Watch Repairer Goes Legal Over Tame Yelp Review, Streisand Effect Takes Over

from the and-now-it's-everywhere dept

There must be something about Yelp reviews that make people act all crazy-like. Maybe it's the personal nature behind someone reviewing your goods or services, or perhaps there's something about seeing a review online in text that drives people off the deep end, but the number of legal threats and lawsuits connected to simple Yelp reviews always surprises me. Specifically, I'd have thought we've had enough of these stories by now that competent businesses would realize that issuing threats over reviews is a great way to get the Streisand reputation multiplier going.

But, apparently not. This latest example is of a watch repair shop issuing a legal threat over what I have to say is a relatively innocuous review of their business. The most scathing section appears to me to be this.

This is where Ron really lost points. I took both watches to a place called Precision Watch Repair, right around the corner, which had good ratings here on Yelp. I met with Eric, who told me first that he definitely could fix the vintage one, and also that he could repair the Ebel without sending it out - all for a good price. The Ebel was repaired in a day. I went from hopeless to happy within a span of 15 minutes. In addition, Eric called me THAT DAY with the estimate, and followed up the next day. So Ron Gordon loses in terms of creativity, and just overall slowness....which seems appropriate for a review of a watch repair shop.
No big deal, right? The review is on point, relevant to the business, and omits any real inflammatory language. Even if it turned out the claims in the review were exaggerated, we're not exactly talking about a vilification here. Well, the watch repair shop isn't taking all this mild complaining lying down, damn it.

Well, okay then. Call me crazy, but it seems to me that the claim that this one mild review was detrimental to Ron Gordon's business is probably more melodramatic than a high school freshman that just got stood up to the spring formal. This story going viral on the other hand? Yeah, that Streisand Effect is probably doing some actual harm to the business and its reputation for treating their customers well. Actually moving forward with any defamation lawsuit would be particularly tricky as well, given they'd have to prove the falsehood of the claim. Meanwhile, a whole lot more people know the name Ron Gordon Watch Repair than they did yesterday, and for all the wrong reasons.

As the original article notes, however, perhaps we shouldn't be surprised if Ron is getting bad legal advice, judging by the Yelp reviews for his lawyer.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: defamation, lawsuits, reviews, watch repair
Companies: ron gordan watch repair, yelp

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. icon
    kenichi tanaka (profile), 24 Mar 2014 @ 3:28pm

    While I find the tactics by this lawyer to be reprehensible, the morons who are posting reviews about the lawyer are nothing but trolls who could find themselves facing defamation lawsuits for posting reviews about the law firm considering they have no personal experiences with that law firm.

    This also happened with those buffoons from Amy's Baking Company, who were featured on Kitchen Nightmares. Morons need to understand you need to stop acting like trolls and posting fake reviews because that does nothing but generate legal problems for yourselves.

    Tim is misleading everyone by linking to the lawyer's review page on Yelp because those fake reviews are just that, fake negative reviews because people don't have any common sense to realize that they are engaging in defamation against a law firm.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Jordan, 24 Mar 2014 @ 3:42pm

    Serious question

    Has anyone ever been successfully sued for a yelp review that clearly has "satire" or "attempt at humor" written all over it?

    Like of the hundreds of people who dog-pile on to these fake reviews, has there genuinely ever been a single instance of fall-out or consequences? I'm guessing once they realize their business is toast due to their own actions, very few people spend their days tracking down the real identities of anonymous online posters.

    If the lawyer is too dumb to realize that the entire action of sending that letter was a terrible idea, do you think he's actually smart enough to actually get back at those mocking his business?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Applesauce, 24 Mar 2014 @ 3:42pm

    Evil's saving grace

    The best thing about arrogant shopkeepers is the same thing that is best about evil governments: Their stunning stupidity limits the damage they can do to others while multiplying the damage to themselves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2014 @ 3:49pm

    The keyword there is "competent businesses". Lack of competence is likely a contributor to the bad reviews in the first place. So it should be no surprise the continue that lack as they respond to the complaints.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 24 Mar 2014 @ 3:52pm

    I do not understand this mindset of ZOMG I must silence them or all of my business will dry up.
    Businesses have become to obsessed with having a "perfect" rating and are willing to destroy their brand to maintain it.

