It’s always hard to be on the receiving end of criticism, especially if you’re an artistic type of person. You may pour your heart and soul into your work, only to have someone with possibly no talent trash your masterpiece publicly.
Although most people can take criticism reasonably well, some people completely snap after reading a few harsh words. The following people harassed, stalked, and even assaulted people who dared to leave a negative review.
Richard Brittain was delighted with early reviews of his novel, The World Rose. He claimed that critics loved his book, comparing him to Dickens, Shakespeare, and Rowling. Only a few “idiots” and “teenagers” gave him bad reviews.
Paige Rolland despised Brittain’s novel. She read several pages and declared that she was bored out of her skull. Rolland wrote a lengthy review of the book in which she criticized every aspect of the novel, including the cover, the price, the plot, Brittain’s writing style, and Brittain himself.
Rolland’s critique infuriated Brittain. He used Facebook to track her down, and then he traveled over 640 kilometers (400 mi) to the grocery store where she worked. Brittain entered the store, grabbed a wine bottle, and hunted Rolland down.
He spotted the young woman stacking shelves in the cereal aisle, and when she bent down, he smashed the wine bottle over her head. Rolland briefly lost consciousness. When she awoke, Brittain was gone. Rolland was taken to the hospital where she received several stitches in her scalp.
Brittain was caught on the store’s security cameras, and he was arrested. He had a history of assault, and the judge sentenced him to 30 months in prison.
Elayna Katz ordered jambalaya at Mambo Nuevo Latino, and she asked the server to leave olives out of the meal. When Katz received her food, she noticed that it was laced with olives. She sent the dish back and asked for another.
The restaurant complied. However, when Katz received her check, she was charged for both dishes. Katz complained and left her business card with a note asking the owner to call her. She received no response. So she posted a negative review of the restaurant, lambasting the slow, rude service and the problem with her order.
Marisol Simoes, the owner of the restaurant, was furious. She took Katz’s personal information from the business card and created an email account in Katz’s name. Simoes used the email address to send messages to Katz’s employers. The emails said things like: “I am open to anything—couples, threesomes, and group sex. Am especially into transsexuals and transgenders (being one myself). I am . . . a tiger in the bedroom.” Simoes used similar phrases when she impersonated Katz on a dating website.
The harassment continued for two years until Simoes was found guilty of libel. She was sentenced to serve 90 days in jail, work 200 hours of community service, receive mandatory counseling, and attend an anger management course.
Michelle Levine visited gynecologist Joon Song for an annual visit which was supposed to be covered by her insurance. However, she soon received a bill for $427. Song had charged her for an ultrasound, a new patient visit, and several procedures that Levine claimed never happened.
Levine tried to complain to the doctor’s office, but nothing happened. She decided to take her anger to several review sites. Levine criticized the doctor’s “very poor and crooked business practice,” and she wrote that the visit caused her emotional distress.
Two weeks after she posted the reviews, Levine received an email from the doctor’s lawyers. Song was suing her for $1 million in damages plus legal fees. Song claimed that Levine had complained of pelvic pain and that he had tried to treat it. Levine maintained that she had only wanted a physical.
During the ensuing court battle, Levine claimed that Song and his lawyers had posted her entire medical record, including notes about her mental health, her bills, her insurance information, her driver’s license, her birthdate, and her home address.
Sean C. visited San Francisco’s Ocean Avenue Books, and he thought the store was a total mess with books piled everywhere. When he got home, he wrote a review on Yelp criticizing the clutter. He also recommended that the owners close for a few days to clean and organize the store.
Sean’s review angered Diane Goodman, the owner of the bookstore. She began to send Sean threatening and insulting messages: “Goodbye p—y boy and I will be contacting your employers . . . you are a stupid person . . . you look like an idiot.” Sean reported her to Yelp, who canceled her profile. Goodman made another account, and she continued to harass Sean. He reported her, and her account was canceled again.
Goodman used Sean’s account to find his home, and she showed up at his front door. She tried to force her way into his house, but Sean fought back and pushed her out. They wrestled, and she fell down a couple of steps. Sean slammed the door closed and called the police. Goodman was cited for battery and taken for a mental health intervention.
Kathleen Hale’s publisher sent out copies of her novel, No One Else Can Have You, to book bloggers for their opinions. Reviewer Blythe Harris really did not like the book. She wrote, “This is one of the worst books I’ve read this year.” Then she added, “I think this book is awfully written and offensive; its execution in regards to all aspects is horrible and honestly, nonexistent.”
Harris disliked the way the story depicted statutory rape, PTSD, and domestic violence.
Hale became obsessed with Harris and began stalking Harris’s Instagram and Twitter. Hale spent weeks looking through the reviewer’s profiles and following Harris’s conversations about the book. Hale began to suspect that Harris was using a pseudonym, and she paid for an online background check. She discovered that Harris had provided the site with a fake name, age, and occupation, and Hale became determined to find the real critic.
