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Negative Review Policy

Berkeley Parents Network > Help & Frequently Asked Questions > Negative Review Policy

BPN's Negative Review Policy

BPN does NOT ACCEPT negative reviews about:

  1. In-home childcare and domestic services
  2. People & services that are not Businesses or Business Owners
  3. License violations, illegal acts, and the like

Guidelines & Explanations

Rules for Posting a Negative Review

In posting to any of the BPN newsletters, BPN subscribers agree to follow the Negative Review Policy and affirm that their review does meet the following requirements:

  1. Unsolicited negative reviews: Negative reviews may only be posted in response to a recent query from another subscriber that specifically requested the type of service you are reviewing. For more information, see the policy about unsolicited reviews.

  2. Multiple negative reviews: BPN does not accept more than one review from the same subscriber about the same negative experience.

  3. First-hand experience: Negative reviews must be based on the first-hand experience of the BPN subscriber who is posting the review, or their child's. This means that for schools, classes, camps, etc., your child must have actually attended, not just observed or visited. We do not accept negative reviews based on the experiences of neighbors, friends, and relatives. We also do not accept negative reviews from people who have worked at the business being reviewed.

  4. Facts, not opinions: Negative reviews must describe the events that caused you to have a bad experience, as objectively as possible, without editorial comments and opinions. "Just the facts, ma'am." No opinions are allowed, such as "I was not happy with this person" or "I would not go back to this place!" No derogatory adjectives are allowed, such as "was rude" or "work was shoddy". BPN has this policy so that the reader has enough information to form her own opinion, rather than taking the word of a stranger.

  5. Accuracy: We require and assume that BPN subscribers who post negative reviews are posting a true and accurate account of their own first-hand experience. This is the case 99% of the time, but we do follow up with the subscriber who posted the review if there are any questions later about authenticity or accuracy.

In-Home Childcare and Domestic Services

BPN does not accept negative reviews for childcare and domestic services that take place in the home. This includes nannies, babysitters, home-based daycares, housekeepers, housesitters, and pet sitters.

Why we have this policy: These are usually very small one-person businesses whose livelihoods depend on the preferences, personalities, and beliefs of their clients. We don't think it's fair to publish negative reviews that may say more about the client's likes and dislikes than about the business. In addition, these businesses typically have far fewer clients than other small businesses. A small family daycare may have children from only a few families over the course of several years. One review from the only dissatisifed parent at the daycare, who happens to be a BPN subscriber, might be the only review BPN receives for the business, unfairly giving the impression that the daycare is undesirable.

This policy was changed in July 2012 to add home-based daycares to the list above, and we are updating reviews on the website to reflect this change. Please send us an email if you notice a daycare review on the BPN site with an older negative review.

Please note: BPN accepts reviews of *licensed* home-based daycares only. If you believe your daycare has violated the terms of its license, please see About Childcare Licensing for information about filing a complaint with the State of California's Community Care Licensing office. BPN does not accept complaints about license violations -- see this policy to find out why. Instead, we encourage parents to contact Community Care Licensing to make a complaint or to view past complaints about a daycare, because this agency is equipped and authorized to investigate daycare problems and take any needed actions.

How BPN defines business and business owner

What's a business? (BPN's definition)
- they have a business name, or
- they have a business license, or
- they rent/own office space, or
- they have a business phone, email address or website, or
- they hire employees, or
- they hand out business cards, or
- they market themselves as a business outside BPN, and
- they are not an individual who provides childcare or domestic services in the home
What's a business owner? (BPN's definition)
- they work within a BPN-defined "business", AND
- they either own the business or don't report to anyone higher in the business
Examples of businesses and business owners (negative reviews are accepted)
schools, contractors, medical practices, doctors, therapists, adoption facilitators, electricians, plumbers, law firms, attorneys, cleaning services, summer camps, music classes, tutoring centers, support groups, accountants
Examples of people who are NOT considered businesses or business owners (no negative reviews allowed)
teachers, babysitters, nannies, home-based daycares, housekeepers, sales clerks, staff at medical practices, receptionists

If a subscriber is submitting a negative review of a person, and it's unclear whether the person is a business as BPN defines it, it is up to the subscriber to convince the moderator that the person meets BPN's definition of a business before we will accept the negative review for the newsletter.

License violations, illegal acts, and the like

BPN does not accept negative reviews that describe license violations, abuse or neglect, illegal acts, malpractice, or any other activities that are regulated by law. BPN has no way to investigate complaints like this, or to take any action that will remedy the situation. If you think someone has broken the law, or violated the terms of their license, or engaged in any other activity that could result in legal action, please contact the proper authority such as the local police, Child Protective Services, the provider's licensing agency, or the like. If you need help identifying the proper agency to report this to, you may post to one of the newsletters or ask the moderator.

