If you’ve been disappointed, insulted, damaged, or outright stiffed by a business, then you can head online and warn other potential customers about your ordeal. Just make sure that you don’t cross the line between free speech (which is legal) and defamation (which is not).
To make sure your negative review doesn’t lead to a cease and desist order, a statement of claim, and either an unwelcome settlement or a costly and stressful court battle, here is what you need to know before you write your scathing review — not after:
- Don’t exaggerate, speculate or even worse, make something up. Only include information that is truthful and that you’d be willing to attest to through a swornaffidavit or under oath. If you have proof, that’s even better.
- Keep a record of all emails and texts, and as soon as possible (like immediately after reading this article!) make notes of any interaction you had with the business in question, including dates and time of day. For example, if you were told over the phone by a plumbing company that they would send a plumber to your house between 10 amand 12:00 pm, note the time of the conversation. If you can’t remember precisely, then guestimate (e.g. “called plumbing company between 7:00 am and 7:30 am”). This may seem like needless clerical work, but if the matter escalates then the less that you need to rely on your memory, the better.
- You may truly believe that the business is terrible and that the people working there are complete jerks. However, resist the temptation to include any personalattacks in your review. You also need to take ownership of your impressions and avoid stating them as claims. For example, you can say that “you felt deceived” (provided of course that you can back up this sentiment), but you cannot say “the business is deceitful”.
- Be as specific as possible. Basically, the more precise your review, the less likely the business will be able to successfully litigate the matter.
- Privately reach out and tell the company that they need to improve, and explain how you want to be compensated (if applicable). Even if they ignore you or tell you that you have the intellect of a bed bug, your effort will demonstrate that you attempted to act diligently and resolve the matter in a civilized manner.
And last but not least:
- Don’t have a longhistory of only leaving negative reviews. For example, if you rent a violin for your child from Manchester Music Violin Shop and enjoy excellent service and value, leave a positive review. This demonstrates the fact that you’re fair and even-minded. It can also give businesses that have earned your ire a sample of what they might get from you if they apologize, take ownership of the mess they caused, and compensate you accordingly. Yes, it’s a longshot — but it can happen!