Two Midwest jewelers are suing each other in federal court, with one claiming the other trashed its store using a customer’s Facebook account.
According to federal court papers filed by Kansas City, Mo.–based Meierotto Jewelers on Jan. 16, last year a customer named A.K. went to the store’s competitor, Karats Jewelers in nearby Overland Park, Kan., looking for a ceramic ring.
The suit charges the customer agreed to post a favorable store review in exchange for a discount—and, at one point, gave her phone to store owner Akshay Anand to edit her comment. It further alleges that Anand went to the woman’s Facebook account and posted a negative review about Meierotto, which appeared like it was written by A.K.
The review, which has since been taken down, reads: “Worst place. So pushy and will overcharge compared to other stores.”
When a store employee reached out to A.K., the customer said that she had never been to the store and someone must have “hacked” her account, according to a Facebook exchange included in the lawsuit. She later recalled she’d given her phone to the store’s owner, the suit says.
Meierotto further charges that its rival “regularly” posts false reviews on competitors’ social media pages. In a request for a temporary restraining order, Meierotto Jewelers owner Theodore Meierotto said that, right before the holiday, his store “received dozens of false online reviews that appeared to come from individuals in Vietnam,” but added that it was “unclear” if Karats played any role in those reviews.
In a response and counterclaim filed on Jan. 22, Karats flatly denied the charges, as did Anand in an interview with The Kansas City Star.
“I’m flabbergasted,” he told the newspaper. He also denied that the store offers discounts in exchange for good reviews.
Karats said that it, too, had been hit with a spate of fake reviews right before the holiday, believed to have originated from Vietnam, and even reached out to Meierotto when it saw that Meierotto had been hit, too.
This seems to be the latest in a series of skirmishes between the two stores.
In its counterclaim, Karats asserts that a specific brand sells to both stores, and it has “has specifically mandated neither store would cross into the other’s state.” It charges that Meierotto “refuses to abide by these standards,” leading the brand to intervene.
It further asserts that Meierotto has defamed the store to customers, in its court filings, and to the media.
In both claims, the stores challenge the other’s claim that it has the area’s “largest selection” as false advertising.
This isn’t the first time rival jewelers have battled over in court over a social media review. In 2017, a Massachusetts retailer sued a rival over a negative Yelp review, which the retailer charged was posted by the rival’s employee.