UPDATE: Yelp has suspended Andrew Johnston and replied to the Wall Street Journal about the incident. "Yelp spokesperson Vince Sollitto wrote in an email: “Business owners and consumers can flag reviews for our User Ops team that they believe may violate our terms of service and of course business owners can respond publicly to any review with their message or comment. Also, Yelp obviously gives consumers reading reviews information on the reviewer him or herself with which to evaluate the review.”
Guess times are tough for the Groupon sales reps these days - the company is having less success selling their coupon offers and moving to other ways of doing things - and job security must be frightening some of them. A recent series of posts on Facbook shows one such rep threatening a potential client with poor reviews on social media. This has a large number of people mad at the situation and may cause a major backlash for Groupon.
This particular incident involves the restaurant Sauce in San Francisco. The email exchange below is between the Groupon rep - Andrew Johnston - and Sauce proprietor Trip.
From: Andrew Johnston
Date: Fri, Aug 16, 2013 at 5:25 PM
I sincerely appreciate you hanging up on me. As a resident of San Francisco for over 25 years, I have a huge network of friends (ages 25-40) that all are extremely active on Yelp as well as other social media. I will gladly let them know how you treated me as well as my feelings about the people who run Sauce.
Andy Johnston II GROUPON GETAWAYS
Area Sales Manager
You must be new to cold calling, you might want to develop a thicker skin, or work for a less despised company.
Despite what you might think, you have NO right to my time. I told you that I was not interested and asked you twice to remove me from you call list, as I have EVERY time I have been called by a representative from Groupon since our last, horrific, experience with your company. I do not have to give you any more chances, you do not have the right to interrupt me, take time away from my already busy day or to force me to listen to how new and wonderful Groupon is, I am not interested. You would be saving yourself time and energy by removing me from your call list, and focusing on business with whom your company has not already burned bridges.
We had a relationship with Groupon, Groupon messed it up, we no longer want to have a relationship with Groupon, end of story. After two or three years it would seem like you could respect my wishes as a business owner not to deal with your company and leave me alone.
All the best,
131 Gough Street SF CA 94102
office 415-252-1423 mobile 323-646-8747
Reserve a Table @ Sauce Reserve a Room @ Sleep
Check out our Photo Gallery or Watch Sauce on TV
It would appear Andy lived up to his threat posting on Yelp under his own name and then a duplicate renamed differently. The screen capture of these accounts were included in the Facebook thread started by Sauce and is gathering viral momentum.
I called Mr Johnston and left my number on his voicemail but have yet to hear back. His Yelp account has been taken down.
Things at Groupon may have been tense late last week as their stock had dropped 4.2% to $9.78 on Thursday and closed at $9.53 Friday following after hours trading - effectively giving back most of the 22% spike gained from their positive numbers posted August 8th.
This story is gaining momentum and provides a great example of poor marketing and its possible impact on the social networks. In the less than 24 hours since the small San Francisco restaurant Sauce posted the email on its Facebook page over 70 comments and hundreds of people have seen the original post with 30 people sharing it - so the ripples have begun. One even made a screen shot of his comments left on Groupon's site.
This is a good example to follow (the links to most of the story are archived here) to see just how much and how fast bad brand management can affect a company. We will be updating this one as the story continues. One has to wonder what else Yelp might do apart from closing the accounts, given their recent lawsuits against fake reviews.