Think twice before writing that negative vendor review

Guest post by Love and Kittehs
Bride checking the internet III
WAIT! Before you post that negative vendor review, you should read this post. © by madprime, used under Creative Commons license.

My husband and I had a very beautiful, quaint country wedding with our closest family and friends. Almost everything about our day was perfect. Everything, that is, except for one of the vendors we were working with. While I won't go into specifics here, I will simply say that we were left disappointed and upset by the way we were treated by said vendor.

While I had been generally frustrated by some of the actions of the vendor throughout the day-of, we found out about many of the problems through family and friends post-wedding day. We were quite irritated, but the fact was that since we know about these problems and didn't bring them up the day of the wedding, there wasn't much we could do.

…Or was there?

A few weeks after the wedding, I began writing reviews on Wedding Wire (which has about a thousand sister sites that it shares its posts with by the way — It's like the ten-headed industrial wedding complex monster). Some vendor reviews were great — like our DJs who were rock stars — and some reviews were less great — like for the bakery that never came through, leaving a friend to bake our cakes the day before the wedding. The most negative was reserved for the vendor that was, in our opinion, the absolute worst. I'll admit when I wrote this review, I was running high on rage, fueled by unbridled opinions of several family members and friends. It was a truly negative review, and, admittedly, somewhat uncouth. The review posted, and a few days later the vendor posted their own reply, which was equally uncouth and honestly a bit damning and damaging to the business that posted it.

Satisfied with the result, I forgot about the review and went about my life. Until my parents got the certified letter in the mail. Apparently, I had gotten such a rise out of the vendor that they had decided to sue me. Yes, it's true. By law, in my state at least, some of the statements that I wrote were considered defamatory and therefore against the law. Which meant I could be sued for a total up to $350,000. Basically a very nice house for the price of my opinion on the interwebs.

I was floored. I had heard about lawsuits for postings on the internet before, but I never thought it could happen to me. A few short, hateful sentences translated into a potential lawsuit that could break our new family before we even had a chance to get started.

In the end, the matter was settled by removing the review. Which is way easier said than done! Wedding review websites are hard enough to navigate, and to remove a post entirely often requires contacting them directly, which requires a shady submission form and a lot of hope that some human somewhere will read it and remove your post.

I can't describe the relief that I feel now that the trouble is finally behind us. Trouble that made me realize that in our crazy world, the things you choose to say or blog about can really hurt you, as silly as they may seem. So before you go posting that crazy-mad review, follow these tips:

  • Think long and hard.
  • Be sensible.
  • Be aware of your wording — saying that they “stole” from you is a defamatory statement. If this is true, chances are you've already notified the authorities.
  • If they broke the contract, make sure you have proof and are already seeking legal assistance.
  • Most importantly, don't air your dirty laundry on a blog.

If you want to warn other potential clients about a vendor, do so with style and grace. Be careful of accusatory statements — posting that you were displeased with the services rendered is one thing; whereas posting that they stole your dress or car or grandma's walker is a serious accusation and you should really be following up with the police, not a wedding blog. If a vendor is serious about pursuing legal action, they will do so. We were given an out — others may not give you that chance.

An event like this can really sour that “new marriage” bliss. Luckily, my husband and I were able to approach the matter sensibly. We talked about it and made the decision to remove the post together. He supported me through the stressful process of contacting the site to remove the review and waiting for the answer from the vendor's attorney. He easily could have been enraged with my foolishness in posting something so brash, but instead he was calm and supportive.

While everything worked out in the end, I realized that it was not worth the anxiety and sleepless nights. That single thoughtless act caused entirely too much drama and angst in the few days that it took to resolve the problem. It made me realize that life is way too short to fuss over something so petty.

Comments on Think twice before writing that negative vendor review

  1. As a vendor, I LOVE this article.

    If only it could be read by every bride!

    We have good reviews (4.9/5 on wedding wire), though this year – out of around 100+ weddings – we have had two clients who had the poor sense to email us with a “unless X happens, we’ll trash you on the internet” kind of thing.

    We took action not because we want to cleanse our review page of negative reviews (HONEST reviews – whether negative or positive – are fair game); but more because clients using the internet to throw vicious, unreasonable tantrums undermine the review process.

    The best advice I can give vendors, though, is to make sure you can evidence your position.

