How Businesses Can Fight Back Against Negative Social Media [e246]

January 11, 2016

Nasir and Matt kick off 2016 by discussing how one Indianapolis bar responded to a negative post on its Facebook page.

Full Podcast Transcript

NASIR: Welcome to our podcast where we cover business in the news and add our legal twist. My name is Nasir Pasha.

MATT: And I’m Matt Staub.

NASIR: And, please, forgive Matt because he just informed me that he’s rearranging his room. I’m not sure what that has to do with the podcast but, for some reason, it was important to tell me about it so I thought I’d share that with you as well.

MATT: Well, just in case, I thought you’d have more excitement for, well, none of the episodes ran in 2016 yet, I don’t think.

NASIR: Oh, yeah, we’re back! 2016. I think every year we talk about, you know, when it’s not okay to say “Happy New Year” but, I think, yeah, at least for right now, being the first week of January, this coming out the second week, I think we can say this is the happy new year episode.

MATT: We’re recording on the seventh so, I think, anything under a week, you’re fine.

NASIR: Yeah.

MATT: I think you’re safe. And so, good thing, we’re talking about the New Year because we have a New Year’s based story to discuss for today.

NASIR: Exactly.

MATT: We’ve been off a couple of weeks now, I think. there’s been a lot of really good legal-related things that have happened – none of which have been right up our alley – but this one’s pretty interesting and it comes from, I guess, my home city in a way – Indianapolis – and a place I’ve actually been to so I’m somewhat familiar with it.
Let me tell you what happened. There’s this restaurant bar in Indianapolis called Kilroys and I don’t know what the situation was for New Year’s. I’m guessing they just had a bunch of people there. It’s a pretty popular bar and restaurant as is so I’m imagining it was pretty packed. I guess what happened was, an older woman – it’s up for debate how old she was, reading through the story and some other ones…

NASIR: Like, they can’t find her birth certificate?

MATT: Well… So, the first couple of things I’ve seen – at least in the response from the owner or the manager – was she was over 70 years old, but then I saw somewhere else she was only 57 but we’ll say over 50.

NASIR: Oh, okay.

MATT: So, it was a woman over 50, apparently she had a heart attack. They had to bring in people to come in and work on her in the middle of this big thing, terrible thing.

NASIR: Wow. Way to kill the New Year’s, huh?

MATT: Yeah. So, this girl that was at the bar was not happy with the situation – and I’m trying to see what time she wrote this because I bet it’s, yeah – she wrote it at 1:51 a.m. New Year’s Day so a couple of hours after and most likely with a couple of drinks in her probably, I would have to guess. She wrote this scathing review, just incredibly upset about what happened. I’m not going to read the whole review but basically…

NASIR: Read some of it at least, yeah.

MATT: Yeah, I’m going to pick and choose.

NASIR: Okay.

MATT: She says she’s never going to come back, after the way her and her friends spent over $700 to have their meal ruined by watching a dead person being wheeled out from an overdose. “My night’s been ruined.” Blah blah blah. I mean, that’s basically the gist of it, I think. Basically, she’s saying, “My night was ruined because somebody overdosed in the bar and had to be taken out and they died and it was a terrible event.” I don’t know why she would assume somebody overdosed at a bar but I guess that’s for her to make any effort to see who it was or whatever. So, she complains, writes this message on Facebook – this is on their Facebook page, you know, less than two hours into the New Year – and, at the time this was screenshotted, there was only a few reviews – sorry, a few comments. I’d imagine there was a lot more than that.

NASIR: Actually, it was taken down.

MATT: Yeah, and now I’m trying to find the one.
The point is, the manager ended up writing a response to this. Here’s what the manager responded back with – at least in part:
“The ‘overdosing junkie’ that you speak of was a 70-plus-year-old woman who had a heart attack. Thankfully, she was finally revived at the hospital and survived. It sounds like you were very concerned about her so I thought you should know, but I can completely understand why you think being intoxicated jerks who didn’t understand your bill should take priority over human life.” There’s some more to it but basically what happened was this girl was upset that what turned out to be a 70-plus-year-old woman almost died at this bar, writes this bad review on their Facebook page, and the manager responded pretty interestingly and, for the most part, pretty correctly. The thing to take away from that part was the response to this was overwhelmingly in favor of the bar at this point. This went viral a day or two after it happened. I always know it’s a big thing because my wife, if she brings up a story, she’s always late on everything so I knew it was something big.

