Latest Company To Discover The Streisand Effect: Casey Movers

from the how-not-to-internet dept

Earlier this year, I was at a conference where there was an entire presentation on The Streisand Effect. Considering I first came up with the term and have chronicled it over the years (and had already been asked to speak on a different topic at the conference), I offered to help out with that session -- and got back no response. I went to the session to watch, and it was a really fun session, which didn't need any help from me at all. It was done by Conrad Saam, who works for Urban Spoon (and previously Avvo) and had a ton of great examples of the Streisand Effect and the impact on online reputation management. One element of online reputation management that he'd discussed, which I hadn't paid as much attention to, was the basics on how to deal with online reviews -- with a specific focus on Yelp. There were some dos and donts... and two key things not to do were (1) threaten people who write negative reviews and (2) post fake positive reviews.

Phil Buckley has a story of a Massachusetts-based moving company, called Casey Movers, which appears to have violated both of those rules, starting with a legal threat to Buckley's wife concerning a negative review she had written about Casey Movers 18 months ago, after her parents had a very bad experience with the company. It first took the company over a year to even notice the review and then post a weak defense of its practices. It didn't respond to any of the specific complaints about unprofessional behavior or broken promises. It only focused on the amount that the company had been willing to pay for damages, and gave a somewhat "technical" response about how this was what the "insurance option" she chose provided -- and even could be read as scolding her for not choosing the more expensive insurance option.

And yet... five months later (18 months after the original complaint went up), the same guy who wrote that bizarre defense sends a threat letter saying that the company is prepared to sue for libel if the review isn't removed:
Of course, rather than having the intended effect, it just made Buckley furious (and quite reasonably so). Buckley had no interest in removing the review, but rather than just telling Casey Movers to pound sand, he started investigating. He found a variety of other negative reviews... but also a large number of reviews that had significant circumstantial evidence that the company was likely posting fake positive reviews (or had hired a company to do so). It's fun to watch the investigation progress, so it's worth reading the whole thing, but here's a snippet:
Someone decided enough was enough and decided to get some good reviews at CitySearch where they now have a majority of good reviews, except there’s a problem, they’re not real reviews. You may ask how I can say that with so much confidence? Go look at them yourself, one after another… notice how most names are generic or don’t have a human photo? Yes that’s level 1 of suspicious reviews. Start looking at the reviews the “people” have left. It’s quite a coincidence that so many people who have used a Boston moving company have also loved a sprinkler repair guy in Anaheim, California and Fun Hawaii Travel out of Honolulu.

They also have a flurry of activity in August of 2012 – Aug 1, 2, 6, 7, 9, 11, 12, 14. That seems a bit sketchy as well.
His investigation also turned up that the company had been posting images of positive review letters that some customers had signed, but in doing so, revealed all their private info. Buckley contacted a few who seemed surprised and said that they had not provided permission to reveal their private info.

For a while, Casey Movers and the main representative of the company involved in all of this, Matthew Overstreet, basically ignored Buckley. But as his story kept getting more attention, Overstreet finally reached out to Buckley -- and again just kept focusing on the "insurance coverage," a relatively minor issue (made even more minor following the ridiculous threat of a libel lawsuit). Eventually, Overstreet called Buckley on Wednesday night and seemed to indicate that there wasn't any interest in actually suing, though he refused to promise not to sue Buckley's wife.

Either way, the whole story is yet another fun one to include in the long list of companies who get on the wrong side of the Streisand Effect. Going beyond that, it really shows how a bogus legal threat can lead to not just backlash and attention, but also much deeper investigations into whoever originated the threat -- and that might turn up other questionable activity, such as posting likely fake positive reviews to try to counter the real negative reviews. Oops.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
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    Josh in CharlotteNC (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 1:09pm

    Politely

    "I am politely asking you" ... "will be filing a libel suit"

    Wait. What?

    Legal threats are not polite. Baseless legal threats even moreso.

    Can we please start smacking the lawyers across the face with a dainty white glove? That's how you politely threaten someone (or so says Hollywood, and they would never lie to me).

