Ballet Gym Goes All Black Swan On Blogger, Threatens To Call Police After Innocuous Comment

While most businesses have learned to handle criticism posted on blogs, there are still those who overreact when someone goes online to write unkind things. And then there is the rare situation where a business threatens legal action over seemingly innocuous comments.

Back on June 4, Alana took to her blog, TheDawgsDish.com, to write about a trip to try out a new ballet-based workout class at a Cleveland-area fitness studio with some fellow blogger pals.

The post points out the class’s positive and so-so points, but Alana makes it pretty clear that it’s a matter of her personal tastes.

She even writes that she “might make sporadic appearances,” if it weren’t for the 45-minute drive across town.

But from what we can tell, the inflammatory comment comes when she writes, “And, if I’m being completely honest, the studio is overpriced for Cleveland. Sure, they will probably do just fine due to their location, but I hope to see [the studio] reduce their prices to reflect the market – $25 a class isn’t going to fly!”

Not exactly a nasty burn on the fitness studio, at least to most people who read the post.

Alas, the operators of the studio are apparently not most people.

It took about 11 days, but last week the studio’s Twitter account began taking issue with what Alana had written.

“1 class won’t make a change. If so the whole country wouldn’t be suffering from an overweight epidemic,” wrote the studio, in a Tweet that has since been deleted.

By posting that, and subsequent defensive comments, over the weekend, the studio only attracted more Twitter users who said its prices are too high.

Then this morning, someone purporting to be from the studio — and sharing the last name of the studio’s owner — wrote the following on Alana’s blog:

Just stop the posting about [the studio] and take down all the existing posts. We know that you stole the class and we can pursue legal action against you for that and that is why it is ridiculous that you complain about a price when you never paid for the class. You were never given a discount code… and somehow you used that to enter the studio. I am sending you this message to politely ask that you remove all the content about [the studio] from your blog and twitter and we will not get the Beachwood Police involved on this theft of services.

We asked Alana about this “stolen” class and she tells Consumerist that she — and the other women who took the class with her — all used a discount code that had been given out on Twitter to publicize the studio’s opening.

We’ve written to the studio asking for its side of the story. Will update if anyone responds.

Comments

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  1. nugatory says:

    If anyone reading this has a family member or friend running a small business, please take 5 minutes and explain the Streisand effect to them.

    • There's room to move as a fry cook says:

      House rules.The Internet always wins.

    • Tunnen says:

      Or the newly created Carreon effect (aka The STOP digging effect) =P

      If you haven’t been watching that wonderful piece of drama develop, you should go look it up. I can’t wait to see the next crazy move he pulls.

      Charles Carreon
      VS
      Matthew Inman,
      Indiegogo Inc.,
      National Wildlife Federation,
      American Cancer Society,
      and Does 1-100.

  2. CanadianDominic says:

    In these types of reports, where theres no urgency, and no immediate consumer issue, why not hold off for a day or two and let the business reply? There’s no deadline to your story, like there is with print press, so wouldn’t it be more fair to sit on the story for a short amount of (business) time?

    I’ve seen it a lot more frequently and it reads like you just fired off an email and then posted the story on Consumerist immediately afterwards. I’m all for fighting for the little guy, but giving the business the time for us to hear both sides of the story is the right and fair thing to do.

    • QrazyQat says:

      Why? The business is being (really really) stupid and acting like jerks, against their own interests given the negative publicity they are apparently intent on creating for themselves. Maybe we should wait until the Beachwood police get the complaint, so we can have video of them putting their SWAT team together for the Big Raid? :)

    • AtlantaCPA says:

      It sounds like this one has gone back and forth a little already: her review, some twitter responses by the company, other people back up the OP, then the post on her blog. I agree with what you’re saying in principle but in this case I think the company has responded to the OP so it’s OK to go with the story. I would love to see what they say about a coupon code that was passed out on the internet with the intent of being disseminated being ‘stolen’.

      • CanadianDominic says:

        Because the context of the story changes once it reaches the press.

        • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

          So the press should wait 6 months after every story, just in case it changes.

          But what if it changes AGAIN after that? Well shit, let’s just live in ignorance and never report the news ever again. After all, the news reports on world events, and the world changes every SECOND!!

