Leave me alone.
December 27, 2010 7:52 AM   Subscribe

How to handle a bully on Yelp who is semi-stalking me because they don't like a review I wrote?

A few years ago I took a class from a local school. The class was bad, and I wrote a review about it on Yelp as a warning to other students who might be interested in handing over their money to this school. The review was accurate, thorough, and in no way unnecessarily nasty. A handful of people marked it as useful, and two people wrote me to ask for more specific information.

Fast forward to a few months ago. Someone who works for the school writes me via Yelp to ask me to take the review down. I think about it, and I decide that I have a right to voice an accurate opinion. I don't take the review down.

A few days go by and I'm contacted again by this person. This second contact is a little threatening because unlike the first message which was sent via Yelp messaging, this message is sent to my personal email address. It encourages me to read the other reviews (some of which are just as negative as mine) and to take my review down. I again ignore the message.

Then an acquaintance of mine calls me. She met this guy who told her how his school is failing because of this one particularly awful review on Yelp. Alarmingly, he mentions me by name, despite the fact that I go by an alias on Yelp. My acquaintance volunteers that she happens to know me and that she'll contact me directly and put in a good word for him. I feel bullied at this point, but am way too preoccupied by the rest of my life to think too much about it.

Then, a few days ago, the guy writes me again, mentions that he knows I own a business too, and again asks me to take the review down. The implication is that my business, which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this guy, the school he works for, or the subject matter of the class, will be affected in some way if I don't take the review down.

Then, a few hours later, he messages me on facebook.

So, to sum up, years ago I take a class and write one of many negative reviews of this class on Yelp. And now someone from the school is basically stalking me online in an effort to get me to retract my statements. Is there any way I can get this bully to go away other than by doing the thing he's trying to intimidate me into doing? What is the appropriate response to this situation?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (46 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'd contact Yelp's customer service, EXCEPT that Yelp will allow for a business to pay to get a poor review removed.

I'd just ignore. Tell your mutual friend that you're embarassed/whatever that she was put in the middle of this.
posted by k8t at 7:54 AM on December 27, 2010


Does he work for the school in some capacity? Get his name, call the school, and ask for his supervisor. Unless he's in some sort of supervising capacity, in which case, I don't know...maybe write another review on Yelp about how extraordinarily unprofessional the school is.
posted by phunniemee at 8:09 AM on December 27, 2010 [24 favorites]


How high up in the school's management is this guy? If he doesn't own/run the school, try contacting the school management.
posted by neushoorn at 8:09 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


At this stage, I'd warn the guy that I'll be contacting the police if he didn't stop pestering me, and then do so. Obviously you wouldn't call 911 unless he showed up at your house or actually threatened you, but his behavior is becoming harassment and I wouldn't feel at all guilty about heading down to the station and filing a police report if he kept it up.
posted by Gator at 8:11 AM on December 27, 2010 [10 favorites]


It sounds like there are probably plenty of other reasons this guy's school may be "failing," and he's latched onto your review as the cause. This is irrational behavior, obviously, and his bullying tactics are more of the same.

Do not just ignore it. Bullies are successful because their victims don't fight back. His bullying is working because it's occurring in the background. The best tactic, in my opinion, would be to add an update to your original review, noting his behavior and calling him out for it. Put it out in the open and perhaps he'll think twice about holding you personally responsible for his business troubles. Follow up this update by bringing it to Yelp customer service's attention, so they are aware of the situation. Yelp's reputation may be for payola, but that's in the sales department; this is a customer service issue.

If the bully isn't the owner of the school (it's hard to tell from your question whether he is), you could also bring his actions to the attention of his superiors. If he is the owner, you may also consider reporting him to the local chamber of commerce (if he belongs) or the Better Business Bureau. You may want to point out to him that you have those options at your disposal before actually exercising.
posted by me3dia at 8:15 AM on December 27, 2010 [33 favorites]


Wow. I'm sorry you have to deal with this. IANAL and I don't really know anything about this, but it seems like this warrants looking into stalking or harassment laws in your jurisdiction and pursuing it legally. Maybe you can write the whole situation up and put it in a log with specific dates and such. Wikipedia says the behavior must be seen as threatening to another person, and fwiw I find this guy threatening too.

