Consumer Freedom

You're Now Free to Yelp About How Terrible Everything Is in California


"I am posting to express my deep disappointment in the exceptionally poor quality of this season's Shamrock Shakes."
The Simpsons

So, not every law California passes is utterly horrifying nanny state nonsense or of secret benefit to either crony capitalist or union interests. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into a law a rule that prevents businesses from trying to force consumers into contracts where they waive (usually unknowingly) their right to publicly criticize said business.

The origins of the law come from a couple of outrage stories that briefly captured the nation's attention. In one, a Utah couple was targeted by a business named KlearGear after they ordered items from them online that never arrived. The couple posted a negative review online. KlearGear then threatened them with a $3,500 "fine" for violating a sales contract that prohibited customers from "taking action that negatively impacts," even though the couple never actually got anything from them. The company put a $3,500 complaint against the couple through a collections agency, and they took a credit rating hit.

In the second case, a Florida vacation rental company threatened $10,000 fines for online reviews with "unreasonable negative sentiment." CNN covered both tales in a story here. The rental company changed its policy but told CNN they had implemented it in order to protect themselves from people who may try to extort money out of them by threatening bad online reviews.

The new law prohibits businesses in California from attempting to institute such fines and fines them back if they try it. So Californians are free to give their local McDonald's just three stars because the drive-thru cashier forgot to give them ketchup packets. (Seriously, why are people doing online reviews of fast food restaurants?) Of course, the law doesn't prevent the more common terrible business responses to bad criticism, which is to threaten people with defamation or libel suits or to abuse the trademark and copyright sections of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act to force Internet service providers or web hosts to delete mean things said about them.

(Hat tip to Kevin Sablan)

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  1. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into a law a rule that prevents businesses from trying to force consumers into contracts where they waive (usually unknowingly) their right to publicly criticize said business.


    1. Yeah, unsure how I feel about this particular law.

      “Force” and “enter into a contract” don’t seem to go together.

      1. Snidely Whiplash would like to have a word with you …

    2. Why does this require a law? Contracts like this should be voided as unenforceable anyway.

      1. Where’s the consideration?

        1. (Potentially less expensive) Food service in turn for a forbearance on your ability to criticize the restaurant. This might not be enough for consideration, unless they simply refuse to serve people that don’t sign the contract.

          To satisfy consideration more effectively, they could give a discount for entering into this agreement, to discretely define the benefit and trade value of value.

          1. In the short run this would be an easy way to identify customers who don’t place a high value on good service, in the long run it would turn into an additional fee that everybody paid to ensure good service.


    3. This is actually good. This atleast gives back to freedom of speech.

  2. So it is a win for freedom to tell businesses that they cannot put penalties into contracts between them and a customer?

    There has got to be a more libertarian approach to this type of problem.

    For me the customers noted in the KlearGear should be allowed to sue the company and the credit company.

    On the other hand, what is to be done about companies that have stupid end user agreements and terms of service? In my mind this is the job for a private organization, such as EFF or a privatized version of BBB. If one of those companies set guidelines for acceptable terms of service, I would happily only buy from companies that could meet that threshold. And I would also have tort against a company claiming to meet those guidelines (displaying the seal of the accreditor) who then tried to pull that credit agency bullshit.

    1. +1 for this.

      This law is an example of good intentions, with force.

      Something all Libertarians should hate.

    2. Yep.

      “KlearGear then threatened them with a $3,500 “fine” for violating a sales contract”

      Isn’t failure to deliver the goods also a violation of the sales contract?

      1. That was my thought. The contact was void so they could say whatever they wanted.

    3. Some contractual terms are deemed against public policy. Also some duties or rights can’t be contracted away.

      Think of it this way; a business couldn’t put in its contract “we are not responsible for anything” and then use it as a shield against paying damages for their negligence. A similar thing is happening here. People have a right to say what they like and businesses can’t sneak in provisions that create a cause of action for them using that right.

      1. First, I don’t think there ought to be a blanket restriction on contract. I think it is perfectly fair to- as part of a sales contract or terms of service- to place restrictions on what a person says. I can see plenty of examples where this would be appropriate. Set aside NDAs, I can also see it as a restriction on people to give reviews of beta software, or a preview of a movie- “In return for us giving you a preview of our product, you cannot review it until it is generally released”.

        As others have pointed out, it is possible then to solve this issue with arbitration/contract law. 1) Is the contract enforceable or somehow flawed? If so then any penalties that the company attempts to enforce (i.e. through credit reporting) is subject to tort law- they have damaged the customer and must make them whole.

