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Groupon sales rep threatens restaurant with negative Yelp reviews (facebook.com)
383 points by gregman on Aug 17, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 170 comments



Mirrors for when the original content inexplicably disappears.

Facebook post (OP's link): http://archive.is/lIFF5

Negative reviews left: http://archive.is/js6nY and http://archive.is/hnMmA

The attackers reviews on Yelp: http://archive.is/Itdbw


Dang, they actually ARE carrying with that threat and giving them bad reviews? That's so messed up. I didn't think that'd actually happen. Hope this gets quelled quickly,but I'm bringing the popcorn and the lawnchair just in case.


To be fair, it doesn't look like they are doing much. Rather this Andy Johnston guy is going on a rampage to exact revenge for a perceived personal slight.

I'd imagine Andy's actions expose his employer to many liabilities, but there's no indication that Groupon condones these actions thus far.


I totally agree with ya'll. I'm not blaming Groupon, I should have been more specific when I said 'they'. I mean the kid and his (real?) buddies. I don't even think Groupon know what's going on right now since this is getting worse by the minute.

I'm just saying they gotta hurry up because their customers are not blaming this dude, they're blaming them directly, and it seems to be spreading really fast. Some of those facebook comments have some real vitriol.


Cold callers seems to have similar (aggressive)attitude no matter where in the world you are, not just Groupon. But some industries are more affected than others...


Andy Johnston seems to want to make sure that whenever you google his name, this comes up.


He reviewed the same Sauce in the same day in different parts of town. How likely is that to be genuine? Yelp should have some algorithms to at least flag such things for manual review, it would certainly look fishy even if we didn't know the true story.


As far as I understand, Yelp is a pretty scummy company. Apparently, they frequently call small business owners and offer to hide negative reviews in exchange for payment. (http://www.ibtimes.com/yelp-extortion-rampant-say-small-busi...) From Yelp's perspective, it's not in their best interest to protect the companies their users review because there's no money in it for them.


The fact that Yelp allegedly sells their services by promising to manipulate Yelp results is beyond despicable, if true. However, the lawsuit has its dangers too - as making Yelp liable for reviews should be possible only if it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that indeed review manipulation is a common practice at Yelp and not just a lie by a rogue salesman. I'd be very interested in a discovery process that would allow to decide this question one way or another, but I understand so far there's no hard evidence for it. So I also understand EFF's side when they say absent such proof it is very bad idea to make Yelp liable - and would have very bad implications on other sites, including this very forum.


According to LinkedIn, he just started working there this month. I guess he is just dumb, inexperienced, and maybe it was first time someone hang up on him.


he's actually been there a year and a half, and was promoted to area sales manager 1 month ago.


Managers tend to hire people that mirror their own behaviour. If this guy is getting promoted fair chance there's more of his ilk at Groupon.


http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=hnH6RaPkJ2Tfw9ZkKMfL... see how many bad reviews he already wrote for Sause! I think his profile should be flagged, you can't trust a person who does this kind of things.

Edit: He just changed his name to West C. what a guy :)

Another Edit: Just look at his reviews date - they all are written on July 29-30 - why would anybody write so many reviews unless you receive a commission to do so?


"This Yelper's account has been closed."


So I guess

Negative reviews = No sale

Positive review = Sale

Indifferent review = ???


Indifferent review = actually went there.

You should patent this: "a system and method to filter Yelp reviews based on Groupons offered in locale" :)


0xfe your account is dead. but your comment is accurate: > Interesting. He just got one of his cronies to write a review: http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=BfVinuuuFVCAr77TnI9k...

I wonder how long it's going to take before he realizes he is fucked?


The funny part of this is that if you look at his list of reviewed places he has a bunch from Chicago, IL, then the 2 for the 2 locations of Sauce in SF, then another place in Chicago on the SAME DAY.

Now I know that you could wait to review places, but that certainly seems like a suspicious line. Also 2 of the 3 total reviews he's ever given a 1 star rating to are Sauce (out of 71 total reviews).


I thought the same at first and honestly expected that the guy had just flat out committed libel. But after a tiny bit of research, I found that his claims about the restaurant's cleanliness were in fact accurate. (http://bit.ly/16xkdCO)

So while he probably was just writing the review to help his friend, his review is informative and factually based so really, there is no reason to remove it or the guy's account as far as I can tell.

This also makes Andy J's threat to make his active Yelp friends aware of his discontent with the restaurant make all the more sense as they are obviously better at it than him.


