There’s no telling what crazy things a disgruntled employee might do.
This is what a restaurant owner in South Beach learned recently, when one of his waiters was caught attempting to extort $50,000 and threatening to write negative reviews of the business on TripAdvisor.
According to a story on Miami Herald, waiter Jorge Luis Vasquez-Vega threatened to ruin the business reputation of South Beach restaurateur Stefano Frittella if Frittella didn’t agree to pay the $50,000 that Vasquez-Vega was demanding.
Vasquez-Vega, a waiter at Frittella’s Pelican Hotel restaurant, sent anonymous text messages to Frittella saying that he would falsely report the restaurateur for hiring illegal immigrants, and that (bogus) negative reviews would be posted on TripAdvisor if Frittella didn’t pay the money.
(Check out: “8 Terrific TripAdvisor Tips for Businesses”)
Vasquez-Vega was investigated and caught by Miami Beach police and is now in jail. According to the arrest report, “the defendant maliciously threatened the victim to ruin his business reputation and disgrace him if he did not pay.”
Frittella is the man responsible for a group of restaurants on Miami Beach, Florida, including Café Milano, Cantinetta, Bice Ristorante, and cafes at the Cardozo Hotel and Pelican Hotel.
At a time when customers can quickly become critics, consumers have come to rely increasingly on reviews posted on popular sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp, Google, Facebook, and Foursquare. According to a report by eMarketer, as much as 88 percent of Internet users now read online reviews in order to determine whether a local business is good or not.
The downside to the “review revolution” is that some groups and individuals – competing businesses, angry customers, black-hat marketers, review divas, and, of course, disgruntled employees – now use the power of reviews to blackmail a local business or threaten to tarnish its reputation. According to Gartner, an estimated 10 to 15 percent of reviews will be fake or paid for in the year 2015.
Be vigilant! Here are tips for consumers and business owners alike to spot fakes.