Social media is often used to compliment or criticize a business based on the customer’s experience. But it can also backfire on the poster as seen in this recent example that went viral.

A woman recently left a post on a restaurant’s Facebook page, saying she would never return “after the way we were treated when we spent $700+ and having our meal ruined by watching a dead person being wheeled out from an overdose.”

The tone of the rant is extreme in its word choice: “never return,” “meal ruined,” “dead person” and “overdose.”  The first two descriptions are her choice and an opinion. Although an assumption, “dead person” is less of a stretch since the woman was wheeled out of the restaurant. “Overdose” seems to have come from the writer’s imagination. In anger, she created her own story, implying that the woman wheeled out was a “drug user.”

There are two issues here.  First and foremost, the writer incorrectly assumed that the woman on the stretcher had overdosed and died. It turned out that the “overdosing dead person” was a woman having a heart attack who was revived.  Second, she made an emotionally charged and judgmental post based on that erroneous assumption.

One of the restaurant’s managing partners responded to her post, presenting the facts and calling her out.  That post went viral and disgruntled customer found herself facing wrath of the internet. She has since shut down her Facebook page.

There is a valuable lesson here whether you are face-to face or on social media. Extreme words are judgmental and should be reserved for litigators and comedians. My advice is to make a habit of shifting away from extreme language to more neutral, palatable wording. My rule of thumb is to be easy on the ear and heart (and stick to the facts). Removing the sting from your words may make you feel less vindicated; however, you’ll also find that you will be more effective in getting your point across. Civility engenders less regret and more respect.

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