He has cherry picked some lines from the report, and ignored the 'confirmed fixed' date, and the follow-up visits.

So, while true, it is a bit misleading.


Actually, I could see small businesses paying for a service that tracks Yelp and other review sites for "interesting" activity based on patterns like this one. Perhaps getting information from other sites to figure out who the reviewer works for.


Other than sauce, his reviews seem good to me (I've been to most of the places in his reviews... coincidentally, while I worked for Groupon and had to travel to Chicago)


Just look at the dates he wrote those positive reviews, he is writing about 20-30 new reviews per day...


Great catch. Flagged


Does anyone really take unscreened "review" sites like Yelp seriously? I never even bother looking at them.


I work with Dentists in their online marketing. Guess what: nothing, in our measurement, has quite and impact on their bottom line and new customer acquisition as Yelp & maybe a little bit of Google Plus Reviews. So, the answer to your question from a quantitative point of view would be HELL YEAH THEY DO!


I find Yelp reviews to be pretty unreliable, because you giving "5 stars" for a single specific business is not necessarily a predictor of me doing the same. You and I are different people with different tastes.

I've gone to restaurants based on their 5-star Yelp average, and ended up not enjoying my experience. I've gone to places with 2 and 3 star averages ("Yelpers say it sucks, but I'll still take a chance"), and loved them.

I wish Yelp had a prediction/discovery engine for restaurants along the lines of what Netflix has for movies.


I do. Usually reviews work pretty well, especially if you actually read them and don't just look at stars. Fake ones usually are easy to spot, and for sites with a lot of reviews there's usually a pattern. Of course, the system can be and is abused, and you have to take it with a gain of salt, but it's helpful, especially if you don't know much about the place or the area.


If I am in an unfamiliar town, sometimes I use "sites like Yelp". I definitely take reviews with a grain of salt. Sometimes it [might be] better than nothing.


"I don't normally like [style of restaurant] but this one was fantastic!" is usually informative but not as intended.


I do. I think there's lots of good information on Yelp.


Yes, some people take them seriously.

What do you use instead?


That's the trouble. Consumer reviews are just not credible to me. They are anecdotes. I find the entire concept to be unworkable.


Anecdotes maybe, but supposedly all anecdotes from the same source. Instead of stuff that's like "my friend" or "I know lots of people that...", which is different from person to person, a bunch of people reviewing the exact same location is a bit more accurate. Also, after awhile you can usually separate the quality comments from the noise. Kinda like we all do on HN or any other forum. I think I can mostly tell when someone is just pushing an agenda/cherry-picking facts to support a particular claim, versus a comment giving a mostly objective review. Particularly when they point at facts & actual events rather than vague feelings.


Account has been closed.


And this is why there is a high turn over rate in sales, seriously.

The salesguy is clearly over the top aggressive and likely new to the business. He will get let go, if he hasn't been already, and some other person will replace him. If you deal with sales folks you will find the ones who have had the most success in their career seem to push right up to the line and don't cross it. This guy will no doubt re-calibrate and head back in selling windows or something.

I expect it is the nature of sales, you measure someone on their completed sales, period. You don't measure anything else and they will experiment with different ways of maximizing that number, some of them illegal (see the behavior of the Google sales guys in Africa [1] as an example) Businesses fire the ones that generate ill will and keep the ones that don't.

[1] http://memeburn.com/2012/01/mocality-scandal-mortified-googl...


This would be better titled "idiot gets himself fired (from Groupon)", since it's unlikely that Groupon has a policy of threatening their customers in writing, or much tolerance of employees who make it appear that they do.

Incidentally, "As a resident of San Francisco for over 25 years" is code for "this is my first job out of college". Hopefully he'll be a little smarter by the time he finds his second.


It is not good to have this story come up for the rest of your life whenever someone googles your name...


On his LinkedIn account: "Specialties Technology, Local commerce, Social media, SEO, Online marketing, Consumer and retail marketing, Sales, Salesforce, CRM"

How come every other scumbag tend to be everything above? Does it naturally attract these sorts of people?

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/andy-johnston/41/81/119


I'm fairly sure this is his twitter: https://twitter.com/ANDYJBEASTMODE

So, I guess it shouldn't be shocking that this former media studies major is not what we'd call a genius. The twitter account includes references to studying at Berkeley, supporting the Giants, Chicago, sharing Groupons, using MDMA, and smoking pot.

I wonder how long before Andy Johnston renames / deletes this account too, as part of his futile attempt at a cover up.


