Customer Review Stories - Cancer, a Speeding Ticket and a Wildly-Unfair Review

December 27, 2020

Crazy but true customer review stories: Episode 1

It was 2 p.m. on a Friday when she called. This customer had a hard drive that was unresponsive. She desperately needed some critical files off of her laptop by the end of the day for an important project she was working on. I felt her pain and invited her over for a free diagnostic. She arrived at my

shop and I immediately set to work recovering her files from her expensive laptop. There was only one problem: she forgot her power cord and the battery was dead. So, she hopped in her car and quickly drove home to get it.

About an hour later she returned to my computer repair shop and I finished the job and recovered her files. Total turnaround time was about 3 hours, including her trip home. I ran her credit card, thanked her for her business, and patted myself on the back for a job well done.

I was utterly shocked, no, I was near-mortally wounded the next day to receive a notification that she had written me a 2-star review on Yelp!
I was dumbfounded. Shocked. Stupefied. I was in absolute disbelief. As I read the review, I started to become angry. In the review she thanked me for the outstanding service, but complained that she received a speeding ticket on
the way home. She actually wrote me a 2-star review because she got a speeding ticket on the way home!
When I was working in the shop with her, we had a plenty of time to talk and she explained to me that the reason she was bald was because she was going through chemotherapy. She had cancer and it had spread. She also explained to me that she was tired and sick a lot, and having trouble finding work. Her brave story only fortified me, and made me more resolved to getting the job done at a fair price, and with free Rush Service.
I must have read that 2-star review 10 times. When I finally collected myself, I responded to the review in writing. I politely pointed out out that her review was unfair. I had provided outstanding service, and the
speeding ticket had nothing to do my company. What happened next nearly exploded my brain. Instead of seeing the point of my argument, she got angry and changed the 2-star review to a 1-star review!
This illustrates an important point that I wrote about in an upcoming article: never argue with a customer who writes you a bad review. But I was less mature and evolved as a businessperson at the time. I argued with her and got nowhere.
I tried messaging her on Yelp. She ignored me. I repeatedly called her and left voicemails. She never called me back. I tried text messaging her. She ignored me more. Her review hit me hard and was particularly painful because her one-star review was one of only a dozen or so for my business, so it brought
down my company's overall ratings average from 5 stars, to 4 stars. This reduced the number of phone calls I received on a daily basis by a factor of 10.

This unfair review also hit my bank account. Up until this situation, I had never received such a terrible review. And I didn't realize until later that not only was I arguing with her, I was doing so in a public forum. I never had to use the "send private message" feature on Yelp . My arguing with her made me look like a terrible business owner, even though I was completely in the right.

I persisted trying to contact her and eventually succeeded by blocking my caller I.D. Before she could hang up I practically begged her to remove the review. Flabbergasted, she said that if I made a donation to a local cancer organization she would

remove the review. So I donated to the Leukemia Foundation, designated her as the person who inspired the donation, and sent her a copy of the thank you note and receipt. Within a few days she removed the review. I had lost thousands of dollars in business, but the phone thankfully started ringing all day long again.
One day about three months later, I received a notification from Yelp that I received a new review. I immediately went to my Yelp business profile and noticed that this same customer had written a new 1-star review. I was stunned. She betrayed me! But when I read the review, it made sense. The customer had passed away and her sister, acting as somewhat of an online vigilante, rewrote the negative review and even went so far as to say that I harassed her sister. She went on to say that I harassed her dead sister who was suffering from cancer. I was mortified.

The phone stopped ringing again. The new review on Yelp was so long, that it took up two entire pages on Yelp. But this time I knew what to do.

Luckily, writing a negative review under someone else's name violates Yelp’s guidelines. I reached out to Yelp and they not only removed the review, they removed the deceased's Yelp profile completely. I only lost a couple of days and several hundreds dollars worth of business.
Then about 2 years later, I noticed that

we had another 1-star review. It was the sister again, more than two years later, going on and on about how I harassed her deceased sister. I wondered if this nightmare was ever going to end for good. I contacted Yelp’s customer service and explained the situation: that this person had never done business with us, and was the sister of somebody who had passed away. I supplied the history of the previous review they removed. Yelp removed the negative review and all was well.

What I learned from this crazy customer review experience is to never argue with a customer on a public forum. It makes you look even worse. Instead, keep communications private. And always remain kind and calm, even when customers are being downright unfair. Oh, and I also learned that cancer really sucks. To the deceased girl who wrote the bad review because of the speeding tick and then removed it, may your soul rest in peace.

Robert Portillo, founder of Nimbus Marketing, and his family.

About the author:

Robert Portillo is the founder of Nimbus Marketing. Nothing satisfies him more than expressing his thoughts well. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. He can often be found at local farmer’s markets, hiking trails, and the beach.

Robert , founder of Nimbus Marketing, with his family on the porch of their Westchester home
Robert Portillo, founder of Nimbus Marketing, and his family.

About the author:

Robert Portillo is the founder of Nimbus Marketing. Nothing satisfies him more than expressing his thoughts well. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two sons. He can often be found at local farmer’s markets, hiking trails, and the beach.

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