When a business gets a bad review on Yelp, the owners have so many options for handling it. They can determine whether the criticism is valid and use it to improve their customers’ experiences, they can respectfully (or disrespectfully, in some cases) present evidence as to why the negative review is inaccurate or they can just go completely nuclear and file a lawsuit against the people who assigned them one solitary star.
The owner of Prestigious Pets, a Dallas, Texas, pet sitting company, has chosen option C and is suing a couple for $6,700 in damages, all over a polite-but-negative Yelp review, CBS 11 reports.
Despite some initial concerns about the company’s policies, Robert and Michelle Duchouquette used Prestigious Pets to walk their two dogs and feed their fish when they were out of town in October 2015. They had a remote camera attached to their aquarium and, when they checked in during their travels, they said they noticed that the fish’s water was cloudy and food had collected at the bottom of the tank. That — on top of an issue they said they had with the billing issue and getting their house keys back (they claim the sitter did not leave the keys as requested, and Prestigious Pets charged a $15 fee to return them) — reportedly left the Duchouquettes disappointed with the pet sitting service.
Michelle wrote a one-star review of Prestigious Pets on Yelp, explaining why she was displeased with the services she said she received and the difficulty in communicating with both the pet sitter and the owner of the company.
“The one star is for potentially harming my fish,” she wrote. “Otherwise it would have been 2 stars.”
But shortly after she pressed “Submit” on her review, she was given a “cease and desist” order from Prestigious Pets’ attorney.
“I was beyond shocked and a bit scared,” she told CBS 11, which covers the Dallas-Forth Worth area.
But believing her review to be fair, she did not delete it. Prestigious Pets responded by suing her for $6,700, alleging that she had violated the non-disparagement clause in the contract she signed with the company.
An attorney told the news station that there are many ways that a consumer could challenge these clauses — which is why they have been banned in some states.
Prestigious Pets’ owner would not speak on-camera to CBS 11, but said in an email to the station that they are just “seeking protection from dishonest individuals, not other honest ones.”
“Being dog walkers, we definitely do not have legal degrees, and had to seek assistance from professionals for a service agreement,” the owner wrote in part. “We typically spend up to, and even more than an hour sometimes, meeting and going over questions/concerns with any new potential customers in person… We may not be the right fit for everyone, and so are extremely upfront to ensure that expectations align.”