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Saying Crappy Things on the Internet

Updated at the bottom

Whether or not to out anonymous commenters was a warm up to this next, related conundrum.

Though I will say that we need to distinguish between saying something rudely, saying something politely while disagreeing, and saying something cruelly.  We’re all aware of what sounds rude when said aloud (leaving room for the fact that we are all sometimes unintentionally rude), and those same sort of things sound rude when written.  So… no, I don’t really understand why someone would need to leave a comment like that.  If you don’t like the post, click away.  Or leave a politely worded disagreement.  I think all people should welcome politely worded disagreement because being challenged is what grows new ideas or cements opinions.  Rudely worded disagreement doesn’t have quite the same effect in opening up a person’s mind.  In fact, it usually does the opposite.

Saying something cruelly means that it has no helpful basis and is only said to upset the person.  Not really sure why anyone would ever need to do that either.

So, there you have how I’m distinguishing between the three ways people could leave these sorts of anonymous comments.  One way (politely worded disagreement), I’m totally for.  The other two, not so much.

The next conundrum.

We are having a major issue with a newly purchased appliance, and the store we bought it from is being difficult about actually working with us to remedy the situation.  Which is frustrating not just because we shelled out a lot of money to this company for this particular appliance, but we have spent a lot of money over the years on other household items from this store and had planned to work with them for two more major purchases in the near future.

They can clearly see our customer loyalty, but they don’t seem to care if we return as customers in the future.  In my personal opinion, you’d have to be crazy to buy from this national store knowing what we know now about how they treat long-time customers.


I haven’t blogged about it.  I haven’t Tweeted about it.  I haven’t threatened to do either when we argue with various employees.  I don’t know why beyond the fact that I think that writing something down and making it accessible to others is a huge responsibility.

I stand by everything I put out there, which is why I don’t do random reviews for products.  Unless the product grabbed me, I see no reason why I should stand behind a product just because someone else asks me to do so and offers me a free item.  So the Go Girl, the gum, the vegan worcesterire sauce I once blogged about — those were all my decisions and I wrote about those products without the makers asking me to do so.  If I tell you I liked it, it’s because I really liked it — I would hate for my opinion to get watered down (even if my opinion means very little) because you hear every two seconds: “and this is the best too!”

But the opposite holds as well.  If words have power, then a negative review has the ability to do some serious damage.  Even if I only lose the store one sale, it’s still one sale.

I think about this constantly because we argue about it weekly on a local listserv that I’m on.  People will post a negative comment about their experience with a local business.  Another person will chime in with a “me too.”  Then a third says, “I was going to go there, but now I’m not!” And then a fourth says, “This is terrible.  You’re ruining someone else’s livelihood.  At this rate, we’ll have no local businesses left.”  And then a bitchy argument ensues, and I generally hit delete instead of reading the listserv for a few days until it dies down.

That said, a new restaurant opened and I was considering trying it.  Then a few people posted a negative review on the listserv, and now I can’t see myself ever choosing it when there is a perfectly good and similar option across the street.  I mean, this is a dueling restaurant so it already had a bad taste in my mouth (who builds the exact same type of restaurant across the street from a beloved established restaurant?), and now that I know that the food is too salty, it doesn’t seem worth using my limited eating-out dollars on the place.

So that posting on the listserv created some serious damage.  I know I’m not eating there, and who knows how many other people won’t support it now that they read those listserv posts?

And that’s why I haven’t blogged about this major appliance situation.  Because while I know it can be effective, and I’ve seen plenty of irate bloggers take to the blogosphere, vent their spleen at a frustrating situation, and see some actual customer service help in return, I’ve been squeamish about joining in precisely because I know bad postings can hurt a business.  Even though I can also see that it’s often the way to get the job done.

When big businesses are closing their ears to your words, how else can you get their attention beyond kicking them in the figurative groin with negative words on social media?  Why should bloggers be polite, when they’re not getting politeness in return from the business?

That said, we got the Crayola coloured bubbles and it made such a wreck of our clothes and lawn that I had no qualms tweeting about it.  People immediately joined in and added their bad experience with it.  Some people said they were considering buying it and were grateful to learn that it wasn’t actually washable (even after two storms, the front steps are still blue.  It looks like a Smurf murder site).

And that’s where I could see the good of bad-mouthing a product online.  I immediately had validation that the product was shoddy.  My tweets warned others who were considering purchasing it.  It saved them time, effort, and clothing.  Did it hurt Crayola — well, probably yes.  But should they be protected when property was damaged due to their product?  If something is going to make you sick or ruin your property or harm you in some way, do you have any obligation to be concerned about their livelihood or reputation?

