Houston restaurant blackmailed with bad reviews
After the restaurant refused to pay a ransom, the dinner guests went in to counter the false negative reviews.
HOUSTON – A local restaurant owner group says it was blackmailed by some foreigners who threatened to bombard them with negative reviews.
The partners received an email to the main account of their City Center restaurant, Daily Gather, asking them to send the extortionists prepaid gift cards.
If they did not comply with the ransom, their restaurant would be despised online and flooded with negative reviews.
Trent Patterson, operations director and co-owner of Daily Gather, has been in the restaurant business for years. He has seen a lot, but said he has never been in such a situation.
“About five or six days ago, we started to see that we got consistent one-star reviews, two or three on the same day,” Patterson said. “About three or four days into this, we will receive the email from a generic foreign email address.”
Here is one of the emails Daily Gather received:
“Hello. Unfortunately, we have given negative feedback about your establishment. And will appear in the future, one review a day.
“We have no other choice. We live in India and see no other way to survive. Please send us a $ 75 Google Play Gift Card.
“After selling this gift card, we can earn about $ 50, which is three weeks’ income for a family.”
After making the decision not to comply with the ransom request, Patterson and his business partners contacted Google to have the false negative reviews removed.
“We’ve reported every single one of them, and anyone can report every review,” Patterson said. “Only Google is this big giant, and they get to it when they get to it.”
Patterson says online reviews are critical to any business, but restaurants are particularly sensitive.
“Everything from 20 to 30 percent of our business comes from people who have never set foot in this restaurant and may never have set foot in this restaurant,” Patterson said. “The only way they have an idea of who we are is through these reviews online.”
Patterson and his partners took to social media and told the audience about what happened and why they have a one-star Google review.
People reacted in a way no one expected.
“We’ve had tons of people who’ve already eaten here and never thought about leaving a review that posts pictures of their experience, sharing stories about their experience here that we appreciate outside the world,” Patterson said.
The group of restaurant owners decided not to file a police report. Patterson says he did not think there was much officers could do and has more important crimes to prosecute.
“Because we know they’re not going to fly to India,” Patterson said.
For now, the owners just hope that the false negative reviews will stop, or at least the public will see them for what they are.