TaeWoo: Hey everyone thanks for coming back to FreshSuperCool.com, today we have we have a podcast.
I’ve been doing a lot of Yelp review victims lately and today with me on the call is Tiffany Benitez; she is the owner and marketing manager for Bouncer Rentals 4 You out of Elk Grove California and she has a very interesting story that I’d like to share with you guys. So without further ado here is Tiffany. Hi Tiffany
TaeWoo: Hey How’s it going
TaeWoo: Good thanks for taking time out to do this I really appreciate it
Tiffany: Oh you’re welcome
TaeWoo: Ok yea so tell me, why don’t you tell the audience members who you are what you do and all that good stuff
Tiffany: Well my name is Tiffany and I am the owner of a local Bounce House company that services the Greater Sacramento area and basically I have been having several issues with Yelp.
The first one we actually had it under a different company name before we moved to a different location.
Originally it was under EG Rentals which stands for “Elk Grove” and we have a couple of sites up that I’m sure that TaeWoo will share with you but the first one we had up running in Yelp since about 2009 or 2010
And we initially had received several reviews from customers that were all filtered and then eventually we had one that did stick and it was a 5 star review and she was very happy with our service, she was from a local block buster company that rented from us
And then more recently about a year and a half ago we had a customer that she wasn’t happy with the service she claimed that the generator had run out of gas half way through the party and it was
What had happened is I don’t, it was filled up, we had the receipt that it was filled up and it should have lasted a full eight hours so we never had any issues with any of our generators and about an hour before her party was due to wrap up when the driver was scheduled to go out there he received a call that the generator had stopped running
TaeWoo: Ok, Tiffany before you go on some people want to know what Bouncer rentals does, can you explain what is real quick
Tiffany: Sure so we offer, I don’t know if you’ve seen that birthday parties and what not, we offer the inflatable bounce houses.
A lot of times they will be rented for children’s parties, baby showers, weddings, corporate parties and what not and we will service people’s homes, churches, parks, businesses so we deliver all over the area
TaeWoo: Got you got you. Ok so go back to your story
Tiffany: And so basically at this point out driver was out in Brooklyn or Roseville which is about a thirty to forty minute drive from Elk Grove so once he received her message he was actually setting up for a customer there he then went over to her so it probably took about 45 minutes cause he had to wrap up at the current customers house
And he got there and right away she was very upset that he was not there sooner and he had to apologize and explain for the delay.
But she immediately got into his face, was very rude, was saying, you know, swearing at him and so he went and he checked the generator and he didn’t see anything wrong with it and he could smell that gasoline was on the grass next to the generator
So he looked around and he added more gas to it to see if it was leaking and he didn’t see a leak and so it looked like somebody had spilled the gas all out over the floor
And so we thought, you know based on her reaction and her request for a complete full refund, she didn’t request a partial despite having used it for about 6 hours out of 7 hour time frame that she wanted it for
She had, so we told her we could not refund it because she had already had it for that much time and it looked like clearly somebody had tampered with the generator because buttons were switched off that shouldn’t have been switched off and if it had just gone off when it was running there wouldn’t have been anything moved around
And so it seemed obvious that it had been tampered with and although we didn’t directly state that we had told her that unfortunately we couldn’t provide a refund
We did offer to do a partial credit but she wasn’t satisfied with that and wanted all of her money back
So at that point he said well I’ve just added more gas I can leave it here for another couple of hours if you’d like and I’ll come back and pick it up later and she didn’t want that option either
So at that point we just went ahead and started to collect all of the, she had rented some tables and chairs, she had rented a concession machine and a bounce house so the driver started to collect everything and pack it up into the truck.
And he had, he had actually another delivery at that same park so he went over to that one and he realized he had forgot the snow cone machine so he walked back over to her party and it was still sitting there on the table.
And as he was walking towards it to go pick it up she walked up and picked up the machine and headed to her car and proceeded to put it into her trunk.
And he said, “Oh hey I’m here I came to get the concession machine.”
Cause he thought that maybe she was just going to take it back with her because he had initially forgot it and so maybe she was gonna hold it and let us know if we wanted to pick it up from her or what not
But she said no, she immediately started yelling at him again and said “you’re not getting you’re snow cone machine back until I get a full refund”
And so at this point he didn’t want to like proceed to go into her car so we had to contact the Elk Grove police department. A police report was taken cause she had left the site before the police arrived
So they came out and did a report, she had left before they arrived so she wasn’t there for them to be able to search her car to see what she had.
