Tag Archive: Alain Pinel Real Estate


Most of the time, I come down hard on the side of Adam Smith and The Wealth of Nations.

So why am I aligned more on the side of the ACLU and Ralph Nader’s Public Citizen when it comes to First Amendment Rights of Free Speech, and Yelp reviews?

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The answer lies in a complicated set of circumstances and trends with many sinners and very few saints.

Let’s try to make some sense of these intertwined factors:

● Our society has evolved from agrarian/agriculture to industrial/manufacturing to technology/service provision.

● Web 2.0 through the means of digital ones and zeroes has not only put word-of-mouth advertising on steroids; it has given consumers an unprecedented level of control over the reputations and brands of service providers (e.g., doctors, lawyers, contractors, Realtors, resorts, restaurants, butchers, bakers and candle-stick makers).

● Yelp (NYSE: YELP), TripAdvisor (NASDAQ: TRIP), Angie’s List (NASDAQ: ANGI) are the market leaders in affording consumers and travelers digital opportunities to publicly review service providers. They also have business models based upon delivering lots of eyeballs to advertisers, thus attempting to satisfy shareholders.

● The personal reputations and brands of service providers are in play as never before, assisted by positive reviews and potentially damaged by negative criticism. The best defense for service providers is a good offense as exemplified by the Zappos creed of under-promising and over-performing, delivering a “Wow!” experience to consumers.

● Yelp has been accused of being willing to employ its “automated review filter” to remove negative reviews in exchange for advertising dollars. An L.A. dentist with some negative reviews allegedly was informed that these critiques could magically go away by means of a few Yelp advertising dollars. The doctor during on-camera interview equated this practice to “blackmail.”

● Virginia resident Jane Perez hired building contractor Christopher Dietz to perform some work. She was not pleased. She wrote negative reviews about Dietz on Angie’s List and Yelp, giving him the dreaded one star out of five potential stars review.

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● Dietz in turn claimed that Perez’ less-than-pleasant review cost him an estimated $300,000 in business, and in turn filed a $750,000 defamation lawsuit against Perez. The case is going to trial. The ACLU and Public Citizen are representing Perez on a pro bono basis. Did Chris Dietz really sue his customer? Would you hire Mr. Dietz to fix your deck, knowing you too could end up in court as well?

Dude, what are you thinking?

So what do we have here?

  1. Publicly traded online consumer review outlets in search of big-time and small- time advertising dollars.
  2. Literally thousands of service providers, each of which is critically dependent on their good names and reputations to be successful and stay in business.
  3. Consumers, who can ethically or unethically inflict literally hundreds and thousands of dollars’ worth of damage against the reputation and brand of a service provider, and possibly put themselves rightfully or wrongfully in the cross-hairs of a defamation law suit.
  4. The rights of consumers to use their constitutionally guaranteed rights of free speech to express their opinions and by doing so providing a service for fellow consumers.

And what are the public relations/marketing/communications implications for this simmering stew of providers, reviewers, lawyers and Yelpers?

Service providers need to understand and accept that the rules of engagement have forever changed and are continuing to change. Doing a good job and delivering a great service and/or product is the best defense on the planet.

Service providers need to constantly monitor what is being said about them via social media sites and blogs. And if a review is less than positive, the provider needs to respond pronto. In some cases, there is value in accepting the criticism and moving to make things right. If not, the service provider needs to respond and offer a professional rebuttal. If the service provider does not have the time to monitor digital media, then she or he should hire someone to do so.

Consumers should be mindful that service providers have legal rights. They can defend themselves against willful defamation. They can also launch countersuits, and win.

When Yelp, TripAdvisor, Angie’s List all decided to go public, accept investor dollars and report quarterly and annually, they triggered questions as to which priorities are more important: advertisers, shareholders or reviewing consumers. Maybe these firms would be better off going private.

These firms, particularly Yelp, need to be cautious about responding to a wounded service provider with an offer to essentially trade advertising for a little sleight of hand when it comes to algorithms (Poof! … the negative review has gone away). Wonder if that is what happened to my Yelp review about a particular Pleasanton, CA Realtor, Tim McGuire of Alain Pinel Real Estate?mcguire

Our First Amendment Rights of Free Speech are precious. They need to be protected, safeguarded and cherished. Having said that, there are limits besides not yelling “Fire!” in a theatre. An example of these limits is deliberate and willful, and most of all untruthful, defamation of a service provider’s character, reputation and brand.

Service providers would be well advised from a PR standpoint to think long and hard about filing one of these defamation suits. The $750,000 suit by Christopher Dietz against Jane Perez has drawn the attention of the national media, including the Washington Post and Beltway network affiliates, (guess who they are privately rooting for?). And if and when Mr. Dietz publicly loses his case, they will be sure to make the verdict very public.

