How many bank accounts do you have?

If you are banking with Wells Fargo you may not know the correct answer to this question. Why?

On September 8, 2016 Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) filed a Consent Order in the matter of Wells Fargo. According to the CFPB filing, from January 1, 2011 to September 8, 2016 Wells Fargo employees opened approximately 1,534,280 deposit accounts “that may not have been authorized and that may have been funded through simulated funding, or transferring funds from consumers’ existing accounts without their knowledge or consent. That analysis determined that roughly 85,000 of those accounts incurred about $2 million in fees (…)” 

At the same time, the CFPB concluded that Wells Fargo employees “submitted applications for 565,443 credit-card accounts that may not have been authorized by using consumers’ information without their knowledge or consent. That analysis determined that roughly 14,000 of those accounts incurred $403,145 in fees (…)”

Wells Fargo employees were opening phony accounts to boost their commissions. If you are among 40 million Well Fargo clients, you might have a few accounts you are not aware of.

How Did the Swindle Work?

It was a pretty simple scheme. Using customer’s confidential information from the bank’s internal customer management system, Wells Fargo employees were opening additional accounts that customers neither needed nor authorized.

According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filing:”

  • Respondent’s (Wells Fargo’s) employees engaged in “simulated funding.” To qualify for incentives that rewarded bankers for opening new accounts that were funded shortly after opening, Respondent’s employees opened deposit accounts without consumers’ knowledge or consent and then transferred funds from consumers’ authorized accounts to temporarily fund the unauthorized accounts in a manner sufficient for the employee to obtain credit under the incentive-compensation program.
  • Respondent’s employees submitted applications for and obtained credit cards for consumers without the consumers’ knowledge or consent. 
  • Respondent’s employees used email addresses not belonging to consumers to enroll consumers in online-banking services without their knowledge or consent. 
  • Respondent’s employees requested debit cards and created personal identification numbers (PINs) to activate them without the consumer’s knowledge or consent.”

This resulted in massive overdrafts and late fees that Wells Fargo collected from its customers. It is really hard to be current on a credit card account or to keep an appropriate balance on a deposit account when you are not aware of such an account even exists. So, why would an average  American  willingly participate in Wells Fargo account opening scam? The reason for such bizarre behavior was simple – for each additional opened account a Wells Fargo employee was entitled to additional compensation in accordance with the “incentive-compensation program” or the “Comp Plan”.

The Comp Plan

The Comp Plan (short for the “compensation plan”) is the language every sales organization is using to communicate with its sales force. Let’s say your company publicly states that its employees should introduce both Product A and Product B to the potential client, but Product B, if sold, pays twice as much as Product A would. Which product do you think will be recommended to the consumers more often? You are getting the picture, right? The Comp Plan is the core of all sales activities. It  often shapes the behavior of many sales floors.

In a nutshell, the Comp Plan is a manual on “how you make money in our organization?” The Comp Plan comes before any company’s official statements, policies and procedures, and it often takes priority over ethics considerations and the laws. By putting certain incentives in the right places, companies communicate their wishes to the foot soldiers in the field. In the case of Wells Fargo, wishes were communicated to the bankers and clerks at local branches. This is how an “Incentive Plan” is described on page 112 of the Wells Fargo Team Member Handbook.

“Some team members participate in incentive pay programs designed to support specific business objectives. These incentive plans provide compensation opportunities in addition to the base salary available to eligible team members in designated jobs for achievement of specific goals. Incentive compensation opportunities may be decreased or eliminated when individual, business group, or company goals are not met. (emphasis added)” 

The “Specific Business Objectives” mentioned above consisted mostly of making sure that every Wells Fargo customer had 8 (eight) or more accounts with the company. Why eight? Was this number somehow scientifically calculated based on the wishes and needs of a typical customer? Of course not. This number was in place because Wells Fargo’s CEO John Stumpf said so.

In his 2010 letter to Wells Fargo shareholders, Wells Fargo CEO wrote: ” I’m often asked why we set a cross-sell goal of eight. The answer is, it rhymed with “great.”  – Page 6. As if forcing 8 (eight) accounts down the throat of an average American consumer was not enough, the very same Wells Fargo CEO used the same letter to set an even  stranger goal – 10 (ten) accounts per customer. He wrote:” Perhaps our new cheer should be: “Let’s go again, for ten!”. Just so you understand the level of arrogance this man has, he wrote this in his official letter to the shareholders, not in a confidential memo to his cronies.

Needless to say, every account comes with fees and other profit opportunities for Wells Fargo. Another very disturbing part here is: “Incentive compensation opportunities may be decreased or eliminated when individual, business group, or company goals are not met.”  Translating from the “sales talk” into plain English, in many cases a sales person is in an “all-or-nothing” situation, where a bonus or an incentive is paid only when a certain threshold (goal) is met.

Let’s say, for example, that a sales person is paid $20 for each new account, but only if this sales person opens 10 accounts per week. In this situation, opening 9 accounts will earn nothing for the sales person, but the organization itself will still benefit from 9 new accounts. Now, imagine that you are a clerk at Wells Fargo at 4 PM on Friday night, and you already have 9 accounts opened. All you need is one more account to earn the bonus. In the situation like this, a sales person is under tremendous pressure to open this last 10th account to earn the incentive for the previous 9 accounts he or she opened earlier that week. In almost all cases when the scenario is like this, your client’s best interest, ethics and many other considerations go out of the window. And not because a bank employee at the branch is an evil person but because the Comp Plan is set up this way.

So, was a lower level bank clerk, who wanted to make an extra $20 or $200 a week for his family, the root of the evil? To answer this question, we will need to figure out who actually benefited the most from this fraud and who was in charge of Wells Fargo policies as well as of making sure that checks and balances were in place.

Who Benefited the Most

Wells Fargo Fraudulent Accounts Scandal

Some people may think that charging overdraft and late fees on unauthorized bank accounts and credit cards to make more money for Wells Fargo was the main goal of the scam. This is not the case. The real goal was to show the Wall Street that Wells Fargo was doing better than it really was. The Wall Street loves better-than-expected quarterly numbers and rewards the company with higher share price.

This higher share price is all that Wells Fargo top executives ever wanted. Wells Fargo management  could not care less about consumers and their bank accounts, whether opened legitimately or not. Their interest was solely in better quarterly results and higher share price, so their take-home pay increased exponentially.

If showing more newly opened accounts was what it took to show better results to investors and boost the price of Wells Fargo shares, so be it. Here is why – most, if not all, top executive compensation plans are connected to the company performance which in most cases is measured by increased share price. Unfortunately, in most American corporations, building a long term value for a shareholder is not worth much. Most corporations live from quarter to quarter and rarely look beyond quarterly numbers. All that matters is share price from quarter to quarter. In short, if share price is going up – executives are doing a good job and shall be rewarded, regardless of what happens year or two down the road.

When share price goes above a certain pre-determined target number, all kinds of incentive payments are set off, stock options owned by top executives become “in the money” and very valuable, and so on. For example, Senator Elizabeth Warren estimated that Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf alone took home approximately $200,000,000 (two hundred million dollars) as a result of increased share price of Wells Fargo, which in part was fueled by phony results of operations. Now, take 2 million dollars that Wells Fargo, as a company, received from overdraft fees on unauthorized bank accounts and compare this number to 200 million dollars that Wells Fargo CEO John Stumpf took home largely as a result of the scam.

Do you see the real winner here? Another real winner is a former Wells Fargo Consumer Banking Chief Carrie Tolstedt. She was running the department where Wells Fargo employees opened more than 2 million mostly unauthorized customer accounts. She recently retired from Wells Fargo and walked away with a 124.6 million paycheck according to the story.

And, of course, Wells CEO and former Consumer Banking Chief are not accepting any blame for what has happened.

Who Is to Blame?

The amazing thing here is that public outcry is directed towards rank-and-file Wells Fargo employees or a company in general, while top-level executives are mentioned only as those guilty of a sloppy oversight. In reality it should be the other way around. As Senator Elizabeth Warren put it while grilling Wells Fargo CEO during the Capitol Hill hearings: “Your definition of “accountable” is to push the blame to your low level employees who do not have money for a fancy PR firm to defend themselves.” (1:50 here).

Lower level employees did not create a Comp Plan for Wells Fargo – top management did. Lower level employees were not responsible for checks and balances within the organization – top management was. Lower level employees did not go home with millions of dollars in severance pay – they went home with the brochure on how to apply for unemployment and public assistance. So, how does it happen that lower level employees are always blamed for everything? Good question.


Wells Fargo agreed to pay a 185 million dollar fine as a result of the investigation. Now, keep in mind that not a single dollar of this fine will be paid by top Wells Fargo Executives – this money will be paid by Wells Fargo Bank and, ultimately, by Wells Fargo shareholders. The same shareholders Wells Fargo top executives were hired to serve. Shareholders, and not the individual criminals, are stuckwith the bill. Nothing new – business as usual. Approximately 5,300 Wells Fargo employees lost their jobs for doing exactly what Wells Fargo wanted them to do – cross-sell the heck out of every client at any cost. The State of Illinois together with California yanked all the state banking business from Wells Fargo.

