Homophobic Bridal Store Owner Gets Yelp-Bombed

When a New Jersey bridal shop refused to sell a dress to a lesbian bride, critics took to Yelp to express their displeasure. But are some of them creating fake reviews?

Some negative reviews stemming from owner Donna's homophobic behavior remained on Yelp this afternoon. One read:

Please help put this wingnut and her awful store out of business once and for all. Not allowing a gay woman to buy a dress from her shop? I hope Alix sues her for all she's worth.

However, others had been removed. A reader sent us this message she received last night from a Yelp representative:

Hi there,

We're writing to inform you that we've decided to remove your review of Here Comes the Bride. We don't take this decision lightly, and appreciate the seriousness of the allegations in your review. Nevertheless our Content Guidelines (http://www.yelp.com/guidelines) are very clear in outlining the need for a first-hand experience, and we think this an important requirement for maintaining Yelp as a useful site for consumer reviews. Responding to a news story or other users' reviews falls outside of a core first-hand experience of the business.

That being said, we would never wish to stifle discussion on any of the issues you've raised, and our Talk section (http://www.yelp.com/talk) may be an appropriate forum for your opinions regarding this incident.

Please know that we review every situation with great attention and take this matter very seriously.

Regards,
Kainoa
Yelp User Support
San Francisco, California

Kainoa has a point — Donna's refusal to serve bride-to-be Alex Genter was bigoted, but the point of Yelp is to share first-person customer reviews, not to comment on the news. However, some determined Yelpers are sticking to their guns — and they may be creating false reviews to do it. Among the suspicious ones is this entry by Hélène M. of Seminole, FL:

I went to "here comes the bride" to find a dress for my wedding.
My fiance is American and I am French, the sales associate told me that Americans should only marry other Americans and that I should "go back to France". She also added that there are too many illegal immigrants in the USA.
I was speaking French with my mother and she told us 'This is America, speak English".
Worst shopping experience ever.
No need to say that I didn't buy anything: I will get married on the beach in a bathing suit.

This is Hélène's only review. Another in a similar vein, by Tina T.:

I went to this HORRIBLE shop to help my mother purchase a dress for her second wedding. Well when my mother filled out the paperwork, the owner had a fit that my mother was divorced. She would NOT sell us a dress. DO NOT BUY ANYTHING FROM THIS HATEFUL PLACE!!!

The above is Tina T.'s only review. However, this one by Olivia P. sounds very similar:

My friend and I went here to purchase her gown for her special day. Upon entering the store, we where treated poorly. We had to wait for quite a while before anyone helped us. When Donna approached, she seemed to have a huge chip on her shoulder. We are African-American and we could see how uncomfortable she was. We exited the store and would NEVER buy anything from this HATEFUL PERSON!!!

It's also Olivia P.'s only review. Both just joined Yelp this month, as did Hélène M. That's not proof that the reviews are fake — and it's possible that Donna is racist, xenophobic, and anti-divorce as well as being homophobic. However, the sudden proliferation of widely varying accusations, especially from people who have never used Yelp before, looks a bit fishy. When we contacted Yelp to say I'd come across what I believed could be fake reviews, Senior Public Relations Manager Chantelle Karl responded, "You're correct." She continued,

While Yelp does not support any sort of discrimination, reviews of businesses on Yelp should be about the customer experience not the views of a business or its employees. This policy is clearly stated on our FAQ and can be found here in more detail. Reviews that go against these guidelines are regularly removed by our Customer Support Team.

That said, Yelp DOES encourage dialogue on the site via Yelp Talk; just not on business reviews.

As is our normal procedure, our team has already been working to pull the reviews that go against our guidelines and notify those reviewers. If you click through to the filtered link at the bottom of the listing, you'll see a number of reviews have already been removed for violating our TOS.

If others have had experiences similar to Genter's, they deserve to be heard. And if those who haven't been to Here Comes the Bride want to share their displeasure, their words might make Donna and other business owners think twice about discriminating against gay customers. A boycott of Here Comes The Bride sounds like a good idea to us, but the store's Yelp review page isn't the forum to set it up. And lying isn't the right response to injustice.

Here Comes The Bride [Yelp]

Earlier: Store Refuses To Sell Wedding Dress To Lesbian Bride

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