Yelp to pull critical reviews of anti-gay marriage bridal store

A bridal store refuses to sell a wedding dress to a gay woman because of her sexual orientation. The store quickly receives a backlash on Yelp. But do these reviews break Yelp's guidelines? Yelp says yes and is pulling the reviews.

A New Jersey bridal store seems to believe that the customer is always right. However, if that customer happens to be a gay woman, then the customer is left--without a bridal gown.

This tale of pink-ribboned troglodytism comes to me from the Philadelphia Daily News and has set the stage for an interesting expression of "does anyone know of any reason..?" on Yelp, which is resulting in the site pulling negative reviews.

It starts very romantically. Alix Genter went to the Here Comes the Bride Store in Somers Point, N.J., together with several members of her family, in order to find attire appropriate for the aisle.

She is to marry her longtime partner next July. Everyone is happy. Save for the manager of Here Comes The Bride. It seems that this lady believed that Genter was partaking of an illegal act. No, not shoplifting garters, but marrying her partner. (Genter reportedly said she has a voice mail to prove the accusations of illegality.)

"She said she wouldn't work with me because I'm gay," Genter told the Daily News. This deep, dark information had reportedly seeped out when Genter crossed out "groom" and put "partner" on the store's information sheet.

CC Sharona Gott/Flickr

The store manager, Donna Saber, was keen to express her disapproval of Genter's sexuality on what seem like class (as well as crass) grounds.

Genter said: "She also said that I came from a nice Jewish family, and that it was a shame I was gay. She said, 'There's right, and there's wrong. And this is wrong.'"

Let's talk about wrong. Might more brides be a-coming to this store's premises because of its reported premises? One guesses not. Which would suggest it might be wrong for business.

Perhaps wronger is the store reportedly confirming to the Daily News the basics of the tale. Apparently, the use of the word "partner" is a "provocation." Which might be fair warning to any high-powered New Jersey lawyers who happen to wander into this store.

However, media being a bit of a social beast these days, things seem to have turned a little anti-social on one of small businesses' largest lifelines--Yelp. Genter reportedly--and stunningly--posted a negative Yelp review.

You will feel like a parent at a shotgun wedding when I tell you that Yelpers are now expressing themselves with all the vigor of a venomous vicar on the site.

"They don't deserve their business license, and they don't deserve your business," offered Isiah K. Yes, the store currently enjoys a one-star Yelp rating.

Another Yelper, Dana B. declared: "Someone capable of such hatred has no place in an industry built on love. Want to defend marriage? Protect it from divorce, infidelity, and boredom. Don't keep two people who love each other from making a commitment in front of their god and their loved ones."

This does seem like a seriously cogent argument. What might also be a cogent argument for business sense are the at least 69 1-star reviews that have been posted just today.

Some will declare this is a mere orchestrated protest. But for a local business, orchestration can mean castration.

One commenter, Dana Q., suggested: "Even before any of that happened, this place didn't deserve more than one star."

Many would believe that Yelp offers skewed review results. The company itself has taken strides toward make its reviews more transparent. Indeed, one issue here may be that many of the reviewers are out of state and have probably not come anywhere near this bridal experience.

But as one Yelper, Jeff B. put it: "Yelp administrators: I realize that many of the people reviewing this establishment might not be in strict adherence with your policy, which, if I am not mistaken, requires first-hand experience with the vendor in order to review. I urge you to take exception in this instance, as bigotry is something that affects EVERYONE and, because our concerns are based on real-life events, I believe the Yelp community should be allowed to participate in this form of boycott."

Yelp's content guidelines state: "Reviews aren't the place for rants about a business's employment practices, political ideologies, extraordinary circumstances, or other matters that don't address the core of the consumer experience."

I contacted Yelp for its opinion on whether these reviews just might address the core of the consumer experience at Here Comes The Anti-Gay Pride.

Yelp's Chantelle Karl told me: "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. 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."

Karl added: "As is our normal procedure, we'll be working to pull these reviews and notify the reviewers in the coming days."

You might wonder whether New Jersey law might offer a review of this situation. Well, the Daily Kos helpfully offered that there is a 1991 amendment to its civil rights statute that makes it unlawful to refuse to sell something to someone on the basis of their "affectional or sexual orientation."

There will be many who will surely imagine that poking one's nose into people's personal lives has always been bad politics, bad business, and touchingly putrid humanity.

 

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