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Worst Use Of Social Media of 2012: Boners BBQ

+++UPDATED BELOW+++

Ten days into the new year and I think we already have a champion.

No, it’s not the N-Control Avenger PR Disaster that rounded out 2011. Nor was it the FedEx foul-up.

Let’s say you own a BBQ joint and a customer comes in, one of the only ones and orders a meal. You can tell she’s not happy and it’s verified by a well-written and factual review on Yelp.

So what do you do to make it right?

A) Get in touch with her and offer a meal for free to make it up?

B) Respond to the Yelp review by apologizing and explaining the issues

C) Call her a bitch and post her pic on Facebook

If you picked C, then you may have a new fave BBQ joint to hang out at!

Here we go, ready? Buckle up your brisket:

(All pictures are linked to their file, so if you’re on a phone and they’re tough to read, just click it)

1. Stephanie and her husband go to Boners BBQ in Atlanta for a meal after grabbing a $10 off coupon from Scoutmob.

2. They leave and she posts her review on Yelp. One of the better written reviews on the site to be honest. She lists the things she liked and didn’t like, with reasons why. Not an all-caps “ZOMG!! THIS PLACE IS HORRIBLE!”

3. After seeing the Yelp review and being told she didn’t tip the server, the person who runs Boners BBQ Facebook page decides to put her in her place by posting her picture (censoring by me, they put the unedited photo up):

And they added both this description and follow-up comment:

4. So, like most places on the Internet, the morons were there first saying things like “F&$K YA!” and other eloquent expressions, clicking “Like” to share it with their other Grade 10 classmates. Then people started commenting on how it’s wrong to post her picture and call her names and they replied with remorse and maturity… just kidding, they told her to F&$# Off too!

5. Now the owner jumps in, to bring some logic and sanity to it?

The logic of “She left us a bad review on Yelp so we can say what we want on our wall!!” really pushes the public’s buttons and a mass of comments hit their wall. Your wall or not, nothing can stop the Geekalanche once it starts.

6. They pull the entire status and comments and also delete any other posts that come in about it, which just makes people angrier. They end up posting an “apology” which is what I’d advise a client to do, just not so…..well…insincere.

You just get this feeling that they’re not apologizing for what they did, but that they wanted to stop the mass amount of anger.

7. It becomes pretty clear when they post in the apology comment thread later:

Yeouch. He had it perfect, explained what they’ve been doing, got frustrated and had a bad “moment”. Annnnd then reminded everyone there is no excuse for not tipping. What he doesn’t understand is it’s not about tipping or not (although if a tip is mandatory, then it’s a fee and should be stated as such) it’s about how you deal with people. We are a forgiving society if you just own-up. FedEx is a great example of that.

8. As it turns out, she said she DID tip. She posted on Reddit about the experience:

That Facebook post was about me. That picture is me. I can give some background on this if anyone wants to know. The basics are that my husband and I went to Boner’s BBQ for his birthday dinner. We were enticed there with a Scoutmob coupon (for $10 off) and we were the only ones in the place for our meal except for a brief period where a couple came in to get a pickup order. We paid in cash and yes, we left a tip. The ticket was $40 even minus $10 for the coupon + tax= $32.80 We dropped two twenties on the table and left. And yes, I did, politely, let the waitress know that the food wasn’t as I expected and no, I didn’t lick the plates or even eat all the food, that was my husband. He is far less picky about his BBQ than I am.

So what can we take from this? This isn’t a “social media” problem. You don’t train people not to call customers a “bitch” on Facebook and post their picture. (I’m picturing George Costanza saying “Was that wrong?”

Social media doesn’t make a business bad or good, it amplifies what they already are.

So, does this hurt their business or are you one of those “Any PR is good PR!” people? Will she sue? Comment below!

And one of you has to explain to my family why I have 9 screenshots on my desktop called “Boner”. Thanks.

Special thanks to Johanna Harrison and Michael McCready for the screenshots and heads-up. With my second book due to my publisher at the end of the month, it practically writes itself :)

+++UPDATE+++

So realizing the error of their ways (or it was the fact that news cameras showed up at their place (broadcast embedded below), and the Huffington Post blogged about it, they decided to give a little more sincere apology… but not really:

Looks pretty good right? And that’s that!! Problem solved…………… Orrrrrrr not.

Next someone adds this comment:

Not sure the worst part here: the fact that he calls people assholes, the fact that the woman actually DID leave a tip, 20% at that, or the waterboarding. Yeah, the waterboarding part. But this isn’t Boners BBQ that wrote it, they can’t control what some jackalope says on their wall right? You see that little “thumbs-up” sign with a 4 beside it? Let’s see who the 4 people are who clicked “I AGREE!!! ME LIKE!” beside the assholes/waterboarding comment:

Would ya look at that….. Doesn’t make the apology seem so sincere now does it?

