Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Why do people leave Yelp reviews?

Is it really to help their fellow humans

Or is there some need for their opinions to be heard, regardless of whether they're useful? Or even accurate?

I only wonder because I tend to regard most online reviews as suspect.

Oh, and because of the troubling story told by Monica Araujo.

She was part of a July bachelorette party that went to North Fork Taps and Corks on Long Island.

As the Daily Beast reported, one of its own staffers was at the party.

Nothing she saw justified what followed.

It seems that there may have been some friction between the party and the bar owner.

So much so that Araujo chose to write a Yelp review, one that she didn't consider especially scathing.

This is what she wrote

I would give zero stars but google doesn't let you. The owner is very rude and nasty. I came here with a bachelorette party with 16 girls. The bar was completely empty aside from 2 people so we definitely were the only ones providing any type of revenue on a Friday night. You'd think the owner would be happy about the spike in non-existing business but was ridiculously unprofessional and put a huge damper on what was supposed to be a fun night. She yelled at the brides sister out of nowhere and screamed at me for not "behaving" like I was a 12 yr old - as designated driver, I was the most sober person at the bar at this point and did nothing except ask her not to yell at or group. If you want to get yelled at, drink crap drinks (they don't have seltzer for vodka sodas) and be in an empty bar, then definitely come here! If not, look elsewhere.

I've certainly read worse. 

Yet, in the subsequent weeks, Araujo says she was subjected to vile, vicious attacks both on her Facebook page and the wedding website.

The language was vile and personal.

Strangers, she says, even RSVP'd to her wedding. They didn't sound like they'd be bringing gifts.

She went back on Yelp to explain: 

I've been targeted through my work, my facebook and most recently my wedding website. All platforms have been notified, along with the state police cyber crime unit who are looking into the IP addresses from all posts and messages, so keep them coming Bc they are ALL being documented. It really says a lot about an establishment when "patrons," behest of the owner are told to go after someone who writes a negative review.

Bernadette Buckley, the bar's owner, told the Beast she had nothing to do with it all.

Araujo's experience is frightening and intensified by how hard it is to bring any guilty parties to justice.

She told the Beast

Part of me wants to say if I were to do it again, I wouldn't have reviewed negatively because this is such a horrible situation to be in. But at the same time, I feel like justice needs to be served. And I'm not going to delete the review just because people are harassing me.

Her experience, though, isn't entirely new.

Some small businesses tend to react fiercely -- and some might say with a neurotic lack of necessity -- to any slights they see online.

Others react even more unpleasantly, even when the review is merely so-so.

Who can forget the experience related by Yesha Callahan after leaving a mere three-star review of a local restaurant?

The restaurant manager turned up at her door. At 10 o'clock at night.

Small businesses might feel their margins are tight and their reputations wafer-thin. They might believe that just one bad review can sink them.

But to organize an online assault crew in order to terrorize a customer who posted an online review is not only inhuman, but bad business.

Bad reviews can happen, but it's better to hope that your business attracts enough happy customers to outweigh the disgruntled. 

By all means, offer a polite response on Yelp expressing how you disagree with the review.

Sometimes, though, the customer is actually right. And, instead of reacting with spite, try thinking about it, perhaps even apologizing, and walking away.

I understand that punching back hard is in vogue right now.

Brawling, however, rarely gets you anywhere.

Published on: Nov 26, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.