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The Increasingly Common Scam Miami Restaurants Suffer: From Terrible Reviews to Threats

“We have left negative comments about your establishment and in the future there will be more”, was the first sentence that appeared in a email received by the owner of a restaurant in Miami. But it was not the furious opinion of a diner, as it would seem at first reading. The reality was completely different. Beyond this mail, when reviewing the newsylist reviews of the place, Little Haiti’s Boia De restaurant, evidenced something disconcerting. The nearly five-star reputation that had been left behind by those who applauded both the service and the food was increasingly distant from some more recent reviews that threatened to ruin the profile.

For many, the best recommendations for finding restaurants to eat are on the Internet. Some sites like Trip Advisor or Google reviews are paramount for some people they check and learn from the experiences of others before making a decision. In this business need, especially in the gastronomic sector in which reviews are so important, some criminals found their opportunity: make negative comments incessantly until receiving a sum of money from the owners in exchange for stopping the bombing.

This happens in Miami. Luciana Giangrandi, the owner of Boia De, was checking her phone when she saw the threat. “We sincerely apologize for our actions, we would not want to harm your business, but we have no choice,” the email in the case she detailed read. The New Herald. Also, the alleged criminals took the opportunity to make the request: “Send a $75 gift card and we will stop doing it immediately.”

The opinions of Boia De, a restaurant in MiamiGoogle

At that moment, the owner knew: “They are blackmailing us,” she immediately told her partner. Although this case affected them directly, they were not the only ones who suffered from this dynamic.

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According to reports from the aforementioned media, the country’s restaurants are under siege from these people who leave one-star reviews on Google, even without further comment and then ask for the gift cards.

A few weeks agosome restaurants received their first star from the Michelin gastronomic guide and now they are the perfect target for these criminals who are targeting these top-tier venues, in a phenomenon that is spreading to San Francisco and New York.

The emails are almost the same, even retaining that apologetic tone, as if they had no other choice: “Please send us a $75 Google Play gift card”, points to a part. These people are even conciliatory and even explain what they will do with the money: “We hope that the amount is not critical for you. After selling the card, we can earn $50, which is three weeks of income for a family.”

The owners of Boia De did not give in. At first, they decided to ignore the situation, but the tone got higher and higher. “We will continue to do this indefinitely,” read one of the many emails. “Is losing your business worth $75?” another added.

The opinions of Boia De in Miami
The opinions of Boia De in MiamiBuoy From/Instagram

Like other of the affected owners, those of Boia De tried to contact Google and even got the automatic response in which they indicated that no rule was violated. However, a Google Maps spokesperson later told the New York Times which started removing the one star reviews.

buoy
buoy

While Michelin-starred restaurants may have milder impacts, low-profile ones do not. Their reliance on positive reviews would force them to compromise so as not to close their doors. This is a new obstacle for these places that received a strong economic blow from the pandemic.

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