Dietz will be known as that contractor guy, who sued his customer because she wrote a bad Yelp review. Want to hire Mr. Dietz for your next construction job? Make sure your lawyer is on your speed dial.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/750k-lawsuit-over-yelp-review-will-go-to-trial/2014/01/26/63e9d372-8539-11e3-8099-9181471f7aaf_story.html#!

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/crime-scene/post/aclu-public-citizen-to-fight-lawsuit-over-negative-yelp-review/2012/12/20/9242b430-4ab8-11e2-b709-667035ff9029_blog.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/crime/2012/12/04/1cdfa582-3978-11e2-a263-f0ebffed2f15_story.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/30/yelp-lawsuit-_n_4179663.html

http://www.ibtimes.com/yelp-extortion-rampant-say-small-business-owners-class-action-lawsuit-against-review-bully-appealed

http://www.nbclosangeles.com/news/local/Yelp-Under-Fire-for-Alleged-Pandering-to-Advertisers-232472381.html

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/christopher-deitz-sues-jane-perez-over-negative-yelp-review-222800638.html

http://finance.yahoo.com/q/pr?s=YELP+Profile

http://sueyelp.webstarts.com/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2011/07/11/loss-of-control-how-to-safeguard-reputations-and-brands-in-a-digital-world/

http://www.yelp.com/biz/tim-mcguire%E2%80%94alain-pinel-real-estate-pleasanton.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/hard-lesson-in-seo-search-engine-optimization/

How many times have you heard some frustrated consumer threaten to take a vendor to the Better Business Bureau? http://www.bbb.org/

With all due respect to the triple Bees, you might as well take the complaint to the Vatican, the Kremlin and the White House as well. I have never heard of anyone securing a satisfactory result taking their case to the Better Business Bureau (maybe they can prove me wrong)…but all is not lost.

In our fast-paced lives we literally deal with hundreds of service providers during a course of a given year, some better than others. We are pleasantly surprised by those who produce great results with super bedside manner. We are mildly frustrated and disappointed with those who do not perform well. But what happens in those (hopefully) few cases where we feel that we have been downright wronged?

Well, there are alternatives to contacting the Pope, the Politburo, the President or even Santa Claus. And these alternatives are digital in nature and are becoming increasingly effective.

As we all know there are literally thousands of articles and tutorials of how digital tools can be used to build brand, promote products and ideas, and enhance reputations. There are fewer accounts as to how these very same digits…the ones and zeroes…can be used to warn your fellow consumers to stay clear of a bad actor. Think of it this way, you are providing a needed public service to your fellow consumers in our service-oriented economy.

mcguire

Without rehashing the mind-numbing detail, I went through an absolutely horrendous process in selling my home in California’s East Bay. The proverbial last straw was the agent for the buyer, Tim McGuire of Alain Pinel Real Estate, reneging on a promised $500 reduction in his commission in order to facilitate the deal. This very well may turn out to be the most expensive $500 decision in his life.

I am truly sorry it had to come to this, but I felt compelled to write about this experience last month on Yelp.com, telling the absolute truth about what happened to me. I would not wish the anguish and sleepless nights on anyone. http://www.yelp.com/biz/tim-mcguire—alain-pinel-real-estate-pleasanton. The review was written and uploaded and that was that…or so I thought.

What brought my attention back to this issue was a casual search of the McGuire’s name on Google www.google.com. My Yelp review was the number three item on the first page, right underneath duplicates of his personal website http://www.google.com/search?sourceid=navclient&aq=0h&oq=tim&ie=UTF-8&rlz=1T4ADRA_enUS373US374&q=tim+mcguire+realtor.

Not only was there my less-than-flattering, but absolutely on-target “review,” but his response…and the response that he coaxed from his clients, the buyers. Didn’t Mr. Tim realize that he was generating traffic to my Yelp review and with it more eyeballs to the page? In effect, he was doing a superb job in SEO or Search Engine Optimization, thus raising the profile of my Yelp review in the “eyes” of the Google search engine.

Being me, I decided to help him out by writing a response to his response. And hopefully, he will write a response to my response to his response of my review. And maybe, he can ask his friends, clients, neighbors and family to all write a response to my response to his response to my review? The more, the merrier…right?

Taking it a step further, I even recounted this episode on my Facebook www.facebook.com, Twitter www.twitter.com and LinkedIn.com www.linkedin.com pages and now my Almost DailyBrett blog.

So what is the point here? The point is that good customer service should be the norm. Why? Because if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing right. And if you deliberately commit a wrong and hurt your customer, well that customer has many digital options at her or his disposal. As a service provider in this increasingly interconnected and very small world, you really don’t have that much to lose: just your reputation and hard-earned brand. Be afraid, be very afraid.

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Mark Twain once said something about not getting in fight with those who buy ink by the barrel. If he was around today, he would probably implore Tim McGuire to not get in a fight with those with access to a keyboard, Internet browsers, digital websites and social media. The results may not be so pretty.

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