Some people have asked what would I advise them to do if they were my client…

And I tell them they never would be. No amount of social media or marketing help would ever trump crappy product and a crappy attitude.

Customers should not be afraid to leave honest reviews for the fear of being publicly humiliated.

Today’s News:

  • KPR

    Even though the woman did leave a tip according to her, any diner who uses a coupon should know that you tip on the pre-discounted amount. So, she should have tipped on the $40 check, not the $30 check. Basic rules of dining out with a coupon.

    • http://www.twitter.com/unmarketing unmarketing

      She left $8 tip. That’s 20% on the $40

      • KPR

        I stand corrected.

  • Susan Marty

    Well… this whole event would have never made it past the comment section for ‘Reviewing Your Local Restaurant’, had the owner not defamed a customer & placed her personal picture out there for the world to view.
    Like with Movies, there are Critics. Not everyone listens to a Critic. However, with these uncalled for comments from the Owner, EVERYONE who has Internet, now knows the whole story. Which is not Noteworthy.
    Stephanie S., like others, should not be afraid to post a Review, be it Negative or Positive.
    Restaurants should be happy to receive a customer, regardless of what transpires afterwards. The Customer is always right.
    Rule of Thumb : If you want to express yourself, wait 10 seconds before you react. It is like saying ‘would you like what you said to appear in the newspaper’?. If you answer is no, the best tact is not to say it.

  • Steffen Kjærulff

    Stop the tipping culture you have! 
    Give a descend pay like we do in Denmark and no tips. This makes for a better interaction between customer and waitress….

  • http://www.facebook.com/james.c.gray James C Gray

    Oh well…. just took a quick look at the restaurant’s facebook page. The owner and his family are still responding to comments in a way that illustrates how truly (not at all) sorry they are for this PR.  Some people just CAN’T learn to shut it down.

  • Varinia

    They own a food truck and one of the requirements for food trucks in Atlanta is that they need to have a brick and mortar restaurant as well. So, the restaurant being empty might not be a big deal to them, as there’s a chance that the main reason for the location could be that it’s cheap, so that they can fulfill the food truck requirement. But I’m only guessing.

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  • Randall Lawrence

    “The world would be great if it weren’t for the people.”  Anonymity amplifies our ability to be uncivil – and truly reveal the ugly little monster that lives within.  A couple of words we seem to have forgotten – grace and forgiveness.  Or a suggestion, at least fake if for the sake of your business. 

  • moniqueramsey

    Your sentence is brilliant: “Social media doesn’t make a business bad or good, it amplifies what they already are.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/cornelia.horne Cornelia Horne

    It appears that these may be symptoms of a strained economy in some sense. He admits being over worked and on edge by ppl simply not tipping well/at all. I think his attempts to make amends are fair & express remorse. You can tell there is more brewing underneath this scenario…empathy people. empathy!!

  • Lbeatty1

    Annnnd now I know never to go here. Too bad, we had been wanting to try it out.

  • Josh S.

    Haha, my first thought was, “That dude from Growing Pains has a BBQ restaurant?” He and Kirk Cameron are still buddies?
    The owner just can’t seem to fully understand the magnitude of his colossal mistake. Every half-apology includes an additional “jab” at her. It’s blatantly obvious that his words are just that–no intent behind them.
    The food may be decent, but in a saturated market like food/BBQ, everywhere you need to stand out to remain competitive is where this guy is failing.
    I really feel bad for the other employees this will affect.

  • K3nn3th

    I actually see an opportunity for Boners here. I believe they could embrace the edginess. They already have the right name to do this.

    Apologizing and trying to run away won’t help at this point. 

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  • http://www.igobydoc.com igobydoc

    Your update to this post is unbelievable. Glad the news picked up on this… they should do a follow up on how insincere they really are. Maybe the owner should take advantage of this situation and turn his place into something like Dick’s Last Resort, where you go to eat full on knowing you will be insulted.

    Anyway, great post Scott!

  • http://paulinemwangi.com/ Pauline

    WOW this is unbelievable… Mr. Boner’s owner please close shop, You just killed your own business.

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  • P.chere

    This is LEGITIMATE business? Name calling and bad manners is what one should be grown out of when they deal with the public.

  • Anonymous

    It’s interesting to note the jump in yelp reviews after the story broke (both good and bad). It’s kind of telling that most posts before January were likewarm at best. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=657142791 Joe Witte

    Here are some other key issues: 1) Did you see the location (uh, parking lot in the middle of Bum F&^% Egypt) 2) Tagline (South in your mouth- too graphic for me) 3) Logo— not good 4) Staff training.  Well, they got the PR down pat!

