Diner Demands $100 Gift Card To Not Post Negative Yelp Review

We’ve written before about companies offering free stuff or discounts in exchange for positive online reviews — or for removing negative comments — but a restaurant in California says a disgruntled diner tried to use the threat of a scathing Yelp review to squeeze a $100 gift card out of the eatery.

The restaurant tells CBS Sacramento that the diner claimed he had food poisoning after eating there and was looking for a refund.

But the restaurant doesn’t offer refunds. It did, however, offer to refund the customer’s money back in the form of a gift card that could be used at any area eatery.

That’s when the man allegedly told the restaurant, “I’ll be doing a scathing review on you on Yelp… and I’ll report you to the health department. But if you give me a $100 gift card, then I won’t do it.”

The restaurant owner calls the demand “flat-out extortion.”

In the end, the restaurant chose to call the man on his bluff and the negative Yelp review has not materialized.

“I hope this inspires other retail establishments and restaurants to push back on extortion,” he said.

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  1. FatLynn says:

    Seriously, people who use Yelp aren’t stupid. I’ve never skipped a restaurant because of one scathing review, and anytime someone is certain they got food poisoning in a certain place or from a certain food, they are an idiot.

    • chefboyardee says:

      LOUDLY SECONDED, especially “anytime someone is certain they got food poisoning in a certain place or from a certain food, they are an idiot.”

      • Dandelion says:

        I would like to respectfully disagree. I can tell you that there are two certain occasions in my life where we know without a shadow of a doubt where the food poisoning came from. In the first, everyone but me ate a bucket of chicken from the KFC near my home. I don’t like KFC, and ordered something from another place. Everyone who ate the chicken got sick to varying degrees the next day – one very badly. I did not. The health department was pleased to be informed. That’s the sort of thing they look for.

        The second occasion (some years later) was the reverse. I picked up one of those rotisserie-cooked chickens at the grocery store, while the rest ate something else. I spent four days essentially living in the bathroom with the classic salmonella signs, and trying desperately to keep enough liquid in me to not dehydrate. The only possible thing to get me in the three days prior to the …explosion… was that chicken.

        It was amusing after the fact. As I told my friends – I’ve travelled the world. I’ve eaten food cooked by street vendors in Asia. And it’s a chicken cooked at the high-end grocery store across the street back home that gets me.

        We are not all idiots, I assure you.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          Food poisoning is rapid-onset, within one to two hours after a meal, and doesn’t last “days.”

          • crispyduck13 says:

            How about educating yourself before making statements like that? This took all of 6 seconds.

            “Symptoms of salmonellosis include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. They develop 12 to 72 hours after infection, and the illness usually lasts 4 to 7 days. “

            I really hope you are not employed in the healthcare field and if you are you need a refresher course ASAP. Jesus Tapdancing Christ.

            • dwtomek says:

              No kidding crispy. Apparently this joker thinks that having a weak stomach and eating something unappetizing is the same thing as salmonella. People are so loose with the “food poisoning(!)” card these days. It’s a bit obnoxious.

              Rv, if you are coming down with “food poisoning” after 2 hours then you were sick well before you ate that food you are so sure was tainted.

              • krista says:

                Actually, many of the most common types of food poisoning can cause symptoms within 2 to 6 hours of eating the tainted food. There are others, like Salmonella or Botulism, where symptoms typically don’t show up for 8 to 36 hours.

            • Dandelion says:

              And vomiting. There’s vomiting involved, too. Believe me.

        • Chris says:

          Your first example is much better than the second. Did everyone (including you) eat exactly the same thing for a couple days for every meal and snack? If not then it could have been any one of the other meals or snacks or drinks of water you had.