It is good that you haven't responded.
posted by emkelley at 8:16 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Save all correspondence. Write the individual a brief note informing him that (a) this will be the last and only time you will communicate with him and (b) further contact will result in you going to the police for harassment and invasion of privacy.

Tell your friend to not engage with this person about you, ever.

Stick to your guns.

(FWIW, cross-referencing accounts across various sites to uncover someone's identity is often easier than you think)
posted by mkultra at 8:18 AM on December 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


No one likes to give in to a bully, but is this fight worth the hassle? Send him a note that says you still believe in the truth of your review, and that you will report his harassment to the police and take out a restraining order if he contacts you again, but that you're taking the review down in view of its age and potential irrelevance to the current state of the school. If the school's bad, someone else will come along who can write a bad review that this guy can't trace.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 8:27 AM on December 27, 2010


> What is the appropriate response to this situation?

This probably isn't the right answer because I know we're supposed to fight back when bullies attack, but I'd take the review down if there were other negative reviews that addressed up my concerns.

This person is causing you real stress, and it's a review from a "few years ago." If it was a more recent review, I would leave it up.

I've pulled down year old reviews when requested, mainly because I didn't feel like dealing with the drama of a very emotional business owner (Yelp is no help with this), and I certainly wasn't going to update my review by using the service again. In the case of one business, they closed shortly thereafter. Another business actually did improve and is now successful in my community.

tldr; I'm not going to add stress to my life in order to fight lame businesses in my community via Yelp.
posted by foggy out there now at 8:30 AM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Nthing contacting the school, the chamber of commerce and Yelp. Even if they do nothing, they certainly can't do anything if they don't know about the problem.

I would include copies of the emails. I would also update your review and include the guy's name and email (although not sure if Yelp allows this). I would also monitor Yelp to see if your business starts getting negative reviews. If your business isn't on Yelp I would monitor to see if it appears.
posted by lvanshima at 8:51 AM on December 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'd include this story in an update to your review on Yelp.
posted by dirtdirt at 8:55 AM on December 27, 2010 [28 favorites]


Why don't you just take the post down. That seems like it will solve the issue. You said there were plenty of other negative reviews. Let them battle the guy, not you. When you do, follow through with mkultra's advice.
posted by TheBones at 9:20 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


This class was a couple of YEARS ago, and there are other bad reviews- is this really worth the "well it's the principle of the thing," battle for?
posted by TheBones at 9:21 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's pretty likely that he's also harassing the other negative reviewers, hoping to wear each of them to "it's just not worth it" weariness.
posted by Gator at 9:25 AM on December 27, 2010 [8 favorites]


The appropriate response is "what the fuck?!" If it were me, I wouldn't take the review down.

I'd advise you get everything documented as best you can -- if for no other reason, it'll help you feel sane & clearheaded to have everything in black and white. Info about the class, receipts for registration, evidence of completion, the date and text of your Yelp review, any Yelp follow-up correspondence, as much detail as you can gather/remember regarding all contact by Mr. Batshitinsane Stalker, etc.

Call the school management, explain the events very briefly (you wrote one of several negative reviews on the community-site Yelp under a pseudonym several years ago, Mr. Stalker tracked down your personal information and has been recently harassing you directly) and advise them that you expect them to take care of this unfortunate situation of highly unprofessional behavior. Add this discussion to your documentation, and needless to say, get names for anyone to whom you speak.

In communication with the school (if it doesn't go well) and Mr. Stalker, there's no need to argue or get defensive or make threats or really say much of anything beyond "This harassment needs to stop now." You may be able to report them to the Better Business Bureau, Chamber of Commerce, the accreditation body for the school, local community resource listings, and so forth. (How did you hear about the school?)

