Did A Michigan Shop Owner Write Racist Yelp Comments About 'Blacks' and 'Ghetto Folks'?

Image credit: Google Streetview, address confirmed by Jim S. over the phone.
Image credit: Google Streetview, address confirmed by Jim S. over the phone.

Someone claiming to be the owner of Whitney’s Tire and Auto in Ann Arbor, Michigan replied to a negative Yelp review with an absolutely disgusting racist rant. The internet has responded by denouncing the business, but the business owner says it’s all a hoax.


Southeast Michigan is a place with a long history of racial segregation, and that has a tendency to breed ignorance. Take the person who wrote this extremely dim-witted, racist response to a negative Yelp review. The comment (one of multiple, according to MLive), appears to have been written by Jim S, and describes how much he dislikes serving “ghetto folks.”

The review was captured on the Instagram of Madison Callanan, the person who wrote the initial negative review, and is shown below:

As if to excuse the bad rating, Jim S. begins by saying “Most reviews will be left by blacks from Ypsilanti.”

He then goes on to describe why he doesn’t want to serve African Americans, saying:

...Because I don’t want them to call here. Nothing against them but given an examination I found a way to make a boat load more money avoiding them doing commercial water heaters.

Jim S. continues by saying he’d rather do business with people associated with the nearby University of Michigan (who are predominantly white), saying: “We stick to UofM related clients, a more appropriate fit given they reside near our shop.”

He signs off with a plea saying “ghetto folks” should stay away from the mostly white, affluent town, writing: “Ghetto folks need to stay in the Ghetto and not come to Ann Arbor.”


I called up Whitney’s Tire and Auto and spoke with the shop owner Jim S., whose real name is Jim Small. He told me that the whole thing is a bunch of bogus, saying:

Somebody gained access to my account. We are sickened by the inaccurate comments that were placed on our Yelp account by someone....Everyone is welcome here, and we’re very upset that somebody would write such a senseless thing.


That’s a bit different from what Mic claims he said in their interview. The news site says that when they talked with Jim S., he started to backpedal.

Mic says he began their discussion by saying “We really don’t want to serve ghetto people, that’s a fact...Race has nothing to do with this, let me clarify...What we’re trying to avoid is people who, number one, can’t afford service.”


But this Yelp comment isn’t the only instance of the shop’s racist language. Mic also says a 24 year-old named Shalynn Renee Vaughn from the University of Michigan called up Whitney’s Tire and Auto to ask about tire pricing, only to receive the following chilling response from an employee, a response which Fox 2 has in a phone recording:

There’s no law against refusing service to ghetto people. I don’t serve fucking monkeys, little fucking primates.


To add to all of this controversy, Fox 2 claims that Jim S.’s real name is Whitney Passino, and that he’s the same mechanic the news site confronted in February about harsh, homophobic comments made to a customer over the phone and via text message.

The text message, shown in Fox’s report, even shows the phone number that sent the homophobic text, and it is the same number I called today to speak with Jim Small.


But Jim Small denied all of it in our phone conversation. When asked about the homophobic slur incident, he responded saying: “That happened at a different address. It’s not even our store.”

He continued:

This firestorm of activity... It seems like it’s nothing more than entertainment for america. Sounds like it’s some Black Lives Matter [activity]... we’re just an ordinary shop that fixes cars. Everyone is welcome here. There is no story. We’re just a regular company. And we service thousands of people all the time.


So what prompted the bad Yelp review in the first place? Fox News 2 reports that Madison Callanan, who happens to be white, called the shop after her boyfriend’s car’s tire sprung a leak, and was immediately ostracized:

The first thing I asked was, you know, ‘Is this so-and-so’s tire shop?’ And he said, ‘Yeah, I don’t have time for stupid questions’...I said, ‘Excuse me?’ He said, ‘Well, now you sound upset. I’m just treating you like the dog you deserve to be treated like.


When asked about the quote above, the man at the other end of the phone, claiming to be Jim Small, told me:

I don’t pretend to know everything that happens at the company, but that’s pretty unbelievable also. I don’t see how something along those lines took place. I don’t believe that occurred either. I don’t know where this whole thing started from. We don’t discriminate, and we don’t call people dogs.


So Whitney’s Tire and Auto maintains that it’s not at fault. Though, between the text message from the shop’s number, the recorded phone call, and the Yelp comment from someone claiming to be the owner of the shop, there’s quite a bit of damning evidence against them.

But “Jim Small” reiterated his innocence over the phone, saying “We’re good guys...It’s just a standard everyday place...Wish I had something juicy for you.”


But MLive says his property owner, Danielle Beydoun, apparently isn’t buying it, and ultimately deciding to give Jim S. the boot, spending more than $15,000 in legal fees to evict the man whose real name is allegedly Whitney Passino. She told MLive that the whole thing was humiliating, and that she’s worried people will think she condones Passino’s history of racist behavior.

“It’s very unfortunate that we’re being pulled into this. We’ve been in this location for 18 years,” Beydoun said.


So it seems that perhaps the internet has served up a big plate of juicy justice. After all the bad Yelp reviews, and all the articles from news outlets about the shop’s poor behavior, “Jim S.” is being kicked to the curb.

UPDATE: An Ann Arbor-based body shop with a similar name, Whitney’s Collision, told us in an email that they’ve mistakenly been receiving angry voicemails about the incidents described in the article above. The shop, which actually has decent ratings on Yelp, has asked us to clarify that they are in no way affiliated with Whitney’s Tire and Auto.

Sr. Tech Editor, Jalopnik. Owner of far too many Jeeps (Including a Jeep Comanche). Follow my instagram (@davidntracy). Always interested in hearing from engineers—email me.


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