I can see both sides of the bad review online, and that extends to posts about people.  Saying negative things about another person.  This is where it ties in with the last post — if someone posted an anonymous, shitty comment, wouldn’t I want the heads up about the person, especially if it’s someone two-faced?  Would I want, let’s say, to help or celebrate someone that leaves crap-ass comments ruining someone else’s day?  If I’m not told who they are, I could be telling you that this person who leaves snarky, hurtful comments anonymously across the blogosphere is a great person that we should all rally around and support.

Why should someone who tears down community get to reap the rewards of being part of a community?

And yet, at the same time, the reach of the blogosphere can stretch so far that it behooves everyone posting online to think before they hit publish.  The moment that triggered the last post was that a friend was recently being torn a new asshole on a listserv, and while it may have been an exercise in venting for the anonymous person writing about her, it has stayed with my friend — both emotionally and professionally.  And that’s scary — the idea that we could have a bad interaction with someone and it could enter this Googlable space for eternity.  And she can’t even address it properly because the person is anonymous.

I’m not sure there’s a clear answer, and certainly, I don’t think it’s a case of right or wrong.  But it makes for an interesting discussion since we are all citizen journalists and reviewers with the potential to make or break a business (or person) just as much as an established newspaper or media outlet.

So how do you feel about posting negative thoughts about stores or people online?


I also read online reviews religiously before a purchase — especially one where I don’t have a person or organization giving me advice on the purchase.  So I’m grateful to everyone who has saved me from reading a crappy book, wasting money at a restaurant, or purchasing a toy that would most likely break.

But what do you think about someone who has a bad experience on, let’s say, Southwest Airlines and then trashes them online.  A la Kevin Smith.  Is that different from writing a bad review?


1 Erin { 05.18.11 at 7:49 am }

I think if it’s something worth mentioning, than I would want to know about it. Anyone can form their own opinion about how something tastes or how clean and friendly they thought a place was, but if it is something major like not replacing an expensive broken appliance I would definitely want to know. There are way too many other stores willing to replace.

2 Gail { 05.18.11 at 9:18 am }

I think posting negative reviews of stores is appropriate as long as they are not menacing. If I’ve had a bad experience with a store, I want to let others know. I’ve also posted lots of positive experiences with stores also to let others know. I figure that there are tons of sites already devoted to this like YELP, so adding my two cents into the discussion isn’t a big deal. And, my friends have often commented that they’ve had similar problems which validates the feeling that it’s not just me.

As for people, I don’t think a person should be “reviewed” online. However, with this said, I am guilty of judging certain celebrities and posting things online about their odd behaviors such as the recent antics of Charlie Sheen. But, he was putting himself out there in the public sphere and asking for it, in my opinion. I would not and don’t think I ever will post something negative about a “regular” person while using his/her name because I would hate for the same thing to be said about me. I have posted negative comments about “regular” people without naming names or using photos, though. Usually, it is along the line of “I can’t believe that the lady in front of me at the post office brought her dog in here and can’t control the dog, so it keeps jumping on people.”

Good discussion! Look forward to seeing what other people think.

3 Esperanza { 05.18.11 at 9:28 am }

I am someone who cherishes online reviews. I LOVE them. Amazon reviews have convinced me to get something (or avoid something) an untold number of times. I think they are a really wonderful thing. With reviews I don’t have to just rely on what the company wants me to know about the product (which is obviously a one sided account of it’s value) and I can see how others have experienced it. I read reviews very carefully and I ALWAYS go to the negative ones first. I want to see why people don’t like it. Of course I take into account the way their express themselves and if I feel their point is valid, but I have not purchased an item because just a few people didn’t like it when dozens and dozens loved it, because I felt the negative reviews were valid and didn’t represent a random possibility of getting a shoddy version of the item.

Once I was looking into a homemade baby food maker. It costs $150. I new some friends loved it and when I went on to Amazon it got 4.5 starts. Most people LOVED it. But there were 30ish 1 star reviews and they all said the same thing, the product grew mold in the water filter. Mold grows EVERYWHERE in my house so I was not about to spend $150 when there was a chance of mold growing in the product that I planned to make my daughter’s food in. I was SO GLAD I didn’t spend $150 on it (evidently the company was doing nothing to replace people’s units). Did those reviews cost that company money? Yes. Do I believe that is fair? Yes – the product obviously has some deficiencies that cause a serious problem for a significant amount of people.