As for repercussions of sticking to your guns, well, if he posts negative reviews of your business on Yelp, you can simply post a rebuttal explaining the situation and/or go through the proper Yelp channels to have them removed. If he escalates his personal harassment towards you or your business, call the police. If he tries to damage your professional reputation, you could inquire with a lawyer about lesser options than actually bringing a defamation suit to start. (IANAL, but I have seen the power of strongly-worded letters.)
posted by desuetude at 9:44 AM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


My response would probably go something like this- (forgive me, I know it's poorly written...)

I'm not sure why you decided to track down my name, personal email address, friends, facebook account, and business name - and then contact me to make sure that I knew that you had this information - after you contacted me through Yelp and requested that I remove a review about [school name].

I can appreciate that you work for the school and would like to see it succeed. However, the content of my review is accurate and based upon my actual experiences with [school name]. If you disagree with the review, please discuss it with Yelp.

I do not want further contact from you, and I believe that the lengths that you have already gone to are both creepy and implied as well as actual harassment. If you continue to contact me, my acquaintances, my business, or any other aspect of my life, and/or if you choose to go forward with the implied retaliation, I will fully explore and use all available remedies that are legal and ethical, including providing all relevant information to the appropriate authorities, agencies, and individuals.

I am forwarding a copy of this to [highest up person at school that you can find], since your actions involve exposure on the part of the school as well as you personally.

I will not personally respond to further attempts by you to contact me. If you feel the need to attempt to contact me again, please include contact information for your counsel.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:02 AM on December 27, 2010 [24 favorites]


100% agree with document everything and approach the school and/or the appropriate authorities.

Also, I know people have varying opinions on Yelp's ability to be helpful, but if you happen to know the community manager for your city, I would reach out to them directly, explain what is going on, and ask them to help as well. If nothing else, I can't imagine they want to see users being threatened.
posted by BZArcher at 10:13 AM on December 27, 2010 [3 favorites]


Agreed with above: keep your correspondence, contact the school. There is a good chance the bully may escalate, at which point, you can provide, in writing a clear warning that you want no contact and that it is neither appropriate nor productive to do so, and, further contact will result in contacting police. Also check Yelp's policy on reviews- you may have some nice email to copy/paste on the site as an example of the problem at the school.
posted by yeloson at 10:34 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


i would advise you to notify the local police right away, and pursue an order of protection. if nothing else, make them aware that you have some concerns about this person. let the cops talk to the school.

i'm saying this because of the way contact has escalated. going from yelp to email to friend to facebook implies that there was significant premeditation. this person probably has plans for what to do if you don't take the review down. i suspect they also suffer from a diagnosed mental illness.
posted by lester at 10:49 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had an angry business owner contact me due to a review on my blog. They tracked down my home address and did a few drive-bys, sending me threatening email saying that they knew where my kids went to school. I went DIRECTLY to the local police department, and they opened up a case within seconds of me walking in the door. The cops called the business owner, who did not expect to be contacted by the police about their bullying (blamed it all on their kid), but it ended right then and there.

If your online review is spilling over into your real life so worryingly, you need to speak with the authorities. People are scary and weird about that stuff.
posted by Addlepated at 11:05 AM on December 27, 2010 [14 favorites]


Contact this person's supervisor. If I found out someone who works for me or anyone on my team were doing something like this, we'd be chatting with HR within an hour.
posted by yellowcandy at 11:16 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I second dirtdirt.

If you take the review down, you are training this person to believe that harassing negative reviewers is the way to do reputation management. Don't be part of that training. You aren't the only person he's harassing, but you may be the only person with the gonads to stand up to him, so lean on us for help.

