It must be hard to be a business owner, to build something up from nothing, only to have a few angry customers crap all over it online. Well, one business owner allegedly decided to exact revenge. How'd that work out for him? Not so great.
Steve Yojin Yun, the owner of two cleaning services — West Coast Maids and California Maids — has been charged with seven counts of identity theft. The complaint names four separate victims, who all signed up for one of Yun's cleaning services, didn't like what they got and posted negative reviews on Yelp.
The victims then were contacted and asked to delete their downer reviews. If they refused, Steve Yun would, allegedly, retaliate by posting negative Yelp reviews of the customers' own businesses or places of employment and even running the poor customers' credit cards again, effectively double charging them for crappy service.
“Customers have a right to express honest views about a company,” City Attorney Mike Feuer said in a press release. “Illegally charging customers as retaliation for expressing their views is outrageous.”
Christine Medrick hired one of Yun's companies to clean her apartment in 2013. When they did a less-than-stellar job, she says, she called to complain. They sent another maid — who she says did a similarly poor job. That's when Medrick wrote her negative Yelp review. She tells L.A. Weekly that Yun then contacted her.
"He offered to refund my credit card if I took down my Yelp review," Medrick recalls. "I said I wasn’t going to do that, because his company does not clean. I said I wanted to warn other people.
"That’s when he got really belligerent," she says, describing to the Weekly the multiple emails that went back and forth between her and Yun. "He said a lot of vulgar, mean, offensive things," she alleges.
Yun also posted a negative Yelp review of his own, against Medrick's company, Pure Brazilian, a cosmetics wholesaler:
An actress named Leigh Rachel Faith documented similar experiences on a Facebook group, "Bullied by California Maids."
After posting a one-star Yelp review of California Maids in April 2013, Faith, according to her Facebook posts, was offered a discount on her next cleaning, plus a $100 gift card — but only if she removed her negative review. But negotiations somehow broke down, and she eventually received this email, provided to the Weekly:
I'll tell you, our office doesn't appreciate your harshness, since the maid did show up but you were too busy cursing out our staff to even hear anything or understand that our office made no mistake.
I see that you're a part of several organizations and all over the Internet and you probably value your Internet presence.
I'm going to go ahead and add the groups you work for to Yelp, and post bad reviews in regards to our office's experience with you. I'll also post about a dozen reviews on your personal character online. Let's see how you like it when people write about your harsh, ugly side and post it on the web forever. Punch in your name on google in about 3-6 weeks.
That's freedom of speech for you. All completely legal. I'll start with 2 posts on Monday, and 2 posts every day for 30 days.
The nonprofit that Faith runs — Champions Against Bullying, ironically — was hit with a negative Yelp review, as was one of her friends' companies. Then, most audaciously, someone posted a Craigslist ad with her personal cellphone number, advertising that she was giving away a free 32-inch TV.
She was getting phone calls and emails every few minutes, well into the evening.
Faith's husband is named as a victim in the criminal complaint. Neither he nor his wife returned our calls in time for publication.
Steve Yun didn't return our calls either. If convicted, Yun faces up to seven years in jail and/or a $7,000 fine, according to city officials.
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California Maids has been reviewed on Yelp more than 150 times. Most of the reviews are positive, but a handful of negative ones outline stories similar to those told by Faith and Medick. For example, Erin C. wrote:
Signing up with this 'business' was a mistake that continues to plague me 3 months later. I just found a second UNAUTHORIZED CHARGE to my credit card from California Maids aka West Coast Maids. I wish it was an honest mistake made by an honest company, but it's very deliberate and is their regular practice to make unauthorized charges. If you have ever used this company, I advise you to be vigilant with your credit card statements and look for any suspicious charges. 'Steve' in the office is a bully and a coward. If you want your wallet cleaned, call them. If you want your house cleaned get a personal reference from someone you trust.
And James G. wrote:
If I could give this business zero stars, I would.
I have to reiterate what several reviewers have stated already - this company is a complete scam and a ripoff. DON'T SEND THEM YOUR BUSINESS, AND WHATEVER YOU DO, DON'T GIVE THEM A CREDIT CARD NUMBER.
First of all, the quality of their "cleaning" is abysmal. We asked for two maids to be sent, they sent one. This one maid spent hours "cleaning" our average-sized apartment, and I couldn't tell what they had actually done, since it pretty much looked the same as when she started. We dismissed her after a few hours and called the office to get our money back.
The office manager, Steve, was agreeable — to a point. He agreed to give us a full refund, which he did.
After we posted a negative review here on Yelp, we were surprised to discover that he had recharged our card for the full amount. Why? Because we had posted a negative review on Yelp! He was happy to reverse the charge — as soon as we removed our review.
So basically, they hold your credit card hostage in a cowardly effort to preserve their Yelp rating. (Yes, Steve...you are a COWARD.) They refuse to purge your personal info from their records, even if you request that they do so. This is ILLEGAL.
I have to believe that the vast majority of the reviews you are reading are FAKE. In fact, there was a huge sting operation that was reported today in New York, where companies were caught paying people to file fake Yelp reviews. I'm sure California Maids does the same thing. Again, this is a business run by COWARDS and CRIMINALS.
I can't say it strongly enough - DO NOT CALL THESE PEOPLE. DO NOT GIVE THEM A CREDIT CARD NUMBER. Go elsewhere to get your home cleaned. PLEASE.