Wells Fargo Bank will deal with the fallout of this disaster for years to come. How about top executives, who have designed and approved the compensation plan encouraging the “8 accounts per client” mantra? The same executives who made hundreds of millions on the wave of Wells Fargo over-exaggerated “results of operations”? Are they hurting? Well, they are doing just fine. No need to worry about them being late on a mortgage or looking for a payday loan. Anyone from the top management was fired like 5,300 rank-and-file employees were? Anyone returned one red cent of theill-gotten profits? Of course not. Moreover, Wells Fargo CEO is much better off retiring or even being terminated. According to story, Wells Fargo CEO would walk away with 102.7 million dollars even if fired. With this kind of “golden parachute” and “continued pay provision”, resignation or termination is the thing to wish for.

Takeaway – What to Do Going Forward

How to avoid similar problems in the future? Well, an early warning system is usually a good thing to have for a large organization. Sometimes an organization is getting so big that all lines of communication are clogged with bureaucracy. Consumer review websites like can be an early warning tool that would help companies avoid unnecessary risks and save money and customers in the long run. Because posting review on is a simple, free and effective way for consumers to voice their concerns, this website is one of the first places where problems get voiced.

In many cases, when different consumers report similar problems, patterns can be detected early, and a company can be warned about something that may become a costly multi-million dollar class action lawsuit and a PR disaster tears down the road. Setting up a warning system directly with consumer review outlets is a very good idea for any company that is serious about staying away from the kind of attention Wells Fargo is getting today.


Wells Fargo reviews:

What kind of a phone call can bring U.S. Federal Communications Commission and over 30 top United States IT companies together to form a coordinated “Robocall Strike Force”? Well, “robocalls” can do just that. A robocall is simply an automated phone call that uses an autodialer to deliver a message. If you ever received unwanted pre-recorded phone calls from telemarketers, debt collectors, political parties, donation seekers, or outright scammers, you are familiar with robocalls. And, you are definitely not alone. Robocalls are widespread and no one is immune from them. When consumers get multiple robocalls a day, it can be very irritating and entirely abusive.

Some examples of PissedConsumer reviews left by customers upset about robocalls:

  1. Lifewatch USA making millions of illegal robocalls
  2. Non-stop calls from Local Lighthouse

Robocalls are especially dangerous when a robocaller is pretending to be your bank, your credit card company, or some other organization you trust, such as a government agency. If this is the case, your money or identity can be stolen and it might take years to restore what a simple 2-minute phone call has taken from you. In order to better understand the problem, let us go back in time and learn how things got so bad, that a “Robocall Strike Force” became a necessity. The problem is not new. Unwanted and fraudulent phone calls are as old as the telephone itself. For many years, however, technology limitations together with high cost of telephone services acted as a barrier to a widespread robocall abuse.

A Few Historical Facts

Going 30-40 years back, phone calls were expensive. For example, in 1984 the cost of a local phone call via a pay phone increased from 10 cents to 25 cents in New York and some other states. This increase might not look like a big deal today, but back in 1984 you could have had a hamburger at McDonalds for 55 cents or a dozen eggs for slightly under a dollar. So, 25 cents had a different value at that time. And 25 cents was a “local call” rate. If you were calling “long distance”, which in many cases included neighboring cities, the cost of a phone call skyrocketed. For example, a weekday rate for a 5-minute phone call from Los Angeles to New York in 1985 was $2.53, according to Los Angeles Times article. International calls were even more expensive and out of the question for most people. Nevertheless, even with the high price of a telephone call, doing business over the phone was much more cost effective than travelling and face-to-face meetings.

As a result, more and more organizations started relying on phone communication. 

And rightfully so. Why send a salesperson all the way across the city or, in some cases, across the country to meet with a prospective client face-to-face, when a simple phone call could do? Yes, the phone call would cost a few dollars, but compared to the cost of tickets, taxi fares, hotels, and so forth, it would still be a bargain. With ever increasing demand, the race to the bottom started between major phone service providers and software development companies of all sizes to offer cheaper, faster, and more efficient ways to make phone calls. Some early attempts to automate phone calls and make them cheaper started even before Internet became a widespread technology. At the same time, leaving automated pre-recorded voicemails became a common practice.

Adding another layer to the problem, on March 13, 1984, Motorola sold its first handheld cell phone to the unknown hero for $3,995 (about $10,000 in today’s money). Motorola DynaTAC 8000X model was ugly, huge in size, weighed almost a kilogram, can only work for 30 minutes, had very limited service areas, and was extremely expensive to buy and use. Even so, DynaTAC 8000X model, nicknamed “The Brick”, opened a floodgate to personal cell phone use, gave the start to enormous competition for the new cell phone market, and became a status symbol for any successful businessman.

And, of course, cell phones quickly became a target for all kinds of people making unwanted or fraudulent phone calls. Along with legitimate businesses came not-so-legitimate operations and scammers. Things got so bad, that in 1991 U.S. Congress had to pass the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The TCPA (formally codified as 47 U.S. Code § 227 – Restrictions on use of telephone equipment) was designed to restrict telemarketing and the use of automated telephone systems. The TCPA limits the use of automatic dialing networks, artificial or prerecorded voice messages, SMS text messages, and faxes.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is an extremely unforgiving and ruthless law and was designed to stop robocall abuse, among other things. Under the TCPA, consumers are entitled to seek anywhere from $500 to $1,500 per an illegal phone call (!) covered by the TCPA, which is any phone call to a cell phone made without prior explicit written authorization from a consumer, for example. There are many smart consumer protection attorneys who took the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to heart, but there are few who are absolutely remarkable.

Here Are Some Examples just to Illustrate How far the TCPA Can Go:

Back in June of 2012, outstanding consumer protection attorneys Joshua B. Swigart and Robert L. Hyde of Hyde & Swigart LLP, in cooperation with equally great lawyers Douglas Campion and Abbas Kazerounian taught the Wells Fargo Corporation (number one bank in the United States by market capitalization) and Freddie Mac a good lesson about the TCPA. The cost of the lesson was 17 million dollars in class action settlement money. (Case No. 3:10-cv-01290 and Case No. 3:10-cv-02657 filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of California).

In July of 2014, good people from Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP settled the TCPA lawsuit with Capital One Financial Corporation (one of the top 10 American banks) for a whopping 75 million dollars (Case No. 1:12-cv-10064 filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois).

Two month down the road in September of 2014 same guys from  Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein LLP took Bank of America Corporation (the second largest bank in the United States by total assets) for 32 million dollars in the similar class action TCPA lawsuit. (Case No. 5:11-cv-02390 filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California).

If you think such harsh penalties stopped anyone from using robocalls, think again. There is simply too much money on the line to quit. If we want to understand why the problem is so big and virtually unstoppable, we need to look at the robocalling from “potential robocaller’s” perspective. Let’s say, your business revolves around the phone, and making hundreds of phone calls is your daily routine.

Years ago, phone calls were made by manually dialing one number at a time. This was very inefficient and time-consuming. The number of calls one agent was able to make was very limited, and the number of connected (answered) calls was even smaller. Leaving voicemails on not-answered numbers was the biggest time killer. The voicemail greeting alone can be as long as 30 seconds, and it takes another 1-2 minutes to actually leave a voice message. Together with dialing time, we are looking at 3 minutes spent to leave a voicemail that will probably lead nowhere. Now you can see why leaving pre-recorded messages became so popular. The agent might be talking to the next client, while the machine leaves a pre-recorded message for the previous one.

Robocall Crackdown

When personal computers became more accessible, first attempts were made to automate dialing process and increase the number of phone calls one can make. Things got more and more complicated with the rapid evolution of the Internet. In 1991 first VoIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) application named Speak Freely was released to the public. The VoIP technology allowed users to make phone calls and send fax messages using Internet connection instead of phone lines.

In 1995 Microsoft, Intel, and other IT giants began the process of standardization of VoIP systems. VoIP became so big that, feeling the heat, in 1996 telecommunication companies unsuccessfully petitioned the U.S. Congress to ban the Internet phone technology.

The ban has never happened.

Due to the rapid expansion of the new technology, VoIP phone calls were becoming cheaper and easier to make by the day. With the opportunity of that size, huge players, like Cisco Systems, jumped in and by 2004 VoIP providers popped up on every corner. The cost of a phone call diminished to the cost of the Internet connection. There is no such thing as long-distance or international calling when all calls are made using the Internet. And, of course, broadband ultra-high-speed Internet connection became a very low-cost reality.

The art of reaching out to consumers over the phone evolved rapidly due to enormous benefits the new technology offered combined with huge potential profits. Needless to say, scammers and unscrupulous telemarketers were right on cue. Today’s call center is a robust well-oiled machine where complex technologies are utilized together with highly trained agents / representatives / customer service specialists.

