The internet has changed nearly everything we do, sometimes in ways that are unexpected. Free speech and libel are no exception. One case in point, a Tulsa restaurant owner is upset because of a customer's e-mail that blasted his business and wound up getting sent far and wide. The News On 6â€™s Steve Berg reports the Internet has put a new spin on an old story, customer service, giving the customer newfound power and some think, unfair power.
Alioli Restaurant owner Terry Turner still sounds amazed by it all.
"We're still getting e-mails from it,â€ said Turner. â€œIt's still out there. It's still got a life, which is still kind of a phenomenal thing with the new Internet and all that."
The e-mail, written by Kristyn Price, had dinner with some friends at the Brookside restaurant on Cinco De Mayo. She said they got "horrible service" and that Turner screamed at them to "get out" of the restaurant during a dispute over the tip and that it appeared her credit card was overcharged.
Price told us she sent the e-mail to three friends, but it got reposted on at least two websites that we found and was apparently forwarded on to many other people, including some who have never met Price.
"My mother is 89-years-old and she got it," said Turner.
Turner disputes Price's account of the incident and doesn't think it's fair, but it's probably not illegal, says attorney Doug Dodd.
"A lot of people will think they've been defamed when they've just been criticized,â€ said Dodd. â€œ Well, criticism is not necessarily defamation."
Dodd says even the most serious accusation about the credit card charge probably isn't libel, because it's not stated as a fact. He says defamation laws do apply to the Internet, but he says the legal community still sometimes struggles to define the Internet.
"Is it just like a newspaper? Is it just like a radio station, or is it like somebody standing on the street corner with a leaflet handing them out?" said Dodd.
There's little question though that e-mails and websites allow people to voice their opinion more quickly and more widely than ever before.
"All of those people that got it, they took this as the gospel,â€ said Turner. â€œVery few people, out of all the people that I heard from, wanted our side of the story."
Price was not available to go on camera Thursday, but we talked to her on the phone. She says she was mistaken about her credit card being overcharged, but she maintains her comments on the service.
She says she never thought the e-mail would be as widely known as it was, but told us she's not going to say she's disappointed by it. She also said quote "if businesses do good business and make happy customers, the Internet will be their friend."
Watch the video: Restaurant Upset Over Unsatisfied Customer's E-Mail