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After visiting Dupont Circle’s Fuse Pilates, Yelp reviewers Sara W. and Brian C. would probably have given it zero stars—-if they could. “The place smelled like mildew,” Brian wrote, while Sara complained about the rude staff.
Fuse’s owners have hit on a novel way to respond to these comments and one other negative review: They’re suing. In a July filing in D.C. Superior Court, Fuse accused an anonymous person or persons of interfering with their business and libeling them through the one star reviews, which were all made in late April or early May and have been removed from the site for violating the terms of service.
“The posts referenced above contain remarkably similar and false descriptions,” reads the complaint, which asks for millions in damages—-and denies that Fuse smells like mildew.
Fuse’s management declined to comment on the lawsuit, but Yelp spokeswoman Kristen Whisenand said the reviews were suspicious because the accounts tied to them didn’t have profile pictures or reviews of any other businesses. Whisenand didn’t offer details on what terms of service the removed reviews violated.
Still, she says that business owners don’t usually sue over reviews. Similarly, Washington food blogger and longtime Yelp reviewer Nicole Oandasan has written more than 200 reviews for the site, but isn’t concerned about a lawsuit. “I’ve never been contacted negatively,” she says.
As for Yelp, Whisenand says that they would reveal the pseudonymous users’ information under court order, but that they discourage companies from suing reviewers. “We don’t think it’s a good practice for business owners to be suing their clients,” she says.
Pilates photo by Shutterstock