Price Chopper, a chain of supermarkets in the northeastern US, is rapidly trying to remedy a flood of social media backlash after one of their employees went off the reservation big time in retaliation for a Syracuse University employee’s anti-Price Chopper tweet.
Last week, the shopper tweeted a brief complaint about the store, praised a competitor, and posted a picture of some questionably-arranged signage. Not a massive call-out as far as social media is concerned, and hardly behavior you might expect would come back and bite you in the derriere if you consider all the ways online activities could impact your life. However, one rogue Price Chopper employee overreacted in a bizarre and frankly scary manner, tracking down the customer at his place of employment and emailing a complaint to a random string of higher ups at the customer’s previously uninvolved workplace.
Not only did the woman contact the man’s employer- with whom Price Chopper has no pre-existing business relationship- she also requested disciplinary action be taken against the man and hinted that if the employer did not follow through, it would damage any future business that might occur between the two companies. The story emerged on a Tumblr set up specifically to chronicle the supermarket’s transgression and response, and the author describes how it all went down:
After receiving this complaint, Price Chopper’s public relations team did the unthinkable — they contacted the customer’s employer (which was mentioned in the individual’s twitter bio) requesting disciplinary action be taken against the individual for their negative post!
…Although Price Chopper did reply to the customer directly, they did not wait for a response before dragging the individual’s employer into the mix. In an email addressed to a seemingly random list of executives at the customer’s workplace, including the customer’s supervisor, Price Chopper labeled the individual as destructive and negative. They suggested that this individual’s distaste for their stores could jeopardize the relationship between Price Chopper and the company where the individual is employed, and they requested action be taken against the individual.
While the Tumblr doesn’t name names, a follow-up article from an Albany-area news site identifies all the parties involved- the shopper, the Price Chopper PR team member and the whistleblower. Surprisingly, the latest tweets coming from Price Chopper indicate the employee, who was supposedly a business reporter before joining the social media team at Price Chopper, has not been axed for the incident and ensuing clusterfracas.
The newness of social media can often trip up companies, particularly less media-oriented ones like supermarkets, as they attempt to wade in and successfully interact with what is what is essentially a variable. But it’s find it hard to imagine the thought process that preceded such a strange, creepy course of action. Surely even the least tech-savvy would understand if you wouldn’t act in a similar way in an analogous “real life” situation, such as following a customer back to their workplace and directly speaking with their boss, doing such over Twitter or email is ill-advised?
In defense of Price Chopper, it seems fairly obvious this is the work of one extraordinarily misguided individual, and their decision to allow her to remain with the company is beyond generous. (Personally, I could not imagine trusting the judgment of a person who would dream up such a scenario, but public bloodletting could make the situation worse.) However, it seems that regardless of how well it was handled after the fact, the company is doomed to be included on social media “don’t” lists for quite a while.