SACRAMENTO (CBS13) – What people post on social media websites can easily help or hurt a business, prompting some local restaurants to plead “help us before you Yelp us.”

“Most people look at four stars and look at 200 reviews, it’s probably a pretty good place,” said Red Rabbit Kitchen and Bar co-owner Sonny Mayugba.

But the reviews aren’t always positive.

“It’s the biggest favor that someone can do for us is be critical, but when they’re not real … ”

Mayugba says that’s when things get complicated.

A couple of weeks ago, the J Street restaurant received a complaint from a customer who claimed he had food poisoning during a recent visit.

“He wanted a refund,” Sonny said.

Sonny’s reaction was simple.

“We don’t do refunds but we’d be happy to refund your money in the form of a gift card from any restaurant in town,” he said he told the customer.

But Sonny says the customer didn’t stop there.

“I’ll be doing a scathing review on you on Yelp,” he said the man told him, “and I’ll report you to the health department. But if you give me a $100 gift card, then I won’t do it.”

The response from the customer shocked Sonny.

“That’s flat-out extortion,” he said.

Other restaurants have a unique way to avoid the bad reviews: “help us before you Yelp us.”

DeVere’s Irish Pub in downtown Sacramento wants customers to approach them for any complaints before ranting away on a social website.

“Things happen,” assistant manager Juliet House said. “If you let us know you’re not happy, we’ll take care of it. If you leave without saying anything unhappy and you never come back, you may never realize what a good restaurant you were at.”

“I think it’s the customer service that we offer people that brings them back,” she said.

Yelp says it allows users and business owners to flag reviews that violate their terms of service. And business owners are able to respond to any reviews that are posted about their company on the Yelp website.

While it’s impossible to control what people put out on the Internet, Sonny said restaurant owners have to fight back when integrity is compromised. He ultimately refused to give the man anything.

“I hope this inspires other retail establishments and restaurants to push back on extortion,” he said.

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