Thursday, November 5, 2009

Negative Yelp Review Leads to Violence

By Kathleen Richards
Thu, Nov 5, 2009 at 11:35 AM

An online review of a business might seem harmless - that is, until you threaten someone's livelihood and that person in turn threatens you. Sean C. learned that the hard way when he wrote a negative review of San Francisco's Ocean Avenue Books last week on Yelp.

"This place is a TOTAL MESS with minimal organization of titles or subjects," he wrote. "There are books stacked everywhere - blocking the shelves. Why would someone want a travel guide from 1982?? I think this place needs to close down for a few days and do a thorough cleaning and organization and get rid of all the crap!"

In response, Sean C. said the owner started sending him threatening e-mails, which he then posted to his Flickr account.

"world of pain" wrote Diane G., aka Ocean Avenue Books owner Diane Goodman. "Goodbye pussy boy and I will be contacting your employers," she continued. Other messages: "You are a stupid person." "You look like an idiot." "Why are you writing so many mean things? Do you not have a girlfriend? are you divorced? I can see why…."

As reported by the SF Weekly, Sean C. reported Goodman to Yelp, who then canceled her user profile. Goodman wrote a rebuttal to Sean's review, calling him an "alcoholic." Yelp again removed her account and her response.

Then, according to Sean C., Goodman somehow found out where he lives and showed up at his door on Sunday evening. Sean says Goodman tried to force her way into his house, but fought back and pushed her out. They wrestled and she fell down a couple steps. He then slammed the door and called the police. The Chronicle, however, reports that Goodman says that Sean C. accosted her (though she admits she did show up at his house - to apparently apologize). The police cited her for battery and took her for mental health intervention, and Sean obtained a temporary restraining order against her on Monday.

In the meantime, owner Diane Goodman seems to have incurred exactly what she was trying to avoid: more negative reviews. Since the incident became publicized, Yelpers have been writing negative reviews of the store (though some have come to Goodman's defense with five-star ratings). In one of Goodman's messages to Sean C., she wrote: "I don't want to be on yelp. I've asked them to take me off of it but they laughed at me and made fun of me while tears poured down my cheeks."

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