, especially with the extra steps I take when something goes wrong with an order. eBay sellers have long sweated out online reviews, and I think it's fair to say a single scathing review can have some kind of negative effect on their business.

An Amazon seller I know received a one-star review for an order that where the seller did indeed make a mistake, but the seller completely refunded the order and told the buyer to keep the item they had mistakenly sent. They also offered a free item. Did this budge the review? No.

I also know of two attorneys who, when Googled, have nothing but terrible reviews pop up, although I know these attorneys to be competent. The bad stuff floats to the top, it seems, or maybe it's just that the people who are really ticked off are the ones who go to the trouble to post. In any case, it's enough to drive many businesses to hiring an online reputation  management firm.

(Since this Yelp lawsuit, several Yelpers have filed a type of protest by also posting one-star reviews, with comments like "Lesson learned - don't be specific in yelp reviews or you get sued by this company for $750,000." But some others have posted good reviews in support, one stating, "Wow, it saddens me deeply to see a business being unfairly criticized on yelp. Leave this man alone and let him feed his family. Please move on.").

As an online seller, or even a buyer, what do you think of the Yelp case? Does it highlight that individual consumers have power with which they should be responsible, or can they cite free speech as a reason to be as scathing as they want? Do you think a bad review has affected your bottom line? Post a comment here!
Reading AuctionBytes Blog: Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
Comments (15) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: tomcscott This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Dec 10 12:36:09 2012
As a business owner, both good and bad reviews are excellent business tools.  A good review tells us what to keep up, and a bad review lets us know what to work on.

Having said that, I'm all for free speech, as long as its:

1- the truth (not false, libelous or defamatory)

2- its not anonymous (ie: ex employee, competitor, ex-spouse, etc..)

3- the filtered reviews are easy to find

(yelp filters out "suspect" reviews and puts them into a hard-to-find filtered section on the bottom of the reviews page. The filtered reviews button should be relocated to the top, next to the other menu choices).  
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford
       
Mon Dec 10 13:58:48 2012
Last month we had an ebayer buyer give us a negative based on a huge lie.  If I knew of an attorney who would handle the case for a fair price I would do the same as Dietz.

It truly is about time.  Buyers should not be able to lie and ruin a seller's reputation.
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
This user has validated their user name. by: Tula
       
Mon Dec 10 15:32:17 2012
Free speech doesn't include libel, slander, or any sort of defamation. People are entitled to an opinion, but unless they have proof of their claims, they shouldn't be allowed to defame another entity. It's far too easy these days to hide behind anonymity and injure someone else's livelihood. The reviewer in question is making several accusations, seemingly without proof, so it seems like a clear case of defamation to me.

Sometimes people just don't think about what impact their words can have - or perhaps they just don't care. I got an email from an activist group this week, exhorting people to stop shopping at all pet stores because some purchase animals from puppy mills. That sounds noble on the surface, but what of all the small business people trying to make a living? There was a similar thing during the runup to Black Friday, where some were urging people not to shop online but to only buy from small local businesses. Again, that sounds great, but it neglects the fact that there are a whole lot of small local businesses that sell online. Both good intentions and bad can wreak havoc on any kind of business these days, so people really need to think before they post any sort of opinion online.
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: RCL This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Dec 10 17:39:43 2012
Libel and slander online are no less libel and slander. There are also limits on free speech. And, it is hard to assign a dollar value to a negative feedback, unless your earnings were consistent over time then dropped sharply.
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: RCL This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Dec 10 17:41:10 2012
And even there, the cause of sales falling off is speculative where it could be anything else--like a financial cliff!
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: Damariscotta This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Dec 10 18:37:25 2012
I heard the NPR broadcast, and surprisingly they, like other media outlets, played this as "sued for a negative review". She was not sued for a negative review- she was sued for defamation. You can be as negative as you want in your review, but you cannot expect to claim someone robbed your house and then be surprised when they take legal action.
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: tomcscott This user has validated their user name.
       
Mon Dec 10 18:59:19 2012
@Damariscotta

I second that opinion. Negative reviews are fine and can be used as a constructive way to better your business. But libelous and damaging accusations should not be allowed....especially if its from anonymous posters.
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: comet This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Dec 11 01:18:39 2012
I know for a fact that YELP does kill some posts.  Whether they wander off to some "filtered" dark cellar I don't know.

I posted a truthful report about a local to me place I had never been to before and noticed a waitress making racist comments and ignoring a table with mixed race persons.  I happened to later speak to a friend who happened to have eaten there just a few minutes before we arrived and she mentioned this SAME waitress--unknown to either of us--acting oddly around the other mixed race couples in the place.  Added to this the fact that the waitress was very---odd---with my husband and a beer he ordered I mentioned these as factual happenings in my review--along with saying that the food was great;  the decor was nice and we would return.  Maybe this was a new hire?  Who knows.

I got a Message from YELP that they didn't LIKE my truthful report--I did NOT use any hyperbolic language;  I did not name any names; I did not threaten to never darken their doorway again--but it left a bad feeling towards YELP!!!!

Now--I do look at YELP but with a huge grain of salt.  And I try to see what others feel about places I DO know well to see how our opinions might differ.  

Would I take anything ANYONE said on YELP as gospel?   Are you crazy?

