Friday, November 27, 2020

The Hub residents reflect on inaccurate Google reviews

October 27, 2020

Psychology senior Alex Weiss was looking forward to the Hub East Lansing's several high-end amenities when he moved into his luxury apartment Aug. 18. Ten days later, his apartment flooded. 

Problems began immediately after Weiss moved into the Hub. Upon entering his apartment, the garbage disposal was broken, bedroom lights were out and the included shower speaker and surround sound was broken. 

"The maintenance guy came in to look at it," Weiss said. "He told us pretty much to figure it out ourselves, like watch a YouTube video to learn how to fix it." 

The Hub apartment complex promised luxury housing and amenities to tenants, but several prior and current residents said they didn't experience luxury at all. 

The Hub has a rating of 4.5 stars from 412 reviews on Google; however, 304 reviews were made before the building was open to residents, according to data collected Oct. 18. 

For Weiss, apartment issues only worsened on Aug. 28, when parts of his ceiling fell in, flooding the apartment kitchen, he said. 

Weiss contacted the Hub's front desk to alert them of the emergency. After multiple emails and calls, he said the Hub addressed the flooding after the local health department became involved. 

"The City of East Lansing said we couldn't live in this apartment anymore, which makes sense as the ceiling came down," Weiss said. 

Weiss said his apartment failed the health department's inspection. The Hub's management told Weiss and his two roommates they would have to be relocated, he said.

"They only had two studios available," Weiss said. "So, that means if all three of us agreed to live there, the third person would have to be displaced with some random combination of people. ... They said either that or they could place one of us in a hotel, which I mean because of COVID and everything going on, why would any of us want to stay in a hotel?"

Weiss said the Hub would not let the three roommates out of their lease. Ultimately, Weiss decided to sign over the lease to a new tenant and moved home. When he left in late September, he said areas of the apartment had begun to mold. 

In his last communication with the new tenant, Weiss said the apartment failed another health inspection almost two months later. 

"The worst part is that not only did they not reimburse us for anything at all, but when they did communicate with us, they weren't nice to us," Weiss said. 

Prior to move-in, the Hub's Google reviews averaged about 4.8 out of five stars. However, after move-in until the present, ratings averaged 3.4 out of five stars.

Of those who submitted reviews prior to opening, some mentioned not planning to live there. Others posted, alleging reviews were incentivized or fake. The Hub's management replied to these reviews, denying incentivizing or paying for reviews.

On the other hand, MSU students and prior residents Jack Eno and Vada Murray provided emails showing the Hub offered up to $750 for a Google review.

"A lot of them were from people who don't even live there," Murray, a MSU human biology senior, said. "So, it's kind of like, how can you even say that it's an amazing place to live because they were just trying to win prizes. ... I left a review before I even moved in.”

When Murray lived at the Hub, she said dog urine and vomit would remain in the hallway for weeks and management was unresponsive.

"I think the reviews are skewed because I don't personally know anybody who enjoyed their experience there," Murray said. 



Eno, an MSU athletic training senior, said he lived at the Hub between August 2019 and July 2020. He left a positive review before he moved in, then posted an updated version later.

"So pretty often, even the months before I had moved in, which was before it really even existed and no one had lived there yet, they (the Hub) would do little promos of where 'Hey, if you leave us a review on Google, we will enter you to win whatever gift card," Eno said. 

Based on pictures and concept art, Eno said he had high expectations for the Hub. 

Issues began with the Hub's 2019 move in, which began late and left tenants lined up along Grand River Avenue. Eno said he and his friends waited all day to move in.

"Right off the bat, me and some friends were like, OK this is maybe not what I expected," Eno said. "As soon as I walked into my room ... I was almost taken back, because I was like, 'Is this it?' My rent, I don't mind saying, was $1084 a month." 

Eno said $1084 per month was his individual rent payment. Additionally, Eno said parking at the complex was difficult. There were not enough spots to support 10 floors of tenants. 

"Overall, I'm pretty happy to be out of the Hub," Eno said. 

Mouna Zarghami, a prior resident at the Hub, said she made a Google review prior to moving in to be entered for a prize. She said her original review does not reflect her experience. 

"My experience was kind of 50/50," Zarghami said. "It wasn't great at the start. There were a lot of problems with move-in, and the management staff was absolutely horrible. I won't sugar coat anything, but as the year went by, they got new management (and) it got a little better."

When the pandemic began, management became unresponsive, Zarghami said. She described herself as an independent person but said she had to have her father call the Hub management to get a response. 

Hanna Wilking has lived at the Hub since it opened. She said her experience has been good, but the complex's staff lacks communication. 

Wilking said she has completed more surveys than reviews for the Hub.

"They send out an email, and they'll usually give incentives, like you (will) be entered to win a gift card or something like that," Wilking said.

Accounting senior Cole Ozbun lived at the Hub last year. He said issues began as soon as he moved in.

"As soon as we got into the room, there was leftover tape from painting, super dusty, the workers had left Gatorade bottles in our room," Ozbun said. "And extra screws that obviously weren't used. So, it was overall super messy."

Ozbun didn't remember how residents were contacted, but said they were invited to the Hub's lobby to spin a wheel for leaving a Google review. 

Once residents showed they left a review, they could spin the wheel and receive a gift card, T-shirt or other prizes, Ozbun said.

"This was almost immediately after move-in, so they could buy our good reviews for when they started," Ozbun said. 

Ozbun left a negative review while he was a resident at the Hub.



Anna Belden, a human biology senior, was a resident of the Hub during the 2019-2020 academic year. 

Belden mirrored Murray's comments, she said the hallways were often dirty.

"There was literally a time where barf sat in my hallway for like a week straight," Belden said. "And, there was also a time where dog pee sat next to the elevators in my hallway until it evaporated because nobody cleaned it up." 

Belden said her packages were often delivered to the Hub's lobby and lost. 

"They'll lose your package or say they don't have it," Belden said. "The managers never can do anything to help you or nobody can ever help you." 

After Belden moved out, she said management did not notify her of any pending charges. Instead, money was removed from her roommate's account without warning. 

"It was just an overall terrible, terrible place to live, and I felt like I was being scammed and I did not want to give them any more money," Belden said.

Lily Mai, director of communications at Core Spaces, did not respond for an interview after questions were not provided in advance. The Hub East Lansing is a project of Core Spaces. 

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