Lawsuit: store owner tried to ruin my life over a bad Yelp review, posted fake blog claiming I was thieving, crack-addicted prostitute

A lawsuit filed by Chicago's Cecelia Groark claims that Krunch Kretschmar, owner of a store called Bottled Grapes, created a fake blog about her nonexistent drug problems, thieving, and prostitution to retailiate for a negative review on Yelp. She says she bought a Groupon for a wine pairing class but got the runaround when she tried to book it, and a rude email when she complained. She posted on Yelp, and that, she says, is when Kretschmar sent an email telling her he was going to ruin her: "Now every time a company for a job or someone searches YOU on google they will read my side of the story."

The suit claims the blog Kretschmar created and published stated the following: “Cecelia troubles began when she started Embezzling from her last employer to support her drug addiction. While her treatment in the Cook County jail did little to help her, she is continuing to fight her demons everyday. Now turning to the Oldest profession to gain the funds need to support her habits, she is now trying to turn a new leaf. We wish her well.”

Groark has never met Kretschmar, who the suit claims, posted the blog to convince Groark to remove her Yelp review and to embarrass, harass, and ridicule her.

Lawsuit: Wine Expert Lashed Out At Woman After Bad Yelp Review


  1. For someone who is supposed to have the best of tastes, this person sure does a disgusting attitude.

  2. I can’t decide between a sour grapes joke, or a grapes of wrath one. How frustrating.

    EDIT: @aek, guess it’s grapes of wrath, then!

  3. I continue to marvel that these bully types have figured out how to use the internet like a weapon, but still no clue as to how it might bounce back and smack them in the face.

    1. It’s just like real life. The bully acts all tough until someone fights back and punches him in the face. Then he is revealed for the coward that he is.

  4. I read a lot of the comments on Yelp.  Most of the later ones are the result of a predictable pile-on, but a lot of the earlier low-star reviews (and there are a lot) are a result of what looks like bad business practice combined with a poisonous personality.  Looks to me like the Intarwebs would sink Krunchy’s business even without the lawsuit, whatever the outcome.

  5. Wow, talk about first world problems with actual, real life consequences.

    I’m gonna go find me some fresh air and sunshine outside.

    1. Yes, try not to step on any of us mere terrestrial creatures as you depart, Your Holiness. If you could possibly levitate on a cloud of your own moral superiority, that would be kind of you.

    2. The fact that anyone could do this to anyone, possibly costing them their job or preventing them from finding one, doesn’t strike you as a “real world problem”?

      But I like Rezeya’s way of explaining it better…

      On a sidenote, I’m thoroughly enjoying the “bully gets his beatdown” articles on BB lately. First the Ocean Markating guy, now this…

    3. “I’m gonna go find me some fresh air and sunshine outside.”

      And yet you’re here, slumming it with the rest of us!

  6. The Yelp comments on Bottled Grapes paint a pretty clear story, as do his responses. The man is a total douchenozzle, and what he did here doesn’t surprise me.

    Sample quote: ‘Sorry you are having trouble getting into a class I made it easy to get on the “EMAIL ALERTS” and “TEXT ALERTS” that even a caveman can do it.
    Which might explain why YOU are not on it.Classes DO EXISTS,’

  7. Here’s a funny – according to his blog, Krunch “is one of 24 International Grand Confrerie Sommelier’s (sic) in the world.”

    …but if you Google “International Grand Confrerie Sommelier” it appears that the only name associated with “International Grand Confrerie Sommelier” is Krunch.

    Maybe he is actually only one of one “International Grand Confrerie Sommelier’s (sic)” in the world?

    edit: Someone want to check out his claims as a Ph.D. from Harvard?

    1. “internet psychologist” diagnosis incoming…. narcissistic personality disorder! It’s hard to feel as sorry for such people as one should.

        1. Feeling sorry for him doesn’t preclude his getting his comeuppance in the justice system. But really I don’t know anything about him so I will leave it there.

          1. I totally agree and totally disagree. :) I’ve known people with severe NPD and, oh god, you’re so right, they’re incredibly bitter pills to swallow and I feel badly for anyone stuck with their company. 

            On the other hand, I guess it is a disorder that’s thrust upon people, not one that people achieve through hard work and study at being narcissistic. :) I can’t claim it’s environment or genetic or whatever, IANApsych, but… I know it’s something you can’t choose to just not be.