    I think a larger portion of this is lawyers who now seem to be actively trawling or soliciting cases based on less than perfect Yelp reviews.
    It is the next generation of SEO magic, just shake the law at them and it all gets better. Pay me a fee and I'll fix it, ignore every other person who went legal and destroyed their brand... I'm better than them.

    Not everyone is going to like your business, even if you do everything right someone will find something to harp on. Humans are more likely to do nothing if everything was fine, and you should expect you will get more negative reviews than good ones. The real trick is not to take them to heart and try and kill the infidel, but to address the concerns in a business like manner and move on. Soliciting super glowing reviews is not going to help either.
    Provide the best service possible, address the reviews, and as that damn overplayed song says... Let it go.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2014 @ 4:03pm

    Part of the problem may be that this douche hired a divorce lawyer:

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. icon
    OldGeezer (profile), 24 Mar 2014 @ 4:07pm

    When I shop on Ebay a 98% positive is good enough for me. If I look through the reviews nearly everyone says things like "fast shipping", "great price" and "would buy from this seller again" Then there are always a few that have horrible things to say. A review like this might result in the loss of 1 star. He didn't say the guy ripped him off or didn't do exactly what he was supposed to do. Now because of this almost completely positive review this guy is showing the whole world what an asshole he is. When will they ever learn? The review would have not hurt his reputation but he sure screwed himself!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    OldMugwump (profile), 24 Mar 2014 @ 4:38pm

    You, sir, are mistaken

    That would be my whole response - a letter that says:
    "You, sir, are mistaken".

    Because the statements in the review are NOT defamatory, and I am NOT going to incur any legal fees as a result.

    There's a 90% probability this lawyer is bluffing, and a 99.9% probability that even if he's not, he will lose in court. Even if I act as my own lawyer.

    And, yes, I know that means I'd have a fool for a client. But that fool would still win.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Zonker, 24 Mar 2014 @ 4:38pm

    Definitely would never do business with either Ron Gordon Watch Repair or Andrew Spinnell based on how they respond to criticism of their business.

    As a counter example, not too long ago I was curious about a local sports bar and found quite a few Yelp reviews about the place. Oldest reviews were positively glowing, but reviews early in the last year were a mixed bag with quite a few negative criticisms for slow or inadequate service. What impressed me to give the place a try was that the owner actively responded to these negative reviews along the lines of "we're sorry you had a bad experience on XX day" and "we had an unexpectedly large crowd that evening" or "we have recently hired more staff to address the issue" and finishing along the lines of "hope you will try us again and have a better experience".

    I tried the place out based on the efforts of the owner to address his customers concerns and was very pleased to find that it was really a good little sport bar after all. Still go there occasionally when I'm in the neighborhood. And that is how you get good business in the face of mixed or negative reviews.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2014 @ 5:14pm

    So Ron contacts his cousin's ex-brother-in-law (or whatever)lawyer and says something like "Write that bum a letter, maybe it will scare him". So Andrew says "it couldn't hurt". Then then Ron says "Hey, did you catch that episode of The Rockford Files last night?".

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    OldGeezer (profile), 24 Mar 2014 @ 5:59pm


    Another thing about when I shop online is the times when there has been a problem with the item I wait to post my review until I see how the seller responds. When they pay for return shipping or even tell me to just throw the defective one away and quickly make a refund or ship a replacement I will give them 5 stars. One time I bought a hard drive on Amazon that was supposed to be new but actually had over 6,000 hours and 90 bad sectors I knew that it was an obvious rip off. I wrote to the seller and told him that if he sent me a new drive I would not report him to Amazon and just not leave any review. He replaced the drive and I kept my word. Afterwards I regretted this because he was probably still cheating people who don't know how to check the SMART data.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2014 @ 7:14pm

