There has always been some confusion between two auto garages located in Worcester, MA. However, now that the owner of one of the garages has made remarks about rioters, people trying to “get back” at the garage owner have inadvertently given one star reviews to the wrong garage.
Alex Almeida was working on his Jeep Sunday afternoon when his girlfriend showed him a Facebook post that was quickly circulating through Worcester. The post was made by a garage owner in Worcester.
“You won’t believe what the other Steve’s on Shrewsbury Street said and what’s going on,” Almeida’s girlfriend told him.
“Riot was supposed to come up Shrewsbury Street tonight. Didn’t happen and for all your sake I’m glad it didn’t happen cause you would all get a warning shot and 1 in the face and on your way to hell, im (sic) fed up with this s – – – you are all so lucky,” the post read.
The hashtag “whitelivesmatter” followed the post.
The person who made the post was Steven Eckland, owner of Steve’s Auto Repair & 4×4 on Shrewsbury Street.
Almeida then shuddered. The garage he works for is called Steve’s Automotive Imports and it is located on Chandler Street. Sometimes people confuse the two shops due to similar names, but the businesses are not related.
A search of the phrase “Steve’s Auto – Worcester” would bring up both shops as the first two results on Google.
Almeida noticed Sunday night after a screenshot of Eckland’s post circulated across Facebook that only the Chandler Street shop was being highlighted in Google searches. The other garage on Shrewsbury Street didn’t have a live Facebook page anymore either.
The backlash began, but people had the wrong garage. People were urging one another to give Eckland’s garage a bad review, but the Google search results confused people.
Before Sunday, Steve’s Automotive Imports on Chandler Street only had about 20 reviews and a 4.3 rating on Google. By Sunday night, there were nearly 100 reviews and the rating dropped to 2.
“I was like, oh no. Our reviews had almost quadrupled and our rating had dropped,” Almeida said.
Steve Karantzoulidis, the owner of Steve’s Automotive Imports, was crushed. He moved to America from Greece at age 20 and started the garage three years later. During the pandemic, he had to lay off his staff for two months and work by himself.
“I teach my kids to be successful and to be good to people and not discriminate,” Karantzoulidis said, as he discussed the diversity in his own family.
Karantzoulidis, 63, condemned the post made by the other garage owner. His garage, which opened in 1982, was being called racist and disrespectful. His son, Nick, and Almeida then began to try to stop the misdirected backlash.
One person posted on Facebook that Steve’s Automotive Imports had a “racist” owner hoping to shoot protesters. “There are better shops around that aren’t racist,” the post read, directing ire at the wrong garage.
Nick Karantzoulidis and Almeida began responding to Facebook threads making sure people knew the two garages were completely different businesses. They went on Google and flagged the reviews discussing the other garage on Shrewsbury Street.
On Monday, a post went up on Steve’s Automotive Imports’ Facebook page.
It read, “To our loyal customers, friends, and the new friends we’ve had the honor of talking to today. Over the last couple of days, there has been some confusion between our business and a different Steve’s located on Shrewsbury st. We want to make it explicitly clear that the recent negative reviews and statements coming from that business do not align with our beliefs and how we operate business at Steve’s Automotive Imports. We value our customers and show respect to every single person who walks through our doors.”
By Wednesday, the rating was back up to a 3.4 and there were 18 reviews listed by noon. Some of the reviews by people made it clear: The Chandler Street garage was not responsible for the controversial post on social media about rioters.
“Everything is so social media-driven but you’d hope people would have seen the garages had different addresses,” Nick Karantzoulidis said.
Eckland issued a statement to MassLive after a reporter contacted him for comment.
“No words that I can say can undo what I posted on Facebook,” he said in an emailed statement. “I used hurtful and ignorant words and for that I am truly apologetic. As a small business owner, I took my fear of my business being threatened and addressed it in an inappropriate and hurtful manner. I’m going to take time to educate myself on the Black Lives Matter movement and plan on supporting in whatever way that I can.”
Protests across the country have taken place after the killing of George Floyd.
Floyd died on May 25 in Minneapolis. A video showed Floyd being pinned down by former police officer Derek Chauvin. Floyd can be heard saying that he can’t breathe.
Chauvin and three other officers involved in Floyd’s death were fired. Previously, Chauvin was charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. The charge was upgraded to second-degree murder.
The three other officers involved, Thomas Lane, J.A. Kueng and Tou Thao, have also been charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
Steve Karantzoulidis said business is beginning to pick back up since the pandemic began. His employees are back at work, including Almeida, who began working there as a junior in high school.
“We agree with the peaceful protest,” Almeida said. “We try everything in our power to help out our community. No matter who comes in through that door, we try to treat them fairly. To see that come crashing down hurt.”
Eckland’s shop still shows up on Yelp. As of Wednesday, it had a 1-star rating. Photos shared in the review section were similar. It was a screenshot of Eckland’s post.