          • CanadianDominic says:

            That seems like the wildly opposite extreme. Waiting one business day would not do a disservice to the type of reporting going on at this website, and allow for a much more rounded story.

    • Alexk says:

      But the studio DID respond–by threatening the woman for posting a blog entry that was in no way actionable. Surely such threats are grist for the mill here. (And I say that despite the embarrassment at finding this insanity a few miles from my home.)

    • Laura Northrup says:

      If a company knows that you’re waiting for their response before publishing, sometimes they won’t answer.

  3. Sorta Kinda Lucky Soul says:

    um, cops don’t respond over invalid coupon codes. Sure sounds like this owner is a teeeeny bit psycho….maybe she needs a good meal.

  4. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    I just cannot fathom how business owners continue to respond to even mild criticism like this and think they will stay in business… boggles the mind.

    • A.Mercer says:

      The sad part is sometimes guys like this stay in business for a long, long time.

      • AtlantaCPA says:

        Does anyone knowledgeable know what the police would say about this? I’m guessing it’s more of a civil matter rather than criminal?

        • crispyduck13 says:

          They would probably laugh, and then point out that it is a civil matter and point out there is nothing they can do. Has happened a few times with weird customers at my husband’s business.

          • AtlantaCPA says:

            I actually meant to not reply to this comment – I realize it makes it look like I was asking about the negative review aspect of this. What about the “she stole a coupon and used it to steal services” allegation? Let’s say she really did use a coupon that was non-transferrable – would it ever be considered theft, larceny, or some other real crime? I just don’t know about if laws have caught up with online coupons…

            • Firethorn says:

              As far as I know, business contracts(which a coupon is a form of anyways) is subject to modification at any time up until the product is bought/service is used.

              Basically, the coupon could have been invalid, non-transferrable, whatever. It was up to the business to accept or reject it at the time of presentation. The article doesn’t say that it was a fraudulent or counterfeit coupon deliberately presented by her. They accepted it.

              It’s not only not a police matter, most contract law judges would toss it out of court.

    • Awesome McAwesomeness says:

      Agreed. The smart thing to do would be to offer her a couple of more free classes to show her how great the workout is. It would have made the owner look gracious and generous instead of like some spoiled sorority girl who pops a blood vessel if anyone even dares to look at her cross-ways. The owner made herself look incredibly childish and pathetic. I would imagine that after this, she will lose a lot of business. No one really wants to give business to someone who blows up at the slightest criticism. It really foretells that the business is going to be awful with customer service.

  5. crispyduck13 says:

    Once a person threatens to call the police over an obviously non-police matter I sort of get glassy-eyed and tune them out. Like the guy who called 911 about his stupid sandwich, they just don’t deserve people’s time.

    • Scrutinizer says:

      Operator: 911 what is the nature of your emergency?
      Prima Donna: Yeah some one wrote a negative review of my business…

      • Doubting thomas says:

        Years in hospitality left me with a smirk instinct when someone threatens to call the cops.
        I have had guests call the police when I refused to sell them Champagne at 3am. (liquor laws in TX end sales at 2am.), or because we didn’t have a room for them (no reservation). I even had a guy call the cops and proceed to tell the responding officer that I refused to help him find a prostitute. People lose o (on average) 15 points off of their IQ for every state line they cross.

        • blissfool says:

          Oh my goodness… you can’t be serious… I mean, I believe it… because I was a part-timer in a service business at some point in my life… but when you actually hear it again it still unbelievable.

        • pythonspam says:

          To be fair, I doubt the average of my home state isn’t that high to begin with so crossing state lines would have diminishing returns.

  6. daemonaquila says:

    Sounds like a bunch of losers calling sour grapes when their opening wasn’t as great as planned. If she came in with a code and you accepted her, that’s your problem, studio. If you thought she didn’t owe money then, you could’ve told her she couldn’t have the class or charged her. You didn’t. You were totally in control of whether or not she participated.

    I hope she scrags them online and, if need be, in the courtroom. They’re causing themselves all sorts of bad press by pulling this nonsense. Thanks to their jackass tactics in the news, they may find themselves shuttering their doors soon.