In a Modern Day Call-Center, Things Have a Matter of Seconds, Not Minutes

Nowadays commercial automated dialing systems are capable of supporting up to 2,000 simultaneous phone calls with only one server and a single 100 Mb Internet connection. When a call-center is originating 2,000 outbound phone calls at the same time, you can bet there will be many pre-recorded robocall messages left. And, if scammers are running the joint, there will be enormous damage done. Especially when scammers change their Caller IDs and phone numbers to make them look legitimate. As far as technology goes, the call-center industry took things one step further, adopting predictive dialers as a time-saving and cost-cutting measure.

A predictive dialer is an absolutely remarkable combination of hardware and state-of-the-art software that leaves nothing to chance. Today, predictive dialers employ a Call Progress Analysis technology, where software is analyzing the call in real time. This allows the dialer to automatically recognize disconnected numbers and abandon the call and recognize when a voicemail is reached to leave a pre-recorded message, all without any effort or even awareness from the call-center agent. The agent is only connected to the call when the live person answers the phone on the other end. The use of predictive dialers allowed for boosting of “agent utilization” to 57 minutes per hour, according to Wikipedia.

Finally, since VoIP phone calls can be made from anywhere in the world, call-centers mushroomed all over India, Philippines, Bangladesh, and other countries that offer very inexpensive labor. A simple setup of the VoIP system can change a Caller ID and a phone number of a caller, so most consumers in US or Canada will never know the call is coming from overseas. Now, imagine this technology combined with cheap labor at the hands of shameless telemarketers and scammers.

Well, this is when the “Robocall Strike Force” became a necessity. Only time will tell if this Strike Force will make a difference. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson pointed out “the breadth and complexity” of the problem.

Hopefully, “Robocall Strike Force” will have enough muscle, since it brings together the government regulatory agency, phone and internet providers, device makers, operating system developers, and network designers. As consumers, we definitely should wish them the best of luck fighting a good fight.

The dust has not even started settling over Frankfort Herald DMCA games as the new player has come to light – Mashable City a/k/a   The throne is never vacant…

In their May 2016 DMCA takedown notice to Google Mashable City alleged that they were the copyright owner of Pissed Consumer content published back in 2013.

Original URL:
Allegedly Infringing PC URLs:,, and

Mashable City claims to be “…a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking  to…”

Strangely enough, this shining beacon of an advertisement website fails to provide its users with any information about its nature or its service or any contact details. Moreover, when you look at the review allegedly stolen by Pissed Consumer, it turns out that it is THE ONLY review on in the Travel/Transportation category (please see

We have decided to keep digging and – voila! Mashable City has come out full force in all its glory:

Travel/Tourism Category – no posts whatsoever (


Finance/Accounting Category – no posts whatsoever (



And, when it comes to the overall activity of this website, we have discovered that it decided to cease its activity from 2012 to 2016 renewing it with….Exactly right! The article the copyright to which has been allegedly infringed by Pissed Consumer!


One can only wonder as to the number and success rate of Mashable City’s sneak attacks against its unsuspecting victims…


We at Opinion Corp(dba Pissed Consumer) have hoped that the last post about aggressive SEO practices would put some sense into SEO players. We wanted to stress out the fact that we pay attention to the details and review all the facts. We hoped Reputation Management Companies would stop making gross errors and at least try playing by the rules. Apparently they are still not quite with us. We intend to use Pissed Consumer blog to talk about the facts and show all the dirty SEO and ORM techniques as we learn about them.
This time around we will show how the company is trying to forge a DMCA notice and serve it on Google in an attempt to take down Pissed Consumer (PC) and CBS content from the Google Index. A newly created website claims that they are the owners of a copyright to the content in question and have been since forever, and demand that the infringing sites (PC and CBS)be removed from the index based on the DMCA! Oh, REALLY ???
The most effective way to combat this kind of behavior is to apply the Streisand Effect to the issues that the perpetrators here are trying to silence.

Gory Details
Frankfort Herald, is a newspaper website that, despite its trustworthy name, has never really existed, for all intents and purposes, before January 2016 (according to However, this did not stop them from sending a DMCA notice to Google claiming that they were the owners of the copyrighted material from Pissed Consumer thatwas published back in 2012.
On April 15, 2016 Pissed Consumer received a takedown notice for a review where claimed that they originally wrote the piece of news in question back on January 5, 2012. The review is about Brad Kuskin, and they claimed they had it published only 2 days prior to the article appearing on
We take DMCA notices very seriously and we do our research in such cases.

Original URL:
Allegedly Infringing PC URL:

Well, we checked the mentioned domain using the Internet Archive (, and the first time has any sort of meaningful content is January of 2016… It seems that before that time the website was simply parked in cyberspace (or the Internet space) with no data on it.
Prior to January 2016, the website looked like this:



.. and suddenly in January 2016 it got shaped up to this form …



The picture above shows the record from April 3, 2016.  As you can see, the last article on the page is the article about Best Buy. Today, as we are writing this, you can see that the review from Pissed Consumer has been inserted into the page by Frankfort Herald at the bottom of the listing:


How is CBS involved in this?

With the additional research on Lumen Database we see that the same Frankfort Herald was used to take down content from CBS.  I am curious to see what CBS will do with this information.



Pittsburg CBS Investigative report




Just as in the case with, Frankfort Herald claims that they are the copyright holder for the CBS Pittsburg Article from 2011.

I am curious to see what Marty Griffin, CBS Pittsburg Investigative reporter, who wrote the piece in 2011 for CBS, would say.   This is the article that attempts to remove from Google using this tactic.

03/17/2016 Original Post

How far could corporations go to hide negative consumer reviews from being located?  – That is the question. This time they might have gone way too far…

Apparently, some corporations hire shady reputation management companies to file questionable lawsuits with the purpose of getting defamation judgment in their favor.  Once obtained, the judgment gets forwarded to major search engines followed by the removal of allegedly defamatory webpages from search engine index.  We managed to identify two attorneys who have been involved in such a scheme.

So far, we have collected 11 cases filed in the Superior Court of Contra Costa County in the State of California, where a very suspicious plaintiff files a lawsuit for defamation on one or several third party websites.  The lawsuit is filed for a particular Plaintiff, while benefit(removal from search engine) is obtained by another business entity.

Let’s do a bit of analysis of the data that is easily available in the cases we were able to pull.

Table below summarizes the data that we have collected, so far:


Case # Date of filing Plaintiff Beneficiary Affected Website Defendant Plaintiff’s Attorney
C15-01873 10/13/2015 TALENT CASTING GROUP, INC Premiere Event
C15-02143 11/18/2015 CTI, INC Central Turf and Irrigation GAIL MUNRO Owen T. Mascott
C15-02144 11/18/2015 MNP, INC Kathy Ireland,
C15-02211 12/08/2015 CTI PROFESSIONALS, INC Central Turf and Irrigation MIREYA RODRIGUEZ Owen T. Mascott
C16-00011 01/07/2016 HAIR SOLUTIONS, INC Keranique JOHN RADONICH Owen T. Mascott
C16-00066 01/13/2016 ATP COSMETICS LLC,
C16-00090 01/19/2016 RCP ENTERPRISES N/A Yet TROY MATTOS Owen T. Mascott
C16-00205 02/02/2016 REPDEFENSE SOLUTIONS, INC. Reputation Defender
C16-00319 02/24/2016 MAJESTIC VACATIONS, LLC Bluegreen Resorts
C16-00353 02/23/2016 A&D INTERNATIONAL AGORA Financial TARRA MARTIN Mark W. Lapham
C16-00359 02/26/2016 TOW TEN ENTERPRISES, INC N/A Yet JASMIN ANDERSON Mark W. Lapham

Reputation Defender (a/k/a RepDefense Solutions, Inc.)

 ‘Reputation defender’ is the keyword that used to be very well-ranked on Google for PissedConsumer results until a couple of weeks ago when it was completely de-indexed from Google Search.

Reputation Defender Google Search

When following the Lumen Database link provided by Google (, you will find a decision in the lawsuit filed on 02/02/2016 by Attorney Owen T. Mascott on behalf of RepDefense Solutions, Inc. against Demoin Stroman III.  On February 10, 2016 The Honorable rendered a decision ordering allegedly defamatory links to be removed from major search engines, including Google:

Here is a couple of very interesting notes regarding this Reputation Defender defamation case, as it relates to PissedConsumer:

The allegedly defamatory statements as presented in the Final Judgment are actually not on the PissedConsumer page that is being removed. Whoever the perpetrators are in this case, their approach was to get Google to de-index the PissedConsumer listing (sub-domain page) for keyword ‘Reputation Defender’.

The text shown in paragraph g. above is the only text that can be assumed to be referred to in the case – “they lie” – verbatim text in the review (Review ID 203379) actually says “Reputation Defender lies…” based on the context of the case.  This is only our assumption, since we did not find the exact text on  The language “Reputation Defender lies…” is actually a part of the review –– that was posted anonymously in 2010.