Link seems gone already. Next time, take a screenshot, otherwise it's a bit hard to prove you were right - especially considering you are making claims about mentions of drug use.


A screenshot proves nothing: http://i.imgur.com/puRHX20.jpg


That is correct, but had he posted a screenshot while it was still possible to verify its authenticity, that could have been avoided.



Dude, What is this? Some kind of 4chan style doxing? The dude is bad at his job... okay. He was a jerk to someone over email. I hope he gets fired and I've got a feeling he probably will. Lets lay off the estalking and witch hunting.

There is a line and this thread is crossing it.


There's a big difference between dox'ing and re-sharing information that Andy Johnston posted publicly using his real identity.

I haven't seen anybody posting his home address, identifying his relatives, harassing his friends, revealing private nicks, or really anything else that I'd associate with a 4chan style doxing.


I saw his cell number posted in here. There is no reason for that. I expected better out of this community.


Andy included that number in his original revenge communiqué, so again, not really a doxing.


Oh that third link! "GROUPON King Wizard" -- Survived one year @Groupon. Had to get the appropriate name embroidered on the jacket @indicudominate #indicud #kingwizardFollow

The DOUCHE is strong in this one. Bet he doesn't make a second year at Groupon. Bet he doesn't make Tuesday.


Twitter went from protected to closed.

WC's Yelp is closed now too.


Because having a bully-ish personality does make you a more efficient salesman (the less ethics you have, the more strategies you can use to convince people to buy stuff), and it's easier to be a bully in tech-related jobs.

Jobs where being an asshole can be an asset attract assholes. Simple as that.


It doesn't, at least in my experience.


I'm not American but I thought Berkeley was prestigious and yet this graduate's job is to cold call restaurants touting coupons. No wonder Andy's mad!


Even many Americans do not realize that Berkeley is a large state/public school, and has far less resources for undergrad education than "private" schools like MIT, Stanford, the "Ivy League," etc.

As far as I can tell, Berkeley's prestige is largely historical, and largely based on the graduate programs, especially in science and engineering. Undergrad engineering programs are also well-respected. Andy should have majored in something other than "American Studies," whatever that is.

Source: I went there.


People lie on their LinkedIn. You had one class at Berkeley or you interned as a Genius and you worked for Apple.

LinkedIn is a massive circle jerk of buzzwords and whores recommending other whores.


He's definitely only paying off the interest on all those student loans.


His degree is in "American Studies, Business and American Culture".

Cold calling seems like a good fit.


On a related note, yelp's been criticized for similar practices:

http://eater.com/archives/2013/01/23/ftc-complaints-about-ye...


If Groupon sales management gets wind of this Andy will be terminated immediately. I dealt with issues similar to this at LivingSocial (one rep offered a positive Yelp review in exchange for a deal) and both legal and sales know this is a very big no-no. Andy will have to re-learn business ethics at another company.


I don't like that this thread is fast turning into a reddit style witch-hunt.


Absolutely. Random people have found his Yelp, Linkedin, Twitter, and Instagram. He also made the mistake of spelling out his name and detailed contact information on the letter. I know that his threat is stupid at best and harmful to Sauce's business at worst, but clearly he's young and inexperienced. Having hundreds (thousands?) of people discussing, criticizing, and examining your details online is terrible. I'm not too worried about posterity, because he has a very generic name, but it could have been much worse.


I guess this is the online equivalent of a reality show...


Groupon is one good class-action lawsuit away from nonexistence. Here's hoping it comes sooner rather than later if this is the kind of tactic their salesmen need to resort to now.



Yelp needs a "Useless" flag. All kidding aside, the fact that a reviewer has complete control to destroy a business reputation without any sort of accountability or credibility is wrong. There's nothing saying that Andy has ever physically visited this establishment. Of course a "Useless" flag would be useless itself because every active business owner would flag every negative review as "Useless".The unfortunate reality is that Yelp attracts only the worst in human emotions. In this case, it wasn't even related to the product or service.


Maybe pointed out elsewhere, but it looks like Andy J's Yelp Friend Stephan S was compelled to write a 1 star review on the same day. So it looks like he followed through with that.

http://www.yelp.com/user_details?userid=BfVinuuuFVCAr77TnI9k...


Huh. Stephan only has 1 friend.

edit: Just noticed. I also have only one Yelp friend.



This seems likely to be one of his friends. http://www.yelp.com/biz/sauce-san-francisco#hrid:-tu5rIsfjQJ...

