It all started when I bought a haircut from lifebooker.com. The stylist had almost all five star reviews on Yelp. Perfect. Coupon purchased and appointment booked. After the appointment (not just for myself but for other women) I knew I needed to write a review. Here’s my first Yelp review:
Screen-grab of the review that started it all.
In case the screen-grab is too small to read, the review that I wrote on Yelp is as follows:
“Wow - I can't believe all these amazing reviews. I had such a weird, if not completely uncomfortable experience here. To start, I was 10 minutes early - at which point I was left waiting outside the entire time - it's a home salon, so he was with another client and I just stood outside wondering if I had the wrong time. When I did enter his home, it was like a wild kingdom sanctuary. The walls are covered with large, crazy cats photos. Really large.
Then came the cut. Overall, I like the cut he gave me. What I didn't like was the most aggressive, violent hair washing I've ever experienced. I feel like I got head raped. Then came the blowdry - he used 2 hairdryers at once, and I thought my ears were going to melt off. I mentioned that it was really hot, and he didn't seem to care. All the while, he was rather revealing about his personal life. A fair amount of TMI for a first time customer who's not interested in his love life.
I found him conceited, oblivious to my discomfort, unprofessional, and I couldn't get over all the crazy cats. My one star is for a good cut, but I would never go back. It's laughable now -- but the whole experience was bizarre.”
This review has an amended sentence about the TMI of his relationship discussions. I originally wrote that I felt sorry for whomever he was dating and I advised against it. Granted, that was harsh and judgmental, and not what I should have been reviewing. But the appointment gave me that creepy, weird feeling that only certain men give to women. Nothing actually happened but every hair, however abused and melted, was standing up on the back of my neck. I’m not tender-headed.
In retrospect: I definitely regret using the words "head rape."
But it got worse.
To give you the back story of the players: After asking me if I was seeing anyone, and my telling him yes, that I lived with my boyfriend, the hairdresser started to discuss the women in his life. First up was a woman he was dating that wanted to have his baby but was dealing with her recent diagnosis of cancer. Who the hell tells this to a stranger?
Then there was a different woman he was seeing who had intimacy issues that he blamed on something in her childhood (inferring abuse). And if I wasn’t completely shocked and uncomfortable enough, he went on to tell me that another woman he was dating was bipolar.
Look, I love to dish and gossip as much as the next person, but not about deeply personal information or medical issues about complete strangers. I sat in his chair stunned. He also repeatedly asked me if I was dating anyone -- three times in all.
Maybe the excessive heat and noise from his two-handed blow-drying skills was drowning out the answers as well as melting off my ears. I don’t know if it was the 4-foot tall, life-size photos of mountain lions on the walls or my overheated head, but I didn’t say anything when I should have. Instead I used Yelp.
Looking back, how I wrote the review was questionable, but all of it was true. But here was a male hairdresser who ran a solo salon out of his home, so writing on Yelp that women shouldn’t date him wasn’t just reviewing him professionally, it was personal. Perhaps I deserved what I got, which was a message from a girl dating the hairdresser (she’s since deleted her account and message so I couldn’t screen grab it):
“I couldn’t help but notice your horrible review of XXX’s salon, as well as the dirty details of his supposed 3 girlfriends. I happen to be seeing him. I’m not mad at you or anything, but I am just a little curious about what he had to say. It’s not like we’re in a serious relationship and he mentioned he was seeing other people, as am I, but I just don’t want to end up having any drama in my life due to him lol. I appreciate you taking the time to read this, and any feedback would be great!!!!! If not, that’s ok to!!!!! Thanks!!!!!”
I felt shitty to hurt this woman’s feelings, but her email was so bizarre. If you’re dating several men, why are you reading and contacting one guy’s Yelp reviewers? I could feel her desperation seeping through her email (her multiple exclamation points were tellingly excessive). It is one thing to ask for feedback of a business on Yelp, it is another thing to ask for relationship feedback.