Now, since it is an anonymous review, let’s ask ourselves a question: how did Attorney Mascott find a defendant in this case without subpoenaing PissedConsumer for their identity? Did he just get lucky? How was Demoin Stroman III, the Defendant in this case, was located just one day after the case had been filed; and not only was located, but also managed to almost immediately provide Attorney Mascott with his fully executed Affidavit? Now, if it were a single case, we could say all this was possible. However, when we are looking at 11 (! ELEVEN ) cases in Contra Costa county in California with exactly the same pattern, it “all this” starts looking quite suspicious…

Additionally, if you know your defamer, and this defamer agrees to write a notarized letter to PissedConsumer, there is no need for you to go through Court system.  Unless someones goal is to remove the listing from Google Index that contains all reviews about a particular company.

It seems that the purpose of the lawsuits like the one described above is not to remove a single defamatory review, but to silence all consumers and to take away their ability to voice their opinions about Reputation Defender.


Bluegreen Resorts (a/k/a MAJESTIC VACATIONS, LLC)

 ‘Bluegreen Resorts’ is yet another keyword that used to be very well-ranked on Google for PissedConsumer results and yet another case that fits the pattern. has 648 reviews posted on PissedConsumer at the time of writing this blog.  The purpose of this lawsuit was to de-index from Google the entire subdomain that would include all of the reviews of all the posters.   By doing a little “googling”, we find that in 2010 Bluegreen Corporation had a run-in with the PA Attorney General Bureau of Consumer Protection  ( ).

There is one more reason for Bluegreen to try and silence consumer’s voice – it was only 3 month ago that Bluegreen Corporation settled a class-action lawsuit that initially affected 11,000 consumers’ credit scores ( )

So, would a company like this be interested in sweeping any negative reviews on PissedConsumer and other similar sites under the rug?

In this case, the Plaintiff’s business (Majestic Vacations LLC) does not exist in State of California despite Attorney Mark W. Lapham stating in the Complaint that Majestic Vacations is a California company.

California Secretary of States Majestic Vacations

The Final Judgment in this case calls for removal of from Google and other search engines.

Now, can someone explain why did the non-existing Majestic Vacations sue Angelica Lebron for allegedly defamatory statements associated with Bluegreen Resorts?


General Case Pattern – Easy 3 Steps Process

General Case Pattern

An attorney files a case on behalf of NON-existent company.

A couple of days later a Defendant surfaces up ready to produce a fully executed affidavit while NO subpoena has issued to the third-party websites.

2 -3 weeks pass, the judge renders the decision and the judgment is sent to Google followed by removal of the links – the case is closed.

So, let’s take this elaborate pattern apart, shall we:

(i) why would someone file a Complaint on behalf of a fake non-existing Plaintiff;

(ii) since the actual beneficiary in these legal actions can only be identified when looking at the “guilty” URL addresses listed in the Complaint, what is relation between this beneficiary and the Plaintiff – the list of questions can go on and on…

Actually, in the case with RepDefense Solutions, Inc. (Reputation Defender), the Plaintiff’s business does exist in California, but it was created on the same day the lawsuit in question was filed. It may be just a coincidence…

California Secretary of State RepDefense Solutions Inc

Why are Reputation Defender links so special that the general pattern of their particular case was changed to establish an actual company? Or maybe it was just a coincidence – again…  If it is not a coincidence, what kind of standing would a newly formed company have in terms of removal of Reputation Defender links on Google; the links that have existed since 2010?

Why not use real corporate names?

Did the attorney commit fraud in this case?

Does the beneficiary company even know what is being done for them?

We can only speculate here.  It seems that companies themselves do not want to be seen as filers of such lawsuits.  Or, perhaps, the masterminds behind this whole operation want to hide what is being done for their clients.  Hopefully, this pattern will be a point of interest for Attorney Generals and State Bar Associations.

What happens if the pattern somehow does not work

 It seems there might be two most likely scenarios here:

  • Either the judge asked too many questions, or
  • The original Defendant decided to back off

Let’s look at two particular cases that we have found:

Case # Date of filing Plaintiff Beneficiary Affected Website Defendant Attorney Filing
C15-02143 11/18/2015 CTI, INC Central Turf and Irrigation GAIL MUNRO Owen T. Mascott
C15-02211 12/08/2015 CTI PROFESSIONALS, INC Central Turf and Irrigation MIREYA RODRIGUEZ Owen T. Mascott

It seems that Mr. Mascott ran into some sort of problems with the CTI, Inc. case. The original case was filed on November 18, 2015 against CTI, Inc., but something went wrong. So, hey, why not file another case, against another Defendant on behalf of a different yet very similar company called CTI Professionals, Inc., while seeking the defamation judgment against same two RipoffReport links as in the original case against CTI, Inc. and conveniently abandon the original case for good?

If this is not an Abuse of Process, you tell me what is…

“But what about the attorneys filing these cases?” – one might ask. Well, there is not much to talk about. Please, see for yourself:

Owen T. Mascott –

2 suspensions in 2007 and 2009.

Mark Whitney Lapham –

3 suspensions in 1991, 1994 and 2015.

We have spent a considerable amount of time analyzing the data from the court cases to uncover the dark side of reputation management and to bring it to light. We have spoken to several key players in the industry, and there seems to be a tremendous interest to the issues raised in this article.  We are hoping that other bloggers and journalists will pick up on the research that we have completed so far and take it further.

How much would a Reputation Management Company charge for the services like this?

Who is the mastermind behind this operation?

How many other attorneys and state courts are involved in this scheme?

Will these questions be answered? – That remains to be seen…



04/01/2016 Update

The story was picked up by several bloggers and news outlets.  Thank you very much to

Paul Alan Levy


Boing Boing


Additionally, we have received an email from Google last night with the full reinstatement of the pages in its Search Index.

Google has reinstated in its index the following urls:

Section 230 Defense Consortium

User generated content (UGC) websites are protected by Section 230 of the Communications

Decency Act. However, there are still companies and/or individuals that feel that they can overcome Section 230 and devise a ‘New Plan’ of attack. PissedConsumer has been a subject of numerous attacks involving meritless lawsuits, and we are not the only ones. There is a number of USG websites that are in the same position.
There are people out there that would like to silence Internet service providers for whatever the reason may be.

Suggested Solution

Publicize these cases to educate the public and the lawyers who still have not heard of Section 230…
UGC websites shall form a Defense Consortium where an attack on a particular website with a SLAPP lawsuit will be treated by consortium members as an attack on the entire alliance.
Section 230 lawsuits are SLAPP lawsuits, and organizations that are starting SLAPP lawsuits are looking to silence the platform. When a particular website is a member of such Consortium, all other members will do two things:

1. Post a link to prompt up the Consortium Member.

2. Highlight the case and the issue that a lawsuit is trying to silence, by pushing the case or article about it up in the search engines and/or media.

There is going to be a Panel formed inside the Consortium that will make a decision which suit is a SLAPP lawsuit and which one is not…
The more sites join the Consortium, the stronger response will be given to the attacker.
I am open to hear your suggestions on the subject. If you are interested in joining the Consortium, please
Contact Us with the subject: Section 230 Consortium.

Thank you.



There has been a cloud of kudos and congratulations for law professors who claim to be “heroes of the internet,” for their fight against revenge porn. For example, Brian Leiter seems to credit a trio of law professors who have never handled a single case. Meanwhile, when it comes to revenge porn, our lawyer actually got results in court.

In the past, revenge porn operators have tried to claim that they are protected by the same law that protects our right to share your consumer reviews – 47 U.S.C. § 230. However, these people are what the Economist called “Misery Merchants” (in an article where they interviewed Randazza. They are not protected by Section 230. And, let’s remember how strong Section 230 is – as consumer review sites are deemed to be protected, again and again. This site itself has been the subject of two reported cases, Ascentive v. Opinion Corp. and Roca Labs v. Opinion Corp. (Randazza was lead counsel in the Roca Labs case for us).

But, as much as Randazza has fought for our freedom of expression and our Section 230 rights, he is an advocate for personal privacy. For that reason, he took on revenge porn operators, pro bono. He was instrumental in getting Hunter Moore’s site, Isanyoneup, off the Internet. He followed that up killing its successor “misery merchant” site. And, he’s handled a number of cases for revenge porn victims that didn’t make it into the press – because he protected the victims’ privacy.

Revenge porn is not what Section 230 was designed for. Section 230 is there to protect service providers, and stands as the shield against those who would try and take down review sites rather than provide good service. Unfortunately, there are those who prefer to use censorship to achieve their commercial goals, just like there are those who would use censorship to stop revenge porn. Randazza himself is against that. While that might seem inconsistent with his record of fighting against revenge porn, he says it is not.

“There are legitimate ways to fight revenge porn,” said Randazza. “But, unfortunately, these ‘heroes’, as they are called, have done nothing to actually fight the problem – all they’ve done is lobby for unconstitutional laws against it. They want to criminalize the distribution of one category of photographs, when what they should have been doing is pushing for better civil remedies for harassment.”