          • Dandelion says:

            I wish I could answer this question, but I can’t. Unfortuntately, it has now been nearly a decade since the latter incident, and longer to the first. It involved a group of us who met weekly to play a game, and we spent the whole day together, eating the same foods, and drinking (to some extent – I don’t like cola, either, and had something else, but it either soda, or tea) the same things, until we ordered dinner. They all wanted KFC. I can’t stand it, so I picked up something else (possibly a burger) from another nearby place. So, while I can’t say what they all had at their respective homes over the week prior, I do know what food we shared, and what we didn’t that day. (Lunch was also shared by everyone, including me. It was a marathon session.) Six people were involved.

            The second incident involved only my immediate family and myself (three people in total). As it was an otherwise unremarkable week, I can’t tell you anything about the meals I had planned, except that the only difference in our food was the chicken. I’d be hard pressed to tell you what I ate this week by day, as it has also been unremarkable.

        • FatLynn says:

          Here’s the problem: “food poisoning” encompasses a variety of things, many of which can be passed from person-to-person and/or live in your body for days. So, when it looks like everyone in a group got sick from eating X, it could also be that one person in your group had something, and passed it around.

    • crispyduck13 says:

      and anytime someone is certain they got food poisoning in a certain place or from a certain food, they are an idiot.

      I respectfully disagree.

      • imasqre says:

        And I respectfully agree with your disagreement.

        • MissingNumber says:

          And I respectfully disag…. wait, what were we talking about again?

        • the Persistent Sound of Sensationalism says:

          I also agree. I’ve gotten food poisoning twice from the same food item from the same chain (different locations 5 years apart), verified with lab tests. I will not eat at that chain again. Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can’t get fooled again.

    • trencherman says:

      I don’t agree. Twice, one year apart, I ate at the Luby’s at Highland Mall in Austin TX. Both times I ended up throwing up later that night. I had not been drinking. Maybe it was coincidence, but I haven’t thrown up without reason for the twenty years since I went there.

    • JennQPublic says:

      Both Staphylococcus aureus and Bacillus cereus can produce symptoms of foodborne illness very quickly (within a half hour). It’s entirely possible that those ‘idiots’ do, in fact, know when/where they got sick.

      http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/foodborneillness/foodborneillnessfoodbornepathogensnaturaltoxins/badbugbook/ucm070015.htm

      http://www.fda.gov/food/foodsafety/foodborneillness/foodborneillnessfoodbornepathogensnaturaltoxins/badbugbook/ucm070492.htm

      It amazes me how many people will claim food poisoning takes a long time to set in. There’s just no excuse for this kind of ignorance when one has access to the internet.

  2. areaman says:

    This sounds like a classic Sacramento move.

  3. Geekybiker says:

    OTOH I’ve had several places come to me after I left a negative review fishing for a retraction if they gave me a gift card. When response was “I’ll update me review if I have a more favorable experience” instead of “I’ll remove it” the offer evaporated.

    • Jawaka says:

      But if you had a shitty experience with a restaurant are you really going to go back to give them a second chance?

      • Geekybiker says:

        Not unless they pay for it. I’ve updated reviews on mediocre experiences that got better on my own. Mostly places that were starting out, but found their groove.

      • Geekybiker says:

        These cases were more service related than food safety. In general I agree. I have updated reviews on mediocre places that had found their groove when I went back.

  4. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    Restaurants bribe people for better reviews, why can’t we ask for a bribe ourselves?

  5. sufreak says:

    I just posted a less than stellar review of a horrible experience I had on Yelp. We’ll see what happens.

    I’ve lost a lot of respect for Yelp after the gay wedding dress debacle of ’11, but I decided to give them another whirl to see if they’ve smartened up.

    • IphtashuFitz says:

      I lost a lot of respect for Yelp ever since my wife started using it for her one-person business. She has her own pet-care company, and has gotten over 20 5-star reviews on Yelp. Then one day she gets a call from some sales guy at Yelp who tries to sell her on additional advertising, etc. She turned them down and mysteriously almost overnight virtually all of her reviews on Yelp disappeared. Now only she and the people who wrote them can see them. As far as I’m concerned it’s extortion plan and simple.

