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Thu Dec 24 2015 16:51:34

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Estate Sales

By: Reader

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Dear Ina,
Anyone remember back in March when that "duo of nightmare customers" who showed up at Michael Scelfo's restaurant in Boston and sat themselves, "insulted and berated" the staff, and then refused to leave while Yelping and making threats to post bad reviews if they didn't get what they wanted? 

Such people are spilling over into other types of businesses including my own line of work in the Estate Sale business. In the past we've encountered a woman who purchased several boxes of books at $1.00 a box for a project with the understanding she would transport the boxes herself. 

After shopping until the very last minute of our day she threatened our crew with a negative Yelp review if we didn't load all her newly purchased boxes of books and deliver them to her home on the other side of town.

The most common negative review threat and one that still holds is the threat if I don't sell items for 75% of the marked price on the first day of our sale we will be bestowed with a shiny hurtful Yelp review. We declined the bully's request and we got her gift of a horrible review calling us "rude". We're always called "RUDE" because we say "No" and don't give client's items away.

The latest obnoxious reviews were posted as a team. The duo are boyfriend and girlfriend. The pair came to our sale on a Sunday and asked the price of an item. All items are 1/2 price on Sundays. Our cashier priced the item at $5.00. The woman said "Yesterday, the owner told me the price was $3.00". The cashier said "The owner doesn't work on Saturdays, and all pricing is done by me". 

If the item was 1/2 price on Sunday the value on Saturday would have been $10.00. No one on the crew would have priced it at $3.00 full price. She bought the item and left without incident. These people want us to believe we got two horrible reviews over $2.00.

I personally belong to a blog site of issues about the local community. My company works with social and community issues. We donate to community groups and help organizations. Before their death my parents worked on civil rights issues. I had a debate with the woman of this couple about an issue of civil rights on this community blog 30 minutes before her bad review was posted.

I'm concerned about Yelp's ability to hold small businesses hostage. Yelp called me several times. First a few years ago I was told if I paid them $105.00 per month they could help keep negative reviews from my site. Now they call and demand $350.00 minimum per month to take a few negative reviews off my Yelp page. 

I won't become a victim of the mob. They can do everything to try and kill my business but my family history of nearly 60 years in this business and the people who know who we are wins out.

I'm also worried that if I speak out in my community and voice ANY concern for what is happening to the unfortunate and poor, and I do what I can to help, my business will suffer. Just the other day two men in a white SUV came by my home and threw bricks at my front door and then that evening they stopped outside my home and honked the horn. 

The police stopped the SUV and found it connected to the Yelp reviewers. People can't simply do business anymore without the few who come and demand they get special treatment and or they destroy you, your business, harm your family, home, and entire life.
Paul




Comments (28) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 25 06:00:41 2015

Buyers who leave negative feedback always use the words RUDE AND ARROGANT....Its the limit of their useless lives and vocabulary.

When I read a negative comment that contains either word I think of a buyer without a brain and trying their darnest to scam someone. These negative comments are as useless as the words RUDE AND ARROGANT.

These buyers should look into a mirror as what they see looking back is RUDE AND ARROGANT.

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Fri Dec 25 10:39:53 2015

The fact that you just revealed that Yelp takes money to remove negative feedback puts them into the same category as those mugshots sites.  I've lost complete respect for Yelp as a result of knowing this and I will no longer read any of the reviews there.

I've never put a lot of faith in negative reviews anyway. I read all reviews on a site and if the positive comments are 80% or better I'm normally ok with it.

It also sounds like it would be fairly easy to take some of these folks to court. Yes, a big pain, but when they are unfairly trying to damage your business due to the fact that you will not yield to their demands it only seems fair. One has to protect one's business.

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: StickAForkInIT This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 25 11:17:30 2015

Yes, this problem exists in all areas of Business.  My BIL owns a veterinary clinic. But when you're dealing with sick animals (or sick humans for that matter)  some are not going to respond to treatment and die.  

He's received a few of those type of negative reviews from people who think he has power over life and death.  They believe they shouldn't have to pay if their pet dies.  And have called him rude and uncaring.   No one goes into this type of business if they don't love animals.  

Naturally the majority of his reviews are good.   But just like on eBay the satisfied customers don't always remember to leave feedback.

And naturally after the first bad review, he gets the call from Yelp, who want him to pay protection money.

These people are just a modern day version of the mob.

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: StickAForkInIT This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 25 11:23:44 2015

There is a law in some states that say that if a person leaves a review and can't prove that they actually received service in that business establishment, the business CAN take them to court.

This helps in cases where someone write a bad review to try to hurt a competitor's business.  But of course it is expensive.

Which leaves a small business owner in the same position as those who sell on eBay … having to "beg" your good customers for feedback.

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: StickAForkInIT This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 25 11:26:05 2015

(Brain fart this morning)

Meant to say "It is expensive to take someone to court to prove they left a bogus bad feedback.

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Fri Dec 25 11:58:34 2015

The problem with taking people to court over bad reviews is it's their opinion and hard to prove that the business owner actually lost sales because of the reviews.

And I've heard for many years that Yelp is all too happy to scrub the reviews for a price. Makes me wonder if Yelp is planting bad reviews so they can get paid.

