Sep 14, 2012

How to fail in social media for business without even trying

Some businesses embrace and understand how to use social media to build relationships and customer loyalty. This is the sad tale of a business that just doesn't get it.

It all started when the management of Gamberetti's Italian Restaurant here in Salem, Ore., deleted a good friend's thoughtful and respectful post on the restaurant's Facebook page about his bad experience with a takeout order. 

I couldn't believe an otherwise smart and successful business would do that. 

So I left a message on the Gamberetti's Italian Restaurant public Facebook page taking them to task--respectfully of course--for deleting a customer complaint. Instead of making amends, the restaurant management replied with a terse, dismissive note and deleted my post, too. 

But wait, there's more. The restaurant managers also permanently blocked both my friend and me from posting further messages on its public Facebook page. 

These actions are a really big no-no for a business using social media. I know, because public relations and social media engagement is how I earn my living. 

My original post on the restaurant's public Facebook page is below, along with their reply. Only a few words in my original post have been changed to make sense here, noted in [brackets]. I hope the restaurant will reply to this, but I'm not holding my breath. Here is what I wrote on Sept. 12, 2012.
Dear Gamberetti's Italian Restaurant:

Because you have a social media business page on Facebook, please be aware that everyone here is watching how you respond to criticism and customer complaints. As a long-time fan of your restaurant--from your humble beginnings to present day--I am deeply disappointed in you today.

Why? Because a good friend wrote to you on your Facebook page yesterday with what he believes is a valid complaint: it took almost an hour for your staff to prepare his order "to go" yesterday, despite his calling it in 20 minutes before he arrived to pick it up. Instead of responding to his polite complaint on your Facebook page, you simply removed his post and the responses by others who joined the conversation here.

What's wrong with that, one might ask; after all, it's the restaurant's Facebook page so they can do what they like. Although Facebook owns the platform and hence the pages (not individuals or companies--we are users but not owners of the platform) Facebook users have created a community here by joining in relationships and conversations with their friends and the business they Like. We build relationships by engaging in conversations. Facebook thrives on maintaining and enhancing those relationships.

Businesses on Facebook like Gamberetti's must be responsive to customers when they post to [their] page about a problem. They need to openly engage in the conversation; after all that's why we are all here on Facebook. Businesses should not just ignore or heaven forbid delete customer complaints and questions just because they don't like what they say or don't want other customers to see them. That's disingenuous and it goes completely against the openness and transparency that people expect from businesses like yours that represent themselves on social media.

So here are my two challenge for you:

1. Please respond to my friend's complaint from yesterday (you know who he is) and make things better. And please do it publicly, so that everyone who cares about Gamberetti's can all see that customer service and satisfaction is your top priority. Your reputation and good name depend on responding to customer complaints promptly [and publicly].

2. Above all, please stop deleting complaints from your loyal customers. Doing that just ticks people off, gets them badmouthing you on their Facebook pages where you have no opportunity to respond in a positive manner, and gives your business nothing but a black eye. And frankly, when customers know you are deleting instead of responding to complaints, that makes us question all the positive reviews and comments we see on your Facebook page [and anywhere else for that matter].

Social media is a powerful business tool. I encourage you to use it wisely and ethically.

Respectfully awaiting your reply,
--Ed Schoaps,
Gamberetti's Italian Restaurant customer
Shortly after I posted my comments, Gamberetti's replied:
Gamberetti's Italian Restaurant: This is not appropriate for our public page. We use this for advertising and promotion only. Our managers on duty are more than happy to handle and repremend [sic] complaints in house, face to face. This will also be removed shortly. We hope that we can handle any future issues with service or food in the restaurant rather than online.
Then Gamberetti's deleted my post and banned me from posting any responses or messages on their public Facebook page.

For the record, my friend did indeed make his complaint well known to the restaurant manager, quietly and respectfully, at the time. After a halfhearted apology, the manager added insult to injury by offering to comp $5 off my friend's $10 takeout meal. The manager did not even have the guts to deliver the very late to-go order to my friend when it was finally completed 50 minutes after my friend phoned in the order.

So here is a question for you, my savvy social media mavens: If you know as I do that a restaurant deletes all customer complaints and negative comments from its public Facebook page, do you trust any of the positive reviews you read anywhere in social media or online about Gamberetti's Italian Restaurant?

Your thoughts? The lines are open. 

Nov 21, 2009

My hero, Mercedes

A true survivor's perspective on the suggested new guidelines for mammograms and self-exams

Earlier this week, I Tweeted a response to the guidelines for breast cancer screening issued by a federal task force that contradict what women have been told in recent years. It links to the LIVESTRONG page on facebook.

RT @LIVESTRONG: LIVESTRONG's official response to the new guidelines for breast cancer screening.

I'm sharing my sister's response below, to illustrate how absurd these "recommendations" truly are. Mercedes speaks from her personal experience with breast cancer. She is living proof that self-exams and mammograms are essential for women of all ages.