This is wrong. Another place you should forward the correspondence is to the school's local accrediting agency, and to the state Department of Education. MeMail me if you want some coaching from a former university administrator on how to find the most effective places to share this correspondence.
posted by Sidhedevil at 11:32 AM on December 27, 2010 [4 favorites]


Well done, mrs. taters, but I would make it even more clear in one piece of written correspondence:

***

Dear Stalker,

You decided to contact me via yelp.com, personal email, facebook, business, and via a mutual acquaintance, to request that I remove a review about School posted on yelp.com on 11/3/07. This is your singular notice that I will not be complying with your request.

If you contact me again via any of the above avenues, you will not receive a response. If the implied retaliation of your last messages comes to pass, I will not hesitate to retain counsel. As you know, online harassment has been in the news lately, and courts in our state are swift in rendering judgment in favor of the complainant.

Sincerely,
Anonymous

***
posted by juniperesque at 11:36 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty involved in my local chamber. I'd be surprised if your chamber of commerce has the tools to become involved, or the willingness. The BBB is designed to be a clearinghouse for information about bad businesses, but in my opinion is worthless (YMMV).

Nthing a ONE-time communication to tell him to pipe down and that if he persists the police will be contacted. If I read correctly, he has yet to make a clear physical threat of the type the police would definitely take seriously, but a) he may not know that and b) it would be good to document the matter in case of future vandalism. However, he seems like a coward and I believe the threat would shut him up.

I'm not a profiler or the like, but I wouldn't worry about him being violent. If he had the guts to confront you in person, he'd have done it by now.

I've had people threaten to give my business bad publicity. I always say "bring it on". The kind of nutburger who would invest his time in chivvying you like this has ZERO credibility among anyone he knows, and I would bet that within 5 minutes of meeting someone like this at random, one would suspect that his ranting about The Anonymous Bike Shop or whatever, is not informed by an actual service experience, or anything else based in reality.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:39 AM on December 27, 2010


If it were me I'd just ignore this nutter unless he actually follows through. If that happens I'd say you have enough evidence for a harassment case and should take his communications to the police. However, I'm used to ignoring internet nutters who make threats. You may not be, and neither should you be.

If the messages are particularly bad I'd simply point out to him that you have copies of his threats and that if he doesn't desist immediately you will be sharing them with his employer and, if necessary, the police. I'd also suggest to him that he reacquaint himself with the first amendment (assuming you're from the US).
posted by Decani at 11:45 AM on December 27, 2010


Oh, and in case it's not obvious from my previous reply - do not take the review down. Allowing bullies to successfully intimidate only encourages them.
posted by Decani at 11:47 AM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't give in to the jerk, because as others have said, you'd be teaching him that harrassment works. Wrong lesson to impart to the psycho.
posted by joyeuxamelie at 11:55 AM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


Do you have the funds to communicate with the guy only via your lawyer? 1) This scares some bullies off 2) it might reduce the stress on you 3) the lawyer might have useful suggestions.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:51 PM on December 27, 2010


Devil's advocate: did you give them a chance to make things right? I hate when I see poor reviews on Yelp, and the person doesn't at least give the business a chance to right the wrongs. That's one thing I like about Yelp -- it gets the businesses attention in a way that complaining to the counterperson might not.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 4:36 PM on December 27, 2010


Devil's advocate: did you give them a chance to make things right?

How could one make this right? Taking a class at a college or university is an investment of time as well as money, so even if they offered a refund (which I doubt they would), that still wouldn't repay the time the OP invested in the shitty class.

A college isn't the same as a restaurant, where they can comp you a free meal.
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:59 PM on December 27, 2010 [2 favorites]


How about calling the school and arranging to meet with the highest person there regarding some harassment you are receiving from one of their employees.

When you meet with that person, give them a thumbnail sketch of the situation, and then hand them printed copies of all of the nut-job's messages. I would think you wouldn't even have say the words
"I expect that you will be the last person I will need to talk to about this harassment. Is that correct?"
posted by blueberry at 11:44 PM on December 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


A college isn't the same as a restaurant, where they can comp you a free meal.