      • chrisdag says:

        Can you clarify your “disappeared” statement? Are the missing reviews really gone or do they now show up as “Filtered” when the business info is shown on yelp? I’m mildly curious about this topic and so far I’ve failed to find any reviews that truly disappeared. Lots of people complaining about “extortion” but few if any are able to actually show proof.

        • perruptor says:

          “Lots of people complaining about ‘extortion’…”

          So, you’re saying there’s smoke, but have doubts about there being fire?

        • who? says:

          I’ve written reviews that have disappeared. Both good and bad. Not just filtered.

      • Aliciaz777 says:

        That really sucks :( But, I’m sure since people have had such good experiences with your wife’s business, word of mouth will win over Yelp reviews. Good luck to your wife with her business!

  6. CrazyEyed says:

    A simple meal on the house would suffice for me although if you are absolutely certain the food poisoning came from the restaurant, our bodies are conditioned not to go near that establishment or food for quite some time. Do I think $100 is extortion? Yes. Do I think extortion is ok if the customer was more reasonable with their request? Yes. If restaurants can do it on their end to get good reviews, then they better pony up or improve their experience for customers should they find themselves on the wrong end of a review.

    On a similar note, I rarely visit Yelp and 1 bad review in a sea of good ones is not going to change my mind about a place.

  7. az123 says:

    Let him post on Yelp and sue for slander. Odds are the guy never went to a doctor so cannot prove he had food poisoning, and even at that it is near impossible to prove where you got it from unless there are many people getting it and the health department can trace them all back to one place.

    People need to remember that there are laws about what you say and the only defense you have is the truth, which you need to prove not just claime

    • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

      You can pick up many gastro intestinal bugs from grocery carts, door handles, bathroom door knobs – you can poison yourself in many ways and you’re right – you’d need to see a doctor, and have tests done to figure out exactly what the issue is. It’s entirely possible this guy developed an issue that’s not even related to the restaurant meal.

    • dbaker0810 says:

      az23, I’m sure you mean Libel/Defamation of Character. Slander is VERBAL.

    • Geekybiker says:

      I think you have the burden of proof wrong there. If the restaurant owner can’t prove that he didn’t have a food borne illness, they are going to have a real difficult time with libel. (Slander is spoken.) Since even the best restaurants have occasional issues, that is going to be a real tough thing to sell to a jury.

    • Derigiberble says:

      And because this happened in California the case would get nearly instantly tossed after the reviewer filed an anti-SLAPP motion. Even if the lawsuit survived the anti-SLAPP motion the restaurant might run the risk of attracting the attention of the big legal guns of the EFF and ACLU, not to mention that suing a reviewer often results in the Streisand Effect of awful publicity. Finally because the restaurant would be the one filing the suit they would bear the burden of proof in showing that he didn’t have food poisoning, a risky prospect.

      In other words they did the right thing: call the person’s bluff and if they leave a bad review count on yelp’s filters/users to ignore it or respond to it in yelp with a little quip about how they handled it by offering a refund on a gift card for any local eatery.

  8. offtopic says:

    When looking at Yelp I always figure that a few bad reviews are from customer’s with an ax to grind and a few are from employees/friends/regulars, etc.

  9. j2.718ff says:

    I like the idea of writing a bad review, unless you are given a gift certificate. “At first, I thought the food was horrible. But now that I have the opportunity to eat more of it for free, I’ve decided that it’s awesome.”

  10. radish01001 says:

    A person is much more likely to express a bad experience they had rather than a good one, which is why I take most yelp ratings with a grain of salt.

    • iesika says:

      That’s also why I try to leave good reviews when I have a good experience at a new place, to balance the effect a little.

  11. j2.718ff says:
  12. sirwired says:

    It’s nearly impossible for a single individual to point to the exact source of a bout of food poisoning. Different forms of food poisoning have different incubation periods, which vary from outbreak to outbreak, and also among individuals. When food poisoning is tracked down, it’s invariably the result of sickness by many individuals and some Public Health sleuthing.

