“I’m doing everything I can to clarify things, but people just don’t get it,” she recalled thinking as people continued to attack Mejia despite her clarifications.
Mejia’s son, Nigel Mejia, a manager at the salon, attempted to correct the listing online – by removing his mother’s phone number from parts of the internet and reporting the incident to Google via a help portal on the Google Business site.
“I haven’t gotten an email back to this day,” he said.
Nigel Mejia eventually got Google to remove the barrage of negative reviews from the salon’s Google Business Profile. It currently has a rating of 4.9/5 stars.
Despite their public pleas and attempts to reach out to Google, they couldn’t resist the power of the internet.
Even though some social media platforms have rules against doxxing – posting personal information like a phone number or an address – many creators and users have found ways to circumvent it and achieve the same effect, such as simply using the name or company name tell a person. that others can look up for themselves.
“We couldn’t handle all that pressure,” said Nigel Mejia. “Me, them and the people trying to support them like, you know, it was like Instagram wars, Facebook wars, people trying to explain to every single comment that this is the wrong person.”
It only got worse as the days went by.
On the phone, several people threatened to burn down Iris Mejia’s salon and house, which they say created fear because her husband died in a fire. “I was really worried about that because, honestly, it was traumatizing,” she said.
Their fears were not unfounded. Mejia turned off her cell phone and unplugged the shop phone, but soon the salon workers faced physical intimidation and harassment. Mejia said that in one instance a man burst into the salon and cursed her before running out.
At this point, Mejia, salon staff, and clients began to fear for their safety. Niesluchowski said she began carrying a gun for protection. Mejia was afraid that more people would come to bother her – or worse.
“My schedule was completely full, like, you know, fake appointments,” she said. Mejia feared that more people would come to the salon wanting to harass or hurt her.
Two days after the video went viral, Mejia decided to close the salon. “What are we going to do at this point?” she remembered thinking. “We are in danger. Our customers are at risk.”
Even when the salon was closed, people who saw the video could harm Mejia and her business. Two days after the salon closed, it was vandalized with racist graffiti, some saying “GO BACK TO YOUR CAGE,” “Monkey,” and other slurs.
Iris Mejia said the stress affected her health and hospitalized her for three days. She said she suffers from arthritis, which flared up as pressure mounted from the viral video.
“It really affected me emotionally in such a horrible way,” she said.
In addition to hospital bills, the cost of repainting the salon and lost wages during the shutdown, business has been significantly impacted, she said. She said July gains were $9,000 lower than usual even as the hatred eased.
“A lot of people stop calling because they don’t know what’s going on,” she said. “They think, you know, it’s not safe to come back.”
A GoFundMe page for the salon that Niesluchowski and Iris started brought in just over $7,500, but Mejia said that a month’s rent and the cost of repainting the store was barely covering it.
“It’s a good $6,000 that I had to raise on my own,” she said
Nigel and Iris blame Google for the mistaken identity and their slowing business.
“Ninety percent of the new customers all said they came from Google,” Nigel Mejia said of her company before the viral video went public. “Once all the reviews rolled in, we went from 4.9 to 3 stars overnight.”
Iris said: “If they fixed it straight away or stopped it or issued a warning or something, this wouldn’t have happened. You wouldn’t have called me. I think if anything it’s her fault that this happened to me personally.”