     

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    alanbleiweiss (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:04pm

    I'm writing an article on the story, with the emphasis of my article on how Online Reputation Management can go so wrong... Called the company and asked for Steve Casey, to get his side of the story.

    Receptionist said their attorney will most likely be the one to call me back. Should be a fascinating conversation...

     

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      Todd (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 4:38pm

      Re:

      If you happen to talk to the lawyer, see if you can get him to explain who wrote the second paragraph of that letter. Looks like it was a Nigerian scam author. Do they not teach grammar in law school?

       

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    dennis deems (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:04pm

    Fake Online Reviews

    He found a variety of other negative reviews... but also a large number of reviews that had significant circumstantial evidence that the company was likely posting fake positive reviews (or had hired a company to do so).

    But here at TD we already know that fake online reviews are a Non-Story. Someone should politely inform Phil Buckley of this fact.

     

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      alanbleiweiss (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:07pm

      Re: Fake Online Reviews

      it's not JUST fake reviews. It's a threat of legal action for a LEGIT review. And there's a much deeper pattern of very bad ORM efforts and how its so wrong for companies to use bully tactics to squash legitimate complaints...

       

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        bob, Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:27pm

        Re: Re: Fake Online Reviews

        further, what kind of standing can you have, suing someone for a bad review that claims to be damaging, if you are puttin gout fake good reviews that claim the opposite?
        ins't one thing as bad as the other?

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:45pm

          Re: Re: Re: Fake Online Reviews

          No. One is worse than the other. I'll leave it to you to figure out which is which.

           

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    alanbleiweiss (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:05pm

    And FYI , it's gone viral - Consumerist picked it up, and it's now gotten over 2000 votes and 300 comments on Reddit on the Reddit JusticePorn home page

     

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    weneedhelp (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:09pm

    Customer service

    What ever happened to; I'm sorry ma'am/sir please accept our deepest apologies for providing you with bad service. We will refund your money and provide a discount on future services, to make up for the experience you had.

    I had a major auto glass company mess up an installation and caused a leak that did not exist before. Not only did they send my car to a reputable local Ford dealer to be fixed, they refunded my money, 100 bucks over what I paid and supplied a rental car while ours was being fixed.

    Would I suggest them to others? Absolutely, because if they do mess up, they will make it right, and that's what counts. Everyone makes mistakes.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jan 8th, 2013 @ 10:59am

      Re: Customer service

      So how bout it? You say you would absolutely recommend said "major auto glass company" to others, yet fail to give their name. Who is this phantom company?

       

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    Kelly (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:09pm

    I wonder about the intelligence among companies sometimes. I've worked in Marketing and no one in there wanted to use dummy fake positive reviews because they knew it would eventually be found out and that would give us worse PR than having no positive reviews.

    Luckily, though, we generally got good reviews and those who were negative we were able to turn around with a little work.

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
    identicon
    out_of_the_blue, Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:18pm

    Keep reminding us of your one "innovation", Mike!

    Puts the rest in perspective as even less! You've shot your bolt, rest is all downhill. You're like Al Bundy on Married With Children, who kept going back to his one hour of glory in a high-school football game. Frankly, I wish you'd quit doing it, cause when you self-congratulate over and over for a quite minor quip many years in the past, just makes me have to work at mocking you. Geez, what a ham you are.

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:22pm

      Re: Keep reminding us of your one "innovation", Mike!

      Mike is just jealous of your contribution to society: funding a team of scientists for the decades required to study you.

       

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      identicon
      Mike Dee, Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:28pm

      Re: Keep reminding us of your one

      Frankly, we wish you'd quit commenting and trolling as you try to find a minor thought process. It's quite evident you're jealous of Mike and his success and try to ride on his success to get your 15 minutes.

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:46pm

      Re: Keep reminding us of your one "innovation", Mike!

      lol you're so stupid

       

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2012 @ 3:18pm

      Re: Keep reminding us of your one "innovation", Mike!

      Keep reminding us of your zero innovations, out_of_the_ass!

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:40pm

    Companies desperately try to keep their name from being bad but ultimately it will get around if you screw enough people.

     

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    Chris, Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:46pm

    Jurisdiction

    IANAL, but doesn't the defendant get some say in the jurisdiction? From my 10 minutes in a legal class I found this:

    The primary purpose of venue statutes is to save defendants from inconveniences to which they might be subjected if they could be compelled to answer in any district, or wherever found

    http://www.justice.gov/usao/eousa/foia_reading_room/usam/title4/civ00038.htm

    Not sure if this would end up benefitting the person here, but it seems to me that the company is trying to pressure some kind of settlement/agreement with the threat of expensive travel just to be in court.

     

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      Michael, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 6:58am

      Re: Jurisdiction

      Yes, and no.

      If the court initially found that the company had standing to file suit in their jurisdiction, the defendant would at least need to file a motion for a change of venue and then send a representative to the court for a hearing. Then, the court would have to decide where the case would be heard.

      Courts tend to lean toward keeping cases if at least one party is actually within the jurisdiction (see East Texas for that). However, a case could be made that the company has the resources to send representatives to another jurisdiction and the individual does not. It could go either way and could be expensive just to get it moved.

       

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    Phil Buckley (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 2:58pm

    Thank you and...

    Thank you to everyone who took the time to read this and leave a comment, let me add a little more info here that is just coming in.

    I received an email from a Boston based investigator for the Better Business Bureau asking for me to forward anything we have proving our side of the story - working with the in-laws right now to see if they kept the old paperwork.

    As far as having a lawyer in the area, Michael Farraher has offered his services (pro bono) if Casey Movers does move forward with their threats. A number of other notable lawyers have also offered help including Ken White over at Popehat.com.

    Thanks again everyone. If you have any questions or advice feel free to email me.

     

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    Prashanth (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 3:44pm

    Seinfeld "The Cartoon"

    I think the best example I have seen in mainstream culture of the Streisand effect (i.e. in a fictional work, not in real life), is in the Seinfeld episode "The Cartoon". Jerry Seinfeld's character tells guest star Kathy Griffin's character that she's terrible at acting, but later convinces her to get back into showbusiness. She does by starting a one-woman stand-up comedy show called "Jerry Seinfeld, the devil". Every time Jerry tries to confront her about her material and asks her to make it a little more fair, she hilariously exaggerates his actions further to make him look more like the devil. Finally, he sends her a cease-and-desist letter through his attorney...which she reads aloud on her show to further prove her own point.

     

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    Laroquod (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 3:55pm

    Any business person in today's world who does not respond to negative customer reviews online with an immediate and full apology, does not understand a damned thing and should probably have his or her head examined.

    P.S. It doesn't matter whether the customer is right or wrong. IT DOESN'T MATTER YOUR REPUTATION IS FUCKED IF YOU TAKE ANY ACTION IN RESPONSE THAT IS NOT A FULL APOLOGY.

     

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  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    davebarnes (profile), Nov 15th, 2012 @ 7:51pm

    Annoying

    I don't like when you blur a person's address.
    Kristen Ann Buckley
    101 Morena Drive
    Holly Springs, NC 27540-9399

    http://www.city-data.com/wake-county/M/Morena-Drive-1.html

     

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 4:45am

      Re: Annoying

      Blurring the address is considered polite and proper. Blurting it, however, well, that just makes you an asshole.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 8:00am

        Re: Re: Annoying

        Their land is valued at 42k and the house on it at 137k. There's a homeowner's association where they live (which would be enough for me to not consider such a property at all, but I digress.) Point is, blurring the address is completely and utterly pointless. He's not being an asshole. He's being realistic.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 8:00am

          Re: Re: Re: Annoying

          Opps, didn't realize he had already linked to that information.

           

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          Phil Buckley (profile), Nov 16th, 2012 @ 10:22am

          Re: Re: Re: Annoying

          I'm not trying to hide on the web, I live my online life in a more public way than most I would say.

          I agree that it doesn't take a rocket surgeon to find my home address, it's listed multiple places.

          Blurring out the address on the image is like locking your car door when your in a parking garage, it's not fool-proof but it stops 90% of the problems.

           

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Nov 16th, 2012 @ 7:34am

    Don't you love Google? Nothing ever goes away, even after it becomes a bad link!

     

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