NASIR: Usually, when these kind of reviews are posted, it’s because of something really bad that the business did and how bad they reacted.

MATT: Yeah.

NASIR: This is the complete opposite, of course.
And it’s interesting. If you look at the actual review – and this’ll happen with all bad reviews – if they would have just stuck to the facts and be a little bit more reasonable, then maybe there was something there because, for example, they say at the end of the review – and this was when everything was going on, of course – “our waitress, when we were trying to ask about our bill being messed up also said, ‘What do you want me to do? Effing pay your bill for you?’ What a great way to talk to a paying customer. I get that working on New Year’s Eve is stressful, but being a complete – and then it’s blacked out – to us all night knowing you get an automatic gratuity is not right.”
And so, maybe, you know, the fact that they’re complaining about the automatic gratuity because of the number of party members and the fact that it’s New Year’s Eve and then maybe they asked a simple question even then during that time, even if the waitress didn’t respond in the exact same way they did, but if they would have just stuck to that kind of angle, they probably would have had a little bit better reaction and it shows you, even when a customer is just bring ridiculous, I’m giving them the benefit of the doubt, there may have been something there, right?

MATT: Yeah.

NASIR: But, oftentimes, customers go overboard and then it’s like, “Okay, now this company has to deal with this reviewer with a one-star review because they didn’t get butter on their bread or something,” and then, all of a sudden, the company is losing money. You know, that’s not fair.

MATT: I mean, I think their review is bad enough but, yeah, you make a good point because, you know, she could have said something about watching them stretcher out somebody who looked like they were dead ruined my night and, while that’s heartless, I guess it would be true. The part at the end too that you just mentioned. But, yeah, throwing in all the other comments that she did is kind of what, you know, kind of did her in on this and even if somebody would have I guess overdosed a “junkie,” it would have been probably seen as pretty bad for this individual to write this review. I mean, it’s a pretty heartless move.

NASIR: Yeah, and what’s interesting also here is how Kilroy’s reacted to it. Obviously, they not only responded in that pretty clever retort but, also, they basically embraced the review and actually started spreading a post in order to make it viral. Literally, I’m looking at this post on January 3rd – a few days after New Year’s, and it says, (1) “How about we make this go viral?” and then they talk about the lady survived but has a long way to go. They actually created a GoFundMe campaign. I don’t know if they created it or are promoting it for the person that had a heart attack that survived and they raised about $14,000 past the goal of $5,000 and that’s 568 people in three days which I know I can see here by looking at the list that Matt’s failed to donate so far. He’s heartless so what can I say?

MATT: To be fair, it’s entitled Mom’s Medical so I’m assuming it’s her daughter that put this up.

NASIR: Oh, that makes sense.

MATT: They’re looking to raise $5,000 and they’ve got $14,423 so that’s pretty impressive.
I think the moral of the story is, I mean, social media is obviously an extremely powerful tool from both the customer and the business owner perspective and it’s all about, as customers, I guess, unless you do something like this, you don’t have too much to worry about. Obviously, if you write something defamatory or write something, you know, along those lines, it could come back to bite you. But it’s much more shifted on the business owner’s side on how to handle something like this and, while I don’t think this was a perfect response by Kilroy’s, I think it’s about as good as you’re going to be able to find. We deal with a lot of these issues – mostly on Yelp – and the first thing I do is look at the Yelp page to see (1) what the review says of this negative review and (2) if the business has responded. Sometimes, the business responds and it’s perfectly fine and, other times, the business owner responds and it pretty much makes things much worse.

NASIR: Yeah, I would say, most of the time, it’s worse, wouldn’t you say? I mean, it’s probably bad on our end because we probably see, I mean, the people that are most emotional about this, the ones that call us possibly, it just seems like the responses are always bad.

MATT: Yeah, you know, sometimes, you’ll get the ones that just say – you know, it depends on the review, obviously: “I’m sorry you had this experience. Please contact us directly. We’ll see what we can do for you.” I mean, that’s a good way to approach it.