    And other forms of intestinal distress, such as Norovirus, aren’t food-related at all; they are communicable diseases which can be caught in just about any public place.

  13. Ilovegnomes says:

    Why would you want to eat out again at a place that gave you food poisoning?!

    • crispyduck13 says:

      Good question.

    • Velifer says:

      Cheaper than Jenny Craig.

    • sixsevenco says:

      Exactly.

      I once had lunch at a nice, upscale brew-pub and found a pube in my sandwich. I asked to speak with the manager, but he was apparently too busy to talk with me. The server was not empowered to comp my sandwich, so I left, paying full price for a barely-eaten sandwich.

      When I got back to my office, I found the corporate website for the brew-pub (it was a chain) and I emailed COO and Executive Chef and told them about my experience. Within 10 minutes the manager called and offered to comp me a dinner up to $200 to “make things right”. I flat out refused. Why would I want to go back to a place with an unclean kitchen?

      • Jawaka says:

        How did you manage to identify it as a pube compared to a regular hair, arm hair or even an eyelash? Do you really suspect that someone had their pants down in the kitchen?

        • sixsevenco says:

          Fair question. I guess it’s possible that someone might might have coarse, 2″(ish), brown, crinkly-curly hair on their head. Whether it was an actual pube, or a from-the-top-of-a-head-pube-lookalike, it had the same effect to my appetite.

  14. jenf says:

    Whether he actually got food poisoning (or salmonella, or whatever)… this does violate Yelp’s TOS (6.A.i): “You agree not to … (write) a fake or defamatory review, trading reviews with other businesses, or compensating someone or being compensated to write or remove a review”. (http://www.yelp.com/static?country=US&p=tos)

    I agree that it’s extortion. I agree that it is unfortunate that the customer became ill. Seems like the best and most fair course of action in this case is to complain to the restaurant, and file a complaint with the health department that they SUSPECT they contracted their illness from that business. If they want to post a review, whatever – but they shouldn’t use it as leverage.

    Our County health department posts their restaurant inspection results online. There are some terrific restaurants I am careful about visiting, just because the observed offenses are on the iffy side. (Even after they are “corrected”… ick.)

  15. history_theatrestudent says:

    While a dirty move on the customer’s part, I hate it when stores only give gift certificate/card refunds. Particularly when dealing with something that is largely service oriented (such as food), a credit/certificate refund only policy should be prohibited. This just simplifies the resolution process and allows the customer to cut off ties with the business while coming out relatively even. A company could offer an incentive to cate a gift certificate/card if the customer showed a legitimate cause for complaint (i.e. a choice between cash/crediting one’s credit card for the value of the purchase or a gift card for say 110% of the purchase). This could give companies a second chance to prove themselves to the customer. A force gift certificate/card policy, however, is just wrong when the compliant is legitimate.

  16. Nyxalinth says:

    I don’t think he was sick at all, I think he’s a scammer. Why else would he try to extort a gift card out of them? Any sensible person wouldn’t go back to a place where they had a terrible experience

  17. timmar68 says:

    I used to read Yelp until one day I came across a bad review for the restaurant that I work at. The complaint was that our wine list isn’t big enough. The problem is, our restaurant doesn’t serve wine. Obviously a rival wrote a fake one. Now I don’t read reviews at all.

  18. motown missile says:

    Fuck Yelp. I wouldn’t avoid a place because some dipshit gave it a bad review on Yelp, and I wouldn’t go to a place for the same reason. Yelp is a forum for the chronically discontented to air their views, not worthy of anyone’s attention. I hope the guy actually DID get food poisoning, and gets it everywhere he eats.

  19. motown missile says:

    Fuck Yelp. I wouldn’t avoid a place because some dipshit gave it a bad review on Yelp, and I wouldn’t go to a place for the same reason. Yelp is a forum for the chronically discontented to air their views, not worthy of anyone’s attention. I hope the guy actually DID get food poisoning, and gets it everywhere he eats.

  20. Rick Sphinx says:

    Thats extorsion! jail time will follow.