Ambushed by the Digital Mob

A waitress at a St. Louis area Applebee’s restaurant was fired after violating company policy by posting a customer’s receipt with a signature on news-sharing site Reddit.

The woman posted the receipt online because the customer, a local pastor, penned:

“I give God 10% why do you get 18?”

News reports say the waitress, who did not serve the pastor, posted the receipt to Reddit because she thought it was funny after a coworker shared the receipt with her. But audiences weren’t humored by her termination, threatening the restaurant with boycotts. The digital mob soon grabbed their virtual pitchforks when Applebee’s resorted to deleting users’ comments on Facebook.

Imagine a supporter having an unfortunate experience with someone who works with your organization and posting the grievance on their Facebook wall or Twitter account.  

Do you …

  1. Find out what happened, apologize and use the experience as a learning opportunity?
  2. Respond with a structured policy statement about how you handle complaints?
  3. Pretend it didn’t happen?
What This Means

While the pastor’s remarks are viral worthy, social media users were angered by Applebee’s seeming inability to listen to their anger, opting to censor.

In other words, people want to know they have a voice and it’s being heard. In fact, studies show that when companies display negative product reviews on their corporate sites, it increases credibility and sales.

Your Next Steps

Create a response strategy for moments like just like these. As with great customer service, it may be as simple as letting people vent and then look for solutions together instead of dismissively telling them to wait on hold.


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