            It just must be absolute hell to be saddled with a brain like that and have that much trouble connecting with people. Society basically tells narcissistic people “yup, you’re evil, and there’s nothing we can do for you.” And they’re not even totally wrong, but it must suck to go through life watching yourself act in ways that constantly hurt and offend people, and not really grasp why. :/

          2. I want to pity them, but they feel so much pity for themselves, there’s no room in there for me.

  8. Some people just really don’t get how the internet works. Or free speech for that matter. Harassing someone over a negative review is just about the surest way to get more negative reviews. He wanted anyone who googled his negative reviewer to find his lies about her, but now anyone who looks for info on him or his business will find that he did this really reprehensible thing. But then if what she (and others) said about him is true, he’s a pretty sketchy guy in the first place.

  9. The best response to being called a thieving, crack-addicted prostitute is to stand up straight, and in a loud, clear voice say, “How dare you, sir! I’ve never touched crack in my life!”

  10. The sad thing is that most of the people who actually went to one of his events (assuming that they’re not all sock puppets or cronies of his) seem to have had a pretty good time. But you see people complaining about his overbooking events even before Groark’s post, and suffering abuse from him.

    1. “most of the people who actually went to one of his events (assuming that they’re not all sock puppets or cronies of his) seem to have had a pretty good time”

      They may have been still drunk at the time.

    1.  Sheesh, he looks like that Cristoforo guy.

      I expected him to be a thin wrinkled little old dwarf. That is not the picture I had at all of someone accusing other people of being ‘CAVEMAN’ (caps his).

  11. I’ve noticed over the years that many of my clients who deal and/or market drugs (alcohol) tend to be assholes.  So this behavior doesn’t really surprise me.

  12. Hasn’t anyone realized, through a simple search that the blog address was/is:

    Blog has been removedSorry, the blog at ceceliagroark***-***-**** has been removed. This address is not available for new blogs.

    Isn’t that (possibly) her phone number too? If it is, it’s more identifiable than her name.  But the two viciously combined together explicitly targets her, he could have at least gotten away with a fictional character defense. “Oh, not THAT Cecelia Groark, It’s just coincidental”.

    1. I think you’re right about that. Even more, his profile page on blogger lists other blogs he has created which is mostly peoples names and/or phone numbers. He has since taken down all of his blogs but it is still in Google’s cache here:

      I wonder if this is a pattern with the way he deals with negative feedback?

  13. Shockingly similar to things that happened to me, Shit is still floating around on the internet years after the fact. Though the people who did it were idiots I went to school with 15 years ago with a grudge and my brothers who love to pile on.

    Destroyed the hell out of my freelancing sorta career. Still a factor when people look up things to see my work, they get hit with blogs of badness. I really had no way of fighting it other than having to explain it and hope they see the truth. Lost tons of money. Which sucked.

    At this point I still hear about the lies and idiocy at least once a month. On Twitter people chose to unfollow over it which is their choice. (supposedly they started posting things again) I simply stopped engaging them and slowly in the process of committing internet suicide and letting everything go. I couldn’t afford a lawyer or get any actual help for it, and I can’t do any business thanks to idiots. Only logical thing left is disappearing and closing email addresses and accounts, and beginning again. Which at nearly 34 years old, feels very wrong. 

    It’s all bullying. What I was hit with was more personal and ultimately meaner and sad, I still haven’t identified everyone involved, but one is local and still throws shit as he drives by me. Death threats, all kinds of immature garbage. I feel bad for this lady really. Same boat. 

    I hope she can get a better resolution to her issue.

    For me it’s been 6 years of torture and a rather pathetic suicide attempt.

  14. Restraining order, libel lawsuit, and calling the ISP hosting the offending content seem like good places to start.

    Failing that, there’s plenty of IRC channels filled with bored kids just looking for a good excuse to ruin someone’s life…

  15. Looks like a pretty clear cut libel case to me.  I wonder what kind of damages the women can get out of this.

  16. So I think we found the company willing to hire Ocean Marketting to do their interwebs work.

  17. Next up, a  new blog is discovered chronicling Boing Boing’s slide into Torrent huffing, sex site promotion, and eventually the bottom of the barrel, when BB is found to be *gasp* spreading internet porn viruses to visitors redirected from wholesome family sites.

  18. My concern is mainly that the poor woman may never know that a Gamay Beaujolais pairs well with lobster thermidor, while a lobster newburg  calls for a pouilly- fume.

  19. Some *very* interesting postings about him and his “qualifications” over at Wine Spectator:

    I find it amazing that the only references to his exclusive Somellier association exist only in his own articles and obvious press hand-outs, not a whisper anywhere else.  You’d thik the other 23 guys/gals would be boasting about this also or it would show up in articles about them etc.

    Bet no one has found any evidence of a PhD or dissertation anywhere either.  One wonders if a University takes it lightly for someone to claim an advanced degree from them without actually having it?

    1. Wow… That Wine Spectator thread is pretty amazing – like the parts where the “Krunch” person appears to have provided a dead e-mail address and a phone number that actually belongs to the wine department of a local grocery store, and someone else chimed in to accuse “Krunch” of taking $3,200 from him and never delivering the promised wine.  And all that was back in 2009!

