How to [Not] Silence Negative Reviewers

In college, I could eat an entire pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chubby Hubby in one sitting. (I took the Freshman 15 as a challenge, which I totally won.) It’s been years, but if I ran a few miles and skipped a few meals before, I bet I could still do it.

But just because I could eat an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting, does that mean I should?

Yes. Ice cream is delicious. Bad example.

How about this: Just because I could sing all the words to Livin’ on a Prayer, does that mean I should? No, it would probably annoy everyone else on the bus with me. There you go.

Anyway, I recently came across an article on called “Why It Makes Sense for Businesses to Threaten Online Critics.” The article talks about how a company tried to fine a woman for a bad review on their site, which they claimed violated their terms of service, and if she didn’t pay they would hurt her credit. However, the company received a ton of bad press for this because it was unclear when the terms of service was posted. Despite this, the article goes on to describe how it is a good idea for businesses to similarly threaten people who post negative reviews of their companies, because a bad review could cause a lot of lost business, plus, if the review is false it could smear the company’s good name.

Many apartment communities rely on reviews from current and former residents to attract new residents. Should multifamily communities consider similar tactics if they receive bad or untrue reviews (and that’s assuming the reviewers are providing real names in the review and are easy to trace)?

Boo! Hiss!

Now, I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know the legal ramifications of even trying to do this with a resident. (I am an editor though, so I could probably point out some spelling errors on various menus, if you were interested. I’m super fun at parties.) But I’d say no, you shouldn’t threaten bad reviewers.

Sure, negative reviews could be embarrassing and potentially damaging to an apartment community. But it would be even more damaging to get into a war with your reviewers. First of all, everything is posted on social media nowadays, so your entire exchange, especially if you threaten to sue, will show up online, and then even more people will turn against you. You, after all, are the Goliath in this situation. And no one likes Goliath, except maybe his mother. And wife? I can’t remember if he was married. Anyway, you’ll get tons of little David reviewers coming after you, defending a perceived wrong against one of their own. Even if you were in the right.

If you get a bad review, you could try responding to the person on the review site, and explain that conditions have been fixed, or that you’re sorry the person had such a negative experience. If the review is completely fabricated, you could also try responding to the review with a post that says that the accusations are false and gives proof or examples. Honestly, if it is just one bad review, you could also do nothing, and let the bad review wither among all the positive reviews. And if it’s a lot of bad reviews, well, maybe it’s time you take a good look at yourself, mister, and go back to your community and check out the staff, the conditions of the common areas, how quickly maintenance responds to requests, etc. Then fix whatever is wrong. Just because something worked in the past does not mean it does now, and those bad reviews could be an eye-opening way to get your community back in shape.

Would you ever consider threatening a resident’s credit or even evicting someone if he or she posted a negative review, especially if it was fabricated? (And especially if it violated the terms of service of the review site?) What are some other methods for dealing with bad reviews?

-Jessica Fiur, Senior Editor

Image credit: DeiMosz