NASIR: Yeah, and you’ll see others that’ll basically respond point by point. Maybe they have a disagreement and they’ll say, “Well, actually, we did provide this and even though you say we didn’t and so forth,” and that can also be effective. But I don’t think most people are as lucky. They’ll have these outrageous reviews just like this one but it’ll be in a way that’s believable in the sense that it could be just as false or ridiculous but because we weren’t there and it’s written with a little bit more eloquence compared to this so-called Holly Jones, you know, it’s hard to really defend. By the way, speaking of Holly Jones, apparently they also put in the post that there are several Holly Jones in Indianapolis so they asked everyone to stop sending hateful messages to other Hollys because the actual Holly took her profile down because she was presumably receiving all these messages for her review so she got to recompense.

MATT: It’s bad too because we get the backlash of the backlash and people write just as bad stuff to her – and sometimes worse than she wrote. It’s like it’s just spiralling out of control and it’s a never-ending issue.

NASIR: One thing we have to note here is that, whatever the reason is, Holly Jones decided to take down the post and let’s give her the benefit of the doubt that she had regret and she took it down. Or, on the other extreme, she took it down because of the harassment and she was threatened to do so or what-have-you. Either way, the point being is that, when you do have these outrageous reviews that we’re talking about – and we’ve all seen them – and, as a business, many of you have actually experienced them first-hand, there is a possibility – it varies case by case but there is a good possibility that, if handled properly, you can have the reviewer remove it on their own accord. For example, one of the ways that we’ve been able to do that is that, if they posted in such a way – and we’ve talked about this in the past – in a way that’s defamatory and they realize that they can actually be opening themselves up to legal liability if they keep the review up there, then they may be more inclined to remove it and we’ve had success in that regard.

MATT: There’s obviously a variety of different people that write these negative reviews. Some of them are good people that just write legitimately bad reviews but the ones like you just mentioned oftentimes are I guess people that might not be thinking straight or heated that write these reviews. At that point, everything they write, is it going to be 100 percent accurate? Probably not. They’re going to exaggerate things. They’re going to start doing personal attacks. I mean, I’m sure everyone’s seen it. You know, it’s not too surprising, and the things that people say, those people aren’t going to say those things face to face.

NASIR: That’s right.

MATT: You take that layer away and someone can sit behind their keyboard and type. People feel like they’re protected and it’s not going to matter but the laws still apply. Defamation is something that can obviously happen over the internet – something in writing – so you can’t get away free and clear if you write something that’s defamatory and you never have to think about it again.

NASIR: Yeah. When we approach these reviewers, I mean, we understand that. I think you said it perfectly – there’s a layer in front of them and there’s a legitimate, most of the time, at the end, the customer is upset about something. Unless it’s a competitor, unless it’s just totally an insane person, they left a bad review that’s ridiculous and defamatory because they’re upset for some reason. Now, whether that’s legitimate or not, I think it’s always important – you know, even when we’re approaching it – to recognize that they may have been upset for a good reason but we don’t have a problem with them being upset. We just have a problem with how they’re reacting to it. “Look, we understand that you didn’t like your service but you can’t do X. You can’t go past that line.” You leave an option out. It’s like, “Look, you cross a line. Either you fix it or we have to go after you because you’re really not giving us any choice.” Usually, fixing it solves the problem. Very rarely is a business going to want to pursue a reviewer once they remove the review unless all the damage has been done or it’s been on there for a long period of time or they’ve had to spend attorney’s fees or what-have-you trying to deal with this issue that they would pursue any kind of litigation.

MATT: Yeah, that’s all right. So, I don’t think Kilroy’s has anything to worry about there. Every time I’ve been up there, it’s been pretty crowded. It’s right downtown, right by the basketball arena.

NASIR: I think we should go the next time we’re both in town in Indianapolis.

MATT: Probably, yeah. I don’t know if that’ll happen but we’ll see.

NASIR: We’ll just have to plan it.

MATT: Well, I think that’s the first episode of 2016.

NASIR: Oh, of course, we started with a Yelp or bad review topic but I think that works out well. That should be our theme for 2016 – just bad reviews.

MATT: They do something I think you’d like there. One of their famous food items, it’s these pepperoni breadsticks but it’s basically pizza in a breadstick. It’s essentially rolled up pizza.

NASIR: Nice. Well, I’ll take your word for it until we have it.

MATT: Yeah.

NASIR: Thanks for joining us.

MATT: Keep it sound and keep it smart!

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Legally Sound Smart Business

A business podcast with a legal twist

Legally Sound Smart Business is a podcast by Pasha Law PC covering different topics in business advice and news with a legal twist with attorneys Nasir Pasha and Matt Staub.
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