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Consider a Personal Umbrella Insurance Policy, And The Art of Handling Bad Reviews

Posted by on | June 11, 2018 | Comments Off

My agent has always signed me up for a persona umbrella policy, pretty much without even discussing it much.  The costs have always been nominal compared to my other insurance and I got it to handle liability issues that might exceed the limits of other policies, like a really bad car crash or a slip and fall suit around my house.

It turned out that I got a lot of value out of the policy, but not in the way I had planned.  I was once sued, pretty hard and seriously, by a company over a negative review I wrote.  I won’t talk about the details but if you are really interested Mr. Google will help you find it pretty quickly.   But here is an example of a similar case in the news:

A Manhattan woman has found herself in a world of legal troubles after posting a bad review of a local doctor online.

Michelle Levine tells CBS2 she’s already spent close to $20,000 fighting the million-dollar suit which accuses her of defamation, libel, and causing emotional distress.

The plaintiff is Dr. Joon Song, a gynecologist Levine says she visited once in August for an annual exam.

“After I got a bill for an ultrasound and a new patient visit, whatever that means, and it was not billed as an annual I wrote a review about it,” she told CBS2’s Lisa Rozner.

I was determined to fight my case in the name of all those (like Ms. Levine) who could not afford to fight these overt attempts to suppress and intimidate perfectly legal speech.  I was ready to take a substantially loss in legal fees to defend myself but it turned out I was covered for all my defense costs by my personal umbrella.  Note, I am not an insurance expert nor a lawyer, so before you buy such a product I would be sure you know what it does and does not cover.

Postscript, to all you businesses who keep suing over bad reviews:  GET OVER IT.  I get dozens of reviews every day on multiple platforms.  Most of our locations sit at an average rating just over 4.5 stars out of five so perhaps one in 20 are negative and maybe one in 100 are grossly, absurdly unfair.  Sure, all of us service business owners gripe about unfair reviews when we get together, but we all deal with it.  Every review platform has ways to respond to bad reviews, and most have a way to challenge reviews that violate their terms of service.   Often times if you actually do have a good business, the best defense is to encourage all your customers to review so all the good reviews drown the bad ones.  This is not 1996 when customers have never seen a review site.  Customers know EVERYONE gets bad reviews.   The Mandarin Oriental in Bangkok had some of the best service I have ever experienced, but it gets 1-star reviews.  The movie Casablanca has one-star reviews on Amazon.

Sometimes the bad reviews are perfectly understandable.  For example, at one beach we run there used to be a high place where kids would jump off into the water.  Despite having a lifeguard there, we had too many close calls and too many kids did not heed the lifeguard, so the jumping area was closed.  We got bad reviews for months about how awful it was the kids could not jump.  Each time we took the opportunity to explain that yes the jumping wall was closed and if that is the experience customers are looking for, they need to explore other options.  Eventually we got customer expectations to match the services we provided and things improved.  As much as businesses hate to have bad reviews, these were useful to us because they communicated changed services to the public and helped make sure that customer who come are coming for the right reasons.   Having people expecting the Ritz show up at Holiday Inn Express does not help the Holiday Inn Express at all.

Sometimes one does get totally unfair reviews and there is an art to writing responses to bad reviews.  You want to explain why many customers might consider the review unfair without seeming defensive or seeming to throw the customer under the bus, which will lose you a lot of sympathy in the community.  I am still learning.  Here is a tough one we had:

I will need go back to Juniper Spring it not the forest or the camping grounds but the workers are really not friendly at all I’m black and I hope people who’s from my race trust me it not a good place to take your family you can feel the eyes and I know please know racism is strong in Ocala and I’m sorry to bring a nasty review but I owe it to myself if I was to read this I would know what to expect if I choose to go. But the camp grounds are very clean tho and the bathroom have hot water but the works are very nasty ways I see so to all people other then whites Ijs check it out and be sorry like I did. The water looks great but it cold ass ever but when you get used to it you would be ok I guess.

Obviously that is horrible, it makes us out to be a bunch of racists.  This customer did get special attention, but more because we had to work hard — and often — to get compliance with a number of rules we are required by the government to enforce.  After a lot of thought, this is the response I finally went with:

We are really sorry you did not have a good visit. We have a racially diverse group of employees in our company and all of them are trained and motivated to provide quality service to everyone. However, given that this is a campground in the Forest Service and adjoining a Federal Wilderness Area, we are tasked by the Forest Service to enforce a number of rules which are different than those in private campgrounds and can sometimes be surprising to new visitors. In this case, I am really sorry we obviously did a poor job of trying to courteously explain the rules.

For other readers considering a visit, I will take the opportunity to highlight some of these rules:

  • Firearms are not allowed in the Ocala National Forest (except in hunting season)
  • Dogs are not allowed in the day use area or at the canoe run
  • Alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the day use area or on the canoe run
  • Food and food waste must be properly stored in campsites when not actively being consumed (in order to avoid attracting bears)
 Consider a Personal Umbrella Insurance Policy, And The Art of Handling Bad Reviews  Consider a Personal Umbrella Insurance Policy, And The Art of Handling Bad Reviews  Consider a Personal Umbrella Insurance Policy, And The Art of Handling Bad Reviews

 Consider a Personal Umbrella Insurance Policy, And The Art of Handling Bad Reviews

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