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MAILBAG: Awareness Is Great, But We Have To Actually Rectify The Wrong

Thank you for raising awareness about the important issue of reviews. If one looks online and sees the reviews written on our locally owned businesses, some of them are extremely biting and can really harm the frum owners’ parnassah.

One negative review written in frustration can totally negate a whole bunch of positive reviews in a consumer’s mind and send them somewhere else. I asked a prominent Rav if it’s muttar to leave a bad review and he responded that it’s the worst form of lashon horah.

Now, you can go ahead and start giving all sorts of reasons why this Rav is wrong and how you know “for sure” that it has to be muttar and even an obligation: it’s unfair to consumers not to leave negative reviews; not doing so allows business owners to get away with terrible practices and service; how a negative review is really a benefit to the business owner because they then know which areas need improvement; and so on.

But before you do, keep in mind what the previous letter writer wrote: “One must keep in mind that the Chofetz Chaim has a whole set of conditions that must be met in order for one to be allowed to speak critically abt another EVEN LETOELES. If any are not met, it is real lashon horah. If one believes he is entitled to write a review, it behooves him to show it to a competent Rabbi first and make sure it is written properly.”

You must understand that we are dealing with the worst kind of lashon horah here, the type that actually can cause monetary harm and ruin someone’s reputation and entire livelihood. Do you really want to come up after 120 and have this on your record? The Chofetz Chaim wrote extensively on lashon horah and the laws are extremely complex. A layman who thinks he is allowed to do something can very often be missing some of the requirements of “letoeles,” leading him to be oiver on lashon horah. Even if you are certain you are well within your right to write that review, you have an obligation to speak to your Rav first and show him exactly what you plan on leaving on a website for everyone to see for eternity.

Imagine you had a bad experience in a restaurant and were so upset that you decided to stand right outside the restaurant every day with a big sign proclaiming and detailing to each patron about to enter your personal negative view of the establishment. Would you say ‘I have an obligation to show every potential customer about to walk in what my experience was so that they should not have to have the same ruined evening that I had’? Of course not. Everyone understands that no matter how right you are and how wrong the store is, that such behavior would be beyond the pale. A review online is pretty much the same thing. It is there to stay and is extremely harmful.

PLEASE BE ADVISED THAT ONE CAN REMOVE HIS NEGATIVE REVIEWS FROM GOOGLE. I ask that everyone spread this message and save the store owners from tremendous harm, and – just as importantly – save people from the terrible issur of lashon horah.

One last time, just to reiterate: I am sure some of you can think of reasons I didn’t list for why I am wrong and why negative reviews are definitely allowed, but being that the stakes are so high, and if you are wrong you are being oiver a terrible aveira, you owe it to yourself to first check with a Rav, and you owe it to the business owner who may lose income because of your review that permanently stains his reputation.

Jonathan Friedman

NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN.


(YWN World Headquarters – NYC)

6 Responses

  1. One of Chofetz Chaim’s conditions is that you first speak to him directly. If it really is such a major עוולה that you feel deserves publication, why not find the person in a calm moment, and in a friendly way try to work it out.

  2. Another condition of the Chofetz Chaim is that the harm he will suffer fits the wrong-doing. Think about it. You probably can easily see that what happened in your case isn’t the common outcome with this business, Is it really right to magnify and amplify one unfortunate case and make that the reputation of this business, which is over-all good?

  3. Another nicely written article (a nice review I gave, you’re welcome).
    As someone who is not that learned in certain areas are you saying when a Frum person owns a business (by Halacha) we need to put up with high prices, poor quality & awful customer service?
    I have a hard time internalizing that (as I’m sure others do. Perhaps we need an Asifa on this.) we are forbidden to warn others.
    We watch the lemmings blindly following each other of the cliff & we do the same with our fellow Yidden. Something ain’t Kosher & it’s not the Brisket.

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