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: Owen This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 25 14:13:32 2015

Locally, there was a Craigslist troll who targeted estate sale services, one more than the others. They were just horrible. But, fortunately they crossed the line and became verbally abusive and used a lot of swear words, and the community got sick of reading their crazy and ugly posts, and they finally got banned. But it did take a LONG time to get them gone. I do think many were afraid to go to that person's estate sales, thinking this individual may become physically abusive. This troll also posted several fake garage sales in remote areas, with very tempting antiques and collectibles, taking buyers on a wild goose chase which sometimes ended up at an empty lot.

Frankly, I don't think there should be any reviews online, since the potential for abuse is high and it can ruin someone's business.

There are off balance people who just love to ruin other's lives. Of course, they are sad, sick people. But they can do damage.

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: Santini This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 25 18:41:54 2015

The RipoffReport is another site that's been accused of the protection racket scam for many years also.
I agree with what you wrote Owen. Reviews have become weaponized now. And how can you even believe the positive ones either when they've become a commodity unto themselves. Aren't there review mills in China, providing what's become almost a necessity for private label product launches? It's all a big game now, will have to go back to independent outfits like Consumer Reports to find some objectivity I suppose.

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: aim04744 This user has validated their user name.

Fri Dec 25 21:54:09 2015

This is not a new complaint regarding Yelp. I have heard businesses complaining about it for several years. Unfortunately they keep getting away scott free when "someone" investigates. I refuse to use Yelp.  

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

This user has validated their user name. by: eXtinctBay

Sat Dec 26 00:29:01 2015

I would get Yelp to give me this dollar amount to remove the negative review(s) in writing, and report them.

If you find more businesses that are subject to these extortion attempts, there will certainly be an attorney who would like to meet with you.....

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Sat Dec 26 15:21:56 2015

Have you considered reporting YELP to your local police or to the FBI for blackmail?

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

This user has validated their user name. by: Basset

Sat Dec 26 20:31:37 2015

How has Angies List avoided this problem - or have they?

I joined them once right after a move and liked every professional we chose from the list. But when we were settled we didn't use Angies List anymore - so un-joined.

I don't hear much about it anymore - maybe it has been abused, too?
 

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Sun Dec 27 11:05:32 2015

@Basset - I still see a lot of Angie's List commercials during the local news and syndicated shows on the Los Angeles stations.  

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: Go tell the Spartans This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 28 00:26:33 2015

Yelp's actions aren't blackmail, it's referred to as extortion. All you need to do is file a formal complaint with your local prosecutor/ Remember though, you need to document the extortion attempt, including, if necessary, taping the telephone conversation.

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: Gemz This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 28 00:28:49 2015

We has a guy write numerous bad reviews of us and we sued him for libel. We sued for 4 million dollars. When they got the law suit they almost had heart failure from what we were told. They had no idea that they could be held accountable for things they post on the net like that. Unless of course they have explicit proof. So we ended up settling out of court with them paying the full balance of the attorney fees and an extra amount just for good measure. To this day this guy doesn't post ANYTHING on the net unless he has documented proof of what he is saying! That's how we combat this. Yelp is no different. You can sue them if they are being used as a venue and will not take the comments away if you have proof they are wrong to leave them there. All the worse for them if they sent you requests for $350 a month to remove these comments! Once that gets into court a few times and they get whacked for a few million in damages, Yelp will be "Yelping" a totally different tune I assure you. The best thing about all of this was that the guy that wronged us with his comments got a bill that was so large that he had to move back in with his Mother to make ends meet for years after this was long since over. Definitely a win for us little business people this time!

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: gennut3 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 28 00:36:04 2015

I have talked to about 3 contractors that say Angies List calls them monthly and offers to put their business further up the list with good reviews if they pay Angies List a fee.  One contractor threatened to sue Angies List if they did not stop calling him monthly and they did stop (calling for a fee that is).  I never use Angies List for that reason.  

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

This user has validated their user name. by: LasVagueness

Mon Dec 28 01:11:01 2015

A truly frightening account of keyboard criminal enterprise—on both ends. Many police departments have cybercrime departments. I would start there.  

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: CaddyShack This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 28 01:25:24 2015

I think as sellers you need to stand your ground, I will try to help a customer as much as I can but if they think I would bend over for them then that ain't going to happen. If they do not like my service take your ass elsewhere leave me alone! Once a buyer knows they can screw you they will, I tell them I know where the dump is and that's where they can find the product. I enjoy selling and can say I've been lucky and have not had but a couple issues. But we as sellers need to stand our ground and let buyers know they can't bully us around, if they don't like what you sell fine go elsewhere screw someone else. I buy on ebay also so I try to treat buyers as I wanted to be treated. But things do happen it's part of the game.

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 28 03:30:23 2015

Blackmail is blackmail and it does not matter who is holding the baseball bat over someone's head. Yelp is a troll site for those who don't have anything in their life, but bullying others. When Yelp states you can pay to get your reviews cleaned up, then they are biggest bully on the block. Best all of us tell others to ignore Yelp and sites like Yelp. Ask  your Chamber of Commerce, Business Bureau and County Health Dept. instead.  

Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es   Yelp and Intimidation Used to Bully Operator of Es

by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Mon Dec 28 05:55:02 2015

To the OP, you can respond to each and every Yelp review.  There's a way to do it and I've seen several businesses respond.  I go to Estate sales all the time and you need to be better at what you do.  For example -- POST YOUR RULES:  1) we do not deliver
2) Pay in cash ONLY
3) We do not discount

When the people are coming in the door give them a sheet with the rules on it.

I live in Chicago and go to several estate sales and have never heard of such ridiculousness about buyers going to yelp with reviews.

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