Most people don't think twice before posting a negative review on Yelp, but a recent lawsuit filed in Texas might make you start. It all began when Michelle Duchouquette hired Prestigious Pets, a petsitting service in Dallas, to look after her two dogs and a pet fish. After she found their services lacking, she left the business a one-star review on Yelp. And now, to her shock, she and her husband are being sued for damages that could reach up to a million dollars.
The 500-word review carefully lays out her complaints and is very measured in tone—nothing close to the kind of vicious rant some Yelp users are capable of unleashing. Take the last two paragraphs, for instance:
The one star is for potentially harming my fish, otherwise it would have been 2 stars. We have a camera on the bowl and we watched the water go from clear to cloudy. There was a layer of food on the bottom from way too much being put in it. Even if you don't have fish, you should be able to see the change in the bowl and stop putting in food. Better yet, ask us how much to feed if you are unsure.
The care of our dogs was fine. It is just the company is not one I would recommend due to their policies. I did share this feedback with them and they wanted to discuss it. However, I have no plans to use them again and did not want to take the time to discuss the issues.
But Prestigious Pets claims it violates a contract Duchouquette signed that contained a non-disparagement clause. The company initially filed a suit seeking just $7000 in reparation, but after the local news covered the story they dropped that bid. They then came back with a second lawsuit. This time they're asking for damages of $200,000 to $1 million, claiming the "negative attention has left the business a shell of its former success."
The couple's lawyer is fighting the suit, and Yelp is on their side, saying in a statement to CBS11: "Yelp exists to empower and protect consumers, and we're pushing hard for federal laws to protect consumers from business owners who file meritless lawsuits against their customers."
Yelp also placed a pop-up that appears when you land on Prestigious Pets' Yelp page and warns users they're associated with "questionable legal threats." That's bound to do more damage to their reputation than any one-star review could ever do.
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