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Nashua health club suing Yelp commenter frustrated with social networking site

By KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Sunday News Correspondent

March 11. 2018 1:05PM

NH restaurateur helped found a less public alternative to Yelp
Frustration with review sites like Yelp led a New Hampshire restaurateur to co-found an alternative.

“The challenge for business owners is that it is estimated that 30 percent of reviews are fraudulent — it is either a disgruntled former employee or it is a competitor,” said Thomas Boucher of Great New Hampshire Restaurants, which owns the Copper Door, T-Bones and Cactus Jack's. “You have to be careful when you read reviews.”

Two years ago, Boucher helped create Kriddik, an app that allows customers to give feedback privately to businesses instead of on public review sites such as Yelp.

“As time marches on, business owners have more courage to push back. It is really unfair,” he said. The derogatory attacks and harmful online reviews may have no legitimacy but could still severely hurt a restaurant or business, he said.

Most businesses want feedback from customers — the good, the bad and the ugly, he said.

“We want to make it right,” said Boucher, adding that sharing concerns privately with management is a good approach.

He predicts more and more small businesses will begin fighting back if they are falsely being attacked online.

khoughton@newstote.com



NASHUA - The owner of Gateway Hill Health Club, which is suing a former member for negative comments posted on Yelp, is expressing frustration over the social networking site that reviews businesses.

"Their business model is extremely challenging to work with," said Matt Dispensa Sr., co-owner of Gateway Hills Health Club at 100 Innovative Way. "People can basically say whatever they want to say, and there really is no recourse, or very little."

Dispensa says people who have never set foot in his health club and people with fake names have posted negative comments on Yelp about his business.

"We are a legitimate business, and we care about our customers," Dispensa said in an interview last week. "I believe in people's First Amendment rights to post their opinion."

But when posted comments extend beyond opinions and are instead outright lies or highly defamatory, he said, that's when he must protect the integrity and the reputation of his small business.

"Unfortunately, things that are posted on Yelp stay out there forever, and now there is a permanent record," he said, explaining even comments that are completely untrue will continue to be posted and continue to hurt businesses into the future.

Gateway Hills, which has 1,000 active members and 17 employees, has taken legal action against Michael Abdinoor of 9 Carlene Drive because of posts he made about the club on Yelp.

According to court records filed in Hillsborough County Superior Court in Nashua, Dispensa claims that Abdinoor acted in bad faith when he "intentionally posted false, defamatory and slanderous statements."

The club is asking that the court order Abdinoor to remove the post on Yelp and pay the club $750,000 in damages, in addition to legal expenses, court costs and filing fees, the documents said.

Abdinoor, however, argues that he was not in the wrong, but rather that the club failed to resolve a billing disagreement and acted with negligence.

"The (club's) action is meant to harass and intimidate defendant and is frivolous," Abdinoor wrote in court files, maintaining that he is entitled to $1,000 for legal fees associated with the litigation.

Last October, Abdinoor described on Yelp a series of billing discrepancies with the health club and stated, in part, "So to summarize, if you want a health club which is incompetent and disingenuous, Gateway Hills is the place to go ... I am also canceling the credit card given to them because they are untrustworthy."

Dispensa said he tried to resolve the matter with Abdinoor outside of litigation, but to no avail. A local judge suggested mediation in an attempt to resolve the dispute, and both sides have agreed.

khoughton@newstote.com


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