Note that the health score is 83, and could be much worse, and that there were 5 other inspections before that, which were all over 90. http://www.yelp.com/inspections/sauce-san-francisco


Archive of his network of sock puppets here: http://www.crazyontap.com/topic.php?TopicId=302346&Posts=4


I always thought HN was full of professional people so it ashames me to see a full blown witch hunt going on in this thread. Posting the guy his address, Twitter and so forth? Mirroring his Instagram profile? Really? Has it come to this?


Doesn't USA have any DoNotCall rules with some teeth, if, as the owner is saying, he "... asked you twice to remove me from you call list, as I have EVERY time I have been called by a representative from Groupon"?

In my place, this would mean that their customer acquisition costs would skyrocket from fines for such incidents.


Haven't checked, but it may not apply to businesses - I'd be surprised if a company could opt all of its phone numbers out of all potential vendor calls.


That is correct. Do Not Call (the USA law) does not apply to businesses.

We found a great remedy: answer their calls with a soundboard. We like the Mr. Rogers soundboard [1]. Its fun, harmless, and they'll stop calling very quickly.

[1] http://www.ebaumsworld.com/soundboards/play/1866/ (warning, autoplays some sounds)


The do not call law doesn't apply to nonprofits (including those seeking political contributions). It most certainly does apply to businesses. For each offense after asking to be placed on the do not call list you're entitled to 500-1500 dollars. You just need to take a lot of notes and take the offending party to small claims court.


Does not apply to businesses for incoming calls, which is the relevant interpretation of "applies to businesses" in this situation: a restaurant business receiving unwanted calls from another business.

Of course it applies to outgoing calls from businesses, as that's the entire point of the law.


Ah. I see what you're saying. Thanks for the correction!


AFAIK, there's an exemption if you've conducted business with someone, which it sounds like it's the case here (in the past). But sure how severed business relationships are handled.


I don't think you can opt out of receiving calls from a company which you previously had business with...


In many states you can be given a citation for soliciting people who have expressly told you not to.


Clearly they don't care.


Well, that is the whole point of functioning regulations - if someone doesn't care, then you simply bill them until they bleed and can't ignore it.

If "don't care" is a reasonable option, then that particular DoNotCall regulation is defective by design.


> "I have a huge network of friends (ages 25-40) that all are extremely active on Yelp"

Apparently, 10 people is a HUGE network.


If he treats his friends like he treats his potential customers, 10 IS huge.


He's not saying "Use Groupon or I'll trash your business" he's saying "You treated me poorly and now I'll get my revenge" This guy's a goofball for putting it in writing but social media has definitely changed how businesses have to treat whacky, unreasonable prospect's and customers. (The Groupon angle is a red herring)


He's using Groupon account to send out the email, with his signature tag on Groupon contact, business organization, and everything. For better or worse he was representing Groupon.


I don't think the prospect was unreasonable at all. Hanging up happens all the time. It's whatever. The problem for Groupon is that this guy reps them. They need to explain to their customers fast what happened because this looks viral to me.


Oh right. Not defending the sales guy. Saying that all businesses are now vulnerable to social media attacks by folks by folks who in the past you could ignore. Should have been clearer.


The delicious irony is that HE was not only threatening but actually carrying out a social media attack himself.


Quite so. In the cold calling business people hanging up on you is par for the course...


I see your point, but I have always assumed that sales people were selected for their ability to remain positive in the face of closed doors or hung-up phones. Seems like a necessary attribute!


There should be a yelp-like service for rating people like this "salesman" so that he doesn't accidentally get hired again.


Well here's a site… www.pictobar.com

But I'm not sure if this is what you mean. I'm curious to how you think one can be quantified/qualified on a site to be useful to others.


There are any number of reasons why service-people don't give their full names or unique identifying information over the phone; surely, this is one of them.


I wonder what this guys week will be like starting monday morning?

Is this HN story going to do anything negative to his career?


It's not only on HN, obviously. The FB commenters don't seem to happy.


good point. his cell number seeems like a personal number as well. i wonder if he's getting messages on it already.


His former career. As of now he is likely between jobs.


He has the opportunity to begin his new job search immediately.


I wonder who would recruit him. Moreover watch out for the company recruits him.


Isn't this a protection-money racket (extortion) from a legal perspective?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extortion

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protection_racket

> "Extortion is a criminal offense of unlawfully obtaining money, property, or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion."

