Anyone who follows the business pages knows it's been a tough year for the once-hot daily-deal market, with Groupon, the flagship company in the space, dumping its CEO and sustaining crushing drops in its stock price. And with Groupon sales reps having to hustle much harder these days to get restaurants and other businesses to join up (or re-up) with the program, it's not too surprising that one of them got desperate to the point of threatening to sic an army of Yelpers on one that said no.
Said rep is Andrew Johnston, a Groupon Area Sales Manager who decided to retaliate after Trip Hosley, the co-owner of Sauce, hung up on a sales call. "I sincerely appreciate you hanging up on me," Johnston wrote in an e-mail that Hosley posted to the restaurant's Facebook page. "As a resident of San Francisco for over 25 years, I have a huge network of friends (ages 25-40) that all are extremely active on Yelp as well as other social media. I will gladly let them know how you treated me as well as my feelings about the people who run Sauce."
Hosley, who told AllThingsD that he didn't raise his voice, insult, or threaten Johnston during their call, responded in kind to Johnston via an e-mail: "You must be new to cold calling, you might want to develop a thicker skin, or work for a less despised company...I told you that I was not interested and asked you twice to remove me from you call list, as I have EVERY time I have been called by a representative from Groupon since our last, horrific, experience with your company. We had a relationship with Groupon, Groupon messed it up, we no longer want to have a relationship with Groupon, end of story. After two or three years it would seem like you could respect my wishes as a business owner not to deal with your company and leave me alone."
It seems that Yelp has been at work taking down any negative reviews that resulted from Johnston's attempts to raise a Yelp strike force, as all the reviews posted for Sauce's Hayes Valley and Belden Place locations in the past month are quite positive. (If anything, some of the kind words appear to be possible fakes, posted with few details by fairly inactive users.) But the fact that Yelp continues to be wielded as blackmail material by its users certainly isn't a positive sign. As for Johnston, he's been suspended by Groupon pending further investigation. "As you can imagine, such actions are not acceptable to Groupon," said a rep.
· The Sauce and Groupon emails [Facebook]
· Groupon Investigates Thinly Veiled Yelp Review Threat [AllThingsD via Inside Scoop]