I guess it’s not surprising that I personally would want to know if you’re having a difficult time with a certain company. I take customer service very seriously. And I don’t think giving an HONEST account of what is happening is being negative for negativity sake nor do I feel that it’s tearing down a company. It’s just being honest. If that honesty has a negative effect on a company then so be it. It’s just like when you give a positive review because you really like something. You’re not doing it to help the company, per say, you’re doing it because you really like the product and want others to enjoy it too. I would write a negative review because I want to protect people from what I went through. I’m curious why you see such a difference between the self-decided negative review and the few self-decided positive reviews you’ve given.

I think reviews can be a very powerful motivator for companies. Now a random event can be known by many, many people. You’re not just burning that one person you won’t help, you’re burning all the people that one person could tell. With the internet that could be many, many people. Companies have a lot of power over their costumers, especially the companies that sell very expensive things. Why shouldn’t their customers be able to review their services and products truthfully to others?

So I guess the distinguishing factor here is the intent of the review. Are you feeling really angry and trying to ruin the company’s reputation? That is not a good reason to write a review; you’re anger will probably color your words in an unfair way. But if you’ve had time to digest you’re anger and can write an honest account of what happened, even if it made you mad, absolutely I think you should do it. And I wouldn’t consider this tearing down the community, I would consider it protecting the community from a negative experience and possibly the loss of money and time.

That is just my take on the matter.

4 my lifelong dream { 05.18.11 at 9:29 am }

I believe that a seriously negative experience should be called out but done so in a constructive way, not just bitching about the situation. Also, if the person blogging about a negative situation is one of those people who probably perpetuated the negative experience then I don’t think there is a right to complain. Like Erin said, I would want to know if someone (or more than one person) had a problem with something major, like returning an expensive appliance, it might save me some headache down the road. I have posted a negative review or two on websites like Yelp, but having worked a lot of my early adult life in the customer service industry I also write about ALL of my good experiences. It has to be a pretty bad one for me to mention it because of the fact that a negative comment spreads like wild fire versus a positive comment.

I like this topic, it really makes me think about things! Thank you!


5 a { 05.18.11 at 9:47 am }

Politely worded disagreement is the only reasonable thing to post if you can’t agree. If you can’t do that, take your toys and go home.

In the case of a product or business, though, I’d say that once you’ve given the company the opportunity to fix the problem, you are then only bound by their response. If they fix the problem, then you are free to comment on the product while praising the customer service (or at least mentioning that it was adequate). If they don’t fix the problem, you are free to comment on anything. But, you have to let them know it’s a problem.

I don’t take restaurant reviews too seriously – it might have been a bad night, it might just be differing tastes – but I do check out product information. And, in the near future, I will probably be posting a couple of reviews of products and services that have irritated me beyond all measure. Because if I have to spend any time at all yelling at people on the phone, your customer service sucks REALLY badly…and I’ve had to do that with 3 different businesses lately.

Personal attacks, however, are never OK. If you want to do that in the privacy of your home, fine. But don’t make a public attack that you’re not willing to back up. That’s just cowardly.

6 Lynn { 05.18.11 at 10:04 am }

I think we have a responsibility as consumers to note our experiences, both good and bad. Having said that, I feel it is a responsibility and therefore should be gone about responsibly. I feel we should choose our words carefully and consider the impact what we’re saying will have. If you’re leaving negative input on a store that is part of a national chain, I feel you should state that this is your experience with the local store, not the whole chain. Also, if you have a negative experience, it’s important to report that to the main office of the chain, otherwise there is no way for them to correct the issues you’re facing and you’re not doing anything constructive towards resolving the issues. In this instance, posting a bad review without having alerted the proper people seems to only be attempting to harm the company, not help future consumers.

As for giving bad reviews to those who are rude online or outing anonymous commenters, I think it’s important that we privately contact them before posting a blasting blog post. Maybe they were having a bad day or maybe they were going through something awful and didn’t understand how their words could hurt. Perhaps their words weren’t meant the way they were taken (I often find written words lack the inflection and carry that spoken words do). Perchance they were just being cruel or mean. Whatever the case, give them a chance to explain themselves. If a satisfactory resolution can’t be reached through this method, then maybe it is important to alert your readers/friends to their behaviour, but again, this needs to be done with decorum. Don’t stoop to their level by bashing and calling them names. Simply let your readers know – and maybe you want to do this through email to a few close friends rather than through your blog post – how they treated you.

I’m not really big on outing anonymous posters (and I’ve had a few myself – I may rant about the comment, but I don’t out the poster) because I feel like the comment was left anonymously for a reason. However, I’m also not big on posting anonymously. If I disagree with you on something and feel the need to express my disagreement, I’m willing to stand behind my words and I state my opinion in such a way as to not be disrespectful to the person with whom I’m disagreeing.