And that is dear to our hearts here at Pissed Consumer. We don’t believe in harassment. We believe in accurate consumer reviews. Section 230 protects one, but not the other. And, we are grateful that we are represented by a guy who knows the difference.


Pissed Consumer has had its share of defamation cases filed against it. In many of those cases we were represented by Marc Randazza. Randazza just won a short, but important appellate court case in Florida involving the proper venue for a case to be brought.

In Comins v. VanVoorhis, Case No. 2009-CA-15047-O, Ninth Jud. Cir. of Orange County, Florida, Randazza’s client wrote an article about a wealthy business man who shot someone’s dogs, claiming that they were wolves. The individual who shot the dogs, Christopher Comins, filed a defamation suit against Randazza’s client, which wound up being dismissed because he didn’t give the defendant the proper pre-suit notice which is afforded to media defendants in Florida. Comins appealed that, and Randazza prevailed. Comins v. VanVoorhis, 135 So. 3d 545 (Fla. 5th DCA 2014). That case established that bloggers are “media defendants” in Florida.

Comins then decided to file yet another defamation suit over different statements in the articles. Comins v. VanVoorhis, Case No. 2011-CA-013931-O, Ninth Jud. Cir. of Orange County, Florida. He filed the suit in Orlando, but did not have any proof or allegation that anyone in Orlando ever read the articles. Therefore, Mr. VanVoorhis moved for a change of venue. The local Orlando court denied the request but Mr. VanVoorhis appealed to the 5th District Court of Appeals in Florida and the 5th DCA reversed and remanded. VanVoorhis v. Comins, 40 Fla. L. Weekly D 2694 (Fla. 5th DCA 2015). Now the case will be moving up to Alachua County, where Mr. VanVoorhis was during the publication.

As the target of a lot of SLAPP suits, and a very recent one in Florida, Pissed Consumer is happy to see this decision, since it means that if we are sued, the plaintiff’s counsel is going to have to file claims in the proper venue.

Copyright Infringement

At Pissed Consumer, we get a lot of flak from companies that want to take down negative reviews, and they get very creative about it. Most half-decent lawyers know that a straight up defamation claim will not get past 47 U.S.C. § 230. But, most also know that Section 230 does not stop a copyright claim. Therefore, some lawyers think they can get creative and misuse copyright. This is a form of copyright trolling, and the last company that tried to go after Randazza’s clients in a copyright trolling operation did not find it was to their benefit.

“Using copyright to try and take down information that you don’t like doesn’t usually work,” said Marc Randazza. “In the Righthaven case, the court awarded a lot of attorneys’ fees and, in part, threw out the case because it was clearly fair use. Fair use matters, and consumer reviews that use a small bit of the party’s work (like a thumbnail from a website) is fair use.”

Sometimes, would-be censors will try and use a DMCA takedown notice to remove content from Pissed Consumer. This rarely works, since we usually receive a counter-notification and put the information back up. Also, if someone mis-uses the DMCA, they can get sued by us under 17 U.S.C. § 512(f). Not only can they get sued, but we have sued over that. The recent case, Lenz v. Universal, shows that even a big music publishing company can get sued for mis-using the DMCA takedown procedure. Do you think that your company won’t get sued by us?

“I love 512(f) cases,” said Randazza. “I think that 512(f) is there for a reason, and part of it is protecting fair use and legitimate free speech from DMCA demands that have no basis in law or fact.”

Another form of copyright abuse is “copyright trolling.” That is a term that gets thrown around a lot, usually by people who simply hate copyright. At Pissed consumer, we are not anti-copyright, but we also don’t think that copyrights should be used to try and make money off of people, rather than to enforce legitimate rights. “I’ve been on both sides of mass-copyright litigation,” said Randazza. “I have had clients who wanted me to do them, and I did them, because it was my duty, but I prefer defending these cases.” Nevertheless, Randazza said that there is a difference between styles of mass-copyright litigation. “I would only do one of those cases for a plaintiff, if the plaintiff was legitimately protecting their income from mass theft.” In talking about that, he drew a sharp line contrasting a real copyright suit and the Righthaven scheme. “I was proud to have been part of ending the Righthaven reign of terror,” he said.

Reviews about fast food restaurants on Pissed Consumer

The “world’s first faith-based LGBT film festival” is hitting the road thanks to corporate sponsors. One of those sponsors happens to be one of the most conservative businesses to make the news in the past few years. In a rather startling turn of events, one Chick-fil-A franchise is sponsoring “Level Ground”, the LGBT film festival in question.

While this wouldn’t have made the news for almost any other business, Chick-fil-A’s owner has gone on record repeatedly with his and the company’s views on gay marriage. The views were not favorable. In fact, following highly publicized boycotts for and celebrations of its anti-gay marriage views, Chick-fil-A has become a lodestone of conservative businesses, much like Hobby Lobby, and those with similar views are shocked to learn that the Chick-fil-A logo will be prominently displayed among others in the film festival.

Embracing a New Perspective

The LGBT film festival has the elements of faith that would resonate with the supporters of the restaurant’s viewpoints, but that is where the support ends. In fact, many patrons of the chicken restaurant have started a petition to let the world – and primarily Chick-fil-A – know that they are not at all pleased to see the familiar logo associated with “an agenda which is contrary to Chick-fil-A’s corporate stance on Christian values regarding marriage and stewardship.” So far the petition has more than 250 signatures.

The film festival’s mission statement, which protestors claim is contrary is to create a “safe space for dialogue about faith, gender and sexuality through the arts.” That does seem an unusual mission for Chick-fil-A, a company that allegedly donated millions of dollars to anti-gay groups. But it’s hard to argue with the clearly displayed Chick-fil-A logo on the film festival’s Sponsors page.

Chick-fil-A’s Position

Surprised to see such a dramatic shift in perceived opinions, Eater, an online food news source, investigated the festival and reached out to Chick-fil-A’s corporate headquarters. The response from the company was that the LGBT film sponsorship was not a corporate one. Instead, a franchisee decided to sponsor the festival. The official stance by the parent company is that store “operators make decisions on local sponsorships.”

While perhaps not a new leaf for the entire highly conservative company, the sponsorship decision and the parent company’s support of (or perhaps distance from) it certainly stirs the pot a bit on LGBT discussions.


Chick-fil-A Reviews:

Reviews about prepaid cards on PissedConsumer

Customer complaints about prepaid cards have been increasing over the last six months. In fact, the number of complaints on Pissed Consumer have snowballed. The first review on Rushcard appears on Pissed Consumer four years ago. An average of 13 reviews about the prepaid card were made each month in the first nine months of the year.

And then October came. Looking at customer complaints, it seems Rushcard’s computer system went down on October 13. In the span of three days – October 13 through October 15 – Pissed Consumer saw over 700 reviews posted about Rushcard. In the weeks since that time, the total number of reviews about Rushcard have increased to 1,200. All since October 13. Something is not right in the world of prepaid bank cards.

When they work correctly, prepaid cards can be a financial lifesaver for those who aren’t able to take advantage of traditional banks and banking accounts. Some prepaid cards act in much the same way banks do offering customers the option to directly deposit paychecks and other funds onto the card that can then be used in almost any way a credit card can.

Of course, sometimes things don’t work correctly. When customers start complaining that “My direct deposit has not shown up yet, over 24 hours later than normal” (review #716829) there’s cause for concern. But when seven hundred people are saying something similar, it starts to sound rather serious indeed.

The problems individuals are having aren’t isolated to just a single company. The issues customers are complaining about with Rushcard are strikingly similar to an issue that evolved with Reloadit, another prepaid card company, in the summer of 2015. Customer complaints on Pissed Consumer describe tremendous frustration with the Reloadit website and the inability to load funds onto the cards. Customers describe their experience as “the worst experience” (review #690448) and complained that customer service is “absolutely pathetic, extremely inept and powerless” (review #658887).

The Case of the Missing Money

Among the most troubling concerns is missing money. Customers check their balance on the card or account, but when they go to spend the funds, the available balance is reduced and transactions are denied. Complaints describe their situations as being “overcharged $100 at gas station” and “duplicate charges that already posted now showing up again as ‘pending’” (review #719210). Perhaps worst of all, one irate customer explains that “No one will answer the customer service phone, it just hangs up on me” (review #716829).

One woman explains in her review that she checked her balance at home and had $176 available. When she tried to use her card to pay at a store she was declined. She tried to remove the funds as cash at an ATM, but was told she only had a balance of $76. When she got home and checked again to try to sort the situation out, she was down to a zero balance – all without spending anything from the account. She claims the funds simply disappeared from her account without explanation (review #718662).

Hers is not the only story like this. Others include stories of gas money disappearing at the pump and balances simply winding up zero without any transactions to reduce funds. Others can’t even get through to an automated system or a customer service representative to find out their balances at all, making customers very concerned about where exactly their money is going.