I'm sure we're not talking about an accredited university here. Even in higher education, when I've had a valid beef about a particular course, calmly and cogently outlining my concerns to someone who has the power to fix things has always given me results.

We're probably talking about a cooking, test prep, or language school -- something like that. It's my experience that these types of schools will indeed comp you a class, give you a refund, offer refresher courses or somehow make things right. Yes, the time spent at the class was lost. That's unfortunate. In your restaurant analogy, does the restaurant pay your hourly rate for a wasted meal?

Back to the OP, assuming that we're talking about a legitimate business, I think that the OP should definitely contact the owner of the business about the harassment, but at the same time extend the olive branch, and once things are resolved, update the review saying so. There's absolutely no value in wielding your SUPAR INTARNET POWERZ to crush a small, legitimate business. Life is too short to get into inane pissing matches like this.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 6:38 AM on December 28, 2010


If you decide to talk to a lawyer or the police, can you inquire (in a "I'd like clarification" way rather than an "I'm alleging" way) whether this rises to the level of extortion? I think the formula for extortion is "If you don't do x, I'm going to harm you by doing y."
posted by kristi at 10:00 AM on December 28, 2010 [1 favorite]


It's the responsibility of the business to offer a refund or a comped class after the first Yelp review appears. This business chose to harass the OP instead. It's not the OP's fault this is happening nor should the OP ever give this psycho the ability to make things right after he's escalated the hostility to this point. Also, look, at this point, we can be sure the guy isn't going to offer a comp; it's not like the OP didn't give him the time or opportunity to do so. This has been going on a while and the police haven't been called yet. Let's not blame or guilt the OP for using "super Internet powers" or ruining a small business when this story is something different altogether.
posted by pineappleheart at 6:45 PM on December 28, 2010


I'm very glad I found this post. I'm the guy that the post refers to. Steve Merle. Owner and Director of Act One Studios. Our faculty consists of people who work on Broadway, have won Tony awards, Obie awards, and Jeff Awards. People who are Steppenwolf Company members. The school has been around for thirty years.

Since the post went up 2 and 1/2 years ago our business is down 40%. Certainly the economy has a lot to do with that. But every month between two and three hundred people go to Yelp, read the reviews and then decide where to take a class. We currently have six reviews posted. 4 are five stars, one is two stars, and then the post we are talking about. Why only six? Because Yelp has "Filtered" out fifteen reviews. Thirteen of those are five stars. I would love to lay out my side of the story.

1. The poster came to one of nine classes and never came back.

2. She didn't complain at the time and give us a chance to fix the problem.

3. When she missed two classes we called to see if there was a problem - she didn't return the call.

4. Two months later she posted a review about one of our favorite teachers.

5. When I discovered that I could respond through Yelp I wrote offering a free class or anything else that would fix the problem. No Response.

6. The poster says that I tracked down personal and business information. I simply went to our class records to see who the teacher was. Who had someone drop after the first class. It was easy to find. So then I knew who the student was and I used the information she had given us to contact her again because I didn't know if she had recieved the message through Yelp. No response.

7. I was talking about the problem in a class I was teaching and one of my students said that she Knew the person and would talk to her. No response.

8. A couple of months went by and I decided to give it one last try, so I sent this message:

"Hi ---

I’m getting back to a long list of things I’m trying to get done to help keep the doors open on my business, Act One Studios. This economy has really hurt us. Your review of us on Yelp isn’t helping. I saw on Facebook that xxx xxxxxx is a friend. She was in a class that I taught. I asked her to put in a good word. I don’t know if she has. If not you could ask her about her experience. I don’t know if my other attempts to contact you have gotten through, so I’m flying a little blind here. So let me say this.I think your review was totally justified. You had a terrible experience. I wish I had known about it at the time. But it was one day with one teacher and the problem has been fixed for a long time now. The review has been up for almost two years. It continues to reflect badly on thirty other teachers who will soon lose their jobs if things don’t turn around. As a fellow business owner, I ask again that you consider taking down the review. It has more than done it’s work. I hope the holidays find you well. I hope your business is thriving. I hope you have a great new year, And I hope you consider taking down your review which would help everyone at Act One have a great new year.

