Bashed on Internet

WSVN — She runs a small dog grooming salon and is loved by her customers — except for one woman who wrote a scathing online review along with two other people who never came into the salon. And according to the salon owner, it was filled with lies. Can you get away with saying whatever you want on the Internet? It’s why we bring in Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

It seems that people who are kind to animals just have a little bigger heart than other people.

Maria Ledbetter, Pup’e Cutz: “Your turn, your turn. Oh, I love you, too.”

Maria and her husband, Kirk, enjoy dogs and cats so much, they opened a grooming salon in Pompano Beach called Pup’e Cutz.

Maria Ledbetter: “I put them on my table, and I start looking at them. Each of them has their personality — I call it the beauty inside.”

They love their work… and then one day, a woman walked in…

Maria Ledbetter: “Looks at us and says, ‘This place is disgusting,’ and ‘I can’t leave my dog here,’ and I was very confused.”

Later that day, a friend called and said, “Look at your Facebook page,” where the woman had posted a review.

Maria Ledbetter: “Saying she slipped in urine, that this place was disgusting.”

Maria says the woman made up the story about almost slipping in urine. And then the person who said her name was Marcella complained about a sick dog with a terrible allergy in the salon, but it wasn’t an allergy.

Maria Ledbetter: “Heavens, no. He was just abused, and somebody threw acid on him. He is a gentle giant, a beautiful dog.”

That same day, the woman’s husband and another woman posted reviews on Facebook. Neither had been in the shop, but they both said the same thing the original poster said.

Maria Ledbetter: “When I saw them, I was devastated. I was totally devastated.”

Three reviews — two of them from people who had never been in Pup’e Cutz — that Maria says had one thing in common.

Maria Ledbetter: “It’s a lie and worse because I love my animals so much. I would do anything. I would never keep a place dirty.”

But the reviewers posting on Facebook were not done…

Maria Ledbetter: “Both her and her husband are giving me the same review on Yelp, and then it’s on Google, and then it’s on Yellow Pages.”

If you go online, all the other reviews for Pup’e Cutz are wonderful. When her customers found out what was going on, they said, “Don’t worry.”

Maria Ledbetter: “I have, like, the most amazing customers in the whole, wide world. Everybody started to do positive reviews.”

But Maria is worried of what three false reviews can do to a small business.

Maria Ledbetter: “And social media is powerful. It’s almost like a bully coming in and putting you down, and you feel like, ‘What did I do wrong?'”

Well Howard, does freedom of speech allow you to say whatever you want on the Internet … even if it’s not true?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “You can offer your opinion and say almost anything, but you can’t make up things, because if you lie about facts, you have committed libel and can be sued. And even if you post anonymously, your identity can be determined by the courts, which can force the owners of the webpage to turn over your information.”

I called the woman who posted the reviews of Pup’e Cutz. Her husband, who also posted a scathing review, called me back.

He told me he didn’t see the shop personally but wrote his account based on what his wife told him, and he was sure it was true.

He told me he would go look at Pup’e Cutz to see the shop.

Maria said he came in and was nice.

He then deleted his reviews.

The third person, named Martina, who had not been in the shop deleted her reviews.

And the woman named Marcella who started it all edited her reviews, taking out the line about almost slipping on urine and just leaving her opinion of the shop.

Maria is happy those false reviews about Pup’e Cutz were taken down and glad, of course, that she called those people from Help Me Howard.

Maria Ledbetter: “Oh my God, I am so happy that I called Help Me Howard. You are the voice of those who sometimes are not heard here is South Florida.”

Just a nice lady … and what can you do if someone lies about you on the Internet? Well, if you win in court, you can collect any money they cost your business or any damage to your reputation. And a court can also award punitive damages to punish the person for their outrageous conduct.

So when you post something, don’t lie. Tell the truth. It’s that’s simple.

Dogged by a problem that makes you want to yelp? Ready to be groomed for a solution? Let us review it. No lie, we just want to dig up the truth. With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.

Reporter: Patrick Fraser at
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN
On Twitter: @helpmehoward7

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