Troubles with System Upgrades

While some appear to be missing their funds after loading them, others can’t seem to use their cards at all. Customers complain of buying the reloadable cards at the store and then trying to load funds. They quickly find out that they either can’t load the funds, the card isn’t recognized or that they are going to have to wait days or perhaps weeks for activation.

When customers call customer service about their concerns, they are told by the company that “they were in the process of reworking their website, and that everyone was experiencing these same problems” (review #656134). Customers – especially those who have funds trapped on the cards – aren’t finding this particularly reassuring. Complaints range from customers spending hours to days trying to load funds before they realize it’s simply never going to happen.

The Biggest Complaint of All

Still others are caught in a particularly tricky spot. One man sums it up well when he posted that “It is now 7am on my payday, my direct deposit is STILL NOT THERE!” An update the next day reinforced the dire situation by claiming the funds still weren’t in despite the fact that the he would usually “get my direct deposit every Tuesday for over a year now” but now “Rush has over $600 of my money and I can’t even put gas in my car!” (review #716829).

Not only are direct deposit funds never arriving the first time, but many customers are trapped in a messier spot because the same prepaid card that is giving a customer trouble is due to be replenished again with another direct deposit.

Imagine the frustration of one customer who had trouble with her prepaid card, realized the implications of her pending direct deposit, tried to cancel it and realized she was too late.

Her entire direct deposit, perhaps even her whole paycheck will be deposited to a card where her previous balance evaporated inexplicitly in a matter of hours (review #716398). Needless to say, she is beyond irate with the entire situation. Worse, she is certainly not alone.

Reviews about employment on PissedConsumer

It’s a nice problem for the economy to have, perhaps, but it’s not nearly as appealing for the stores that are facing serious shortages of workers. As the holiday season rapidly approaches, Target, Wal-Mart and TJ Maxx have all boosted wages and made noises about not being able to get enough workers employed.

Raising Wages

Working in a retail job at Target or Wal-Mart isn’t necessarily prestigious, but it does bring in a paycheck. Fortunately for workers, those paychecks are going up just a bit. Wal-Mart has adjusted its starting wage to $9 per hour and Target quickly followed. TJ Maxx, another discount fashion retailer jumped in with a starting wage at $10 by 2016.

The rising wages in retail don’t seem to be doing much to drum up interest in workers, however. The number of advertised retail positions over the last year has increased by 26 percent. But the website Indeed has measured that workers’ interest in retail positions has fallen by 9 percent in roughly the same time period.

There are increasingly more jobs – especially seasonal ones – in retail, but there are fewer people interested in them.

Competing in Retail

The employee gap can mean a few things for current employees and customers alike. Current employees in most of these large stores can look forward to pay raises as wages go up. They may be even more likely to score a bump in pay by leaving one store to go and work at a competitor.

The higher wages also mean more content employees at the stores, which will hopefully trickle down to the customer. Happy employees usually make happier customers, after all.

On the other hand, there is a distinct possibility that the shortage of holiday workers can make this holiday season a bit sticky for many shoppers. If stores are looking to hire even more holiday workers than they did last year, that means they expect more shoppers. If they fail to hire those workers, all of those extra shoppers are going to be looking at longer waits at the cash registers and fewer employees on the sales floor to help.

As many pissed consumers have noted before, a shortage of workers is never a good thing in a retail store.


TJ Maxx Reviews:

Is Home Depot a Credit Killer?

We all know the value of a high credit score, and if you don’t, you likely haven’t been paying attention to yours. One man was very worried about his credit score. So worried, in fact, that he is suing Home Depot for “ruining” his score with a late payment notice.

The High Price of Paying Late

A customer in Oregon has taken the extreme measure of suing Home Depot for $250,000. One quarter of a million dollars is the value the unnamed man has put on his own credit score, which he claims Home Depot negatively affected without cause.

The story laid out in the case goes like this: The man opened a line of credit with Home Depot. The man made a payment that was delivered within hours or minutes of [the payment] date. Home Depot charged a $28 late fee. The man’s credit dropped 100 points once the late notice hits his credit. The man requests the fee be taken off his credit. Home Depot says no. The man sues for $250,000.

Two Sides to the Story

Obviously there are two sides to the story, but so far Home Depot hasn’t had much to say on the subject. The retailer told a reporter at that the building company would be turning the lawsuit over to Citi to handle, as that financial company handles the private financing for the store.

Other than this, Home Depot has been silent.

The plaintiff, on the other hand, has wasted no time making his side of events known. He filed the lawsuit in Multnomah County, Oregon suing Home Depot for $250,000. The unnamed man claims that the retailer charged him a fee for a payment that was made within minutes, or perhaps hours, of the due date.

The man claims he asked for an explanation of the late charge and to have it removed from his account, but instead Home Depot “embarked upon a harassment campaign designed to bother, vex and leverage Plaintiff. Defendant Home Depot caused dozens of electronic telephone calls to be made to Plaintiff. These calls were difficult to stop.”

Those of us not suing over our own late payments would call those collection calls, most likely. Especially if a payment was a few hours – maybe twelve or twenty-four hours – after a due date. It’s hard to know specifics from the intentionally vague working in the lawsuit. And while the man may have suffered a big hit to his credit for not paying a bill on time, he would have been at least thirty days late anyhow for the late payment to make it to his credit report in most cases.

It will be interesting to see if a man who paid a bill thirty days and “a few hours” late will be able to recoup his $28 and an extra $250,000 to go with it. It seems as though this individual may have left a few key details out of his story – only time, and a bit of sworn testimony, will tell for sure.


Home Depot Reviews:

Reviews about food service

When McDonalds launched its all day breakfast menu customers were thrilled. The owners and managers of the restaurants which had to serve that all day breakfast are far less enthusiastic.

McDonalds Trying for a Comeback

McDonalds has been in a slide for some time as the public looks for better options in fast food. One of the many tactics the fast food company has tried is to simplify its main menu and now it is expanded the menu to include breakfast items all day.

Other fast food companies like Sonic have always had this option available, but what McDonalds great – the super-fast service and predictable food – is starting to tarnish a bit under the movement to give customers what they want, when they want it.

The Problem with McDonald’s Breakfast

What put McDonald’s on the map initially was the idea of true fast food. The process of making burgers and fries in a modified assembly line fashion allowed many customers to be served in a short amount of time. The morning shift would cook eggs and sausage in short order, and the lunch and dinner shift would do the same with burger patties and fries.

Now, by allowing breakfast to move into dinner, the folks actually making the food and trying to satisfy customers are about to throw up their hands in defeat.

An analyst for the Japanese finance company Nomura took a survey in 226 different locations throughout the United States and the results weren’t good. The store operators are extremely frustrated in many cases.

Concerns in the Kitchen

Store operators complained about many things. The smaller stores were literally falling over themselves trying to make both breakfast and dinner options at the same time. There just wasn’t enough space to cook all the things that needed to be cooked.

Store patrons are “abandoning in droves” because the service in these stores has slowed down as the kitchen has turned into utter chaos.

Stores are being forced to hire more people to handle the different food requests. This is particularly bad because selling the breakfast menu all day means customers aren’t spending more each time they visit – they are spending less.

Many operators are concerned that this series of events can’t possibly end well.


McDonalds Reviews:

Reviews on PissedConsumer

Five stars. Two thumbs up. 100 percent.

As consumers, we rely on product reviews to steer us in the right purchasing decision. It’s easy to see why we, the buyers, might need positive reviews. After all, if you have a great experience at a particular restaurant, your positive review encourages others to visit the restaurant. Hungry patrons and restaurant owners alike are thrilled about every positive review. The same can be said for movies, video games, books, service and virtually any other experience.

But what about the experiences that aren’t very good? Do we need negative reviews just as much as positive ones?

The consumers of the world – especially the ones who have been burned by bad service or bad products – argue that yes, we absolutely need negative reviews. How else will the disgruntled consumer be able to share his experience with others? How can those looking for a good experience avoid wasting money?

On the other side of that, however, companies are wary. They certainly don’t want negative reviews. Those one star, no thumb, 15 percent rankings run off would-be customers and can destroy businesses. There are, in fact, companies who have tried to penalize consumers who dare leave a bad review – even if it’s an honest review.

Avoiding Bad Reviews at All Costs

Companies have struggled with the burden of bad reviews over the years, trying to find the best way to discourage negative reviews on consumer websites while staying at least a little bit legal. While a few practices raise a few eyebrows, others fall off that fine line right into the fully illegal side of things.

Yelp, a popular review website, is one who raises a few eyebrows. Customers write reviews about their experiences in restaurants, hotels and other businesses. With the popularity of a website like Yelp, even a single negative review can have a significant impact on the business and its reputation.

Naturally businesses are leery of review sites like this because there is often no way to check and see if a review is actually true or perhaps just a malicious attack, perhaps even an attack by a competing restaurant. One hotel bad mouths another online and business grows, let’s say. It begs the question, how do websites like Yelp prevent fake reviews, especially those that might damage a business without cause?