The online world is much smaller than we sometimes realize and, as with our real, day-to-day world, we should hold ourselves to a standard of being polite to people. There is enough disruption, dissatisfaction and disappointment with everyday life that there is no need for us to add more to the people with whom we come into contact.

7 Leigh { 05.18.11 at 10:11 am }

What a thought provoking post! I too read tons of reviews before making a choice on what book to buy, which camera is better, what hotel to stay in, etc. It’s a sickness with me, really. I can’t buy something major without reading reviews. I was with a friend once who decided to buy a camera and just went into a store and picked one up. I nearly hyperventilated and went catatonic all at once. “But you don’t know if it’s a good one or not!” I exclaimed. He laughed and said, “That’s ok, I’ll just ask the salesperson!” I had to walk away. 😉

I think one thing you have to be aware of is that not all online reviews will be honest. Sometimes there is a motive. We traveled to NYC last November for our anniversary and I wanted to find a car company to take us from the airport to the hotel. The first I found was Company A. Their reviews were half and half. Half were great reviews, half were horrible and said, “Instead why don’t you try Company B!” So I read Company Bs reviews on their website. Again they were half and half. The bad half said, “Company B? Of course not! Company C is much better!” So I went to Company Cs website and found more of the same. So in the end I just went with the one who had the best deal and took my chances. It happened to be Company A. We had no problem, except that we didn’t realize driving in NYC was like riding the Rockin’ Rollercoaster.

My thoughts are, if you have a bad experience with a product or a company, write that review. It’s up to the consumer to sort through the reviews and make the ultimate decision.

8 Kathy { 05.18.11 at 10:32 am }

This post really touched a chord with me. Though I found all the product review stuff interesting too, I focused more on the personal relationship side of your blog entry.

I have always admired that you (Mel) have chosen not to share more than you think is appropriate about others (especially those you know IRL) here on your blog.

If I could go back in time and approach my blog that way from the beginning I would. However, when I began blogging it was for a small and select audience (even though it was never a private/password protected blog) and I didn’t grasp what might happen in the future. Over time the purpose and readership of my blog evolved and in retrospect as I became aware of that, it might have been wise to go back and edit some things that I had written over the years, especially about some of my loved ones.

I have always had good intentions (I believe at least 99% of the time) when I have written and shared about people I know IRL. In most cases if and when I shared about their personal lives it was in the context of a prayer request or wasn’t anything that I believed would hurt them if I wrote about it.

That being said I have realized over time, especially recently after “coming out” about my blog, that I did cross the line on more than one occasion. I felt really bad when it was brought to my attention and initially wasn’t sure what was the best way to make amends and to deal with it. In the end I took down two posts (that though I still believe I had good intentions when I wrote them, if they could be perceived as hurtful to the people involved should have been removed) and I spent a few weeks reading through every one of my previous posts and editing out a lot of the specific references to loved ones and their lives that I didn’t even recall that I had been so open (and probably too candid) about over the years.

My point in all this is that though we can’t completely change the past or re-write history, when it comes to blogging, we can certainly edit what we have previous written. I know I can’t take back what I wrote that hurt some of my loved ones, anymore than they can take back things they have done or said to me that moved me to write what I did about them in the first place. However, we (especially I) can apologize (which I did) and take responsibility for our words and actions (which I have). From there all we (and I) can do is to continue to try to strive to learn from our experiences and be better people (and bloggers) for them.

Thank you for sharing. I actually wrote a loosely related blog post last night about the power of words. I recently saw a really interesting and thought provoking play that deals with our public/private selves, especially as it relates to writing (both in print and online): http://chicagobensons.blogspot.com/2011/05/play-on-words.html

