Obviously, if a reviewer makes up a story about human fingers in food because she didn't approve of the waitress' hairstyle, the restaurant has a right to take action. That's what defamation laws are for. But some recent threats against reviewers have moved way beyond "dealing with crazy liars" and well into "fuck anyone who doesn't like us" territory. One example is so-called "non-disparagement" clauses. You know those long "terms of sale" agreements on websites that no one actually reads because there's a whole goddamn Internet out there to look at instead? You can just shove a sentence or two in there about how the customer is not allowed to complain online, and boom! You're bad-review proof!
In 2012, a couple in Utah experienced this personally: citing a non-disparagement clause, online gadget store KlearGear threatened them with a $3,500 fine if they didn't take down a bad review they'd written about the store four years earlier. The review site wouldn't allow them to take it down, and so KlearGear graciously reported the pair to a collection agency. The couple ended up losing heat for several weeks in their house because of their damaged credit score. Which is exactly the kind of "we're evil; don't fuck with us" public image a business strives for but so rarely achieves.
Keep this in mind next time you impatiently rush through the terms and conditions of ExtraLargeDildos.com.
California recently passed a law prohibiting companies from enforcing these stupid clauses, but that's just one state, and that leaves at least, like, 12 to go. And if you're currently shaking your head about lawsuit-happy Americans, note that in the United Kingdom an author recently reacted to a negative Amazon review by taking both the reviewer and Amazon to court, where the reviewer was forced to represent himself because he couldn't afford a lawyer. The case was thrown out only after Amazon paid out 77,000 pounds in legal fees, so if you live in the U.K. and you're poised to write a one-star review of Guide to Bees because "it didn't have enough bees in it," maybe hold off until your bank account balance is looking better.