      (Interestingly, what appears to be Mr. Kretschmar’s facebook profile, lists a band called “Houses of Illusion” as his main musical interest…)

      So we’ve got a guy who has a Sommelier title that no one can figure out what it is, who awarded it or who else holds that title, who somehow got the Harvard B-School to award him a PhD in Econ (!?!?!) and is accused of viciously attacking anyone who criticizes him….

      While an obvious conclusion might be that such a person is a deeply pathological nasty piece of work, there is also the slim chance that “Krunch Kretshmar” and the seemingly stupidly named “Bottled Grapes” shop (perhaps ironically stupid?) is some sort of art work: a commentary on the world of wine where the Emperor wears no clothes, all badges of authority are meaningless, while snobbery and rudeness are rewarded.

      hmmm…. I’m leaning towards the former.

  20. As a business owner I can tell you from experience that bad Yelp reviews are not always true.  I once had someone write to me with a complaint and I replied to her e-mail that I thought she was right and how I was going to make it up to her.  She ignored my reply and posted a review on Yelp which contained complaints about things that never happened.  Some people have very painful lives or painful issues they are dealing with and sometimes hurting others is a way for them to relieve that pain.  We see it all the time in bullies and and violent abusers.  I’m sorry to read that a situation had to escalate like that.  But it’s possible the woman posting the Yelp review needed this experience so she would think twice about trying to hurt business owners.  Anyone who has ever been bullied or physically abused will know what I’m talking about.

    1. I’m sorry to read that a situation had to escalate like that.  But it’s possible the woman posting the Yelp review needed this experience so she would think twice about trying to hurt business owners.

      As someone who manages a customer service department, I personally think you’re wrong.  What that business owner did screws things for everyone.  You included, even if they make people think twice about negative reviews.   Because now, if your business is doing something wrong, someone might be too scared to tell you.

      And trust me, you should want to know about things you do wrong, not just about the good things.

      My company sometimes gets bad reviews by people who ignore notices about automated bulling, and then ask for and get a refund.  We cope.  Because life is like that.  What we don’t do is overreact and go ballistic, because if we do, we end up on Boing Boing.  We also learn where we’re able to improve from negative reviews. 

      1. I agree and it is horrid that not only did the business owner create a situation that is likely to cost him his company and personal reputation,  as it sounds like she has a strong case, he missed an opportunity to improve his company and gain a loyal customer. 

        I received a half cooked pizza from a pizza place on its opening day and let the owner know via their website.   The owner emailed me promptly and apologized that they found one of their ovens were not working properly and asked for my address to send me a coupon for a free pizza and breadsticks and then mailed them to me.  We now go there all of the time as we know if something does go wrong, we can count on management to take care of it and chose them even over other coupon offers at a lower price.

        No one likes negative criticism, but if you see it as an opportunity to improve your business or yourself, it can pay off in spades as it will make you a better business or better person.

        1. Kathryn,  your reply makes it sound like you missed the point.  I have done the same thing, offered a free make up service to an unsatisfied customer.  But when that customer chooses not to accept that offer and instead leave you a scathing review that means the customer has some anger issues that run deeper than just your failure to provide your best service.  My hope is that people like this get the support they need to work through those deeply painfull issues.  And while I don’t condone what that business owner did, it might be what was needed for this customer to realize what it’s like to be the target of misdirected anger.  And having experienced that for themselves might motivate them to no longer want to hurt others that way.

    2. Anyone who has ever been bullied or physically abused will know what I’m talking about.

      Anyone who has ever been physically abused will more likely be appalled that you compared that to a bad review.

      1. That was my response.  The “trying to ruin someone’s life by claiming they’re a drug-addicted prostitute” has some slight resemblance to physical abuse, but giving a business a bad review?  Nah.

      2. I disagree.  Having been trapped in a physically abusive situation against my will for years, I find a scathingly bad but unrue review brings up the old traumas.  Because in both situations you have no control over what is being done to you.  In one case I could not stop a person from physically beating me.  In the other I could not stop a person from doing permanent damage to something that is so deeply a part of myself and necessary to survive in business: My reputation.  Having control taken away from you by others that wish you harm can feel the same for survivors whether it is physical or being defamed online.  Please don’t assume it is wrong or appalling for survivors of violence to feel fearful or threatened when control is taken away from them again.  It may feel different to you.  But not all survivors have the same reaction and for some it is like experiencing the abuse all over again.  

        1. “Having been trapped in a physically abusive situation against my will for years, I find a scathingly bad but unrue review brings up the old traumas.”

          Jesus christ.

