California passes bill to protect consumers when Yelping

Imagine a guest stays at your bed and breakfast over the weekend and, you as the manager and owner, just happen to be out on vacation that weekend they stayed there. You come back to find out any news of anything that happened over the weekend. All your staff inform you that nothing interesting or Out-of-the-Blue happened so you go about your daily routine, one of those being checking out any reviews people have posted about your business online. The first place you check is Yelp.

You find that the nice couple that you briefly met on friday while checking in left a review that casts your business in a bad light. You read their lengthy review about how the room didn’t feel clean, it took forever for room service to arrive, and it always felt like a chore asking for service from people. You find these remarks very disconcerting so you see what other people are saying about your business on other travel websites. You find the average (i.e., “prices were reasonable, friendly service, and nice place.) You decide to look at their profile and see how often they rate company’s as bad as yours. You find that they have a pretty high rate for rating poorly. You read some of their other reviews and find that they are very difficult to please, especially when other companies reach out to them to help fix the problem.

You find that they, themselves, are insulted that they even have to deal with this after leaving because they felt this business should have been worried about meeting their every needs without asking. You begin to wonder if people are going to take the time to look at their profile are just read their review in isolation and compare it with what others are saying or treat it as the latest event and trend taking place at your business.

You decide to have a talk with your staff, which you know won’t do much good because they already know they are doing great, based on the average track record of great reviews. You decide the talk is just a way to remind them of why they work there and who they are working for. You decide not to be hard on them but remind them that negative reviews come with negative dollars. You try and figure if there is any retaliation for the bad review but you also understand the negative media coverage you might get for doing that. In the end you decide, it’s just a couple that is difficult to deal with and let it go.

Review the Moment
All business owners, after reading reviews about their business, go through that whole thought process of deciding what they should do to protect their company’s image after a bad online review. They know going back and having a talk with their staff is important but they also understand that you don’t punish your staff if this is the first time you’ve had a problem because you know they are already working hard. For places where bad reviews are consistent then a change in staff might be the answer but pep talks help but only if they get results.

Not all business owners though will follow the same thought process. Some are very emotional attached to their companies and feel that an attack on their business is a personal attack on themselves so they make an effort to fight back. What some companies have done is charge a penalty fee on their credit card, damage their credit report, and some have even gone as far as suing under the header of defamation. They claim loss of business for damages. This can be a real nightmare, especially when most people don’t read the full terms of service when signing to rent a room, use a service, or buy a product because many companies are adding in clauses that state they give up their right to basically write a bad review about them and if they do the company has a right to sue in order to recoup losses.

Protecting the Consumers
More than 28 states now have passed Anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) because companies are going after people and suing them for writing bad reviews. These laws prevent companies now, even if they include it in their contracts, from suing or charging consumers fees, for writing bad reviews. They have a right to free speech and companies who sue are trying to take that away. California can impose fines on any business if they try to pursue anyone for writing bad reviews. This is another great protection for consumers who live in the 28 states that have similar laws protecting them. Be sure to find out if you are one of those states otherwise you still need to be careful what you post online because you might get a letter in the mail.

If you don’t want to end up with having to deal with negative reviews, you can always make sure you are going out on a limb for your customers. Read how other companies do it, like Zappos and why people like buying shoes from them.  Just remember you will not be able to make everyone happy, there are always going to be a few bad apples so if you can handle that and please those that can be pleased then you should do just fine.

News Article

California Protects the Right to Yelp


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