    From the day we started the business we established a policy of storing both CCTV and photographic evidence of EVERY wedding. We also keep all correspondence for each wedding. We’re 100% upfront with our clients about this, and most of the time the footage sits, undisturbed, in our archive.

    However, should a client decide to allege something untrue, it’s a real comfort and relief to know that we can defend our position with EVIDENCE, rather than “he said, she said”.

  2. I’ve reviewed lots of things online, both negatively and positively. I have also used negative reviews to judge whether I want to do business with a company or not. You can usually tell from reading a review what is a legitimate bad experience and what is just someone using the internet to throw a tantrum.

    The only time I can think of that I wrote a review that might be the slightest bit questionable was when I reviewed an antique store where we were absolutely treated like miserable criminals because we are strange and have tattoos. I wrote the review on my phone in the car on the way home, that’s how hot I was. And I WISH those horrible people had threatened to sue me so that I could have counter-sued them for all our pain and suffering. In that case, my goal was absolutely to tell other tattooed gum chewing freaks that, hey, these miserable old ladies don’t want your dirty tattooed freak money and if you go in here you will be treated in a manner that makes you want to go straight home and take a hot scrubby shower while sobbing. I absolutely 100% wanted to make sure that no other person had to ride home feeling as bad as I felt that day, and I considered it worthy of some strong language to get my point across, though I did not swear or make accusations that could not be backed up by a witness.

    I would hate to think that people would feel that they can’t be honest in an online review without fear of being sued. I have friends who run a business and who have actually and maliciously been defamed on the internet, and they have been told that it is damn near impossible to prove defamation on an online level. I’m guessing the vendor just wanted to scare you into taking your review down, and it worked. Now they are free to provide bad service to more unsuspecting people, when in reality simply doing their job in a satisfactory manner would have saved them a lot of time and drama. That kind of bullying behavior makes me sick. Makes me wonder how many other people they’ve done it to, and whether or not those bad reviews might have saved you some heartache if only they’d stayed up.

    In any case, I hope people follow your pointers and listen to your story carefully, so that they learn to review things in a safe way even if it’s negative, rather than being scared to leave a negative review at all.

    • You posted exactly what I was thinking when I read this yesterday but didn’t know how to say. It is SUPER easy to sue someone, and actually pretty cheap. No judge or neutral party vets the claims being made against you until you respond to deny them (or accept them, your answer can be either), argue failure to state a claim and you can even counter sue if you want, what’s good for the gander and all if you have something worthy of a suit.

      The only party risking anything when filing a suit is the lawyer who could get in trouble from the state bar for filing a frivolous lawsuit, and the standard for filing a frivolous lawsuit is ridiculously high (like, only if there can be no rational way that the suit has any merits at all).

      It’s a shame that some business use the ease of a lawsuit to have history strategically re-written. While I agree with the author that one should always think before they post online, I worry based on the comments that people are now just going to be afraid to post anything negative online.

      • It IS easy to sue someone, much easier than most people realize. Basically just a matter of paying a lawyer a little fee and filing some paperwork and BAM someone you don’t like gets a scary letter. Just because you get the scary letter does not even mean that the suit will go to court, or that it will have merit once it goes. Collection agencies do this all the time, file paperwork for a lawsuit so that someone they want to scare gets a nastygram from the court system. They have no intention of ever going ahead with the suit. They just want the scary letter, and 9 times out of 10 that’s all it takes to get what they want (money, in that case) because most people are law abiding and good and absolutely freak the fuck out at the first sign of a certified letter.

  3. Among the best avenues for resolution of vendor issues for the average person (i.e. not a lawyer and not wanting to hire a lawyer) are the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs.

    Better Business Bureaus are pretty good at resolving complaints through mediation, and by compiling data such as allegations of breach of contract. They can always tell you, if you call, what they have on file about any business that has come onto their radar. Their focus is arbitration, and making the vendor make things right. Consumer Affairs tends to pursue similar matters from a legal standpoint, pursuing legal action when arbitration fails.

    Both of these entities are far more effective in getting your money back, or getting you compensation for what went wrong than posting bad reviews to the internet. Better Business Bureaus and Consumer Affairs work with law enforcement, usually a District Attorney (and sometimes the FBI if the problems cross state lines), in cases where the problems are entrenched and/or a case can be made for them actually being criminal.

    Given that the BBB and CA are in the business of dealing with these issues, they know how to keep the client on the right side of the law in dealing with a problematic vendor. And they’re free to use!