9 Angie { 05.18.11 at 11:12 am }

I found this interesting to read about, especially because i recently engaged in doing this on Facebook. It was kind of unintentional, but that is the problem, I guess. The deal was that I am consistently ignored and treated with rolling eyes and whatnot at jewelry and make-up counters at a large department store where I hold a credit card. I go there, because they offer awesome discounts while using your card with coupons and whatnot. I went in to buy myself a mother’s day gift of a watch, and was ignored for twenty minutes, and told that they were helping “customers” right now. I am a Latina. My children are fair skinned, blue eyed children, and so, just as a matter of reference, people often ask if I am the nanny. I was wearing errands clothes. I left and came back. To be fair, they were busy, but new people were walking up and being helped and I wasn’t. When I came back, the same thing happened. This happens so frequently to me at this store that it bugs me in the moment, but I don’t think about it, which is perhaps the saddest part of this whole story. I am used to being ignored. When I told my husband, he was horrified and angry. And told me to write a letter. I haven’t ever done that, but he pointed out that this happens every time I am alone with the kids. And then he reminded me of the time I was alone with the kids waiting and being ignored and he walked up, and they asked him if he needed help. So, the ignoring the Latina women with white children thing seemed to be a store policy rather than an individual issue. So, I wrote the letter. The store manager called me and apologized and said they have had some problems like this before. She said she took over as store manager and it will get better. Then she offered me an invitation to a “make-up” event. Any woman of color knows that a make-up event is useless, virtually, for us, because they don’t sample out our colors, or colors that tend to look good on darker skin. So, I wrote something snarky on Facebook about the whole incident. It wasn’t until reading this that it occurred to me that perhaps I ruined their reputation and called them racists. People said, “I will boycott (insert National Department Store)” And I responded. Don’t boycott, but point it out when you as a white person are helped before a Latina women. Anyway, thanks for helping me be a little more conscious of that. I feel like an ass now, but then again, I should.

10 PaleMother { 05.18.11 at 11:45 am }

The whole theme for us this year has been bullying — it’s touched us six ways from Sunday so far, so this is a timely theme for me. I’m well aware of the power of words. (If I can ever make time, I will post a series about it all after the dust has settled.)

Being a bit athletically challenged, words are where I find most of my personal power. The older I get, my words and my art and my skills are the only things that aren’t diminishing as a source of empowerment for me. I’ve learned (and I’m still learning) about how use and not use these tools.

It’s obvious to say, the web doesn’t know it’s own strength and neither do we. You are right … you don’t use the power of words and the power of networking/community lightly. I think you have to check your conscience and check it again. And then again before you take aim.

However, if you’ve given an individual or a business the chance to make something right … made respectful and respectable attempts at meaningful communication and gotten no where for the effort … you have to do what you have to do to stay whole.

It’s un-American to let the big guy trample the little guy. If the web levels the field a bit more, that’s not a bad thing. Also with regard to big business … people are paid six-figure incomes to manage customer experience for these companies. For the big guys and the little guys, it boils down to this: Screwing your customers is bad business and if you touch that stove and take people for granted, you and your business deserve what you get. With regard to small businesses … it’s not an arena to step into lightly. It’s very Darwin, very Animal Planet. It’s not always fair. It’s certainly not easy. So if you are putting yourself out there in business, you’d better be more than prepared. Understanding marketing and communications and the impact of the internet … even on the little guys … is part of being prepared and aware. Are we better off for the effect new business realities have on the little guy? I don’t have enough perspective and insight to answer that. Everyone was lamenting the rise of big book stores and the fall of small independant booksellers ten years ago. But now look. The big guys are gasping for breath and the little guys may rise again. Who can see that far ahead with impact? It’s all very Monkey’s Paw, very Oedipus Rex whenever we make waves. But just ~being in the world~ makes waves.

As far as the blogging community and writing online about individuals … I think the lawyers are only just getting warmed up going after liability and so EVERYONE should be wary there, if not for karma’s sake (which is the real reason to be thoughtful). When it comes to individuals, there’s a lot more potential for lasting, unjust damage. As in the case of the innocent Fairfax, VA gym teacher who was falsely accused of molestation by a pissed off 12 year old girl, was cleared of charges by a jury after a super negligent investigation process … and he still doesn’t have his job back.

I think the Buddhist notion of “right speech’ is helpful when it comes to interaction with others on the web or anywhere else. If what you say serves the person’s well being (whether or not they LIKE to hear what you say is not the point), it’s okay.

Venting? Such a tricky issue in my mind.

I have vented anonymously in search of clarity and understanding while hoping that my struggling might help others on the same journey feel less alone. But anon is really tricky on the web, as we all know. At the same time you want to reach out, defy your isolation and connect on troublesome issues … you can unintentionally shoot your foot off, your neighbor’s foot off. It’s very hard to separate the destructive forces from the constructive ones.

11 HereWeGoAJen { 05.18.11 at 12:58 pm }

I often mention products online when I feel like I’ve found something awesome and I am thrilled when other people do so as well. (Magic Eraser, anyone?) Not when they are paid or sponsored reviews because when I see those, I take them with a larger grain of salt (not that I mind those, I have no problem with people benefiting from their blogs, as long as they are interesting enough to keep me reading). But if I am grateful for the mentions when people find something that works for them, I also like to hear when people find something that doesn’t work, like your bubbles. I always say that I have much cooler stuff than my non-blog friends because people who read blogs get all the good ideas from each other.