BPN also does not accept posts that describe past or pending legal actions and violations. We do not have the resources to confirm or deny information like this, and we do not want to publicize unchecked information that is potentially very damaging to a local business.

Archiving negative reviews to the website

All reviews appear first in one of the BPN newsletters, which are emailed to BPN subscribers. We eventually archive many of these newsletter reviews, positive and negative, to our website. We can't guarantee how fast reviews will be archived, or even if they will be archived, since the website is run by volunteer parents in their spare time. We do not archive any reviews to the website for people whom we consider are not businesses.

Note: The current negative review policy was developed in May 2005, and has been revised several times since then. The BPN website has been online since 1995. As of May 2005, there are more than 2,500 pages of reviews, some of which may contain negative reviews that were posted under previous policies. We update older reviews as time permits, but please be aware that some older reviews may conflict with the current policy. We also occasionally overlook a review that does not meet BPN policy, despite our best efforts. Please send us an email to tell us about a review on our website that doesn't appear to meet the current policy.

If your business has a negative review

If your business is reviewed on our website or in one of our newsletters, you can respond to the review or ask us to remove reviews as outlined below.

All reviews appeared originally in one of the weekly email newsletters that are mailed to subscribers. (See How does it work? for more info about this.) Reviews from the newsletters are later archived to the website, as time permits.

Please Note! If there is a negative review of your business on BPN that contains factual errors or misinformation, or doesn't meet our policy in some other way, please Click Here to notify us and we will investigate. We usually reply within a day or two.

Negative review on the website

  1. Post a response. You can write a response to the review and we'll add it to the website directly following the negative review. Responding to a negative review can be a good opportunity not only to set the record straight, but also to let local parents know more about your business. Click here to send us an email.

  2. Older, non-compliant review. The current negative review policy was developed in May 2005 and has been revised several times since then. There may be older reviews on the website that predate the current policy. You can send us an email and ask us to update your review so that it conforms to the current policy.

  3. Professional standards exception. If you are prohibited from responding to a negative review because of privacy laws such as HIPAA or some other professional regulation, please send us an email.

  4. New owner exception. If you are the new owner of a business (or the new director/principal at a school) and the negative reviews apply to the previous owner, we can remove the old postings and start afresh. In this case, please send us an email.

  5. Remove all reviews. You can decline to be reviewed in the BPN. We'll remove all postings about your business that are currently on the website, good and bad, and add a note that you've asked not to be reviewed on the BPN. We will not accept further reviews of your business. Please send us an email to request this.

Negative review in one of the newsletters

In this case, the review appeared in a BPN newsletter which was emailed to subscribers, but it has not yet been archived to the website. Please be aware that it is not technically possible to recall an email that has already been sent, so we can't "remove" a posting that has appeared in one of the newsletters. You are welcome to submit a response, and we'll post it in an upcoming newsletter. If you are not a subscriber, click here to send us an email with your response. Responding to a negative review can be a good opportunity not only to set the record straight, but also to let local parents know more about your business (more info).

One word of caution: we sometimes receive email from business owners several weeks or months after a negative review has appeared in a newsletter. BPN subscribers see hundreds of reviews every week, so there is a good chance that most subscribers won't remember the posting you are responding to. Or, they may not have ever read the original post (most subscribers do not read every newsletter we mail out.) It's good to keep this in mind when you are writing your response -- it might not be desirable to re-visit a complaint that has already been forgotten, or that wasn't ever read in the first place. It probably isn't in the best interests of your business. A better solution may be to encourage satisfied customers to post positive reviews.

Negative Review Guidelines for Specific Newsletters

Childcare Newsletter Schools, Preschools & Camps Newsletter Recommendation Newsletter

Philosophy behind the negative review policy

BPN's main goal is to be useful to parents. We think it is useful for parents to read about others' bad experiences as well as the good, so they can make better decisions. However, negative reviews must be an accurate account of first-hand experience and must be written as objectively as possible so that the parents who read them can draw their own conclusions rather than taking someone else's word for it. Negative reviews that only give an opinion without the facts are not useful, and neither are rants, venting, and emotional responses.

We want to be fair to people and businesses in our community. We don't want BPN to be a vehicle for spreading rumors and gossip, or as a way for disgruntled former employees to settle a score. The BPN policy is intended to prevent this, and volunteers make every effort to make sure that negative reviews meet this policy.

We also don't want to single out employees who may have little say in how their larger organization is run (like teachers), and we want to protect the privacy of individuals who work in the home (like housekeepers and babysitters.)

Our policy on negative reviews is meant to balance usefulness with fairness.

The current policy was last revised in July 2012.

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