Writing by Nick Stamoulis in Internet Marketing
One of the biggest stories in social media and online reputation management recently is the story of Jane Perez and Christopher Dietz of Dietz Development LLC. Jane Perez is being sued for $750,000 by Christopher Dietz in defamation charges because she posted a negative review of the building contractor on Yelp. The judge sided with Dietz and ordered Perez to change the review.
In this specific case, Perez claimed that Dietz Development LLC had caused damage to her home, trespassed, and stolen jewelry. These claims are obviously quite damaging and go beyond the typical kinds of bad reviews that are on Yelp, which is why the court ordered that parts of the review be changed- specifically the part about the jewelry theft. However, in theory it still raises a lot of questions about the future of Yelp and how it will be used.
While Dietz Development LLC had every right to believe that it was the right course of action to go after this unhappy customer in this manner, it’s also important to consider the ramifications that the building contractors will now face. In the eyes of some, it may look petty to go after a person that left a negative review in this manner. After the incident, many more negative reviews were left on the Dietz Development LLC Yelp page.
From ABC News:
But there is also a potential backlash from taking legal action, as Dietz is likely finding out. Although Perez’s negative review is gone from Dietz Development’s Yelp Page, several poor ratings have posted on the page since the story of the lawsuit first published.
“Whoa! this company sued one of their customers for $750,000 over comments she made on Yelp,” a reviewer listing their location as South Jordan, Utah, wrote next to a one star mark. “It makes me almost nervous to post this negative review.”
“I learn from a Washington Post article and from the Public Citizen blog that this developer hires lawyers to sue his customers if they leave bad reviews,” wrote another review in Arlington, Va., who also gave the company one star. “I therefore would be scared to use him, and do not recommend him.”
And unlike the allegedly false claims from Perez, these negative reviews can’t be ordered removed.
While Dietz was trying to get rid of a negative review on the page, it may have had the opposite effect when it comes to the reputation of the company. Consumers don’t want to do business with a company that will go after them for leaving a negative review, thinking that it affects their freedom of speech. Due to all of the press that this story has attracted, a Google search for Dietz Development will now bring up a bunch of stories about the situation from the high authority news sites for years to come.
The Dietz case may be unique, but it raises questions about whether more businesses will go after people for leaving negative reviews. In our opinion, for the majority of situations it shouldn’t be done. Think about the amount of money that it would cost and the potential backlash that would come along with it. Instead, proactively market your brand well and reach out and apologize to a consumer that has had a bad experience rather than sue them.