It turns out that Yelp does have policies in place to deal with fraudulent reviews both good and bad. Unfortunately nobody outside the company seems to know what those policies are. Even a lawsuit against the company
did “not raise more than a mere possibility that Yelp has authored or manipulated content related to Plaintiffs in furtherance of an attempt to ‘extort’ advertising revenues.”

What exactly was the question of manipulating content? According to the lawsuit and many other frustrated customers, Yelp is removing reviews according to their own policies. Policies that nobody knows. This is annoying, but not illegal. What took the eyebrow-raising actions to court was that some customers believed there was a financial basis in what reviews where removed and which stayed.

One realtor called the company to figure out why a legitimate positive review was removed by the Yelp team as being fraudulent. She learned that the company seemed “to be wary of first-time reviewers.” She claimed, “If your first review is negative then they let you post other reviews, but if your first review is positive then they remove it. The same goes if all your reviews are positive.”

But the kicker came when the slighted realtor realized, “They hinted that if I advertised on Yelp this may not have occurred.”

This realtor appeared to insinuate, as the lawsuit filed against the company claimed, that Yelp would leave good reviews in place, or even remove bad ones, if you paid for advertising on the website. The lawsuit against Yelp was dismissed by a judge back in 2011 not because it was clear Yelp wasn’t doing anything wrong, but because the class-action suit couldn’t show enough evidence to prove it. That’s a thin line to walk, indeed.

Going Over the Line

Other companies have tripped well over questionable behavior into the big leagues. Jen Palmer ordered items from the website She never received the items and couldn’t get anyone on the phone to discuss the missing delivery. Finally she did a charge back on PayPal and left a negative review about the company on a popular complaint website before moving on in her life.

Three years – more than 1,000 days – later, she was contacted by KlearGear and told that she had violated a non-disparagement clause buried in the terms of service. Not only had she violated the clause, claimed the company, she would “immediately be billed $3,500 USD for legal fees and court costs until such complete costs are determined in litigation.”

Shocked to learn that she was going to be billed $3500 in legal fees that didn’t even exist yet from a potential future suit, she also read that after thirty days her “unpaid invoice would be forwarded to our third party collection firm and will be reported to consumer credit reporting agencies until paid.”

In short, KlearGear had a statement buried in the fine print “to ensure fair and honest public feedback, and to prevent the publishing of libelous content in any form” telling customers they couldn’t post negative feedback if they purchased products from the site. In short, three years after the company failed to deliver a product or answer the phone, Jen Palmer was told, post a negative review and be ready to pay $3500 for the coming lawsuit. Or battle collections agents while your credit score drops if you don’t pay. Your call.

When the news story broke in 2013, it went viral and the internet jumped into the fray. Tim Cushing at TechDirt dug through the internet archives to learn that the non-disparagement clause didn’t even exist on KlearGear’s website at the time that Jen Palmer ordered the item that was never delivered. If the clause didn’t exist, it certainly can’t apply to her situation, but apparently nobody at KlearGear bothered to check this out (or they just didn’t care) before they requested $3500 for a not-yet-started-lawsuit.

As the outrage in the online world raged on, it was noted that KlearGear had misrepresented the Better Business Bureau’s rating on its website as well, which is another serious concern. Story after story was written and shared and eventually KlearGear shuttered its social media accounts. No lawsuit was filed, no money collected, but KlearGear retreated behind a closed Facebook account and protected Twitter. This is probably not the sort of move a $47 million company makes when it is trying to show the world it has nothing to hide.

Determining the Value of Negative Reviews

In some cases when companies try the say-nice-things-and-we-won’t-sue clauses, the Federal Trade Commission takes action. After one such case, the FTC recruited a top researcher, Paul A. Pavlou, to analyze whether suppressing negative reviews would actually harm consumers in some way.

Granted, most consumers want to know about bad products and services, but do we need to know about them? That was the question posed to Dr. Pavlou.

After researching the question and drawing upon years of additional experience in the field, the answer was straightforward. In his thirty-page report, Dr. Pavlou says unequivocally that the use of non-disparagement provisions and related threats and warnings has a negative effect on consumer welfare.

Threatening consumers willing to post negative reviews does two things. It inflates the perceived value of the product and it also prevents customers from learning about possible problems with the products.

Negative reviews may not be what the company wants, but by artificially suppressing the reviews, at least one expert claims consumers are getting hurt – either in the wallet or perhaps in the stomach as well. Without real customers experiences to examine it’s hard to tell.

The Truth behind Negative Online Reviews

There are numerous studies that have shown online ratings are tied to online purchases. Researchers from Wayne University  proved this easily, but went further in their research to see just what additional relationships existed between online reviews and sales.

The Wayne University researchers wanted to see what happened when companies – much like Yelp – tried to filter reviews. The experience the researchers set up filtered out reviews that would not enhance product sales, or basically bad reviews. Then, after a period of time, the filter was changed to allow all product reviews through.

Where you might assume that sales would now drop with the added negative reviews, the researchers found something else entirely. Apparently “by providing unbiased filtering, companies actually increase the positive impact of online reviews on online transactions.” By allowing a collection of both positive and negative reviews to be posted, sales actually increased online.

The Good Thing about Bad Reviews

Online reviews on PissedConsumer

Other researchers have delved into the data surrounding product reviews and unearthed some truths that companies should probably know.

Online reviews help customers.
The reviews others leave online help steer customers toward or away from purchases. Increasingly customer reviews are considered by other consumers to be unbiased and non-profit driven. This is obviously not the case for company-generated (or company filtered) materials. In fact, this lack of sincere consumer posts created by the experimental filter above may be why sales increased when negative reviews started making it online again. Customers respond to honesty and unbiased opinions.

Online reviews can raise prices.
Strong ratings can reduce a customer’s uncertainty about a product and actually boost demand. Higher demand often leads to higher prices, which is a huge plus for the seller. Online reviews are self-governing and allow customers to make informed decisions about online markets – often an asset for niche markets and developing businesses.

Negative reviews protect customers.
Literature has shown that negative reviews are an important element of the online sales community. The negative ratings warn customers about hazardous products or items that are of lower quality.

Negative reviews predict sales.
The vast majority of online reviews are positive. Negative reviews are fewer in number, which makes them more potent as a predictor of sales. Negative reviews are considered informative, helpful and diagnostic for would-be consumers.

Negative Reviews Harm Companies

It was found by both the pair of researchers from Wayne State University and another set of researchers from Harvard Business School that suppressing negative reviews can harm companies. A bad product can hurt a company, of course, but more indirectly, simply trying to squash neutral or negative reviews about a decent product can backfire on companies as well.

Fraud, distortion and the manipulation of product reviews damage the credibility of companies and their brand value. Manipulating online reviews lowers their value and can harm a company’s image, sales and potentially harm customer welfare as well.

The Consequences of Negative Reviews

Dr. Pavlou, who specializes in consumer behavior including online reviews and sales, had dire predictions for companies who try and suppress naturally occurring negative reviews. Suppressing negative reviews would not just hurt the company, but could prove dangerous to consumers as well who aren’t told of real problems people have experienced.

It would seem Dr. Pavlou was on the money when he claimed suppressing reviews would harm both the company and consumers. Consumers don’t stay quiet long when questionable activities come to light. According to Dr. Pavlou, it would seem customers don’t like it when companies “allegedly made baseless claims for their products, and then threaten to enforce “gag clause” provisions against consumers to stop them from posting negative reviews and testimonials online.”

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While customers love the dollar menu at fast food restaurants like Wendy’s, the store itself may not be as big a fan. In fact, many other fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and Taco Bell are also looking for ways to boost the bottom line while leaving the value menus that customers love. For restaurants, the dollar menu is very much a double-edged sword.

The Value of the Dollar Menu

The actual purpose of the dollar menu at a Wendy’s location is to encourage customers to spend well over one dollar. Order a single burger for a dollar and then add a drink and a side and suddenly you’ve spent closer to $5 rather than the $1 you might have been planning on shelling out. This is the hope, of course. In reality, there are many customers who manage to spend only a dollar or two per visit using the menu, ultimately hurting profits in the long run.

To help move customers into higher spending brackets, the dollar menus at Wendy’s have changed a bit to encourage customers to think of $2 and $3 items as values as well. The Dollar Menu is now the “Right Price, Right Size Menu” carefully jumbled to mix the one dollar items in with the three dollar items for maximum “value” spending.

The company realizes however, that customers aren’t a huge fan of the shift away from the true $1 value menu. “We know our Right Price, Right Size Menu is not a sufficient value proposition to continue to attract value-seeking consumers,” Wendy’s CEO Emil Brolick acknowledged recently in an interview.

Bringing Back the Specials

But Wendy’s can’t seem to let go of the super cheap pricing all together. After all, that is what customers are drawn to. To this end, Wendy’s has also introduced specials like “4 for $4” where customers get a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger, a small fries, a four-piece chicken nugget and a small drink for only $4. While each item technically only costs $1 in the quartet, the customer leaves the restaurant having spent $4 in a bundle – better than just $1 at least.