  3. Another PEANUTZ myth about our loss of freedom bites the dust.

  4. I thought the courts had already ruled that click-through licenses were bullshit and basically not enforceable.

    1. They have, several times, but that doesn’t get Jerry Brown publicity with the low-information voter.

      1. sad, but true

        1. And thank you, NYC, for proving my point.


  5. In the news yesterday, Brown also signed a bill mandating paid sick leave for all employees in CA, including part time workers. So there’s that.

    1. “We have to fight against the growing inequality, the immiseration of millions of families in our country and certainly in our state.”

      Hmmm… immiseration. Where have I read that term before.

      1. I think it’s on the CA state motto.

    2. In our town a similar law was passed. Employers went to PTO and it is now harder for the bottom end workers to find employment. The city would rather have more folks on the dole or earning less than have some folks have a shitty job with no benefits.

      1. Well, it does allow politicians to say that if you vote for The Wrong Party, you’ll lose your dole.

        So the benefits outweigh the costs no matter how you count it.

  6. I’d right a positive review of any McD’s franchise that still carries hot mustard. That stuff’s going the way of the dodo.

    1. Or the deep fried apple pie.

      1. Is this not a thing anymore?

        1. It was gotten rid of in U.S. stores many years ago. Apparently it can still be found overseas and at a few stores in the U.S. (though I haven’t been able to find one).

        2. Happened around the same time as the coffee lawsuit. Figure they were trying to avoid another one.

          1. It’s the Bloomberg types making them cut down on fat and salt. I now have to ask for salt for the fries because my local McDs puts hardly any on now. And forget trying to get a fried apple pie in Connecticut.

            1. This was in ’92.

      2. One of the McDonald’s in Tupelo, MS still serves the fried apple pie, and, you know what? The baked one is better tasting.

        If anyone is curious about the fried apple pies, Hardee’s still makes them, and they taste about the same as the McDonald’s fried apple pies.

        Also, Hardee’s burgers are the best fast-food burgers readily available.

        1. One of the McDonald’s in Tupelo, MS still serves the fried apple pie, and, you know what? The baked one is better tasting.

          Then they’re doing it wrong.

        2. The baked one is better tasting.

          Does. Not. Compute.

        3. “The baked one is better tasting.”

          ERROR! ERROR! ERROR!

        4. Or go to a Chinese takeout place that has apple sticks, if those are still a thing.

          But I’m sure the baked pie does taste better. I had a peach pielet at a McDonald’s today, and it was very good. Frying would take all the flakiness out of the crust.

    2. Ah, I thought I was the only one. I *hate* honey mustard, and a lot of times that’s the only mustard choice.

      1. You might enjoy this and this.

    3. Would you left a positive review, too?

      1. Ted S., lowering self-esteems since god only knows when.

  7. not every law California passes is utterly horrifying nanny state nonsense or of secret benefit to either crony capitalist or union interests.”

    I’m sure they’ll find a way to bury the ‘good ones’ in an avalanche of Bad Ones.

    1. Words cannot express the depths of my hatred for you.

      1. Did you actually click that? Why would you do that?

        1. I did not click on it. Just the words were enough to scar my brain.

          1. It can’t be anything worse than the things NutraSweet has written.

            1. The linked photo is very, very appropriate.

              1. got wood?

        2. I clicked. It was very amusing. Gonna steal it.

    2. That’s SENATOR Barbara Boxer Fleshlight to you!

  8. I hope all states adopt this law.

    1. Why? Any reason beyond “it feels good?”

      1. That and KKKorporayshuns.

  9. OT: When in Cameroon, be careful what you drink:…..ereotypes/

    Once an accusation of homosexuality is made, police make arrests based solely on how individuals present themselves. For example, if a man is found to be cross-dressing, that could be used as proof that he is gay in court. If somebody has a job that doesn’t fit their gender, like a male hairdresser, that too could be used against them. A judge convicted one of Togue’s clients for feminine mannerisms and for drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream, which he felt only a woman would drink.

    1. 1. You can have my Irish Coffee when you pry it from my cold, dead, fabulous hands.

      2. I make it a habit not to click on TP links. But I’m guessing 80% of the comments are blaming American religious-types for this. And I may be underestimating that.

      1. Irish coffee doesnt have Baileys, you poof.

        It has Jameson’s. and whipped cream, if you HAVE to go that way.

        1. It has Jameson’s. and whipped cream

          You know what you call it when you mix irish whiskey and whipped cream together and bottle it?


          1. Right. Its the gay version of whiskey.

            is this so complicated?

            1. So your sentence “Irish coffee doesnt have Baileys, it has Jameson’s and whipped cream” makes no sense.

              1. Whipped creme IF you want the gay version.

                You don’t order an Irish Coffee and expect baileys. Its not (should not!) be served that way. The garnish would be ‘on request’.