  7. Gravitational Eddy says:

    “Captain, the Streisand Effect generator has achieved maximum charge.
    “The coordinates have been loaded and the density has been increasing for the past ten minutes.”
    ” I expect this will blow the target into full apoplexy. Denial is expected in about 1-2 hours, full apology to be probably be given in 6+ hours.”
    “Further info sir, the chief flunky for the target will probably lose all credibility and employment once the supreme power decides it to be so.”
    “Very well, weapons officer, fire at will.” “Call me when the dust settles.”
    “I’ll be in the command center revising our target strategies…”

    • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

      My eyes were watering from laughter after the first line.

    • RandomLetters says:

      Very nicely done. Bravo to you!

    • Gravitational Eddy says:

      -OR-

      The horse snorted and huffed as it struggled up the hill in the driving rain. The rider looked at the trail intently, “No, this ain’t good, ain’t good at all.” He’d lost track of the original discussion after the latest denial from the wealthy Gym owners, and he couldn’t see any tracks toward or from them.
      “Guess I’m gonna have to use ‘Ol Barabera here and smoke ‘em out.”
      If he wasted any more time, the incident would grow cold, and nobody’d care about it anymore.
      Right now was the best time to track those kinda people, they always made far more noise than a truly injured party. Made it easy to find them. Simple fact that. Seems the loudest voices in a civil argument always seemed to think that giving away something meant people had to be nice to you, you know, because you gave them a taste for free…
      Sigh, those were the good old days, No more. These days, you’d better give out the A+ stuff and you gotta keep it coming before people will join up with you on the WWW.

      Peering through the mist, the rider though he might hav seen a dim show of lights off in the distance, no wait! There. Yep, that’s a neon sign.
      Unlimbering the big smoothbore Streisand rifle, he brought it up to the mount on the pommel, locked it down, then steadied it as he loaded the “special” .58 caliber cartridge into it.
      “They ain’t gonna see this coming…”

    • Gravitational Eddy says:

      -OR-
      one last bit, I swear!

      “I say we take off and Steisand it from orbit! It’s the only way to be sure…”

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Waaa ha ha ha ha ha!

      Now I’m going to another interview and they’re going to ask why I’m giggling.

  8. Coffee says:

    Hmmm…that sounds an awfully lot like coercion. I wonder who should be the one calling the police.

  9. dolemite says:

    So…what’s the law concerning a business fraudulently accusing you of theft and blackmailing you to remove comments protected by free speech or else they’ll have you arrested for said false accusations? That seems a lot more serious than using a coupon code on a class.

  10. CrazyEyed says:

    I don’t think you have to pay a fee to understand if a price may be to expensive for others who may patronize a business. In fact, a free class regardless if it was given a way or not is a good indicator of what you’d get as a paying customer.

    She gave her honest opinion and I don’t see why its such a big deal. Its only a big deal to the business owner because they do not know how to handle criticism. This happens in everyday life people. Consumers critique, review, analize and judge businesses everyday and write about it.

    The overblown reaction of the business just goes to show you what type of business owner you are dealing with. It’s no different than if I switched gyms simply out of economics (which I did btw) and wrote about it. At what point can a business claim libel defamation on an opinion if other twitter followers agree with the OP?

    • Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

      Especially on something like the price, which is not only factually and not opinion-based, but also completely in the control of the business.

      “Your class is $25 which to me is too high.”

      “Please remove your posts stating our price. It’s slander!!!111BBQ”

      • dootsie says:

        Especially when it was a great opportunity to sell her business. “I’m sorry you find the price steep, but our members certainly find more than $25 worth of benefits! See our testimonials page for great success stories from real, local women. Thanks for visiting us… we hope to see you again!”

        What’s that about honey and vinegar?

        • tralfaz says:

          When spilled, honey makes surfaces sticky and vinegar makes your house smell vaguely like cat pee.

          That was it, right?

  11. Harry Greek says:

    There we go – a dramatic over reactive artist getting all crazy and threatening. Yup,… that will draw more customers in.

  12. ThinkingBrian says:

    I just clicked on the link and read that particular article. Personally as a blogger myself, I didn’t see anything wrong with the post at all and as a matter of fact it would be the type of article and opinion I would write if I was reviewing something like that. She was very truthful, honest and she paid for the class with a discount code that she got on Twitter that looked to be available to everyone.