Take care, Steve Merle, Director, Act One Studio"

I finally received a response. She threatened to report me to the police for stalking.

So I ask all of you. Were my actions wrong?

Is it fair that someone can post something (even if it's valid) that can literally destroy thirty years of work and just walk away from it?

I would love to hear responses.

Especially from the original poster.

Thank you

Steve Merle
Director, Act One Studios
posted by Steve Merle at 10:34 AM on June 2, 2011


So I ask all of you. Were my actions wrong?

Hell yes, your actions are wrong, creepy and invasive. It's stalking. If I was in her place and you went to such lengths to keep trying to contact me after a small, failed business transaction I'd get a restraining order.

Is it fair that someone can post something (even if it's valid) that can literally destroy thirty years of work and just walk away from it?

If your business and/or business model is so fragile that a single Yelp review is destroying it, maybe you should be rethinking your business model. People write negative Yelp reviews all the time. The businesses usually survive and thrive just fine if the review is erroneous.

I would love to hear responses.

You're in the wrong and overstepping your boundaries.

You've shown up after six months in an anonymous question. You've identified the poster, breaking that protocol of anonymity.

You've further broken the protocol of Ask.Metafilter by not posting an answer to the question, but one hell of a rebuttal. This isn't what Ask.Metafilter is for. It's not Yelp. Despite the fact that you paid your $5 to join metafilter, that doesn't grant you the right to use it as a soap box.

You've basically confirmed with your actions here that you've been obsessed with this single bad review on Yelp for two and a half fuckin' years. If that's not creepy stalker behavior, I don't know what is.

You also apparently don't know how the internet works. This thread (with your name, and the name of the studio) is now going to going to rocket to the top of any Google search results. It'll probably bypass your own web site in the search results when people search for your name or the name of your studio. I'm even doing you a favor by not mention any names in my reply to add to that negative Google-fu.

What you should have done is simply replied to the Yelp review - and then left well enough alone. But apparently you're obsessed with this one review.

Yeah, that review likely isn't the problem with your declining business. I'm guessing you're probably the problem with your declining business. You have all the behavioral earmarks of someone shifting the blame away from themselves.

What you're doing isn't customer service - it's spin and damage control.

Think of it this way - the internet is for your intents and purposes an angry God. Your arms are way too short to box with God. It's much, much bigger than you are. It doesn't care about how many Broadway award-winners you have as faculty. It doesn't care about your history. It simply doesn't care. You might not like it, but it's you against about 2 billion people.

By coming here and posting this you just willfully attracted a mountain of potentially negative attention. Metafilter is not a small site, and it generally doesn't respond favorably to attempts of business to censor, harass or otherwise manipulate the free flow of information.

So, you basically just went and stuck both feet in the manure, opened a can of worms, etc.


You should probably read about the Striesand effect.
Trying to cover up information usually brings more attention to the information you're trying to suppress.
posted by loquacious at 12:25 PM on June 2, 2011 [5 favorites]


Hey, Steve Merle, thanks for dropping by. Now I know which studio not to take a class from, should I be in the market for one sometime in the future. And in Chicago, no less! I might just have to tell all my friends.

I think a more productive course of action for you would be to let this go. If you're very concerned about your Yelp reviews, use your mad people-contacting skills to encourage those folks whose reviews have been filtered to write more Yelp reviews for other businesses they frequent. As I understand it, Yelp filters reviews from people who do not have an extensive posting history on the site, and will un-filter them as those users prove themselves to be worthwhile members of the Yelp community. (If I have that wrong, hopefully someone else will chime in to correct me.)

