A Cry For Yelp: Chicago Company Sues Couple Over Negative Online Review

OB-HR523_yelplo_CV_20100226101452Zwick Window Shade Co., a Chicago business, has a novel approach to business. When a husband and wife were not happy with their service and wrote a slightly negative review on Yelp, the company sued the couple for libel. It is one of a growing number of such cases where businesses seek to punish those who express their views about service.

The couple complained that she and her husband never received a set of blinds ordered from Zwick:
“Still waiting on blinds ordered nearly 4 months ago that were supposed to take 3 to 6 weeks.” The comments were balanced overall with the couple writing that “My husband and I like to support small, family-run businesses when doing home improvement projects.” What is particularly remarkable about this case is that they gave the business a two-star review that said that Zwick’s service was excellent, but the delay in receiving the product was frustrating. It was over four months after the Oct. 16, 2013 purchase that Zwick delivered and installed the blinds.

The company actually went to court to claim that, since the blinds were eventually delivered, the Yelp review is making “misrepresentations about the alleged non-delivery of the blinds” and is essentially false. The company hired lawyers to threaten the couple that “In the event that your [Yelp] statement is not removed within five days from the date of this letter, my client intends to pursue all remedies available to him at law and equity . . . In addition, you must not publicly publish this event in the future.” They later sued for no less than $50,000 in damages and that the review be taken down.

These lawsuits are in my view inherently abusive and thuggish. This was clearly an opinion by customers based on the delay by the company. The fact that this company would threaten dissatisfied customers is a far more worrisome fact than the four-month delay. The company clearly has a different view of what constitutes blind[s] justice.

Source: CBS

33 thoughts on “A Cry For Yelp: Chicago Company Sues Couple Over Negative Online Review”

  1. Just got an email from the idiots at Yelp…that I will post at the end of this post. Seems like Zwick either bought Yelp off or threatened them with a law suite. Either way both companies deserve to be boycotted IMHO:

    I don’t know about you, but finding out about a company that sues it’s customers would be a primary reason for using a service like Yelp. Yelp doesn’t think so. They think that it is their job to cover things like that up.

    **** This is a story by itself and I hope you hold Yelps feet to the fire!!!
    They thoroughly pissed me off with their response.


    We’re contacting you about your review of Zwick Window Shade Co. Though we understand this business has recently received media attention and that users may have strong opinions, we ask that reviews are focused on your own everyday customer experience with a business. While you are welcome to post your comments on Yelp Talk, please note that at this time we may remove repostings from you to this business page if they appear to be in response to the recent media attention.

    Please visit our Content Guidelines for more information (www.yelp.com/guidelines). We hope you’ll help us keep Yelp fun and useful for everyone!

    Yelp Support
    San Francisco, California

  2. While Illinois does have an anti-slapp law, it’s centered around government access for relief.


    ” The Illinois Supreme Court has interpreted the CPA narrowly. According to the 2012 case Sandholm v. Kuecker, there are two scenarios in which the CPA does not provide relief:

    1 If the defendant’s conduct was “not genuinely aimed at procuring favorable government action, result, or outcome,” the CPA does not apply. 735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 110/15. This test focuses on the defendant’s conduct.
    2 The second test looks at the plaintiff’s intent in bringing the lawsuit. According to the Illinois court in Sandholm, “if the plaintiff’s intent in bringing the suit is to recover damages for alleged defamation [or other intentional torts] and not to stifle or chill defendants’ rights of petition, speech, association, or participation in government,” the CPA does not apply. Sandholm, at ¶ 42. Later in the decision, the Illinois court summarized its ruling: “If a plaintiff’s complaint genuinely seeks redress for damages from defamation or other intentional torts and, thus, does not constitute a SLAPP . . . plaintiff’s suit would not be subject to dismissal under the [CPA].” Id. at ¶ 53.”

    1. Harley – since the suit or threat of suit appears to attempt to stifle free and accurate speech this would seem to fall under the statute.

  3. The company will not suffer here. It will simply close its doors, go out of business, incorporate and re-open under a new name. The consumer will never know that the new company is now owned by the previous owners.

  4. Most if not all of the nasty comments on Yelp are based on malice against the business or the owners. What you need to do is to see how many reviews that person has posted. If they are a chronic complainer/reviewer you might want to take their ravings with a rather large grain of salt.

    A representative of Yelp came to my store and told me that if advertised on Yelp more of the “positive” reviews would be featured and the negative ones would be put below the fold. They will swear up and down that is not so but it definitely is. Yelp is a racket just the same as when Joey Gallo would come in and say “Nice store you have here…it would be a shame if a brick went through your window.”

    It’s a racket.

    1. trooperyork – I have heard that Yelp extorts business owners. I think a couple of states were going to look into it.

  5. Nick – it is inexcusable for anyone to try to go after someone’s livelihood/business with fraudulent attacks, just to feed a personal grudge or obsession. I’m so glad Amazon deleted them.

  6. DBQ – I recall that a local bakery went through a slump in customer service. I wrote a diplomatically worded review indicating that I loved the shop, but lately there were certain problems that I hoped would be resolved. The owner contacted me, and was very grateful for the feedback. She had been getting scathing reviews all of a sudden from other reviewers, but mine had more information on what was actually wrong. Plus, it was written from the perspective of a customer that enjoyed the shop. She really listened, because when I went in there the next time, it was all fixed.

    I judge companies by what they do to resolve problems, more than anything else. If a company handles a problem well, it can often earn my business.

  7. Pogo, My wife was plagued by a crazy woman who wrote libelous comments on her book reviews. Amazon was good @ getting them deleted. There are angry crazy folks out there. The internet is the Wild West in that regard.

  8. What are the anit-Slapp laws? If someone could send a link or give a brief description that would be awesome.

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