> "In the United States, extortion may also be committed as a federal crime across a computer system, phone, by mail or in using any instrument of interstate commerce."

http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/business-career/legal/what-...

> "What is Extortion? The use of threats to extract money from people is a crime in the United States..."

> "Which Kinds of Threats are Illegal? One common characteristic of extortion is the use of threats, that is, an express intention to inflict injury, loss, or some other bad consequence on another person. The threat has to be sufficiently plausible and imminent that it could convince a reasonable person to give in to the blackmailer’s demands. In addition, there has to be some evidence that the threat was actually made for the purpose of obtaining money or property."

http://www.orbankruptcy.com/newsletters/criminal-law/federal...

> "A person commits the federal offense of extortion if he or she transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any demand or request for ransom or for a reward for the release of a kidnapped person, any threat to kidnap or injure another person, or any threat to injure the property or reputation of another person or to accuse another person of a crime with the intent to extort."

Now that one specifically mentions that threats to injure persons, property or reputation qualify as extortion when done to get money from someone.

Here is the actual federal law:

http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/875

> "Whoever, with intent to extort from any person, firm, association, or corporation, any money or other thing of value, transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication containing any threat to injure the property or reputation of the addressee or of another or the reputation of a deceased person or any threat to accuse the addressee or any other person of a crime, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both."

It seems very clear that that is what has happened here.

But if this form of threat by a Groupon employee to extract money from people is not extortion, what is the subtle difference that would enable such threats to be considered non-criminal?


It might not be extortion, because one of the elements of extortion is coercion, and the sales rep's mail wasn't coercive, but instead spiteful.

Had the rep instead said "maybe all this could be avoided if you would simply make the time to talk to me for 15 minutes on the phone tomorrow", it might be more cut-and-dry.


That is so strongly implied as to be pretty much obvious though.


I don't see any quid pro quo at all; the message simply seems vindictive.


This isn't a story about Groupon except insofar as they hire unprofessional, immature sales reps.

The sales punk didn't like how he was treated, so he gets revenge by (threatening) to leverage his own personal network.

It's pretty unlikely this is some organized practice at Groupon.


It doesn't have to be organized. There just has to be a "results at any cost, don't tell me how you did it" atmosphere at Groupon.


It is a story about Groupon. How can they let their staff get into this situation where they are so desperate as to make threats? How did they not know about and fix the poor experience with Groupon previously? How are the staff paid - is the commission component so high that they have to make sales no matter what? Is the training and are the SOPs so poor that the staff are free to operate on the edges of legality?

Is the culture such that anything goes?

Are the systems that review performance of sales reps not catching up with this sort of behaviour?

Groupon allowed this to happen, and it's for Groupon to fix.

Firing the guy would be a knee jerk reaction that would not to me be the right one. Not firing him and doing nothing would be worse. The best answer is a blame-free full review of how this occurred, and how they can design their organisation and process to make it never occur again.


I don't correct it's correct to blame practices like these on the employer's business model. That's like blaming road rage killings on the government for having congested roads.

Sounds to me like it's a kid barely out of college who can't control his emotions and is having a pouty hissy fit. His emotional age obviously is not advanced enough to prepare him for sales.

If you want to blame anything, blame the culture (Web 2.0? SF? VC funded world?) that believes that younger is always better.


I fail to see how this has anything to do with his age. There are assholes at all stages of life.


I chose the term "emotional age" carefully for that reason.

That said, if we were talking about hiring a node.js dev, and comparing a 22 year old vs. a 57 year old, would "I fail to see how this has anything to do with his age. There are great developers at all stages of life." be applicable as well? Or would it reasonable to make some generalizations while appreciating exceptions?


Except for the part where Groupon refuses to remove the guy from their harass list.


Title says "Groupon Sales Rep..." Was it changed?


Nope. Title is exactly the same as it was posted originally (except for "yelp" being capitalized to "Yelp").


That's true but what a huge PR blow, plus they hired the guy in the first place. This could get ugly if something isn't done right away.


> This could get ugly if something isn't done right away.

What might happen: front page of Reddit, followed by the guy being sacked shortly afterwards.


True. Isn't anyone from Groupon reading HN? I thought they'd pull a Nathan Bedford Forrest and get in here the fastest with the mostest mea culpa, but so far, I don't even think they know what's going on.