Hale found Harris’s address, rented a car, and went to the blogger’s home. She peered into the woman’s car and home before she decided to leave without knocking. Hale called Blythe’s workplace several times and pretended to be a fact checker, demanding an explanation about Harris’s real identity. Harris ended the call and blocked Hale on Facebook and Twitter.
Xiao Li ordered clothes online, and she complained when her order had not been shipped after several days. The seller, Zhang, was furious at his lowered rating, and he began sending Xiao threatening messages, including death threats.
Zhang finally shipped the clothes, and Xiao waited at the delivery spot to pick them up. While she looked at her phone, Zhang attacked her. He kicked and slapped Xiao repeatedly and knocked her to the ground. After she fell, he ran away.
Xiao was taken to the hospital where she was treated for bruises, cuts, a concussion, and a broken elbow. While she was lying in the hospital bed, she received another message from Zhang saying that he had traveled from Suzhou—more than 800 kilometers (500 mi) away—so that he could “teach her a lesson.” He also warned her that he could attack again.
Police arrested Zhang, and his seller’s profile was deleted from the shopping website.
Katrina Arthur planned a weekend getaway for her and her husband at the Abbey Inn, which advertised a private stay in the southern Indiana woods. They checked into the hotel and walked into their room. There, they were hit with the stench of sewer. The couple soon discovered that the air conditioning did not work, the water pressure was poor, and the bed’s sheets were loaded with hair and dirt.
The Arthurs went to the front desk to complain, but no one was there. Neither of them could find a single employee anywhere. They tidied up the room themselves, tried to ignore the room’s smell, and attempted to get some sleep. The next morning, they put their room key in a drop box and left.
The hotel emailed Arthur and asked her to leave a review. She complied and left a scathing assessment that she felt was completely honest. A month later, she received a letter from Andrew Szakaly, who claimed that her review was false and had caused “irreparable injury” to the inn. He threatened to sue her for libel unless she took down the review. She deleted it.
A few days later, she checked her bank statement and discovered that the hotel had charged her an extra $350 in damages. Arthur discovered that the hotel had a policy in place that allowed them to charge customers for negative reviews. Arthur contacted the Indiana attorney general, who sued Szakaly.
Szakaly stopped the $350 punishment policy, and a new manager plans to buy the hotel.
Yu ordered barbecue chicken and beef for her and her friends. She did not like the food and complained on the food delivery site the next morning: “[The food is] expensive, not properly packed and not fresh. The portion size was average. I have never had barbecue meat that tasted so bad.”
Later that evening, she received a call asking if she was the one who had made the review. Yu said she was, and the caller hung up. Later that evening, seven or eight men armed with clubs crashed into her mah-jongg parlor and began questioning, harassing, and threatening her.
Yu’s husband heard the noise and rushed to help his wife. The men brutally beat him before they left. Yu and her husband were taken to the hospital. Yu was treated for broken bones, and her husband was transferred to the ICU with serious brain injuries.
Police called the barbeque restaurant’s owner, who admitted to sending the brutes after the couple. He explained that the late-night food delivery business was extremely competitive and it was worth it for him to get the review taken down.
Diana Walley went to the Daybreak Diner for a birthday meal. However, the employees told Diana, who was disabled and had once fallen in the restaurant, that she could not be inside the diner without another person with her. Diana left the restaurant in tears.
She told her daughter, Monica, what had happened. Monica called the diner and spoke with several workers about her mother’s visit. Unsatisfied with their response, she left a negative review on Facebook in which she claimed that the restaurant workers were “unnecessarily rude.” Monica also launched a social media campaign against the diner, alleging that they had mistreated her mother because of a disability.
Michael Johnson, the diner owner’s son, was furious at the Walleys. He had hoped to inherit the diner, and the Walley family’s actions were hurting the business. He and his roommates, Jesse Martin and Norman Auvil, were sitting around their home drinking when they decided to get revenge. Martin was able to figure out Monica’s identity from her Facebook post, and he found her address.
The trio drove to the Walley house with the intent to vandalize the home. Johnson parked outside the house, and Auvil pulled out a gun and fired three shots into the home. One of the bullets pierced a window, and it missed Kenneth Walley’s head by a few inches. (Kenneth was married to Diane Walley.)
The trio’s car was caught on surveillance cameras, and they were soon arrested.
Taiwanese blogger Liu visited a restaurant where she ordered dried beef noodles and a couple of side dishes. She was not impressed with the restaurant or its food, and she wrote an article criticizing both. She claimed that the food was too salty, the place was unsanitary because there were cockroaches, and the owner was a bully who let customers park their cars haphazardly, leading to traffic jams.
Several of Yang’s customers read the blog, and they asked if the article was true. Yang grew angry at Liu, and he sued her for libel. The court ruled in Yang’s favor. They claimed that Liu’s article was libelous because she had only tried one meal and she was not familiar enough with the menu to declare the food salty. They did rule that her criticism about cockroaches was factual, although health officials did not find conditions to be as unsanitary as Liu had described.
Liu was sentenced to 30 days in jail, given two years’ probation, and fined 200,000 New Taiwan dollars to compensate the restaurant’s owner for lost business.