I think every company should treat every customer like they have the power to blog and tweet about it. And I think there is nothing wrong with it, as long as we do it responsibly.

I’ve actually been feeling guilty over this lately. When we were trying to rent our Florida house, I had a choice between two property management companies. I chose the smaller of the two because I thought we’d get more personalized attention and because they answered my emails faster. It ended up being a big mistake and probably cost us about $10,000 in lost rent before I managed to switch. And I am talking some fairly terrible things- like they actually lied/misrepresented us to someone who wanted to rent our house. After I cooled off (I didn’t want to do it angry), I meant to put up a review about them somewhere online because when I was looking for reviews, there weren’t any and it would have saved me all this angst and money if I had known to choose the other company instead. (I also intend to put up a good review of the other company, you’ve got to be balanced.)

12 Meghan { 05.18.11 at 2:27 pm }

Lots of food for thought here Mel. I’m having an especially hard time with some of the themes. I’ve really retreated from blogging lately after a friend of mine blogged about what I thought was a private conversation. And she didn’t just blog about it, she bashed me. And the comments she got. It was as if no one stopped to think that there was a real person on the other side of the computer. When I spoke to her about it she said she’s sorry I found out like that but she didn’t know I read her blog (um, she links to it in facebook). Anyway, it’s caused me to suddenly re think what I put online. Because what started out as 2 friends bitching about something turned into much more. I’ve wanted to blog about it forever to sort of get it out but I also don’t want to perpetuate these cycles.

13 Chickenpig { 05.18.11 at 2:45 pm }

I use reviews all the time to purchase, or not purchase, products. I have to say thank you thank you thank you for mentioning the color bubbles. My kids have been pestering me to buy the product because the commercials are plastered all over Sprout network, and I really can’t afford to purchase my kids a whole new wardrobe.

Recently I have been trying to find a new crotch doc because we have moved too far from my old one, and have been cruising Angie’s list to find a good one. Imagine my surprise when I kept seeing the doctor who delivered my twins popping up, with a very poor rating. He was a butcher, honestly, and he was always saying inappropriate things. I wish I had known that there were reviews of docs like this before because I would have taken my business elsewhere.

In my humble opinion, reviewing a product or customer service is totally within your rights as a consumer. Companies spend a ton of advertising dollars to sway us, and our kids, so we should be able to fight fire with fire.

14 Calliope { 05.18.11 at 6:15 pm }

I have really only just begun doing reviews. I have done a few on my main site, but most are up on WWTK. I only review the stuff that I have a genuine interest in.

In terms of writing negatively- I blogged about my experience with a certain state’s health insurance program. I did not blog about it in depth but I expressed my frustration. But I didn’t just blog it – I sent them a letter with suggestions (obviously no one wrote me back). And when I had a great experience with another program’s insurance process I made a point to tell not only the person I was speaking to but I asked to speak to her supervisor and I told him.

Negative reviews CAN have a place- but only if they are constructive. I think it’s lame to say, “I ate at ____ restaurant and my waiter was mean and the food was awful.”

It would be better to say, “I ate at ______ restaurant and I wish my waiter had _______ and it would have been nicer if my food was _____”

also? “It looks like a Smurf murder site” – haaaaaaaaaaaa

15 Kristin { 05.18.11 at 9:03 pm }

I have absolutely no problem with a legitimate, well- thought out but negative review.

I do hesitate before posting something negative about a company but, if either a friend or me have tried everything possible to get satisfaction, then I will not hesitate to facebook or tweet my dissatisfaction with a company.

16 Keiko { 05.18.11 at 11:57 pm }

I saw on Twitter at some point this week about how trashing one brand sends a bad signal to other potential brands that may be interested in your blog. That said, I can understand the bind you’re in. Our home mortgage company that I have yet to name on my blog HOSED us at closing. And from what I hear from realtors, this is SOP for this very large, national home mortgage company. But I haven’t written about it on my blog b/c in some ways, I just don’t want to get into that sort of personal business on my blog. I can write about my vagina until I’m blue in the face, but it just seemed like a “you know what, let’s not talk about this after all” area.

That said: have you considered writing Consumerist.com about your issue? B/c those folks take corporations to TASK like WHOA. Something to consider.