And so we had explained the story to them and what had happened and they said that it was a civil matter, that there wasn’t anything they could do unless there was a witness who was there that was not affiliated with her party or our party who could verify that she actually took it and that it didn’t belong to her.
Which kind of leaves businesses screwed because pretty much nobody is gonna be in the area that knows who the machine belong to that could actually verify
I mean they could see her take it and put it in her car but they don’t know if it’s hers or ours or who it belongs to.
Tiffany: So they kind of left businesses in the wind basically they can be ripped off.
And so we didn’t pursue it civilly simply because you know we’ve had too many issues with bad cheques and other things where you know we pay all this extra money up front to win the case but the person falls off the face of the earth and we never get paid.
So you know, the machine was, we were getting ready to replace our machine anyways so we felt like the loss was not, that we would have took a greater loss pursuing it.
But anyways all things said and done the following day all of a sudden we had a bout twenty one star reviews on our Yelp account and these were all from her and people that claim to be her friends that attended her party.
And saying that you know our generator shut off with the kids inside and that she only requested a partial refund and not a full refund which was a complete lie
And that we were unprofessional, that we took over an hour to get there and that when she called we didn’t show up immediately and all these negative things and a lot of it were false
And so it had been there and I had contacted Yelp through their contact us button because there was no way to reach anyone by phone and I couldn’t get any response or any kind of action so we ended up having to open up a Better Business Bureau report.
In the meantime we started reaching out to customers who had used our service, we let them know if you’re happy with our service please feel free to share your experience on Yelp and you know that was that
And so we had a couple of clients who had used us during that window between when that incident happened and when we filed the report
We asked clients that had used our service that if they would like to share their experience that they could share it on Yelp
We didn’t offer them any kickbacks or anything like Yelp says oh you can’t do this or that. So some of them went ahead and they left reviews for us in the meantime
When we filed the Better Business Bureau Report regarding having all these duplicate negative one star reviews from different accounts they took all of them down but about two of them so we ended up having a five star review that was done to a two and a half star rating
And they said that they didn’t want to remove her review because they felt like it was a legitimate review
But they also took down all of the five star reviews that we received since then that had been up there for several months and were not filtered but all of a sudden when we filed this report they went ahead and they filtered all the five star reviews as well
So, and I did not get a response from them and they ask you if you’re satisfied with the response and the report and I just checked the box that I wasn’t satisfied
But I just basically couldn’t get them to agree to put the five stars back that they took off. And I said you know if you believe that her one star review is legitimate and you want to leave it up there that’s fine but don’t go remove all of the positive reviews that we’ve received since then
TaeWoo: Right, right.
Tiffany: And they didn’t respond. So eventually you know later on we ended up moving to Ranch Hill
Cordova and we actually had decided not to have a Yelp account and we didn’t want to add the business to Yelp simply because of this experience
But we had you know our Google Places page and our Bing page and we actually had probably five or six reviews on Bing that were all five star reviews and then when Bing merged with Yelp it automatically added the account to Yelp and it removed, instead of merging the reviews it took off all of the five star reviews that Bing had and then left us with no stars because we didn’t have that account up on Yelp
So now we ended up with another Yelp account for our Ranch Hill Cordova location and we had, I don’t know if you are able to show the link during the podcast
TaeWoo: Sure, sure I will
Tiffany: If you look up the one for Ranch Hill Cordova and scroll down to where it says three reviews that are not recommended there is actually two different, there is three reviews and granted they’re from people that don’t have a lot of reviews
But what had happened with these and the same thing happened with our Elk Grove location, I’ll talk about that one in a minute, as soon as we received the first review from Melissa which was done in May they gave us a call and they were trying to sell us their advertising
And my husband had explained to them on the phone that we were not happy with their service and he explained to the salesman everything that had happened with the other account and with the Better Business Bureau and what not
And that this was, we were not interested in their service cause we were not satisfied with how they treat their customers, not their customers but you know the businesses on Yelp and so we had received plenty of business from other sources that we didn’t feel we need to spend you know five or six or seven hundred dollars a month on advertising that we felt was not going to bring in revenue you know above and beyond that
And so he explained that and then the sales man you know went back and forth with him and you know he just had to end the call basically because he would’ve been on the phone with him all day and within a week of that call that review was filtered
TaeWoo: Oh Wow
Tiffany: The same thing happened with Jennifer and with Janice
TaeWoo: Yes I see them
Tiffany: Both of those were customers, the first, Janice was actually, she had came across us from our old site where she saw all the negative reviews and was actually hesitant to use our business but she, instead of you know judging us based on what she saw she decided to give us a call and allowed us the opportunity to tell her about what happened and our story and what not and so she decided to go ahead with us and was happy with our service
And both, you know after Jennifer was removed and then we had Janice review and about a week after Janice review they call us up again trying to sell the advertising and he says no.