    As our good friend Ken White is fond of saying:
    Vagueness in legal threats is the hallmark of meritless thuggery.
    In particular, failing to state in which "certain respects" the review is false and defamatory implies either that the lawyer is sloppy—or uneducated—or that the threat stands on no legal footing and was made solely to exploit the shortcomings of the legal system. Neither case makes a good bargaining position.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. icon
    Keroberos (profile), 24 Mar 2014 @ 7:19pm

    Re: You, sir, are mistaken

    And a 100% probability that this lawyer is just out to make a quick buck.

    Unless at your direction Yelp to removes that review...
    To lazy to check your grammar?

    English. Do you speak it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 24 Mar 2014 @ 9:18pm


    You've encouraged me. I'm going to create a Yelp account just to tell these lawyers, and I'll throw in one for Gordon watch repair too, that they are a bunch of fucking thieves.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. identicon
    jthc, 25 Mar 2014 @ 1:25pm

    Lol, you guys are getting it all wrong. These are the words of a lawyer who does not think he has a case and is being forced by his client. "[I]n certain respects"? "I have been authorized to commence"? C'mon. This is the lawyer's way of saying "My client is making me write this, even though I've told him it's bs."

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    John C. Randolph, 25 Mar 2014 @ 1:27pm

    The phrase: "strip-mall shyster" springs to mind. I hope that this fracas results in the watch repair shop going out of business, and the lawyer having to find honest work.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Thom, 25 Mar 2014 @ 1:31pm

    Yelp can be frustrating

    Agreed, a bad way to handle things. That said, I'm part owner of a business that has a pretty good reputation in the area--except on Yelp. We've had a couple dozen or so people try to leave us reviews, but so far only two have passed Yelp's criteria to be considered legitimate. Unfortunately, one is our only negative review from someone who clearly had an agenda (though not all her criticism was undeserved, and some contradicted itself). The other is a positive review from someone who has reviewed quite a few businesses on Yelp.

    So our over-all ranking is less-than-stellar, and we can only watch in frustration as positive review after positive review gets relegated to the the dark corners of the database where no one is likely to ever see them simply because of some mysterious algorithm that evidently thinks they're too positive to be legit. And there's not a doggone thing we can do about it.

    Our Google reviews are quite good (4.9 from 22 reviews), but Yelp...whatchagunnado? I just checked again and two reviews were freed from the dungeons now, so we have a 3.5 on four reviews, but 24 other reviews are "not currently recommended", and other than the 5-star ratings, I can't tell what the difference is.

    Zonker, you give us hope! I'm showing your comments to my partners as an idea on how to respond.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    Paul A'Barge (profile), 25 Mar 2014 @ 1:55pm

    not smart

    not smart

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19. identicon
    Steve J, 25 Mar 2014 @ 2:30pm


    You'd have a bit more credibility if you quit calling those you disagree with morons and trolls.

    I think you're way uptight, justifying defamation lawsuits. I find Tim's explanation quoting himself and the lawyer quite informative. I'm not surprised it's enough for many, posting their feelings based on provable evidence from another. Regardless of whether or not it's personal experience they're not lying or deceiving anyone, just posting judgment from facts made known.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20. identicon
    Monte E, 27 Mar 2014 @ 10:46am


    In Texas, we have established tort reform, where, if a plaintiff loses a case, he or she, is responsible for all costs related to their lawsuit.

    This stops the kind of bullshit lawsuit you have here. We have eliminated the shister lawyers from taking these cases for future returns, and placing risk in their pockets. Amen!?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21. identicon
    Paul, 28 Mar 2014 @ 12:16pm

    Yelp has deleted all comments after Nov 7, 2013

    I am not sure who caused what, but as of this reading, Yelp has deleted *ALL* postings to this business' listing after November 7, 2013.

    The 2 star review by the customer and the business owner's reply remain intact.

    Seems like a reasonably Solomon-like action from Yelp.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)


Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.