In fact, most fast food restaurants are shooting to get customers to spend $5 on a meal. A full meal for $5 means customers are getting a terrific value and stores are still making a profit. It’s considered the sweet spot in fast food. Or it is for now.

Another fast food giant, Burger King, recently warned the public that raising minimum wage for fast food workers could easily destroy the dollar menu at all fast food restaurants. The fast food chains simply won’t be able to meet the payroll selling $1 hamburgers.


Wendy’s Reviews:

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After more than six years of theme park magic, Disney is changing the way tickets are sold for both Disney World and Disneyland. The theme parks will be changing ticket sales to reflect demand, hoping to spread crowds out over the year by pricing holidays and weekends higher than non-peak times. The hope is that by making tickets more expensive on popular days, and less expensive on traditionally non-peak times, Disney-goers will be able to enjoy their experience more.

Long Waits, Closing Gates

Disney is facing a problem that many companies would love to have. The parks are just too popular. There are days when the parks actually reach capacity and have to close their gates, making the Happiest Place on Earth a bit less happy – at least for the vacation-goers who just got turned away.

Those who were lucky enough to make it inside the park have their own set of problems. Lines. With the parks almost bursting in capacity, there are simply too many bodies waiting for rides to make it possible to accommodate everyone in a timely manner. This is obviously causing a great deal of frustration on the part of vacation-goers who are stuck in line for hours to enjoy a two minute ride.

Spreading Out the Crowds

Disney is hoping that demand pricing, similar to the way airlines price their tickets, will offset some of these crowds. Raising ticket prices on weekends, for example, may encourage more visitors during the week. Summer vacation pricing rises, encouraging more individuals to take vacations to the park during less popular months like September or October.

While Disney has not released the new dates and prices, we can expect higher prices on the most popular times to visit the most popular theme parks in the world. This may dramatically affect some families as they plan their vacations – especially if the prices rise significantly.

Increasing Popularity

Walt Disney World and Disneyland aren’t expecting crowds to wane in the near future, however. In fact, with the popularity of the movie Frozen and Star Wars, crowds are expected to continue growing over time. This is especially true now that Disney has announced that a new Star Wars themed land, or area, would be added to the theme park complexes in both Orlando and Anaheim.


Disneyland Reviews:

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It would appear that Experian has dropped the ball on protecting the information of 15 million users. The credit company, which markets itself as “a name you can trust” held application information for the mobile phone giant, T-Mobile. Unfortunately all of the data from T-Mobile customers, including Social Security numbers, passport information, names, addresses and birthdays was among the compromised data Experian failed to protect in September.

The Experian server that held this information was hacked and more than 15 million individuals have now had their information compromised. Fortunately it wasn’t a server with credit information and reports, but having a server with virtually every personal detail ever found on a T-Mobile application certainly isn’t a good thing.

T-Mobile Shoulders Responsibility

While the credit company Experian seems to dodge responsibility and claim that they “do not know who the criminals were behind this incident.” Experian also claims that “there is no evidence that the data has been used inappropriately. Furthermore, they are working with law enforcement.

Meanwhile the entire T-Mobile network of users is compromised.

Fortunately the CEO of T-Mobile has at least acknowledged the severity of the issue. The company posted a letter from John Legere, T-Mobile’s CEO explaining and apologizing to customers. The letter claimed that Legere is “incredibly angry about this data breach.” T-Mobile will also be instituting a “thorough review of our relationship with Experian” just as soon as they assist the customers affected by the breach.

Finding Solutions to the Data Breach

While T-Mobile appears to be genuinely concerned, the only step besides posting the website statement is to offer customers a two-year credit monitoring service without cost. Granted, this credit monitoring will be done by Experian – the same company who didn’t adequately protect customer information in the first place.

Apparently the “relationship review” between T-Mobile and Experian is going to wait for a bit, at least until a two year deal for credit monitoring is complete. It does make a consumer wonder if T-Mobile is even responsible for the service or if it is simply passing along a too-little-too-late offering from Experian.

Of course with a good 760 individual customer complaints in the PissedConsumer logs, T-Mobile isn’t exactly a shiny star of customer satisfaction thus far. Of course having millions of customer data stolen rather pales in comparison to a rude customer service representative or a faulty payment system.

But still, it’s reasonable to assume that we’ll soon see even more complaints as customers realize just how far reaching the data hack implications reach.


T-Mobile Reviews:

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Taco Bell doesn’t register with consumers as being a high end product. It’s actually not even in the middle where you might order ahead and pick-up take-out. Instead, most of us use Taco Bell as a form of craving eliminator. Want a taco? Taco Bell will have one for less than a dollar. Spending less than a dollar on a taco doesn’t exactly warrant home delivery.

But Taco Bell is trying to change all of that with its latest revamp. While Taco Bell has made some changes over the years including adding hotly anticipated breakfast items and many new menu items, the basics have always been there. The good news is the staples of Taco Bell aren’t going away. The even better news is that you can now order them online and even customize your creations.

Online Taco Bell

Earlier this week, Taco Bell unveiled a brand-new website to allow customers to design and order their food online. Is this a direct competition with Chipotle and the like? Perhaps, but not really. Taco Bell serves a different market than Chipotle, but the new website may draw in even more fans of the inexpensive fast food joint.

The website features customized taco boxes and random meal assortments that can be created easily using pictures and literally hundreds of combinations. To use the site you simply select the item you’re interested in starting with. A taco, let’s say. Then add all sorts of toppings and extras.

Or you can browse the menu without feeling rushed and try some of the existing combinations like the Doritos cheesy gordita crunch box and then swap out meats, swap out taco shells and even swap out the toppings for each taco. With so many items on the menu already, being able to customize every detail is almost culinary overload. (If you can call Taco Bell culinary…)

No Taco Bell Delivery Yet

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your budget, Taco Bell isn’t offering delivery just yet in all areas. Imagine how much it would cost for that one-dollar taco once you added on delivery fees and tip. Although you don’t have to imagine it if you live in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago or Dallas where the fast food joint is piloting delivery options through DoorDash.

Instead, by ordering online, your customized meal is prepared for you and you can walk up the counter and simply pick it up. Even paying for the items is done online, making the cashiers a thing of the past. Imagine a scenario where you pull up to the local Taco Bell and see long lines. You simply pull up the new website on your phone, right there in the parking lot, arrange the order, pay online and then wait a few minutes, walk inside and pick it up.

Simple, delicious, and probably not a bit healthy.


Taco Bell Reviews:

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Whole Foods has tried to change not just the way we shop, but the way the world sells meat as well. The high-end grocery chain created a five step meat rating system to ensure shoppers know what they are buying, but now PETA, the animal rights advocates, are accusing Whole Foods of laxness when it comes to that same system.

In fact, PETA has filed a lawsuit against Whole Foods claiming that the humane meat range they have created is “deceptive and misleading.” Whole Foods, of course, has disagreed with the claim.

Rating Humane Meat

Whole Foods specializes in selling high end foods, usually at a premium. The range of meat products is an excellent example of this. The grocery store has created five steps for the meat the stores sell. The meat at each level is marked clearly so that buyers know what they are buying and so that suppliers have an incentive to up their game, providing even higher quality meat for higher prices.

To even make it on the scale of high quality meat with a level 1, suppliers have to raise meat with “no cages, no crates, no crowding.” The scale continues up to a level 5 ranking which requires animals living on the same farm their entire lives and spending copious amounts of time outside. Whole Foods hopes that by letting customers know exactly how well the animals are treated that become hamburgers and steaks for the table, those same companies will feel some pressure to treat animals even better.

PETA disagrees.

The PETA Lawsuit against Whole Foods

PETA claims that Whole Foods may have started the system in good faith, but in reality the store practices “barely exceed common industry practices”. In fact, the suppliers for Whole Foods are only monitored and audited every fifteen months, and the inspection is allegedly so relaxed it’s impossible to tell just how well the animals are really treated.

PETA claims that the meat ranking system isn’t really about letting customers make good purchasing decisions, but instead about inflating prices based on a fraudulent system created for that purpose.

Whole Foods has fought back already in the media, however, by pointing out that PETA is probably not the best advocate for pricing cuts of meat in the grocery store. After all, as Whole Foods representative Michael Silverman points out, “it is important to remember that PETA’s mission is a total end to animal agriculture and animal meat consumption, and their claims against our business are generated with that specific goal in mind.”

The spokesman went on to point out what he calls deception by PETA in the filming of one of the company’s suppliers.

Its’ hard to know what to believe, of course, but Whole Foods is right about one thing. PETA wants the world to stop raising and eating animals. It’s hard to take their claims at face value. But then there are plenty of frustrated customers in Whole Foods who might not think it’s much of a stretch to find out there was some deception with meat packaging.


Whole Food Reviews:

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