Bad Yelp review brings threat of lawsuit from St. Petersburg salon

Sarah Ohr

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (WFLA) – A St. Petersburg woman went in to have highlights at a salon, but ended up with expensive hair extensions and service that she wasn’t happy with. She’s now being threatened with litigation.

Sarah Ohr had her hair done by stylist Rana Bowling at Salon Lofts in St. Petersburg. Salon Lofts rents space to stylists, and Ohr went in initially to have highlights done. “Little did I know what I would end up with. She talked me into extensions. I have short hair right now; I really wanted long hair,” she said.

Ohr said she agreed to have the extensions put it, but then the price kept going up. “It was initially supposed to cost me about, I think 600. I ended up leaving there paying $1,100 because she just kept saying I needed more hair,” she said.

The stylist also told her the extensions should last two to three months, but Ohr said they didn’t. “Less than four weeks in, they were all just falling out all over the place,” she told News Channel 8.

Ohr said when she went back to complain, Bowling told her it would be $500 to take out and replace the extensions. Ohr refused and said Bowling then ordered her to leave the salon. “So I immediately went to Yelp and Google Plus and I posted reviews,” she said.

After she posted the reviews on line, Ohr was contacted by an attorney who threatened to sue if the reviews were not taken down within five days. Attorney James McGuire is not involved in the case but said businesses are unlikely to prevail in a lawsuit as long as the reviewer is truthful.

“It’s when people start misrepresenting the facts, start reciting hearsay and maybe they heard off the record that someone is being investigated something like that, you start putting those things on a web site, if they’re not true, you shouldn’t be surprised if the person you are complaining about and lawyers up,” said McGuire.

Ohr said Yelp might be taking down her negative posts about Bowling and the salon. Yelp responded late Monday with this statement: “Yelp works hard to protect freedom of speech, and we believe all internet users have the right to express their opinions about truthful experiences online. Litigation is not a good substitute for customer service

Yelp also has an automated recommendation software in place which is engineered to highlight the most useful and reliable content to consumers who visit the site. Our stance is quality over quantity and we currently recommend about 71% of the reviews that are submitted. This means about one in four reviews submitted to Yelp are not published on a business’ listing or recommended to consumers. There are several reasons a review might not be recommended. The recommendation software is engineered to weed out possible fakes (several reviews generated from the same IP address), biased reviews (written by a competitor, a disgruntled employee, or solicited by a business owner from friends, family members or favorite customers), and unhelpful rants or raves. The software can also weed out reviews written by less active users, which can be real reviews based on real experiences but we don’t know enough about the user to recommend their opinion to our community. The reviews that are not currently recommended can still be viewed on a separate page but do not factor into a business’ overall star rating,” said Hannah Cheesman of Yelp Inc.”

Ohr said she plans to stand by what she’s said about the business.

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