With access to resources such as Angie’s List, Yelp and other forums, customers are readily able to broadcast their feedback on products and services they purchase. While positive feedback by this “virtual” word of mouth may help businesses, negative feedback is a reality as well. Some companies have tried to combat negative feedback by informing customers that they will be charged if they make complaints in a public forum — which is what happened here. In this instance, the tactic was not successful in removing the “bad press” because the customer sued the company and may recover significant damages.

Social media can be a powerful marketing tool, but companies need to think carefully about the ramifications of trying to control what customers say — the consequences may be worse.