And he says you know what the last two times you guys called me was right after we received a review from a customer and you guys took the review down after we declined to go along with your sales service
And the sales lady says, well what happens if, this was her question to him, which I felt was pretty odd, you know they’ve always said the sales team has nothing to do with it, that none of it’s manual. That it’s all random with the filter and she says well what happen if this time this review stays up are you then going to buy our service
We thought, well gee if you guys aren’t manipulating this for the people that you’re trying to sell to why would you even ask that question like that?
Tiffany: And so this one actually stayed up about two weeks so they left it up a week longer than the other ones after the call and then low and behold it was taken down.
And Janice actually was somebody that had an account established I think for quite a while. It doesn’t let you click on her profile when its filtered
But I think she had her Yelp account probably for about four years or so even though she only left four reviews but she had it for quite a while so it’s not like you know somebody just created it and made up a review
And then if you go over to the Elk Grove Bouncer Rentals 4 You and you click on those filtered reviews there is actually one on, no they say well if you have somebody that didn’t have many reviews or they don’t have a photo and they’re not established those are the reasons why it would hit the filter but if you see like Jennifer for example
TaeWoo: Yes, she has 22 friends and 44 reviews and Lisa had 16 friends and 20 reviews
Tiffany: Yea so, it doesn’t make sense to me why those would be filtered.
And then if you do a search for example if you take a look at Cartoon Jumpers and there are in Sacramento, I don’t know if they’re in Sacramento but if you do a search they’ll show up and they have, they actually purchased Yelp’s advertising, they’re a competitor and if you scroll down you look through their reviews you can see there is one from a Misty D
I don’t know if you do this search I can actually send you the link after the call.
TaeWoo: Sure, Sure
Tiffany: Misty D that had one review and her account was opened in December and she left the review in December and that was the only review she ever left and its up there and there is the same thing like with Michelle and Christy and a few other people that just have a couple of reviews but they are not removed
So it’s kind of frustrating when they give you that excuse that it’s the filter because of this and this and this but then you see it on the competitors page or other pages that you know, one review, I’ve seen them with one review and no picture and they still stay
So it kind of feels like we’re being targeted I don’t know if it’s because of the Better Business Bureau report or because we didn’t want to do advertising with them but it really feels like certain businesses are being targeted
TaeWoo: I see, I see.
Tiffany: And then one of the things, because I read up a lot about it, about Yelp and the filter after this happened and there is actually an article, you might be able to find it if you do a Google search, there was a statistic that they remove twenty to twenty five percent of all reviews but if you go to Yelp’s own Yelp page they have over 6000 reviews and about 6200 of them are filtered so that’s more than 50 percent of reviews that re being filtered off business pages
So it’s like they’re removing a lot of reviews that are legitimate reviews
TaeWoo: Yea, Yea I mean its, for sure you’re not the only business owner that has had these experience. So going back to that lady with the gas generator, story like that, this sort of a random topic but a case like that sort of standard?
I mean is she like a normal complainer or is she a little bit kind of on the extreme side of things
Tiffany: We, no we don’t normally have customers; that was probably the worst experience we’ve ever had.
We did have a customer that left a review once that what had happened is that the unit that he had reserved had been damaged at the previous location, or it wasn’t damaged but they had somehow gotten a bunch of mud inside the unit and it was, she had reserved it for a Sunday and we had it for a Saturday, It was rented out the Saturday before her and ti was a lot dirtier, it came back a lot dirtier than what we had anticipated it would be for a normal wet water slide unit
So we had called her up and we actually offered to bring her a bigger unit that was very similar in color but it was larger in size and it normally cost more but we gave it to her at the reduced price of the original unit that she rented.