  • JR

    I can tell you that I know the owner, spoke with him about the aftermath of all this media buzz, and his business has never been better. Goes to show that short  killing someone with your bad food, in the foodservice space, any PR is good PR, negative or otherwise

    • http://www.twitter.com/unmarketing unmarketing

      Awesome, tell me how it is in a month.

      Maybe its a new strategy, be an asshole, call a customer a bitch, invade her privacy, attract customers! Tad aa!

  • http://www.webstatsart.com/ Webstats Art

    No-one in asia knows what a boner is so I guess it is a local joke. Hahaha!

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  • Pendragon525

    I think the fact that both parties involved acknowledge that Stephanie’s table was the ONLY table of customers in the entire restaurant speaks volumes. Not to mention the fact that they were enticed there by a $10 off coupon, which one would think would be bringing in the business, especially in this economy. Perhaps the owner would be better served fixing whatever’s wrong with his restaurant rather than humiliating publically the only paying customer they had that night.

  • Varinia

    And he now took back the apology (which was never genuine in the first past) on his facebook site

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  • http://pop-pr.blogspot.com Jeremy Pepper

    I still think that the The Bloggess “Bitch” incident with Brandlink Communications is worse – because it was a PR firm that should know better, and they refused to back down or really apologize. 

    And continued to ignore the comments on Facebook with passive/aggressive comments and actions … by the founder of the firm. 

    Plus, the Jose in the whole incident had a history of responding to reporters/bloggers in a nasty manner, as Gawker dug up. 

  • Afford Anything

    I live in Atlanta. Strangely, I saw the Boners BBQ coupon on Scoutmob yesterday and thought: “Hmm, I should try that place.” This controversy – which I only now learned about  – sort of makes me want to go there more, only for curiosity’s sake ….

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  • http://www.3hatscommunications.com/blog/ davinabrewer

    This is pretty horrible, but it won’t be the worst of the year. Way too much time left for some one else to fail craptacularly.

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  • http://www.WhatDidEricSay.com Eric Miltsch

    1st, get beyond the name boners; it has an urban connotation as well & doesn’t need to be sexual. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=boners

    2nd, why is it considered a mortal sin if a business, especially a low-grade BBQ joint, stands up for itself & defends it’s position. So they have an attitude – so does every consumer these days with an Internet connection.

    Is this type of behavior going to happen at Charlie Palmer’s steak house? Of course not? But to to be shocked that it happened at a place like Boners? C’mon. 

    • http://www.twitter.com/unmarketing unmarketing

      I have no problem with an establishment standing up for itself.

      To post a private picture, call her a bitch, tell her to fuck-off all because of a well-written sub-par Yelp review? (She actually left a tip)
      Come on.

      • http://www.WhatDidEricSay.com Eric Miltsch

        Yup – agreed on that front. (I replied to that specific item as well in of your other comments – that’s where they lost all opportunities for a tactful return)

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  • http://twitter.com/SocialBuzzU SocialBuzzUniversity

    Excellent recap, update, etc! We had to share this one on http://SocialBuzzUniversity.com it was so good! Hope you don’t mind! =)

  • http://twitter.com/dvsarchitect Scott Ingram

    Oh who are you kidding? You have effectively used social media to do exactly what the owner in the story did. I bet the self-righteous juices really got flowing while you pumped out this shiny little turd.  

    • http://www.twitter.com/unmarketing unmarketing

      Thanks for reading my turd!

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  • Intimeagen

    The fact that he finally issued a reasonable apology and then had the audacity to “like” the subsequent vicious insult posted about the customer says it all. 

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  • Terrace Crawford

    Wow!  I think you’re right, Scott… we have a winner here.  Boners obviously never learned the #1 rule of business – the customer is always right!   

    –@terracecrawford 

  • http://twitter.com/CarolynTran29 Carolyn Tran

    I want to give the owner of Boner BBQ a virtual high-five… in the face. This is one of those typical facepalm moment, where the offender should have noted his mistake, and made a sincere attempt to diffuse the tension. Classic move on “liking” the comment posted by yet another delightful individual (Joe). It’s fantastic that the business recognized the potential that exists with using social media; however, abusing it is much worse than NOT using it all. Business owners need to be educated in order to prevent similar ‘mishaps’.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002514968319 Jacqueline Case

    Check out the Bonehead’s Facebook page @https://www.facebook.com/bonersbbq.
    He is STILL insulting anyone who posts to disagree. In fact, he is
    going to their facebook walls and copying & pasting their profile pics, “philosophy”, and the
    like to mock them. He is particularly nasty to the women, after one
    poster called a woman a bitch Capron fired back granting that “Boners
    BBQ Yeah but I bet she’s great in bed 18 January at 13:24 · Like · 1”
    The guy is a moron. He’s actually pleased that he is known
    internationally for being a jerk! Oh BTW – he also removes many of the posts that
    disagree with him!