                1. Irish Coffee: Irish whiskey and coffee. Ask which whiskey is desired. This usually clears things up if they actually wanted:

                  Baileys and Coffee: Bailey’s Irish Creme and coffee. Ask if they want whipped cream or not.


                  1. Huh. And all this time, I thought it was a type of coffee grown in Ireland.

              2. more to the point – even if you did by default serve irish coffee con leche, it would never be just ‘coffee and baileys’

                That would actually be a different order. Irish coffee is coffee & irish whiskey; if you want some happy-time with it, all well and good, but if anyone was served baileys they’d be perfectly in their rights to send it back.

                Just saying. Its a bartender’s world, you only drink in it.

            2. Its the gay version of whiskey.

              Then what is fireball? Other than an abomination.

              1. Fireball… oh, that awful cinnamon stuff?

                Beta-Male Whiskey.

                1. I make my own cinnamon whiskey and it is delicious. A fine thing to do with Jim Beam or other low-end bourbons.

                  1. what do you DO with it?

                    1. He writes fanfic.

                      “Warty Hugeman and the Whiskey for Girls!”

                    2. Feed it to student workers to lower their intelligence.

                2. Apple cider mixed with Fireball is great.

                  1. I can see that.

                    I’m a big fan of ‘hot toddy’-style drinks. Esp in miserable NYC winter.

        2. Why not all three?

        3. GILMORE you ignorant slut. A true Irish coffee has four ingredients:

          Irish Whiskey
          Heavy whipping cream (beat until it’s thick, but not whipped. About honey consistency).
          Sugar/Simple Syrup

          That is all. Only abominations use whipped cream or creme de menthe and any use of cherries just summons the Elder ones to destroy you.

          1. Any fuckstick who puts cream and sugar in my coffee without asking me is in for a rude awakening.

            i dont know how it works where you live, but all that garnish is the customer’s option.

          2. Why would you destroy that coffee with sweet stuff?

            1. Back when I was still drinking coffee on a regular basis, if it was pure coffee, it was consumed with no additions. The point of the Irish coffee is the balance between the four ingredients.

          3. I put ketchup on my hot dog and plenty of cream (or half and half) in my coffee. Did you guys know there’s pumpkin spiced creamer? I never miss PSL at Starbucks in this time o the year.

            I tried international delight Irish creme once and didn’t really care for it. It was just sort of bitter.

            Best drink from Mexico is Kahlua.

      2. And you’d be right. Not the least because many American religious-types do try to influence these sorts of laws – and claim credit for them.

        1. activist-claims-nations-where-homosexuality- punishable-life-imprisonment-have-more

      3. There are no comments. The article lays the blame on Roman Catholicism.

      4. I’m always amazed by how many people think I’m odd for drinking my coffee plain, black, and with no sugar. Screw all those expensive trendy coffee drinks.

        1. You mean milkshakes? That’s what Starbucks, for instance, sells. Milkshakes.

        2. I think its odd for anyone to take a hot drink. I’m already 98.6 deg F. (thank you Jesus). The colonial British logic is that a hot drink will make you perspire and the evaporation will cool you off. So would wrestling with a gorilla.

        3. Some men just want to watch the world burn.

    2. “…drinking Bailey’s Irish Cream, which he felt only a woman would drink.”

      They do have a point.

      1. What if you drink it from a shoe?

        1. How did it get in the shoe in the first place?


          1. Sigh… You heathen. Let me educate you.

            1. obscure BBC children’s programming…

              yeah, what I said before: no.

              1. You must be a blast at parties.

                1. I already have the funk, thanks

                  1. +1 Funky ball of teets.

    3. I assume my selection of a “Cucumber Collins” at our Reason brunch last weekend would get me hanged immediately.

      1. A cucumber collins sounds awesome.

        But i mean, whatever, its a Gin Fizz with garnish. People are always renaming ‘old drinks’ and pretending its a thing.

      2. They haven’t executed anyone in a long time, so you’d probably just get some quality time with other aficionados of mixed drinks.

      3. I think having brunch at all would be more than enough to do it.

        On the other hand, “Cucumber Collins” would be a good pseudonym if you ever got into the adult industry.

        1. Along with Ginny Fizz?

      4. Bender: “Hey barkeep, I’ll have a fuzzy navel, and she’ll have the girliest drink in the house.”

        Barkeeper: “Two fuzzy navels coming up!”

        1. I remember being in a country dive bar once, when a guy in a suit came in after work and ordered a Sex on the Beach and a Heineken. The smoking hot female bartender set him up with a shot of Jack and a bottle of Bud. The suit goes: “Hey I ordered a Sex on the Beach and a Heineken.”