And when we arrived on site she was fine with it, she didn’t argue with anybody she didn’t seem upset she didn’t complain but then a week later she posted a one star review on Yelp bashing our service
So it was like well you know this is what we did and if you weren’t happy why didn’t you just tell us when we called to ask is it OK if we did this
And then you know it was like she had, there were a couple of others from people that said they emailed a reservation in and we never got the email and we asked them to send us the email with, you know, send it to us please because we have looked everywhere and we have not seen it, it wasn’t in the spam box or anything
And they could not do it and we have one person leave a review that said oh I sent them the email and they still didn’t you know give us a service but she never sent the email
So people lie a lot and they kind of like twist the story a little bit to be more in their favor and sound more like we are the bad people but I think a couple of those ended up in the filter as well
For the most part we don’t have that many bad experiences it’s just that a lot of people that have good experiences don’t share it and so the one or two bad people that decide to do it they use Yelp and then Yelp doesn’t take the people that didn’t use them as well into consideration so it’s kind of a lopsided system
TaeWoo: I see, right, right. I mean definitely feel your pain. Just curious, once that lady or any of these negative reviews that you see, have you ever tried reaching out to them and try kind of resolving and see if they would sort of take it down or anything like that
Tiffany: We did actually, with the one that stuck we had emailed her and said that we would offer her a free unit any other time in the year with no expiration and she replied back on Yelp instead of directly to our email she replied back on Yelp that we did send her that email offering her the free unit but it still wasn’t gonna change her review
Tiffany: So I, she was very, I don’t know what her problem was, it just was, it’s disheartening because we try to do the best that we can to please our customers and when someone is just that upset and they don’t express it to us before going to Yelp or they tell us everything is fine when it isn’t and then they go say something on Yelp and they’re not willing to accept something in return you know or negotiate or whatever, it’s upsetting,
TaeWoo: Yea I agree, I agree. So going forward what’s your strategy, do you have a, do you actively try to tell people to not go visit? What’s your strategy to avoid this from happening again?
Tiffany: Well basically we just try to, we don’t really, we’re trying to not, we don’t wanna have to use Yelp and it really sucks that Bing merged with them and so we’re just trying to, we just tell people like if you enjoy our experience please share with whatever method you want whether it be Yelp, Google+ or whatever
And for people that do express, cause we had people that were upset about something like maybe the ground wasn’t level and so the water slide kind of was favoring one side over another and we’ll offer them partial refund and they’re satisfied with that and they don’t leave a review
For those, for the most part we try to you know offer the customer something when something goes wrong that will mitigate it whether it be a partial refund or you know adding on a concession machine, those types of things
Cause there are sometimes happen that are out of our control you know. Something happens at a site and you know the customer arrives or a driver arrives a little bit late so we’ll try to offer them a discount but pretty much we try to avoid the whole Yelp system all together
TaeWoo: Right, well you know, we’re about to wrap up I have a quick question for you, if you had any advices for other business owners who are having similar problems or about to have similar problem what advice would you have
Tiffany: Well if they have not added their site to Yelp, I would recommend not adding it. I would recommend not using Bing because they will automatically add your site to Yelp
I would probably recommend people to use Google Places because they tend to be a little bit more neutral. They are not like constantly filtering things
Those that are already on there I’m at a loss at what to do. I would probably just recommend when customers express that they’re very happy with their service I would just recommend saying “hey we have a page on Yelp please feel free to give us a review”
And hopefully you know more customers will start sharing their positive experiences and that you know it will look obvious if Yelp removed every single positive experience
They’ve done that to us so far but I think if more customers speak out about their positive experiences that they won’t be able to catch them all and say OK we’re getting rid of all of them because you didn’t advertise with us because things would start to look too fishy
And it already looks fishy when you look at businesses and you see they only have 3 reviews up and 24 of them are filtered something is wrong here
TaeWoo: Right, right that’s good advice. The last question I had was if either the CEO of Yelp or a government regulator was going to regulate these online reviews was sitting in front of you what would you ask, what would you ask
How would you want online reviews to change so that things are more neutral like you said, fair to both sides?
Tiffany: My biggest recommendation and I’m sure that they have the technology to do it, if I was computer programmer or something I would try to figure out a way to do it and you know share it with them and recommend it
But I would recommend offering some kind of tool for tracking a legitimate purchase for example Amazon tracks if you purchased an item and you leave a review they have it, verified amazon purchase
If there is some way that you could upload a receipt or a contract or any type of proof of purchase before you had to leave a review that would take away a lot of the fake, you know the people that are trying to manipulate reviews and it would allow the people that actually wanna leave a review to leave one without being filtered
Well thank you Tiffany I appreciate it. I totally feel your pain. I know people personally, friends and family that have been affected by this and I definitely feel your pain so I really appreciate your time in sharing you’re heartfelt story so thank you very much
Tiffany: Thank you so much for having me and hopefully Yelp’s CEO will visit your blog
TaeWoo: Definitely, Thank you Tiffany
Tiffany: Ok Thank You, Bye bye
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