How Big Huey beat the trolls

I was tempted to call this post “Meet the troll wrangler”. I’m not talking about Iain Hewitson or myself but an astute watcher of social media. More about this Caped Crusader of the digital world later.

Online restaurant reviews are a serious business. Bad ones cause restaurant owners anxiety and they can spend a lot of time – and money – dealing with them properly. Nobody wants a bad review to go viral by handling it badly. And some owners are genuinely hurt when people don’t like their food or venue.

Sometimes there are one-off bad days at venues. The POS system goes down and doesn’t deliver dockets. A chef is ill. Somebody was pissed in a venue. Staff refused to serve them – as they should – and the drunkard goes postal on social media defaming staff and the venue.

There are the genuinely disgruntled customers. Their latte was too hot/cold or there was a hair in their food. The kind of clients I work with in hospitality are serious businesses and know how to deal with these genuine situations well.

Complaints are usually dealt with by management at the time or online within a few hours or days.

Sometimes they phone us and what we do helps; other times it doesn’t. Because the power is now firmly in control of the people.

Then there was the review that Big Huey’s Diner (BHD) received on its Facebook page around 3.45pm on the Friday 14th November.

Got a hair in my food. They took it back and gave me another burger. There was an even bigger hair in the replacement burger. Would not got [sic] back.

The team at Big Huey’s take this stuff very seriously as any good hospitality venue does. They were baffled as no one at BHD could recall anybody complaining about hair in their food at all, let alone two. Rogue hairs do afflict all venues from the top of the town to the bottom. Restaurants take every precaution but these rare occurrences do happen. It is mortifying when a customer finds a hair in their food.

Neil, one of the partners in the business, called me about it and we talked for a while. We discussed who this person was, that he worked in advertising and it was a Friday afternoon. Maybe, I suggested, he could have mistaken you for another venue or was just being malicious.

“Ask him when this was and if he was sure it was at BHD,” I said.

The reply: It was six months ago. The manager resolved the issue to the customer’s satisfaction. End of story.

It’s Friday evening by now. Neither Huey or Neil are the kind of people to keep schtum. Why would a customer bring up a complaint six months later they wondered? They were justifiably upset and angry. The reviewer was the “strategy planner and social media guy” at a global digital agency called Isobar – Andy Cronin – and they named his employer in a reply to the review on their Facebook page.

This in turn inflamed Andy Cronin. His reply included stating that he likes to troll businesses to see how they handle it. He then shared his lengthy response to BHD with a closed Facebook Group for social media managers. The sharing of this post received nearly 150 likes from people who included members of this group.

He also got some of his colleagues at Isobar to write reviews (which are negative) including Erik Hallander director of mobile & innovation at Isobar Australia according to his Twitter profile and Dave Kaing who works for part of the Aegis group of which Isobar is part.

Our advice was to try and settle the issue using humour – that they’ve given the entire staff a full body wax (with the exception of Huey’s moustache).
At this point, Andy Cronin became unclear whether or not the second hair was in his sundae or a second burger.

Hmmmm…I guess six months is a long time in Isobar’s apparently popular burger club.

The trouble with trolls is that you don’t want to feed them. Most genuine reviewers will accept an apology. Give them what they want and they quite down.

BHD pushed more than a few morsels the troll’s way and fed his hobby.

Enter the troll wrangler, the real hero of this story. Brendon Walker is was a member of the above mentioned closed Facebook Group for community managers and he was struck by Andy’s proudly sharing his trolling behaviour with the group. He later wrote this on his blog:

It doesn’t matter that Andy thinks his “tweets are his own”, or the fact that this didn’t even happen on Twitter! The fact remains, Andy has publicly declared he is an employee of Isobar. His Isobar co-workers (there were trails of pixel crumbs leading to Isobar connections) all came out to post in his defence… and the culture harboured within this business slowly, but surely, bubbled to the top.

Brendon sent Andy’s shared review around to some colleagues to ask what they thought of the review and of Andy sharing it the way he did. One of these colleagues was sending out a closed six figure tender to a list of agencies with Isobar at the top of the list. From Brendan Walkers blog:

In no uncertain terms, I was advised that Isobar was scratched off the list of invites, purely based upon the behaviour exhibited by Andy and his Isobar mates, both publicly, and inside the closed Facebook group,” said Brendon.

Wow! You are what you tweet.

The conversation spilled onto Twitter between Isobar’s CEO Konrad Spilva before Brendon published his blog here. Brnedon published and later unpublished his blog post.

Andy Cronin’s boss Konrad Spilva came to Andy’s defence on Twitter: “Andy is a professional guy, Isobar has a passionate burger club.”

It turns out trolls don’t only feed on your energy. But burgers too.

And Karma is a bitch.

Postscript: Andy removed his Facebook review. His colleagues reviews remain up. He visited Big Huey’s this week to make amends and offered his services to Iain Hewitson. Can you guess what Iain said?

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