This entire situation seems a bit backwards to me. As I read Andy Johnston's letter, I gather that 1) Trip hung up on Andy. 2) Andy thought this was rude. 3) Andy has a lot of friends in SF that use yelp. 4) Andy is going to tell his friends "how [Trip] treated [Andy] as well as [Andy's] feelings about the people who run Sauce."

While this is unprofessional to say the least, I see no extortion or anything like it all as the wording states that this recourse is based on a past event and is not contingent on Trip's future actions at all. Also it is everyone's right to tell their friends if they think a place or a person sucks, that's part of what friends are for. And Andy doesn't say that he's going to write a bad review or have his friends write a bad review, he just says that he's going to tell his friends how Trip treated him. That doesn't mean that his friends will necessarily write reviews for him and because of that there is no guarantee of harm in any way.

What's most interesting to me about this whole situation (and the part that seems backwards) is the Trip's way of dealing with this. So okay, a Groupon employee wrote an angry letter to a restaurant owner that was 100% unprofessional and was probably understood by the restaurant owner to be a threat of defamation by the Andy's network of friends. Trip's response? To publicly post the letters to Facebook along with the Andy's name, cell phone number and other contact information so that everyone else that doesn't like Andy's immature letter can call him any time of the day to tell him how much of a jerk he is? It seems a bit much.

Trip's response letter was well written and had good advice but I believe it should have ended there. By making this whole thing public, Trip is really acting no more mature than Andy was when he wrote the offending letter. Not to mention that it could open Trip up to legal liability as I believe California has laws regarding the publication of private facts (e.g. Andy's cell phone number). Either way, I think this whole situation demonstrates a lot of immaturity on both sides.


i disagree entirely. Andy is not within his rights to publicly slander a business he has never stepped foot in - much less to entice others to do the same - because someone hung up on him. Especially not on Yelp, something businesses live and die by, at least in the Bay Area. As Trip said, Groupon was being a pest and should have expected to be treated as such. I have no sympathy for Andy here.


the emails are not the problem - andy posted 2 bad reviews


I think I would have written a hardcopy letter to the CEO, cc:ing every member of the board of directors asking how they would protect my business from the slander.

I don't see how the offending employee doesn't get fired, but I think I would have given the boss a way to make me whole before going public.


Nothing could compare to the positive publicity and support that Sauce is getting from the community for going public about the extortion instead of seeking private compensation. No way could Groupon could have offered them any "deals" that would bring them as much good publicity and customers as this event will. And it would be unethical for Sauce to seek compensation for keeping it private.

What you suggest is more like extorting Groupon back by insisting on compensation for keeping quiet about the extortion -- instead of warning other businesses and customers about Groupon's criminal activities, and preventing it from happening to others in the future.

Obviously Sauce is not the only company who suffered from Groupon's extortion, and I'm sure Andy Johnston is not the only extortionist working at Groupon. Sauce keeping it under their hat in exchange for a free Groupon deal would be unethical and idiotic.

Groupon deals don't even work well, and Sauce already wanted nothing to do with them.


Good points. I wasn't thinking extortion in return, I was thinking, "Give them a chance to fix it before going public." I'd always like to fix a problem before a client goes public. And this would put the onus on the company to make sure that any bad reviews get taken down, rather than having to work through Yelp.


You would have to demonstrate that this was an encouraged practice, and supported by management. At the very least, you would have to show the company was negligent in responding to accusations of extortion.


Does that act that's being threatened have to itself be illegal in order for the threat to qualify as extortion? Yelp reviews aren't illegal.


I don't think the act has to be illegal. For example, if I threaten to tell someone's wife that he's having an affair unless he gives me money, I think that would qualify as extortion. The language of the law doesn't say anything about the act being illegal:

"Extortion is a criminal offense of unlawfully obtaining money, property, or services from a person, entity, or institution, through coercion."

"Which Kinds of Threats are Illegal? One common characteristic of extortion is the use of threats, that is, an express intention to inflict injury, loss, or some other bad consequence on another person."


Threatening to hurt someone's reputation qualifies as extortion though, and the victim doesn't have to necessarily go along with it for it to also qualify as coercion. He actually did hurt their reputation, so technically, the restaurant can call the law right now and get this dude to spend a night in bookings, but, I don't see this really getting there and I don't think it should be.


Perhaps you're right, although that law doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Firstly, that first definition uses "unlawfully," which sounds circular to me. And if I'm understanding that description correctly, basically, you can't inform anyone that they have any incentive to do anything you desire. Bosses wouldn't be able to threaten to fire someone if they continue showing up to work late. Restaurant patrons couldn't threaten to leave a (only one) negative review if their service is poor.