    • In Toronto there is no Better Business Bureau as there were some problems with corruption or something and it shut down. Also, I’m a bit leery about asking businesses to regulate themselves anyway.

  4. This was helpful, but I feel completely enraged and disgusted. So they can just go on their merry little way and screw customers over with no consequence because they threaten to sue anyone who posts anything other than praise for shoddy work? Man, fuck these people and their cold, black hearts.
    Thank you for the warning, I’m an honest reviewer, but I’ll be more careful about how I word a review from now on.

  5. I found this article while searching for comments about weddingwire’s sleazy sales tactics for vendors lol. But I definitely would like to weigh in.

    I understand the law is there to protect businesses, but I am inclined to defend consumers first since I am very much a consumer myself. I mean – god forbid I get a bridezilla that outright defames me for no reason, but like another poster said – anyone with sense can tell right away that the reviewer is 2 apples short of a bushel.

    On the other side, I have had one scathing review from a bride who I had to refuse to do business with. In the consulting stage she had asked me for 2 different quotes on cake flowers – one scaled down to her budget and one with all the bells and whistles. Apparently her fiance regularly trolled her email account because he emailed me from her account cussing me every which way saying I was trying to con her into buying more than their budget allowed. When I called her to ask what was going on, she played up his story. I was floored. I told her I would not be sending her a contract and would no longer be able to do her wedding. She left a review saying she sent the deposit and was going to sue me (and she didn’t – we didn’t even have a contract!). I was able to dispute it with weddingwire because we were never involved in a contract in the first place.

    I did learn my lesson to only work with people who are like minded – and who will not be afraid of my tattooed rockstar husband who helps me with the heavy lifting. I received a mediocre review from a bride I went above and beyond for and i think it was a personality mismatch. Anyway – the point is when you are picking your vendors, don’t just read reviews… go with your gut. If they seem shady, run away. If they seem way too eager, be skeptical. You are spending a LOT of money and you most certainly do have a right to be picky.

    • It’s completely heartbreaking as a professional when you get a bad review, because you’ve invested so much of yourself, your mind, your soul and your energy into making this one day perfect for someone. As professional wedding venders I know you and I will strive to ensure that we’re meeting, and hopefully exceeding, our clients expectations, because that’s how we’ll stay in business and what our business is all about, but, we’re not always going to agree with our clients and more so, they don’t always know what’s best. As professionals we need to be leaders and not just a “yes” men.

      I think anyone who’s been in the business as long as I have would agree that the landscape of the wedding industry is changing rapidly. Couples are becoming more irrational and irritated when things don’t go their way, and shows like Bridzilla and David Tuter’s My Fair Wedding aren’t helping. They offer distorted views of reality that a lot of times is geared heavily towards one side of the scale. Take for example one of my own experiences; At one of our first meetings back in 2011, I offered this couple (Sarah and Danny) a $1700 discount when the bride began to cry. She said she was in love with our work (wedding photography), but couldn’t afford it. We were all moved by her tears so we created a custom package that included, (a) 2 Photographers for a total of up to 10 hours of wedding day coverage, (b) 6 months of online hosting on a password protected web site, (c) 100 Thank You Cards w/ envelopes to put them in, (d) 1 11×14 and 3 8×10 enlargements and, (e) a DVD with rights, all at a steeply discounted price as opposed to full retail. After the meeting was over we felt like we were the best people in the world, because we helped make their day perfect. Wrong!

      Six months later as it turns out, the weddings over and Sarah and Danny haven’t ordered the enlargements that were part of their wedding package so I send them a friendly reminder. Next thing you know they’re asking for their money back for the loose enlargements they never got (again, an order they never placed) and not only that, they’re demanding the FULL RETAIL value. Sufficeth to say I denied their request and our relationship with this client went South from that moment on, which of course led to a bad review on WeddingWire.

      So where did I go wrong? Well my first mistake was being a “yes” man. When they said they couldn’t afford us I should’ve given them recommendations on who could instead of taking on the task myself.

      I personally found that it took years to learn how, why and when to say no, but as a professional it’s something I had to be able to do, because when clients come to us – they’re seeking our advice and guidance, because we’re the ones with the expertise. So my advice, if something isn’t going to work, say so and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches later down the road. For example, I probably wouldn’t have put in the time to make two quotes, one at each side of the spectrum. Instead I would’ve tried to be diplomatic and realistic, and work within their budget expectations, but – I feel ya, it feels so darn good to say yes – right up until the point when it bites you in the butt.

