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Santa Maria Sun / Biz Spotlight

The following article was posted on June 15th, 2016, in the Santa Maria Sun - Volume 17, Issue 15 [ Submit a Story ]
The following articles were printed from Santa Maria Sun [santamariasun.com] - Volume 17, Issue 15

Spotlight on: Ozzie's Premium Frozen Yogurt and Gelato

Tina and Dara Ei, owners

By DAVID MINSKY

Before the era of the internet and social media, a restaurant’s reputation was built on word-of-mouth reviews and established critics.

But these days, with smartphones and websites like Yelp, it seems that everyone’s a critic and online reviews have no less of an impact than what’s traditionally been written by professionals in the past. Nobody knows this more, perhaps, than Tina Ei and her husband, Dara, in Santa Maria. 

The couple owns Ozzie’s Premium Frozen Yogurt and Gelato located on Orcutt Road. The Eis took over ownership four months ago to earn a living for their family. Recently, a customer gave Ozzie’s a one-star rating on Yelp and posted a negative review, claiming she found two pieces of thin metal in her boba tea. 

A similar review from what appeared to be the same person emerged on Facebook around the same time and was shared many times, Tina said. 


SWEET SPOT
Dara and Tina Ei—on the far left and far right, respectively—pose with their kids at their business, Ozzie’s Premium Frozen Yogurt and Gelato on Orcutt Road. The Eis became the new owners of the restaurant four months ago.
PHOTO COURTESY OF TINA EI

The postings stem from an incident on May 28. Tina was working at the restaurant that night when two female customers came in and ordered frozen yogurt and boba tea. They both dined inside the restaurant for a little while before leaving. Later that night, Tina remembers getting a phone call from one of the customers complaining they found two pieces of thin metal inside the boba tea. The pictures posted to Yelp showed two bent pieces of metal—each about the size of a finger—that looked like they came from a wire brush. 

This is impossible, Tina said, because a loud rattling noise coming from inside the blender would’ve been apparent. Also, Tina had made the tea herself. 

The next evening, Tina said the woman who placed the call returned to the store with another woman, and a heated argument ensued. Tina said that while one woman was arguing, the other appeared to be recording with her smartphone. 

Tina believes they were trying to bait her into doing something she didn’t want to do. 

“She never gave us a chance to explain anything,” Tina said. “She wouldn’t let me or my husband explain.”

The police were called and things got smoothed out. But Tina claims the negative review impacted her business.

The company that owns the point-of-sale system in the store keeps track of sales on a weekly basis. In the week before the incident, sales were up by 29 percent, according to Tina, and went down more than 13 percent in the following week. 

The encounter left Tina shaken and scared because the restaurant is the main source of the family’s income. 

“I could not even eat or sleep,” Tina said.

It’s hard to know exactly how a business is affected by negative online comments. But a number of surveys found on the internet indicate that most customers base their buying decisions from online reviews.

One such survey conducted by Dimensional Research in 2013 showed 86 percent of customer buying decisions were affected by negative online reviews, while another survey conducted by BrightLocal that same year showed 79 percent of respondents trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. 

A lot of online reviews are legitimate, but some are fake. A joint study by business schools at Boston and Harvard universities in 2015 showed that up to 20 percent of reviews on Yelp are fake. More than 310,000 reviews of 3,625 restaurants were analyzed for this study. 

Lately, according to CBS News, Yelp’s been posting its own consumer alerts on fake reviews in order to help warn users. 

Negative online reviews could be risky for the customer too, as some restaurants have taken to suing for defamation to fight back. 

In 2015, Mother Jones reported that a Denver-area contractor sued Matthew White after he left “scathing reviews” on Yelp for what he claimed was a botched job. 

The contractor demanded $125,000 in compensation, Mother Jones reported, but White settled for $15,000 and spent $60,000 on legal fees. 

A bigger issue, perhaps, is the place that online reviews have in the realm of free speech. For Tina, however, one thing is certain and it’s that people shouldn’t say things that are not true. Tina told the Sun that she consulted an attorney and is weighing her best option. 

Proving defamation might be hard for businesses, said Daniel Lemin, a Los Angeles-based private consultant and best-selling author on the subject of online reviews, and a former employee with Google’s international marketing and public relations team. Instead of focusing on the customer, Lemin said the business should come out publicly and attack the larger issue.

“In truth, Yelp makes it very difficult to do anything about the actual reviewer,” Lemin told the Sun. “They won’t even give the identity.”

In the meantime, Tina said she isn’t going to let the incident affect her anymore and will continue to churn out quality frozen yogurt and gelato.

“I teach my kids what comes around, goes around,” she said. “Let it go.” 

Ozzie’s Premium Frozen Yogurt and Gelato is located at 3420 Orcutt Road in Santa Maria. For more information, call the store at 938-9999. 

Highlights

• The inaugural Community Connections meeting for Lompoc nonprofit organizations kicks off on Friday, June 17, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. in the upstairs Lompoc Chamber of Commerce conference room located at 111 South I St. Using the internet and social media to boost your nonprofit will be discussed at the meeting. For more information, call 736-4567 or send an email to chelsea@lompoc.com.

Staff Writer David Minsky wrote this week’s Biz Spotlight. Information should be sent to the Sun via fax, email, or mail.




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