A Texas couple is being sued by a pet sitting company in Dallas because of a bad review on Yelp.
Texas couple Michelle and Robert Duchouquette of Plano, Texas left their two dogs and fish in the care of Prestigious Pets in Dallas.
"We have Bogey, Barley and Gordy," Michelle told CBS DFW, listing their pets.
The couple was going to Napa for the weekend and left their pets with the company, which had good reviews on Yelp. Prestigious Pets sent over the dog walker assigned to take care of their pets for an initial Meet and Greet.
Apparently, the dog walker would not give Michelle her personal phone number in order to check on the pets. Instead, Michelle had to contact the company who would then respond after contacting the dog walker. This was only the beginning of the issues she had with the company.
The Duchouquettes have a camera set up near the fish bowl and through the weekend they saw the water getting cloudier and the fish food falling to the bottom of the bowl.
"I saw the fish water was all cloudy so I sent an email about that," said Michelle.
Once the couple returned from their vacation, the keys to their house were not returned and there were issues with the billing. So they did what many would expect them to do after their experience: they wrote a review on Yelp.
Michelle's review pretty clearly outlined her issues with the pet sitting company and the way they did business. The only problem was that in the initial contract she signed was a non-disparagement clause. This clause essentially says that customers cannot publicly give the company negative reviews.
Soon after Michelle posted the one-star Yelp review, the Duchouquettes received a cease and desist letter in the mail, along with a notification that Prestigious Pets had filed a $6,700 lawsuit against them.
"I was beyond shocked and a bit scared. I think my review was fair. I went point-by-point on the things about the policies of the company I didn't like," said Michelle.
Since the lawsuit has been made public, many people are making their concerns heard on Prestigious Pets' Yelp page. They feel that it is unfair that a company can essentially scare people into not leaving truthful, if negative, reviews.
The non-disparagement clause was banned in California in 2014, but is still legal for companies to put in their contracts in Texas. The Review Freedom Act, that would make the clause federally illegal, passed the Senate but is waiting to be passed by the House.
Prestigious Pets did not want to interviewed by the Dallas-CBS affiliate but responded to Michelle's review on Yelp and wrote this in an email to the news station:
We are honest people seeking protection from dishonest individuals, not other honest ones. Fair and honest feedback is not the issue here.
Keep in mind that JP court costs nothing to either party and is a free public service. Asking for a judge to help us review any issue is not a charge/overcharge, a scam, a service that wasn't provided, or a refund that is owed. A judges decision may not even be in our favor. Or we may even choose not to follow through.
Being dog walkers, we definitely do not have legal degrees, and had to seek assistance from professionals for a service agreement. We typically spend up to, and even more than an hour sometimes, meeting and going over questions/concerns with any new potential customers in person. Just as a customer is free to choose if they'd like to use our service, we also choose if we feel comfortable being able to provide it, and reserve the right to refuse. We may not be the right fit for everyone, and so are extremely upfront to ensure that expectations align. There are no tricks. And we will never "sell" or force our services upon anyone. If for any reason there isn't a good fit, we would much rather help one find another service that might be better for them. We don't mind assisting anyone with finding the right care for their specifications, even if we aren't the ones providing it. This is how we approach any new relationship.
See the full news investigation here: