Swindling, attempted murder and elder abuse.
Those were the accusations a woman made against Huntington Beach Mazda in a review posted on Google and Yelp on Aug. 16.
Lynda Nelson's phone started buzzing that day with an email alert from the dealership's software system. Nelson is director of customer affairs at OC Auto Team in Tustin, Calif., which owns Huntington Beach Mazda in Huntington Beach, Calif., and two stores in Tustin. She gets an alert every time a customer posts a review on Google, Yelp or DealerRater.
As Nelson read the review on Yelp, she was stunned. The review accused employees of blocking an elderly woman's medical help as she suffered a heart attack at the dealership. It equated the staff's action to attempted murder and urged customers not to shop at Huntington Beach Mazda.
"I was in such disbelief," Nelson said. "I must have read that review five times before I could even react. That's how shocking it was."
The review was a lie. The woman who wrote it had not been to the dealership. What happened next shows the value of a rapid and full-bore response to a review that could potentially devastate a store's reputation.
Nelson, who has worked at OC Auto Team for nine years, immediately called the sales manager at Huntington Beach Mazda.
"He kept saying, "There's no way! There's no way!'" Nelson said.
At that point, the review was posted on Google, too, she said.
Nelson called dealer John Patterson, president of OC Auto Team, at his home. They began calling every employee asking if any incident such as the one described in the review might have happened at the store, ever.
"Everyone agreed there was nothing even remotely like that having happened," Nelson said.