A Tale of Yelp
July 23, 2016
Let me begin by saying I use Yelp. I used it recently when my wife and I were thinking about having dinner out.
But this is a cautionary tale of Yelp.
The heart of our business here at Autobahn Service and the heart of most small businesses is word of mouth. People who appreciate what we do and tell their friends and neighbors about how we’ve treated them and how we’ve fixed their cars.
Yelp exists for all of us. We don’t ask to be a part of it. It just takes someone with something to say about Autobahn Service and Yelp is there for them to say it.
And, unfortunately, in this time of iPhones and texts and instant pictures and instant judgments, it’s easy for anger and annoyance to replace careful thought and basic fairness. You’re not happy that a waiter or waitress didn’t see your raised hand, well it’s not hard to instantly slam the place.
So many times Yelp is there for someone who is appreciative, someone with a kind word. But sometimes …
Anyway with names changed to protect … well I’ll leave it you to decide innocent from guilty … here’s my recent bad experience in the Age of Yelp.
A guy named Bob called us at Autobahn and asked to have a used car he was interested in buying professionally looked at, then asked how much we charge for this service. It turns out he was coming from out of town, but read our reviews and was impressed enough to want our opinion.
He came for his appointment in the 1990 Honda Civic he was thinking of buying and brought the owner in tow. Even from fifty feet away, severe body rust was evident. I could see it had been previously badly repaired and there were new ¼” sized holes in the rear quarter panel.
When Bob came over and introduced himself my first reaction was honest and straight-forward. I told him I could save him the $47.50 fee we had agreed upon to check the car over and just tell him that the car was un-roadworthy for the Commonwealth of MA and because of that not worth buying in my opinion. Bob thanked me profusely for saving him the fee and telling him what the seller was obviously unwilling to admit.
She complained and was upset and I patiently explained to her that as much as the situation sucked, I was representing the buyer upon his request. And because of that though I appreciated her situation, it wasn’t my job to deal with her disappointment or mediate this.
Bob politely told her he wasn’t interested in the car.
The owner quickly turned to Yelp to express her anger and blame us at Autobahn. So we received a lousy rating and were penalized for doing the right thing. All because someone was trying to sell an unsafe car.
I preserved the 1-star rating and comment and here it is: “Rude and condescending. Only go here if you’re some kind of masochist who enjoys being told your car is a piece of junk.”
She was angry and annoyed because she wouldn’t be selling her car to Bob. She was mostly annoyed with me and Autobahn. And obviously didn’t care about what her words might mean for our business.
For me, of course, this was very discouraging. I immediately reached out to Yelp because it was clear to me that her review didn’t meet their guidelines. She wasn’t a customer and our obligation was to Bob.
We pay attention to Yelp and while we never solicit positive reviews we appreciate them. Our policy at Autobahn is to do our very best to resolve any questions about our work. We appreciate the opportunity to hash out an issue, and if the need arises try hard to be reasonable and work to improve someone’s experience.
Luckily I was reminded of the other side of the Yelp story, and two very recent reviews from drivers who discovered us as they travelled:
• Jodi E.
• Bethesda, MD
• 5 stars
I have traveled by car all over the country and every service station should be like this one. I have heard many stories from places like jiffy-lube about how they can’t find my air filter etc etc. I love this place-everyone should take their car here. The service is spectacular and they even drop you off at the coffee shop while you wait. I cannot say enough good things about their service, it is a truly remarkable place and I drive 400 miles out of my way just to come here.
• Anthony P.
• New York, NY
• 5 stars
I broke down in Great Barrington on my way from upstate NY back to Boston. I chose to find someone local rather than go to the BMW dealer in Pittsfield. I had it towed to Autobahn after hours and left a note; by the time I called in the morning Dominic was already on the case. I went over and they had me out the door and on my way before lunch. The staff were all very friendly, and Dominic gave me a few solid recommendations to keep my 90K 330ci running for the next 90K. All in all a great experience, great service.
As all this was happening many of our loyal customers weighed in on Facebook, expressing their support and reminding others of the highly satisfactory service we’ve provided them over the years.
Oh, and here’s the latest of Yelps:
So please think of both sides of this Tale of Yelp and take a moment and take a deep breath and remember the power of words and the difference between passing annoyance and really bad service.
An unmediated negative review on Yelp is like shooting first, looking for a resolution after.
Bring on the dialogue….. I’m all ears!