          “Please don’t assume it is wrong or appalling for survivors of violence to feel fearful or threatened when control is taken away from them again.”

          No, but you’re *giving* all the power to internet trolls.

          1. She’s not “giving” a damn thing. It’s trauma. She’s reacting the way her brain tells her to. You don’t choose that. That’s just not how trauma works. Yeah. Little things like that really can bring the pain back. Welcome to primate psychology, mistah. :(

            (Needless to say, I still can’t condone her support of “Krunch’s” troll blog. That seems… a little inconsistent with an anti-abuse position to me. I genuinely don’t understand why she thinks perpetuating the cycle is a healthy thing in this case.)

    3. Except in this case her complaint was valid, she was belittled and had a blog opened in her name AND PHONE NUMBER advising the world she was an extortionist crack whore.
      Oh and a quick look shows this is not the first time the self important wine guy has opened blogs like that, and made them vanish after he told his lawyer well yeah she was mean to me so I did what I always do when I feel I am not being respected.
      I’m sorry you think a negative review hurts your business, you should quit now.  Consumers are assholes, and if your that upset over the chance of a negative review you should seek other things to earn a living.

      But please Krunch tell us more about how this woman deserved her name slandered over made up allegations, while there are many other people who purchased similar things and had the same results from your company.
      Sockpuppet is sockpuppetty.

    4. You need to identify with the bully victim. Not the business owner. Unless you’re a business owner who likes to bully people to get your way.

      1. Right. Anyone who uses this example as an opportunity to victim-blame really isn’t in their right head and needs to focus on customer service, not hating on the idea that someone might post a review that they can’t control. On the aggregate, crazy reviewers AND owners stand out.

  21. I blame Yelp for all of this. Yelp is a company of extortionists. It’s a shame Yelp is allowed to continue it’s vessel for libel, defamation. Yel p is destroying small businesses on a regular basis and is causing lavish defensive fights instead of communication and customer service.

    1. I disagree; it is public forum that allows people to post their experiences.  Personally and quick to promote and share a positive experience  and contact the business first to make it right if I have a negative experience before posting a negative one, which I think everyone should do before posting a negative review (maybe their need to be an internet etiquette taught in high schools)

      Most businesses do care about their customer and if they want to stay in business, will try to earn the trust of a consumer to know if something does go wrong, they will be taken care of. 

      Everybody has a bad day, not everything is always can be perfect and people will understand that if you let them know that you are sorry, that is not the standard for the company and find a way to make it right for them.   Sometimes just saying you are sorry and ask for another chance is enough.

      But to post slanderous lies for someone posting a bad review is not only
      heinous, it is textbook libel and she is likely to win her suit if she can prove it…even if the site no longer exist, anything anyone posts on the internet can be subpoened.

    2. Brad is correct.  If you have absolute proof in writing that someone’s bad Yelp review is not true (such as their signature on a contract) Yelp will refuse to review that information so they can consider removing it.  Yelp has told me they simply don’t have enough staff to review information even if it proves an online review is false.  Any company that is willing to let false reviews be printed even when you have absolute proof in writing that it is fake, is creating an online arena for people take revenge when you go after them for not paying for or stealing your services or products.

    3. “Yelp is destroying small businesses on a regular basis”

      It’s also creating small businesses on a regular basis.

      Restaurants closed all the time before Yelp, nowadays they have a convenient excuse. Oh, it was that one poor Yelp review. Obviously.

      Perhaps if you have multiple shitty Yelp reviews, your business and/or customer service skills are terrible?

      1. Or perhaps they’ve filtered out eight totally legitimate looking four- and five-star reviews, leaving ONLY two one-stars mysteriously posted on the same day in similar writing styles, like I saw on a Seattle listing the other day.

        This is a business I know first-hand is very good, and it gets great reviews from locals — I have never heard a single complaint except from these two. That was the moment I lost my last shred of faith in Yelp.

  22. While I a not a lawyer, it seems as though Krunch Kretschmar of Bottled Grapes might have committed libel, defamation, slander, and fraud.

    It might would also be appropriate to mention that Krunch Kretschmar may have been involved in behaviour similar to the often repeated questioning about Glen Beck’s alleged criminal past.

    While it doesn’t mitigate the damage they caused to the individual they attacked in their blog, it would seem appropriate if a search for Krunch Kretschmar and Bottled Grapes were to turn up nothing but comments expressing shock and dismay at their attempt to soil someone’s reputation over a bad review.

  23. Now Bottled Grapes is scrubbing all negative reviews on Yelp, as I just received a review removal notice. I live in Chicago, have been to this store, was unimpressed, and was outraged after I read this thread. I guess you’re not allowed to leave snarky reviews AFTER a controversy breaks.

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