Food & Drink

Yelp Extortion: Sacramento Man Tries To Blackmail Restaurant With Bad Review

It's common knowledge that Yelp is often the vehicle for lengthy rants by angry restaurant patrons, but for extortion?

That was the case earlier this month in Sacramento, when a Yelp user threatened to post a damaging review of Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar and report it to health authorities unless the owner, Sonny Mayugba, agreed to pay him $100. The man alleged that he came down with a case of food poisoning after dining at the restaurant.

Mayugba told The Sacramento Bee that although there was no way to substantiate the man's claim, he had initially offered the user a $60 gift card to a restaurant of his choice, at which point the man demanded the greater amount. Mayugba ultimately did not pay up, and it remains unclear if a negative review was ever posted.

"I was so upset," Mayugba told the Bee. "He was taking something that was inherently good to use it as a tool to extort a restaurant. It was just so wrong." According to the paper, other restaurants even have a name for the practice: "Yelp extortion."

CBS's local Sacramento affiliate spoke with another local eatery, DeVere’s Irish Pub, about how to deal with Yelp complaints. The restaurant's policy, "help us before you Yelp us," asks patrons to approach management before posting an angry rant on the site.

This isn't the first time Yelp has found itself at the center of an extortion debate. In 2010, two law firms filed class action lawsuits against Yelp that alleged the company extorted businesses to advertise in exchange for positive reviews. The suits were later dismissed in 2011.

Photo by Flickr user unnormalized.

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