A couple of weeks ago, I was dropping my daughter off at an indoor play centre for a birthday party. After getting signed in, I noticed things went all aflutter at the sign-in desk. I was then approached by the business owner.
She confronted me, saying that I once posted on a message board that I did not like her business. The post had been read by her friend, and after a quick cut and paste it was off to the business owner in an e-mail. Everyone working at the play centre was put on notice – to watch for my name to appear on the sign-in sheet so that I could be questioned. In addition, my comments were found to be so offensive that the business cut off the discount they had been offering my online moms’ group.
Because I had absolutely no recollection of ever saying anything about this business, my curiosity forced me to do some poking around. Then I found it. In January 2008, a mother whose son has a bone condition posted asking for feedback about safety at that play ground. I responded saying that it was a very busy centre and gave the following advice: “My children always have a great time there, but in light of your son’s bone issues, I would give it a miss.”
Yes, sharing that opinion over three years ago landed me on a “hit list” and caused loss of discount privileges for the online moms’ group.
As a business owner, I found this experience fascinating. After I was confronted, I ended up having a really engaging conversation with the business owner. I explained that I didn’t remember sharing a negative opinion about her business, but regardless, I wanted to take this opportunity to make a few suggestions:
1) Throw out any customer “hit list” and concentrate on running a great business.
2) Welcome customer feedback, even when negative, and let it help you build a better business.
3) Discontinuing the member discount is like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Instead, reach out harder and stronger to the market of local moms.
The business owner was amazingly responsive and welcomed my suggestions, but there was a lesson in it for me as well: Online is online. Whatever you say online is public domain. What you say can be cut, pasted and posted anywhere. It can be taken completely out of context. Will this experience stop me from sharing my opinions? Nah, but it’s a good reminder that just because you say something in one forum, does not mean it will stay there exclusively.
Will I go back to the indoor playground? You bet – the business owner was a delight to chat with. Next time, however, I may just sign in under a different name.
Most Wanted Mom