To answer your question, yes, it is fair that someone can post something (especially if it's valid!) that can literally destroy thirty years of work and just walk away from it. You know why? Because we live in America. The OP can say whatever she damn well pleases about your company. If the product that you are offering were so tremendously great, this one Yelp review wouldn't matter. I'm sorry you feel so personally slighted by a factual review, but christ, dude: suck it up.

But anyway, Steve Merle, thank you for stopping by, and welcome to MetaFilter. I implore you not to use the various features of the site to further harass this poster. Focus your energies on making your acting company better, and stop dwelling on this one person and her one review.
posted by phunniemee at 12:30 PM on June 2, 2011 [2 favorites]


I stand by what I said upthread.

You inappropriately contacted her every time (through her friend, through email, and through Facebook) that you did not just directly and sanely respond to her ONE negative review on Yelp.

Because Steve, people DO read the business owner's responses to see what they have to say. They look to see if the owner sounds more reasonable than the reviewer, as well as if the owner provided a satisfactory resolution.

I sincerely hope that Formerly Anonymous posts an update to her Yelp review with a link to this thread to show people just how intrusively, by your admission, you tried to bully her into changing her review. I don't care what sort of wheedling tone you took with your messages to her - you were bullying her, and your contact was inappropriate, and you did yourself a hell of a lot more damage than that single Yelp review ever could dream of doing.
posted by Addlepated at 2:53 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hi all

Thanks for the response. I have to say that I still don't look at my actions as "bullying", but rather as a compassionate plea to keep my business afloat while thousands of others are going under. That said, I will lick my wounds and retire.
posted by Steve Merle at 6:35 PM on June 2, 2011


Even if we chalk it up to an honest misunderstanding (from your point of view, since you didn't get a reply, you kept trying; from the reviewer's point of view those repeated contacts were threatening so they didn't reply), your best move is to let it go.

Reply in public on Yelp, acknowledge whatever amount of truth is in the negative review, explain the steps you took to fix the problem, and maybe offer to refund the reviewer's fee for the unsatisfactory course. Beyond that, continuing to contact the reviewer isn't going to help. I agree that you should encourage other satisfied students to spread the word.

(And I'm sorry business is bad; the economy really does suck all over.)
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:22 PM on June 2, 2011


Hi.

I post regularly here and I taught a course at Steve Merle's Act One Studios several years back. I am currently a working actor in New York and very proud of my Chicago roots.

To those berating Steve, he's a good guy, the school is reputable, lots of people have honed existing skills and acquired new ones there, and the faculty is made up of decent working people, not unlike yourselves. Steve is an incredibly positive person with a generous spirit. It's taken a massive effort on his part to keep ActOne Studios going for as long as he has. He deserves a lot of credit for that. He's given his life to the cause of providing affordable professional training in an increasingly expensive, competitive performance market where most conservatories charge about $20K a year. I applaud his efforts. He's not some kind of nutcase.

Do I think making a huge deal out of a negative Yelp review was the right thing to do? No. Do I think using Facebook to hunt down the author of the review was appropriate? No. Do I understand being freaked out that you might lose your business in a horrible economic environment and overreacting? Yes, I can understand that. I can see both sides here.

Steve, I think now the best thing is to follow Lobster Mitten's advice about publicly replying in Yelp and then letting this thing drop. I also think Steve's explained himself here and tried to rectify the problem many moons ago and got zero response from the original poster, so can we lay off the HURF DURF STALKER ACTOR lecture-fest? Lastly, no, Steve, it's not fair that a person can vent their dissatisfactions with everything under the sun on the internet with zero recourse available to the target of that dissatisfaction. Unfortunately, this is the world we now live in. But everybody's always been a critic; as an actor and acting teacher, you know that as well as anybody. I'm also sorry the economy sucks. I really am. Best of luck to you and all at ActOne.
posted by TryTheTilapia at 9:42 PM on June 2, 2011


TryTheTilapia, I understand what you're saying, but the "HURF DURF" comes not only from the fact that he scared the OP with the repeated contact, but then somehow he tracked down this anonymous thread with no information identifying his business, posts another rebuttal here saying that a compassionate person would remove the review, and in doing so outs the anonymous thread poster's identity on Yelp! From where I stand, publicly identifying anonymous posters around here is seriously uncool, and the whole pattern of behavior he displayed was, frankly, alarming to someone who just wanted to drop a Yelp review and move on.