17 luna { 05.19.11 at 2:11 am }

I also love reading consumer reviews online, though I take them with a grain of salt. Just as a restaurant can have an off night, some products are lemons, and some people have bizarre expectations, as well. So I tend to go with the majority view rather than isolated experiences.

personally, I would want to know what national chain is giving you such shoddy service. if I can trust where it’s coming from, and it’s done with pure intent — i.e., to raise awareness as opposed to bullying a company — that information is valuable to me as a consumer exercising what limited power I have (choice). what I don’t appreciate is when well known people (e.g. bloggers) use their power to manipulate for their own gain.

but what about when someone is validly trying to change an undesirable corporate behavior? — e.g., threatening boycott until the company removes an offending product, or whatever. is that different from bullying a company into giving YOU a product or service, out of either fear of bad PR OR the promise of good PR? I think so — one is about personal gain and the other is for the greater good.

18 aisha { 05.19.11 at 9:36 am }

I’m an avid yelper. IF I eat at a restaurane I usually go after to Yelp and review it. Years ago I went to a restaurant that was just bad. Bad. bad. But they were also new and had 5/5 stars so I thought i twas going to be great RELYING on the ratings. Went- it sucked. Went home, reviewed what I experienced. Others began chiming in. The owner even stepped in defending tha their food was good. They shut down a month later. Likely it had nothing to do with me, but I’ve always felt bad. I dont know if I should. I mean on one hand I was annoyed I ate at a very bad place that had misled me with good reviews, but then again, the bad reviews likely deterred others from going and put him out of business and the financial cost must have been ridiculously depressing to consider. . . but then again, shouldn’t the market dictate what is out there, not sympathy?

I think no one should use their personal online medium to bash cruelly, wrongly, but if you share an experience with a company that is perfectly fine by me. THIS is one of the ways companies better themselves because they are on their toes with the knowledge that their reptuation spreads through word of mouth, and while yes, these days word of mouth spreads faster than ever before and reaches corners of the country and world we could never dream of even 20 years ago, its still the tried and true practices of how businesses succeed and fail.

If you called for a boycott of the company, or said demeaning things, or anything like that is something that I think one might want to pause at. . . but to review, to share with the public your experience in my opinion is fine and much appreciated by consumers particularly when you ALSO point out when people do good and companies treat ou with respect.

19 aisha { 05.19.11 at 10:00 am }

I kept thinking I’d written in more detail about what I just commented and I realize I did here: http://aishaiqbal.blogspot.com/2009/12/bad-restaurant-dilemma.html I basically had a similar dilemma of outing a place with bad customer service, food, etc and everyone said I should- anyways, I did- they were also a new restaurant, and they’re prospering better than ever- the market will truly dictate. I think.

20 Mali { 05.20.11 at 12:17 am }

Interesting post.

Honesty and fairness are values that are very important to me, and this goes for people commenting on blogs, or reviewing goods or services. I have seen reviews from individuals that are extremely emotional, with unreasonably high expectations, that can ruin a business. I’ve also seen professional reviews that I know are very dishonest, failing to disclose interests, or to give the full story that puts a very different perspective. It infuriates me.

I wish everyone was as responsible as you (and me too of course)!

21 mash { 05.20.11 at 9:23 am }

This is SUCH an interesting post!

My father’s estate took two years to wind up due to complete incompetence by the private merchant bank who was charging an absolute fortune for the service. My mother literally had no access to the money in the estate during this time, but luckily still had some insurance money to survive off. I outed them in a national newspaper. I did it because I believe that it will save future widows from the same fate (I was aware of two other widows in similar situations with this bank). But not before I attempted to do things the right way, contacting supervisors and supervisors of supervisors etc. So I believe that “slandering” a company should be done responsibly, after following the correct processes, and giving them a chance to overcome (and admit to) their problems.

I believe that polite disagreement is very healthy, especially in a space where we are putting ourselves out there. I mean, we could choose to write a word document on our thoughts and keep it private, right? But we are going live with our thoughts. As Newton said, every action has an equal and opposite reaction, and I believe that applies to more than just physics! For every belief, there are as many opposing beliefs.

And I also don’t think that it’s right to say something rudely or cruelly. However, like I said, we’re putting ourselves out there. I don’t believe we have to take the rudeness or cruelty into our hearts and accept it, but that it’s going to happen – yes. That the internet is completely unlimited and receiving cruel remarks is par for the course – yes. We have the choice not to take it personally, but we have no control over how, whether or when it happens.

I’m going to take it a step further to say that as precious as our community is, by throwing people out of it, we start to go into a new and unhealthy realm of exclusivity, determined by opinions. A lot of the time, you really don’t know who you are dealing with at the other end of the internet cloud. You really, really don’t know that your favourite blogger isn’t some complete psychopath.