I'm generally not a fan of laws banning blackmail, when the threat is not itself illegal. I find it odd that it would be perfectly legal for me to tell my neighbor's spouse that he is having an affair, or to request money from my neighbor, but it would be illegal for me to request money from my neighbor and promise to tell his wife about his affair if he declines. I'm not generally a big fan of Walter Block's approach to libertarianism, but this is his argument, and I do agree with it: http://mises.org/journals/jls/15_2/15_2_2.pdf.


"Bosses wouldn't be able to threaten to fire someone if they continue showing up to work late."

The employer is paying the employee to provide a service according to rules that both parties agreed to when the employee was hired. Insisting that they show up on time isn't coercing the employee, since it's something they freely agreed to as a condition of their employment.

"Restaurant patrons couldn't threaten to leave a (only one) negative review if their service is poor."

The restaurant patron is paying to be served, so they wouldn't be getting something they're not already entitled to by threatening to leave a bad review.

"but it would be illegal for me to request money from my neighbor and promise to tell his wife about his affair if he declines."

The difference here is that you're trying to force your neighbor to give you something you're not entitled to (his money) by threatening to do something bad to him. It's different from the boss or restaurant patron, who are demanding services that they've paid for.


Yes, I'm well aware of your descriptions, which is precisely my point. The description of extortion given above would include the first two things.


I think that's not true, due to the presence of the word "unlawfully". An employer or restaurant patron receiving the services that they paid for is not unlawful. However, taking money from your neighbor that he doesn't want to give you is unlawful.


But that part is circular. I want to know if a given act is unlawful.


Maybe he's the one who's having an affair with his neighbor's wife, and he paid her for it, but wasn't satisfied?


It could also be considered tortuous interference if they are intentionally trying to disrupt the business of someone. In this case, if the sales rep did somehow get people to leave many negative Yelp reviews, that could be considered interfering with the business.

All in all, it seems like just another bad PR day at Groupon.


I thought tortious interference only applied to contracts?


No, the platform doesn't matter. It's about the act of forcing someone to do something against their will by threatening them that is illegal.


I guess he can always go back to the Claremont Country Club.

http://www.linkedin.com/pub/andy-johnston/41/81/119


I don't think Andy has a bright future in sales


haha, definitely not


Sounds like one of those game theory side effects. If you pay and measure people by targets then expect them to use dubious techniques to win the game.


Anyone who goes to Berkeley and majors in American Studies obviously has never heard 'No' before. Talk about a wasted opportunity. This guy has douche stink all over his various profiles.


It appears he lives in Chicago yet he happened to visit TWO Sauce locations in SF on the same day.... this guy is unbelieveable


The more interesting thing is, has any restaurant had a good experience with Groupon?


Yes. The owner of Cafe Riace in Palo Alto once raved to me about how he has done Groupons multiple times at all of his restaurants and it worked out great for him.

Generally it has taken a savvy owner to make it work for them. Non-savvy owners would get over-sold by the deals sales reps. At the height of the deals craze, small business owners were getting 5 calls a day from various deals sites.

What Groupon never figured out is how to make a sales organization that wouldn't burn out merchants. So now they're pivoting into being Woot.


More like- has any business had any?

I would love to see how many times a business that tried groupon after the first time.


We've had quite a few people defend them on previous threads about groupon with really positive experiences.

They have tended to be places like paintballing or sky diving, things where the cost doesn't go up that much more with the more people who come. And who can upsell (paintballs, photographs). There's a technical business term for those businesses that I can't remember.

But apparently they do do well out of groupon.


Service-oriented businesses tend to have positive experiences. Pretty much anything where you may have somebody sitting around 1/2 their time doing nothing, just to make sure you've got coverage during all of business hours. Any money you recoup from that 1/2 of the time is money in your pocket.

Anything with inventory costs (e.g. restaurants) have a much harder time. Food costs are a significant portion of the cost of serving a table. It wouldn't be bad to have a loss-leader for one or two meals, but grouponers don't become "the next repeat customer", so you just lose money on the meals with not much to show.


So would you say a carwash type business also make money off it? Cause they have inventory costs but also they are more service oriented?


A lot of businesses go into Groupon thinking it'll be a great way for new customers to try it and then the business will get these great new repeat customers out of it. Unfortunately, this doesn't happen... at least in any of my friends' businesses. You'll get people looking for a deal, looking to spend as little as possible, and not interested in coming back unless you give them the same or better deal again. Additionally, the customers are much more demanding than regular clientele, as can be common with deal-hunters. This has held true across different types of businesses and different deal sites.

