Saturday, February 04, 2012

Of Pens, Swords, Keyboards, & Throwing Businesses Under the Cyberbus

I don't know that I've ever written a review of a restaurant or retail establishment on my blog or on any of the social media outlets, other than to say we particularly enjoyed or appreciated a place. (The Olive Tree in Hilliard and the Giant Eagle Market District in Upper Arlington, both of which we love a lot, come to mind.)

But Beth McShane makes an important point in a post she titles, The Pen is even mightier than the sword: Our pens (or furious keyboard-tapping fingers) can cause a lot of damage to some establishments, especially to those mom and pop businesses whose owners have a genuine commitment to customer satisfaction and product improvement.

McShane writes:
There is an unfortunate trend among some social media dabblers to tweet first and ask questions later. The days of asking to see the manager when you have a complaint has been replaced with reaching for the iPhone and tweeting directly from the dinner table. Don’t like your haircut? Try talking to the salon before giving that one star review on Twitter. You owe it to them to give them a chance to make things right before you go public with scrutiny.
I like Beth's alternative strategy.

By it--laying aside our pens, swords, and keyboards long enough to get explanations or better performances in response to the second chances we provide--we might save the reputations of earnest merchants who really do want to the right thing and, unless the fly actually belongs there in your soup, generally have a great product. (You'll have to watch the great Grover clip from Sesame Street that Beth provides at her post to get that.)

So, please check out Beth McShane's post.

By the way, in mentioning McShane's post calling for giving merchants and retailers you've disappointed the chance to make things right, I haven't really wandered from my usual bailiwick of Biblical Christianity.

For example, the eighth of the Ten Commandments, the list of basic moral laws God gives to the human race for us as long as Planet Earth is still spinning on its axis, God says, "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor."

In that edict, it's clear enough that God doesn't want us to spread untruths about others. But back in the 1520s, in a book called The Small Catechism, Martin Luther penetrated to the deeper levels of God's intent for this commandment, when he explained that:
We should fear and love God so that we do not betray, slander, lie, or gossip about our neighbors, but defend them, speak well of them, and put the most charitable construction on all that they do.
By Luther's perceptive summation, we see that God wants to be sure that, even when a neighbor doesn't meet our expectations, we restrain ourselves from "throwing under them bus." That would include cyber-buses like Twitter, Facebook, or your own blog where you fume about deficiencies of products or services.

Maybe the businessperson who disappointed you was having a bad day (like Mr. Gower in It's a Wonderful Life) or you didn't understand that the menu really did promote Cream of Mosquito soup (see the Grover video).  (Matthew 7:12)

When we obey the eighth commandment--a tough proposition, I might add--we're really fulfilling what has been called Jesus' golden rule: "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12).

If we do have complaints or questions though, the Bible suggests that we investigate things before complaining to the world. In Matthew 18:15-20, Jesus lays down a process for Christians to resolve conflicts with fellow Christians. But its principles clearly have broader application.

The bottom line is that if you have a beef with someone, you go to them first...not the entire Internet committee. You may be able to get things resolved without resorting to wielding the sword of a blog post or Facebook or Twitter update.

After all, wouldn't you rather help solve a problem than have the privilege of bellyaching in cyberspace? Yeah, me too.

Turns out Beth McShane's advice is good in a lot of ways! You can also follower her on Twitter: @BethMcShane

1 comment:

Tracy Wood said...

Good advice. Sometimes, just taking a deep breath before acting can smooth things over.