Donna Saber, owner of the store “Here Comes the Bride” in Somers Point, N.J., refused to sell a dress to bride-to-be Alix Genter, who is a lesbian. There are conflicting accounts as to what exactly was said between Saber and Genter, (see this news story), but as Reuters reported, many states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation in places of public accommodation. New Jersey specifically states “it is unlawful for a person to refuse to…sell to, contract or otherwise do business with an individual because of the individual’s … domestic partnership or civil union status.”
According to LGBTQ Nation, there were over 1200 reviews of the bridal store before Yelp started deleting them.
Yelp explained its decision to delete the comments this way:
“While Yelp does not support any sort of discrimination, reviews of businesses on Yelp should be about the customer experience not the views of a business or its employees. This policy is clearly stated on our FAQ. Reviews that go against these guidelines are regularly removed by our Customer Support Team. That said, Yelp DOES encourage dialogue on the site via Yelp Talk; just not on business reviews. As is our normal procedure, we’ll be working to pull these reviews and notify the reviewers in the coming days.”
Yelp also sent this email to one of the commenters:
“We’re writing to inform you that we’ve decided to remove your review of Here Comes the Bride. We don’t take this decision lightly, and appreciate the seriousness of the allegations in your review. Nevertheless out Content Guidelines (www.yelp.com/guidelines) are very clear in outlining the need for a first-hand experience, and we think this is an important requirement for maintaining Yelp as a useful siet for consumer reviews. Responding to a news story or other users’ reviews falls outside of a core first-hand experience of the business.
That being said, we would never wish to stifle discussion on any of the issues you’re raised, and our Talk section (www.yelp.com/talk) may be an appropriate forum for your opinions regarding this incident.
Please know that we review every situation with great attention and take this matter very seriously.”
Did Yelp do the right thing by adhering to its stated policy and at the same time suggesting critics of the bridal store could express their feelings about the discrimination on Yelp’s Talk section?