    I also read the comment below it from what looks like the (company) and I see it as nothing more than an empty threat. I believe this is the latest company to explode on Twitter or social media and go way overboard.

    Bottom line, people are entitled to their own opinion and as long as a person is telling the truth and not being so nasty and hateful (which her article wasn’t), its free speech. And the local police department isn’t going to be able to do anything about it. However she most likely wouldn’t be allowed back, nor should she return at all. The company owes her an apology and needs to do some damage control.

    —Remember, Twitter, Facebook, other social media, blogs and forums are all public. Companies need to remember that—

  13. ferozadh says:

    Nice publicity stunt.

    • Jules Noctambule says:

      If they’re looking to turn off potential customers then yeah, it’s fantastic.

  14. pot_roast says:

    Ah, the good ol’ internet, where small business owners think that they can just respond to any criticism with legal action.

    The thing is, sometimes they do. Want to see insane? Google “bat world lawsuit” and look at the complete lunacy that has turned into. Seriously.

  15. framitz says:

    The review seems relatively positive IMHO.
    The business owner being over sensitive will be her undoing. Vacancy coming soon.

  16. krom says:

    It’s clearer and clearer to me that only assholes run businesses. And anyone who isn’t an asshole who runs a business will either go out of business or sell it to an asshole.

  17. Sarek says:

    Is the phone # of the Beachwood Police BEachwood 4-5789? You can call them up for a complaint any old time.
    They’ve been waiting, standing there so patiently
    For you to come over and place a complaint with me.

    [yes I know the title is probably Beechwood]

  18. caj111 says:

    As if the Beechwood Police would have time for this nonsense anyway, even if it was a legitimate complaint. I think it would rank lower on the criminal activity priority list than the unlicensed massage parlors giving their happy endings. Get a grip, Barre Cleveland!

  19. Bladerunner says:

    She should be glad they haven’t sued her yet, a la the current internet fracas w/ the Oatmeal and FunnyJunk

  20. Rhinoguy says:

    “It ain’t libel or slander if it’s true”
    Opinions are opinions, not true or false.

  21. Hartwig says:

    All it would have taken was a comment on her site saying “Thank you for the feedback we will take your opinions into consideration, if anyone would like to form an opinion here is a coupon code to our studio”. Would have gotten a much better response and probably some new business. People seem hell bent on trying to destroy their own hard work through petty squabbles.

    • BennieHannah says:

      Yep! I’ve left some negative reviews via Urban Spoon and those places that have taken the time to respond in a reasonable manner are the businesses I give a second chance. When I’m reading reviews, I also pay attention to those places that respond respectfully to complaints. The Internet: It WORKS!

  22. Gravitational Eddy says:

    “Come about hard Mister, and let’s have another go at them while they’re still reeling.”

  23. tooluser says:

    I saw an episode of some sort of ballet reality TV series over the weekend, and let me tell you, those ballerinas can both handle and dish out pain like a 50 caliber machine gun, if they want to.

  24. VeiledThreats says:

    http://www.dln.com/sheriffsalesforeclosure/details/id/76515

    Appears Mr. Salwan has some legal problems of his own.

    Isn’t the internet a remarkable thing?

  25. Plasmafox says:

    They’re publicly accusing her of a crime. Is that libel of defamation? I forget.

  26. Tunnen says:

    Or the newly created Carreon effect (aka The STOP digging effect) =P

    If you haven’t been watching that wonderful piece of drama develop, you should go look it up. I can’t wait to see the next crazy move he pulls.

    Charles Carreon
    VS
    Matthew Inman,
    Indiegogo Inc.,
    National Wildlife Federation,
    American Cancer Society,
    and Does 1-100.

  27. Hailey says:

    That image mocks the art and dress of ballet.

  28. 2 Replies says:
  29. AtlantaCPA says:

    Just checked their facebook page and they are billing another blog as their “first blog writeup.” So they’re trying to pretend this didn’t happen right? Except right next to that post is another where they say “Ladies… Natl chain pure barre ohio charges the same…” so it sounds like they’re still in defensive mode.