Is it okay to review a business based only on an employee’s online behavior?

Is it okay to review a business based only on an employee’s online behavior?

Review StarsIn 1863, Union and Confederate forces clashed in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania in a battle so epic, it is considered to be the turning point of the Civil War.

Today, just 130 miles away, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, citizens of these United States are fighting another great battle. At stake: the right to leave negative reviews for a business based solely on an employee’s social media posts.

It all began in a small gourmet chocolate shop. Mrs. X was there picking out Easter candy with her children. In her excitement, her young daughter knocked over a $5 box of cupcakes. Mrs. X apologized to the store owner and offered to pay, but the store owner decided to embarrass her instead by making a big deal out of throwing out the box. “Well, there goes five dollars!”

Mrs. X dropped the $30 worth of chocolate she would have bought and left the store angry. In 1863, that would have been the end of it, but in 2016, Mrs. X decided to take her case to the people. She wrote an angry review of the store on Facebook.

Then, the store owner did a curious thing. She fired back saying “May I suggest leaving your rotten children at home, they don’t know how to act in a chocolate shop.”

And all heck broke loose. This could be another story about the evils of posting when angry, but it’s what happened next that’s really interesting.

Hundreds of people began posting reviews on the chocolate shop’s Facebook page. Surprisingly, not all of them were in support of the customer. At the time of this writing, 229 people had left 5-star reviews (I don’t know how many of those were left prior to the incident) and 238 people had left 1-star reviews.

What’s pushing the 5-star buttons, is the fact that some of the 1-star reviewers have never been to the store. They’re simply responding to the owner’s rude behavior on Facebook. Now, new reviewers are asking if this is fair? Even if the business owner was out-of-line, is that cause for a 1-star review from people who live 3,000 miles away?

reviews 2Though many people were thrilled to see someone speaking out about unruly children and the parents who can’t control them, this entire incident is still bound to leave a bad taste in most mouths. Even if Mrs. X’s children were holy terrors who tore up the place, it’s a business owner’s job to make nice in public – as much as it hurts.

But what about those ‘virtual visit’ reviews? If a person doesn’t like the way another does business, isn’t that as good a reason as any to give them a 1-star review? It’s not the same as food critics who complain about a dish they haven’t tasted. These people aren’t spreading lies. They’re simply speaking up for what they think is right.

As a consumer, wouldn’t you rather spend your money in a store that respects all of its customers from 8 to 80? Or would you ignore a review based on hearsay?

In this case, the store owner let her emotions get the best of her and  she regrets it. Should she go out of business because of a slip? Certainly not, and it’s probably not going to happen because all of this commotion is good – if not embarrassing – PR. She’ll get past this, and with all of the loyal supporters on Facebook, she might end up having a banner month in sales. Still, I wouldn’t recommend intentionally stirring up trouble in hopes of raising your public profile. The chocolate shop may move on, but other outspoken business owners haven’t been so lucky.

What do you think? Is it okay for people to leave business reviews based only on a social media outburst or not?