      All my best. Love this site by the way.

    • I would be interested in learning more about these weddingwire sleazy sales tactics. Can a vendor pay to get rid of bad reviews or move them down the list?

    • WW is sleazy on that score unfortunately, actually just an open free for all that their staffers never monitor. So many fake and out of business businesses on there that they don’t delete. When I paid, the Zip Code finder still didn’t work and showed all the Vendors who paid more over me every single time.
      Yelp is worse, literally pay for play in spite of the law suits they seem to win. Wish I knew how to record their sales calls…

  6. I am a vendor who received a nasty little review from a bride who I feel had buyers remorse and took it out on me. She claimed I didn’t do what we agreed to in our contract, that I left her reception early, and didn’t listen to a word she said. This is not true. All my other reviews are 5/5 with a bride stating she changed her wedding date just to hire me. After reading what most of the brides here have said I feel better in that most people will look at her review and say “wow that’s hard to believe”. But I do wonder if it has caused me to lose business.

  7. Writing negative, enraged reviews never helps anyone. As a wedding vendor handling over 750 weddings in the past 10 years, I’ve had brides write totally untrue, vicious reviews who didn’t get back their nonrefundable deposit after booking and cancelling services. In reality, I’ve had 100% of brides come back when bridesmaids and vice versa. Also, other competing vendors have written negative reviews as unhappy brides just to trash the business. When people are unhappy or envious, in any industry, they will say anything and everything on public forums to make someone not walk through that business’s door. What I’ve learned is as long as the positive reviews are there, the negative ones really have no validation. 🙂

  8. As a wedding vendor, I have only had a couple questionable reviews in my 30+ year career, Always on perceived value, which is a hard one to truly please every single couple every time. What may seem reasonable to one , may seem sky high to another.
    Advice to all brides wading through a sea of wedding planning and vendor selection, Is there a connection with this person at the time of meeting? Do you feel that they are listening, or are they dictating? Is your budget in line with your desires? Is it written down in a contract? Make sure you have it ALL in writing!! Never go on an implied statement. I design the decor and flowers for weddings. I always try to explain what their budget at hand will provide for my clients, and then do my very best to please them, and the results are happy couples and great word of mouth referrals. I feel so bad when I hear stories like this, no couple should have a bad experience, EVER!

  9. I am so sorry that you had to go through all of that! As a professional in the wedding industry, my suggestion would be to simply reach out to the vendor before you write a review. For instance, I have only (to my knowledge) had one bride that was not happy with the fact that she had so little photos that were posed and she wrote a nasty review which was immediately removed. If she would have read the 19 chapter contract and recalled our many consults and even reviewed the information sent in 3 separate emails, she would have seen that we require 2 hours of time through out the day for all of the portraits (bride alone, groom alone, bridal party, all the family formals, couple photos and so on) and she gave me less than 30 minutes in her timeline for ALL of those. In one location – a 30-40 room in a dark hotel. So obviously she didn’t take my advice, and read the terms in my contract and so forth. She also verbally told me not to include her stepmother, who was the same age as the bride, and that she loathed her. Later, the family was in an uproar that the stepmother was not included in the formals. The formals that the bride made the list for me to take. She “threw me under the bus” and told them all that it was my fault. Of course then I was getting reviews from her family and so forth. If she would have approached me before she began posting those reviews and blasting me on Facebook, I would have discussed “why” everything happened. In the end, I didn’t tell the stepmother that the bride hated her and instructed me not to include her, or show her my formal list provided by the bride, I simply told the stepmother that it was something she needed to take up with the bride. 99% of the time there is a reason that something happened, but I would contact the vendor, get and answer, then if not satisfied with the answer or a return credit, then post. Great post by the way!

  10. I am a wedding vendor, and from my perspective, you should absolutely be able to post a negative comment, if you feel you were provided with less than acceptable service. Granted, maybe there are ways to tastefully explain why you were disappointed, but you have a right to be upset; your wedding is the biggest day of your life, we might work a hundred weddings a year, but you are only getting married once, you don’t have the luxury of a “do-over” and vendors should understand that. The fact that they would sue you is stupid. Perhaps they could reply to you, and that dialog could be posted in wedding wire, etc. then folks could see the conversation and judge for themselves. Just my thought. Congrats on your marriage and best wishes!

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