Oh--did we ever go back to that restaurant?  Why yes we gave them a second chance. And---we happened to use a ramp (I am handicapped) to get into the lovely outside dining area--for which we were SCREAMED AT by the hostess!   There were at LEAST 3 waitress' who SAW us come in--no one said Hello or any other greeting--and apparently no one alerted the hostess to our prescence.  We laughed this off---it has actually become a sort of in-joke here---but the extreme wait for our order--and the even longer wait the next group had while waiting with well behaved but bored small children--left us feeling that our business  was not appreciated.  Again--the food was great.  And the place--altho in a resort town--is local.  And we would LIKE to support it.  But--two bad experiences with the staff---cross it off our list!  And--we have told ALL of our friends to do the same.  Sad really.  

Would I make false statements on YELP or any other forum?  No--but I can see where anger could make you see things differently.   Even tho you are angered tho you still don't get the "right" to lie.  If this woman had THAT much of a beef--and wanted to accuse the contractor of theft--we HAVE a place for that.  It is called a COURT.  Ironic isn't it that that is where she found herself????
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: marcellina This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Dec 11 01:24:20 2012
A negative review relating to an opinion about the quality of services provided is one thing. Accusing the business of criminal activities is a different story. Many unbalanced people use the internet to grind a personal ax with the intent of causing damage to a person's personal reputation and business. It should just not be permitted on these review and complaint sites.  
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: comet This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Dec 11 01:27:07 2012
Oh---just went and looked up that YELP Fileter Feature.  Funny---several reviews I remember which said--nothing interesting at all---were "filtered"  One that appeared right around the SAME time mine was posted definatly WAS not filtered when I read it a year ago--and definatly mentioned the racist waitress attitude!  And--this person WAS the person of color!  

Another review mentioned the surly and overheard racist comments and other problems.

These had BOTH been on the REGULAR PAGE last time I looked.  My post however was PULLED and DESTROYED.  Ok---Now we know where YELP stands.  Apparently they are just as hatefilled and racist---if these "Filtered" reports are to be believed--as the business' they are shielding.   They think they are doing these places a FAVOR by letting them get away with acting like this!!!!

No more YELP for me.  
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: Piggys This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Dec 11 10:07:01 2012
wWe are in a time where the customer is no longer slwsys right. It is time to sue these customers that are scamming,just rotten people,ect. Like with ebay they are causing a lot of it but are trying to get away with bulling peole into agreements to use their site.Until another site takes over they know they can control,BUT there is a judge out there that will do right thing & put them in their place when day comes. So sellers will have to sue these bad buyers & they can go after ebay
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow
       
Tue Dec 11 12:48:23 2012
If Perez had actual proof of the things she was complaining about, a better course of action would have been to file a lawsuit against the contractor to recover the damages she alleges she suffered. The main problem I see is proving that the contractor (or his agents) stole her jewelry. Unless she witnessed the theft, or had surveillance video, she would never have prevailed on that allegation. But surely she would have been able to provide photographic evidence about the damage to her home and work she claims she paid for that was not performed.
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: amazongenius This user has validated their user name.
       Web Site
Tue Dec 11 15:54:07 2012
Whether Perez had proof or not, I can't believe the judge would side with the contractor. What happened to free speech? One of the best things about Yelp is the customer reviews. I like seeing honest and real comments rather then the, "Great Place. Great Food. Go here!" comments you always see. If the contractor screwed her, she has a right to leave negative feedback.

If your business can't handle a negative review, you don't deserve to be in business.Plus, consumers have EVERY RIGHT to review, comment and make their own opinion on a business.
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: XebayX This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Dec 11 17:10:33 2012
@amazongenius
Libel and slander are just that, libel and slander. They are not simply opinions. If you make public allegations, you had better be able to back them up with evidence. If you can't, as was determined in this case, the person making the libelous allegations is infringing on the rights of the person they are slandering. Free speech doesn't include posting damaging lies about others, period. It never has and never will. That is the law, and the law is there to protect rights, not infringe on them.
Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers   Yelp Review Lawsuit: Implications for eBay and Amazon Sellers
by: mjr55 This user has validated their user name.
       
Tue Dec 11 23:22:01 2012
Interesting to see how this will play out.

Someone mentioned that it's one thing to post an honest review....it's another to post and accuse someone of criminal activities.

How many of us have received neg reviews on Ebay because the buyer accused us of being frauds....or taking their money...say for an item that the post office shows as delivered that the buyer claimed they never received. Isn't that accusing a seller of criminal activity (taking money for an item they claim was never sent)?


Login is required to post comments.
To sign in to leave a comment using your AB Verify User Name, fill in the form below. If you have not yet signed up for AB Verify, or if you'd like more information, go to the Registration Page
.

Login for AB Verify
Be sure and use your email address and password to log in.

 
Email:
Password:
 
 Forgot Your Password?
 Even though you are signed in with the AuctionBytes Blog, you will have to sign in to the EcommerceBytes blog. But you can sign in with your existing AB Verify info.
 AB Blog Recent Posts 
 EB Blog Recent Posts 
 AB Blog Recent Comments 


Subscribe in a reader

Archives

 
About Us      Privacy Policy & Terms      Link to Us      Partners      Our Writers      Write for Us      Press        Site Index

Copyright 1999-. Steiner Associates LLC. All rights reserved.
 




Powered by Perl Web Blog
© 2005/2014 Ranson's Scripts