Of course we can do what we want in the space of our own blogs, but again, we must accept that all actions have an equal and opposite reaction… so outing the anonymously cruel comment… what does it achieve really? Could one not just email that commenter, let them know that their comment was unappreciated, and block them from ever posting on one’s blog again? Doesn’t outing them just give the whole nasty incident more energy?

Who are we really to make judgements on other people, and be cause in their downfall, regardless of what they did to us?

22 Battynurse { 05.21.11 at 1:43 am }

This is sort of a difficult one. It’s also interesting that the business you purchased the appliance from isn’t being more helpful. Most retail establishments are very aware that people are way more likely to discuss a negative experience than a positive and especially in these days of endless social media.
I also think it’s hard to decide to post a name (business or personal) that could lead to a negative impact for someone. It makes me think of a situation I had a couple of years ago. While I was traveling I had met a fellow traveling nurse who seemed like a great guy who said a lot of wonderful things that made me feel really good. Until I found out he had been saying those same things to any woman who would listen. That hurt, a lot. Made me feel worse than I had to begin with. I seriously considered putting his name (full name first and last) on my blog so that if some other woman decided to google this new guy she met that seemed so great, she’d see that maybe he wasn’t so great. Yes I had googled him. I ended up deciding that doing that would be dropping myself to his level and that sometimes even if the girls knew he was doing it they still sucked it up since they were that desperate for the attention. One of the other women I worked with who I had sat down and talked to and finally figured out what he was up to, continued to spend time with him, date him etc and not call him on his behavior even though she knew he was feeding her a bunch of BS. So sometimes even knowing doesn’t help.

23 Barb { 05.21.11 at 9:42 pm }

Trashing is very different from writing a carefully worded review (good or bad) And trashing actually ends up not being very helpful for me as you can tell too much emotion is involved for a balanced evaluation.

And THIS YES for the other:

When big businesses are closing their ears to your words, how else can you get their attention beyond kicking them in the figurative groin with negative words on social media? Why should bloggers be polite, when they’re not getting politeness in return from the business?

We don’t have much recourse. Most big business cares little about the customer these days. If it’s a small one, I say be more careful. A big one, do what needs to be done if reasonable response fails.

24 Stink-bomb { 05.21.11 at 11:40 pm }

i got my hair completely restyled a couple of weeks back. i went to the salon on recommendation of an online friend who had been to a different salon of theirs and said it was the best experience she’d had in awhile.

they hacked my hair, it looked nothing like the pic i took in and is only now just starting to grow out and i still hate it.

the friend apologised – not that it was her fault, two people can go to the same place and have two totally different experiences which is was happened [and they were different sites] and i blogged about it. i didn’t name the salon though.

i did reply to an email they sent me giving me a voucher for my next cut. i replied that i wouldn’t be needing it and went on to detail why i was unhappy with the cut and service provided.

they didn’t reply to me. that almost makes me want to go back to my post and name and shame them but then i think, no, i’ll take the high road.

25 Grace { 05.25.11 at 4:51 am }

Oh my gravy! Those bubbles! My partner INSISTED on them for kiddo’s Easter basket, even though I was sure it was a bad idea. Sure enough, stains all over the in-laws’ concrete entrance. I’d feel a lot worse if I didn’t know they are the proud owners of their own power washer.

And we couldn’t even manage to make a single bubble!

26 Grace { 05.25.11 at 5:29 am }

As far as the actual question goes, I actually had an experience somewhat like Aisha’s on Yelp. I wrote a review of a new restaurant that claimed to source local, organic, sustainable ingredients. In my review I mentioned that I had some concerns about the authenticity of their claims. There followed a lengthy and public discussion with a chef about what is and is not responsible about serving farmed salmon from Scotland in a California restaurant and claiming that you are offering a local, organic, sustainable choice.

It turns out that the restaurant did go under. I don’t know how much power Yelp has in my community, but even if a teensy tiny bit of what caused them to fail was due to my actions I don’t regret them. I think it was reasonable to raise concerns that the restaurant might be making disingenuous claims to be “green” and the conversation I had with the chef was chock full of strong information from both camps. Anyone who read it would have been more than able to make up his or her own mind.

I don’t write a lot of reviews on Yelp anymore and I don’t usually write about products and services in my own space, but when I do I try to take care to only share the information that I would want to see if I were the one doing the research. Usually this means taking great care to make sure that I write what actually happened.

27 Grace { 05.25.11 at 5:30 am }

*only write what actually happened.

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