A business can make money off a Groupon deal if you don't think of it as a loss leader (since it will just wind up being a loss). You're not going to acquire new customers and they'll likely never come back without you offering another deal, so think of them as a one-time customer and make money off that one visit. It will only work for very high margin businesses where you can upsell a lot of add-ons. And only if you price it so you make money, even just a little bit, if the customer doesn't buy any of those add-ons.


I think you need really high margins to do well with Groupon. Their first client was a pizza outlet, which is about as high a margin as you can get in food.


On a tangent, how is this situation something that hasnt yet been hammered into Groupon's sales reps as something not to do? Say what you will about their business practices, but it's a savvy enough company with a young enough workforce that'd you would think they would have common sense in this kind of thing. In the day of Reddit, Twitter, and Facebook, even a nobody can generate a vicious defense against any company.

Also common sense thing about the Internet: assume that whatever you send in email has the potential to be seen by everyone, for perpetuity. Hope this sales person was listing a Google Voice number


This story has had some interesting developments.. check the bottom of the comments. He has now changed his Yelp name and removed his profile pic. It was unprofessional from the start, but now it's getting really ridiculous.


Shouldn't this be Yelp's job?


Silly Groupon sales rep, everyone knows only Yelp sales reps are allowed to threaten restaurants with bad reviews!


All I can say is Wow!

To say something like this on the phone is crazy, and something to get fired over. To put it in writing is a career ender. Any company that does background checks will not hire someone like this. Absolutely amazing.


While I agree the guy is a scum and deserve a good kick in the ball, I feel that people here (even me including to some degree) condone what we are criticizing the NSA for. I also agree that this behavior is also destroying not only whatever remains of groupon reputation, but is also hurting Yelp as well (which should detect this kind of abuse but wont , because an inflated number of reviews is more trusted than a few verified ones).


Psst...

Yelp salespeople have threatened restaurant owners that negative reviews would be more prominent (or could disappear if they "ran a deal" w/ them)

Who knows if company policy, but cowboy/cowgirl sales reps are doing a fantastic job of burning goodwill


Andy Johnston II: All your base are belong to the internet.


To put this internet witch-hunt in perspective I know about 0 persons who care about either groupon or yelp.

An offer from groupon would be spam to me and an opinion on yelp wouldn't be seen because nobody I know uses it.


You should get out more, and make some friends.


    Andy Johnston II GROUPON GETAWAYS 
    Area Sales Manager
    ajohnston@groupon.com
    Desk: 312-462-9495 
    Cell: 5107033591
    Groupon Getaways
Apparently "Groupon Getaways" means that Groupon thinks they can get away with anything they want.


Not a good idea to publish the guy's cell number, regardless of what he's done.


That bell has already been rung, honey. That bell has already been rung.

He's the one who published his personal cell phone number and office desk number in his written extortion letter, while acting as an official representative of Groupon, from his authentic Groupon email account. Not my problem.

If you really want to get to the root of the problem, you might try cold calling his number, and advising HIM he shouldn't put his cell phone number in email when he sends threats to people. Maybe he'll hang up on you, and you might "sincerely appreciate him hanging up on you", just like he "sincerely appreciated" the owner of the restaurant doing that to him.


My cell number is all over online. It took me all of about 5 min to find yours. Posting personal info here doesn't add to the conversation or help improve the situation. You are just inviting people to harass him.


He's inviting people to harass himself by being an extortionist, not by having his cell phone number online. Feel free to call me and I'll explain!


I honestly don't know why this is even on the front page... It shouldn't surprise anyone that companies with thousands of low-paid roles are bound to sometimes end up with people which act unethically - we should be judging these companies based on how they deal with these employees, rather than the mere fact that these employees exist.


Sometimes? The person in question has pages and pages of reviews, all either gleaming positive or shocking poor. It's sort of telling how that company, or at least that individual, works.

It's on the front page because the voters decided it should be.


It would be interesting to see a correlation between positive reviews and groupon relationships.


Low paid? The sales collected six figure salaries, they are paid more than Engineers.


Engineers average less than 6 figures in a major city like Chicago?


> I honestly don't

> know why this is even on the front page...

> It shouldn't surprise anyone that

Yay! I just completed my HN-comment buzzword-bingo card!!




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