Admittedly I may be biased because of my own experience with an irate business owner, but it sounds like he needed a clear message that his actions were not okay. Which unfortunately, it doesn't seem like he gets, still. And although he might have explained and tried to rectify the problem many moons ago, he just posted here today, so isn't it fair that people get to respond to him without being shut down as HURF DURFers?
posted by Addlepated at 9:56 PM on June 2, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have to admit, TryTheTilapia, that I'm extremely curious how you happened to come across this six month old question this evening.

I'd hate to think that someone who has decided to "lick his wounds and retire" from this self-created fiasco would continue to draw it out by enlisting the support of friends. Because that 1) really goes against the spirit of AskMe and 2) makes him seem (even more) completely unhinged.

This whole situation just seems utterly bizarre and more than a little alarming.
posted by phunniemee at 10:04 PM on June 2, 2011


FFS, TryTheTilapia is my s.o., and I pointed the thread out to her when Steve Merle's response showed up in my Recent Activity. I'm not hugely surprised he discovered this thread- the Internet is both very big and quite small. People talk.

I think Steve's link between "bad Yelp review" and "my business is failing" is rather hyperbolic, but honestly, I don't think he did anything really wrong. If anything, his response here (under his real name, mind you, not in anonymity), made me reconsider the OP's entire story.

Consider:

This second contact is a little threatening because unlike the first message which was sent via Yelp messaging, this message is sent to my personal email address."

vs.

Steve Merle: "The poster says that I tracked down personal and business information. I simply went to our class records to see who the teacher was. Who had someone drop after the first class. It was easy to find. So then I knew who the student was and I used the information she had given us to contact her again because I didn't know if she had recieved the message through Yelp. No response."

and

"Then an acquaintance of mine calls me. She met this guy who told her how his school is failing because of this one particularly awful review on Yelp. Alarmingly, he mentions me by name, despite the fact that I go by an alias on Yelp. My acquaintance volunteers that she happens to know me and that she'll contact me directly and put in a good word for him. I feel bullied at this point, but am way too preoccupied by the rest of my life to think too much about it."

vs.

Steve Merle: "I was talking about the problem in a class I was teaching and one of my students said that she Knew the person and would talk to her. No response."

and

Then, a few days ago, the guy writes me again, mentions that he knows I own a business too, and again asks me to take the review down. The implication is that my business, which has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with this guy, the school he works for, or the subject matter of the class, will be affected in some way if I don't take the review down."

vs.

Steve Merle: "As a fellow business owner, I ask again that you consider taking down the review. It has more than done it’s work. I hope the holidays find you well. I hope your business is thriving. I hope you have a great new year, And I hope you consider taking down your review which would help everyone at Act One have a great new year."


The only "bad actor" (pun intended) in this situation is the OP. I think the continued knee-jerk defending of her against this "stalking" and "bullying" claim is completely misguided (esp. claims that he "revealed her identity"- what? how?). The only bullying I'm seeing here at this point is against Steve Merle.
posted by mkultra at 5:11 AM on June 3, 2011 [1 favorite]


(I'm not an actor, and have no connection to this school nor any other dog in this race)
posted by mkultra at 5:18 AM on June 3, 2011


[folks - please do not try this case in this thread and start calling people names, thanks.]
posted by jessamyn at 6:19 AM on June 3, 2011


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