I wasn’t sure what to write. If she was any of the three women that creepy hair guy described, I really wanted to tell her to ditch him. With these things in mind, I told her the hair appointment was several months prior (kind of a lie) and tried to be delicate. She emailed me back:
“It’s ok!!!! I appreciate your honesty. It’s a relief to find out the actual appointment was a while back, we’ve only started recently dating, so chances are he wasn’t referring to me. I hate to say it, but guys have a tendency to reveal intimate info to other people (kiss and tell sort of deal). I also think he struggles with the fact that he’s a straight hairdresser. Again, I’m not mad, if anything I hope he reads this and learns a lesson about when too much is too much…As long as he didn’t do anything totally scandalous or messed up I’m not too worried about it. You always have to be on your toes with guys anyway, I guess that’s why I occasionally check his yelp for stuff like this, lol.”
Wait, the minute he wasn’t talking about her, his behavior was somehow acceptable? She easily dismissed that fact that if he was talking to strangers about the women he dated two months ago, he was talking to strangers about dating her now.
I assumed my random Yelp experience was over until a few weeks later I got another email via Yelp, but this one was from the actual hairdresser. Here is his original message.
“I know who you are…And your verbal abuse and your nasty message to destroy my business was a mistake .....I have never ever treated a women the way you descibe .....did you read my 20 reviews ?? obviously not your to busy try to figure out how to ruin my ratings.....I have your number .....because of the way you wrote this mail ......RAPE.....excuse me.....my attorney will be in touch with you for defamatory .....remove this immediatley or you will be in big big trouble....”
Let’s review, first “I know who you are…I have your number.” Sadly, he’s not the first douchebag to have my phone number, so that really doesn’t scare me. Second, “because of the way you wrote this mail….RAPE….my attorney will be in touch.” Actually, I said head raped to describe his overly vigorous hair washing. I should know better than to make a careless rape joke in our current rape culture (and one I’ll never make again), but last I checked head raping isn’t a crime keeping SVU detectives busy.
Finally, he wrote “remove this immediatley or you will be in big big trouble…” I should write a scathing review on his desperate need for spellcheck. And big, big trouble? I don’t think I’ve been threatened with big, big trouble since I got in a food fight in the 8th grade. Is he going to tell the teacher on me after contacting his lawyer? Please. I stand by what I wrote, which was an honest review of what I thought was an inappropriate and uncomfortable appointment in a home salon.
However, despite his shockingly bad spelling and grammar, I felt guilty. I’d amended the line about no one should date him, but left up the melty ears, aggressive shampooing, crazy cat photos and head rape. A few weeks of Yelp radio silence passed until another woman wrote an unflattering review that was very similar to mine and emailed me to compare our experience.
While I felt a little vindicated, I was really annoyed with the Yelp programming that allowed users to message each other. Seriously, stop. Her review was much more damaging than mine, and he hadn’t contacted her, so I assumed mine was old news now. But my creepy hairdresser had no intention of letting this go. A few weeks later he picked a new tactic -- to leave bizarre comments on all of his bad reviews. He left this comment on my review (that he’s since removed):
“Another funny review here , you never even had a appointment with me , ha , I think it is ridiculous that u have nothing better else to do with you time than to discredit me for no reason….unnecessary lies….U should try to be more positive , and find better things to do with your time……for example read all my other reviews and you will see yours is so silly ”
Here is my hair after I've washed it. Intense vigor has never been needed.
Now I never even had an appointment with him? I thought he knew who I was and had my number. At least be consistent creeper. It’s one thing to cyber-threaten or annoy me, but it’s another thing to call me a liar. Luckily, Yelp asked if I wanted to update my original review. Yes, yes I did. I wrote that he had harassed me to take down the review, and I quoted his first sinister email when he threatened legal action saying he knew who I was and had my number.
For a guy trying to get rid of my comment, commenting on my review only drove my updated review to the top. He was dumb as well as creepy, but I should have realized this when he misspelled kindly (kindley). Who misspells this word?
And that’s where we left it, until PC World decided to write an article about Yelp reviewers and contacted me
. Look, I take responsibility for foolishly starting this drama, but how did my Yelp review have more lives than a cat? Maybe his photographic cat sanctuary house had something to do with it. My bad review and its even worse update are still on his Yelp page, underneath at least 20 glowing reviews.
But l don’t doubt he is dating three new women and discussing their innermost problems while giving some unsuspecting woman a Brazilian blow out while she sits under a life size portrait of Mufasa. I did some valuable lessons from this whole fiasco: snarky personal comments have no place reviewing a business, use a pseudonym on Yelp, and once you find a great hair stylist, never ever cheat on them.