What happens when people don’t understand the way that information can spread on social media? People can post things that they do not realize will have a greater effect on the world outside of them just expressing themselves. People on all social media sites including Twitter, Facebook and Reddit are more than willing to call people out on the fact that we live in a publicized world. Once you publish something on the Internet if you cross a line people have no problem tearing you down.
This is exactly what happened when a waitress at a St. Louis Applebee’s lost her job for posting a receipt online from customer who refused to pay a tip. The receipt that she posted included a snarky comment from the pastor she served who refused to give a tip. On the receipt the patron had crossed out the automatic 18% tip charged for parties of more than eight and wrote “I give God 10% why do you get 18”. One of the colleagues of the stiffed server than posted the receipt online and she was fired because of it.
This whole scandal was only part one of the problem that Applebee’s encountered when it came to the receipt. When Applebee’s fired the waitress in question, Chelsea Welch, it angered many people on the internet and caused them to take up their only weapon against the restaurant, social media. There were numerous “boycott Applebee’s” groups that popped up on social media along with pages and people who wanted the chain to rehire the waitress. The first response from Applebee’s was to post this status update on their company Facebook page around 3 pm. By midnight there were more than 10,000 responses to this post, mostly negative.
One of the main themes of a lot of these comments had to do with a picture that had been posted by Applebee’s a couple of weeks earlier and then taken down once this incident occurred. The picture they posted was of a note, which was later posted on the site If You Can’t Afford to Tip after it was taken down by the company, that a customer wrote praising how great the Applebee’s was. What was wrong with this note was that in the picture the patron is clearly identified, which goes against what Applebee’s is trying to say is so important about their guest’s personal information.
Now you may think that this is as bad as it could get for Applebee’s but the hits just kept coming for them. For some reason after 17,000 comments had poured in on this post, around 3 am someone decided to go onto the Applebee’s Facebook page and start responding to people’s comments. In response to all of the comments Applebee’s decided not to post another status update but to post a huge comment on the original post.
After about 2 hours of people commenting on the original post and not seeing the comment, Applebee’s finally decided to take their comment and post it as a new status on Facebook. As of 5 am the original post had about 19,000 comments on it but then when people went to check on it the next day, the post and all of those comments had mysteriously disappeared. Now obviously Applebee’s deleted the content but the problem with that is the Internet and those 20,000 people that left comments on the post will not forget what happened, and deleting it just made the company look worse. The company then proceeded to deny the fact that they had deleted any posts. Denial was obviously Applebee’s main strategy throughout this whole crisis and it did not work out well for them.
Now obviously this example is one of the most extreme that you can find because it was handled so poorly. This situation got completely out of hand because of how poorly Applebee’s handled the backlash on social media, because they did not really seem to have a crisis strategy. Although the server never could have known how out of hand this situation would get, she never should have posted the photo in the first place because of how quickly things spread through social media. Regardless of that, Applebee’s should have had a better strategy to deal with this crisis through social media beyond just denial because that obviously did not work.