          She deadpanned, “That’s what I just fucking gave you.” and walked away.


      5. It should have gotten you molested with a cucumber right there.

      6. Just use Hendricks. That stuff is great.

    4. So, no Wrestlemania for Cameroon?

  10. the Barbara Boxer Fleshlight.

    My mind’s eye conjures up something akin to a pencil sharpener designed by Rube goldberg.

    1. Click it, Brooks! Click it! You know you want to!

    2. I pictured something a lot drier and more aged than the actual photo.

      It probably would have more teeth, too.

    3. I heard Lucas got the idea for the Sarlacc from a one-night stand with Barb.

      1. I heard she played the Sarlacc.

        1. Can’t be her. Boxer is only 4’11”.

          1. Hugh’s photo of her vagina puts her 7′ 6″ at least.

            1. ^^Paul Bunyan likes this post

  11. Gov. Jerry Brown has signed into a law a rule that prevents businesses from trying to force consumers into contracts where they waive (usually unknowingly) their right to publicly criticize said business.

    *in Dr. Evil’s voice* You just don’t get it do you Scott.

  12. (Seriously, why are people doing online reviews of fast food restaurants?)

    People write reviews for crap they shouldn’t write reviews about all the time on that website. I once read a 1-star review by a guy of a fondue restaurant. Why was it 1-star? Because — I kid you not — the fondue restaurant served raw meat. I really wish I could find that review again; it’s the reason not to ever trust reviews on that website.

    1. Not only raw, but frozen too!

      And the soup burnt my tongue.

      Worst. restaurant. ever.

    2. *I really wish I could find that review again; it’s the reason not to ever trust reviews on that website*

      Yeah, expression should be stifled just in case there are some people dumber than you out there.

  13. Irish coffee doesnt have Baileys, you poof.


  14. People are always renaming ‘old drinks’ and pretending its a thing.

    Also, a “martini” is a glass of gin* with an olive in it, you hipster pooftahs. If it has chocolate milk in it, IT’S NOT A MARTINI.

    *Vodka may be substituted by heathens.

    1. chocolate milk?


    2. I would rather order “a glass of gin with an olive” than a “martini”.

      Well, I’d rather order a stein of gin. Martinis are for those people that really don’t want to drink.

  15. If you must drink, drink tequila. Or mezcal. Either works.

    1. Tequila leads to vomiting, before I even get drunk, anymore.

      It’s good beer or bourbon and branch.

      Accept no substitutes.

      1. One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor!

        You ain’t doing it right. Sip son, sip.

      2. I’ll stick to Pendleton, plskthx

    2. I only drink tequila when I am in the mood to make bad decisions.

      1. the mood to make bad decisions

        151 and Coke. The brain passes out approximately 3 hours before the body.

        The body goes out and does truly strange and terrible/wonderful things.

    3. Tequila is awful

      even the stuff Americans call the fancy stuff is awful

      I love to tell people how Patr?n – the #1!!ULTRAPREMIUM TEQUILA!! – is made by Paul Mitchell Hairproducts Incorporated, and was invented in the 1980s in Las Vegas as an exercise in ‘branding’

      its about as Mexican as Ortega Taco mix.

      and the few remaining assholes who agree with me, but THEN insist that the rare Gran Anejo blue agave 200yr old mucho-extra especial is THE REAL STUFF… oooh, you can just taste the quality… sip it… oooh….

      yeah, the booze might be OK, but i can’t stand the people who fucking talk about it.

      I’ll stick with bourbon, thanks

      1. *Tequila is awful*

        Then you are doing it wrong.

        1. My brother spent 5yrs or so as a sales liason to businesses in Mexico City, Guadalajara, Puebla…

          …he kept an apartment in He’d routinely bring lots of bottles of “the good stuff” back to NY, along with boutique mescal, etc. AND mexican women. He was in his late 20s, and he was banging a woman in her 30s that was a ‘grandmother’.

          Anyway, we drank tons of the stuff. The “real” tequila. Sipping tequila. the primo stuff.

          IMHO, it was not that good. Why? Because Mexicans don’t have particularly good taste. Its fucking cactus juice. There’s a reason no one else makes the shit that have other *options*.

          Just my opinion. To each their own.

      2. Bourbon is lovely, but tequila isn’t awful.

        Here’s what I recommend. Have it served upside-down by some attractive waitress, with the tequila running down her ample bosom into your mouth. About ten times. Then when you wake up, you’ll know that the adventure you just had was brought to you by tequila.

  16. *Seriously, why are people doing online reviews of fast food restaurants*

    Seriously, you don’t want to know if some dude is putting his dong into the mashed potatoes at KFC?


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