My sister's story will tell you exactly why this is so important. Here's what Mercedes wrote:

The next time your male doctor tells you not to worry about a lump or calcification in your mammogram test results, ask him what he would do if he found the same thing in his scrotum.

Don't be shy . . . he's familiar with the word and he might just take your results a bit more seriously.

My doctor told me not to worry for three years. I had to demand another mammogram with ultrasound because at that point my breast was hot, swollen and the nipple was starting to invert. The lump that I had followed had progressed to grape size yet HE couldn't feel it! So much for letting doctors examine you.

After a modified radical mastectomy, chemo, bone marrow and stem cell transplant and radiation, I am still on the planet and have been cancer-free since 1994. The Adriamycin left me with cardiomyopathy and I have lymphedema in my arm but I am still here and glad to be!

If they had removed the lump initially it would have been contained in the milk duct and I wouldn't have had to go through all the other medical procedures.

Keep doing your self exams! Mammograms are only 80 percent effective. Imagine what the world would be like if the BEST birth control was only 80 percent effective!!!!!!!!

I really can't add any more to that, except to say that my sister Mercedes Cosgrove is my personal hero. She fought a great battle against terrible odds and is a real Survivor.

So please, ladies, don't take any chances with your health. Take the responsibility to keep doing your self-exams and insist on regular mammograms. And gents, please do regular breast and testicular exams, too. It could be a matter of life and death.

I love you, sis. Thanks for fighting so very hard. I'm glad you're still here.


Sep 21, 2009

Today is World Alzheimer's Day

For the past six weeks a colleague from the company I work for (Edelman) has spent much of his spare time leading a pro bono team that is helping to launch an amazingly unique Twitter movement in support of Alzheimer’s disease.

It’s called “A Million Tweets to Remember” ( and it kicks off today – World Alzheimer’s Day.

Whether you’re on Twitter or not, there’s a lot you can do to lend a hand.

The goal of 1MTweets is to digitally memorialize 1 million people who have lived with Alzheimer’s by having their loved ones tweet about them. Alzheimer’s robs people of their memories, and this movement is a powerful and poetic way to ensure we remember those who can no longer remember for themselves. Everyone who tweets is also asked to donate a minimum of $1 to Alzheimer’s research.

If we can quickly build momentum and get people to visit today, there’s no reason this can’t be one of the fastest growing social movements in history. Seth Godin was blogging the other day that there are no non-profit causes represented among the top 100 Twitter accounts (by followers). Let’s change that.

What can you do to help? Any one of these things can make a huge difference:

What can you do to help? Any one of these things can make a huge difference:

1. Tell as many people as you can about this movement and urge them to visit today.

2. Are you on Twitter?

a. Go to and memorialize a loved one with a tweet.

b. Recommend to your followers.

c. Follow @1Mtweets on Twitter.

d. Create a Twitter Tribute (or Twibute) to a loved one at:

3. Become a fan of 1MTweets on Facebook, post about 1MTweets to your FB friends and invite people to the FB 1MTweets event.

4. Kick it out to your contacts on LinkedIn.

5. Blog about 1Mtweets and link to its social media content.

6. Check out all the 1MTweets videos on YouTube at

7. Create and post a YouTube video yourself.

8. If you know celebrities and community or thought leaders who have a connection to this disease, or who are up for a worthwhile cause, (especially those already on Twitter) please contact them about this. High profile tweeters will help us create media interest.

I hope you’ll join the quest to reach 1 million tweets and raise a significant amount of awareness and money for Alzheimer’s research.

Special thanks to my colleague Shane Dolgin, Toronto, who supplied most of the content of this post.

Sep 7, 2009

"Equivocation" tops OSF season

"Equivocation" is unequivocally the absolute best play I have ever seen.

This world premier production, ably staged by OSF artistic director Bill Rauch, is in repertory now at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Ore. It will move to Seattle Rep after the OSF season ends in November. Don't miss it.

Playwright Bill Cain has created an incredible script, revolving around William Shagspeare and the King's Men of the Globe Theatre: "We're a cooperative venture."

In London, 1605, the bard and his band are trying their best to make a living while not dying -- neither onstage nor at the hand of His Royal Majesty's prime minister, Lord Robert Cecil. You see, the young King James I has written a play that Cecil commands Shag to "dialogue" and present to his majesty. Oh, yes, the play must also have witches--the King loves witches. This is a dangerous assignment, if either the King or Lord Cecil are displeased with the play, Shag and his fellow thespians will pay a heavy price.

Problem is, Shag's gift is for writing about history and the King's story is about current events, namely the failed Gunpowder Plot. And there are, ahem, problems with the King's story, not the least of which is the Gunpowder Plot is likely a convenient lie for which many of the "old religion" (Catholics) will die. It's the politics of the time and a truly precarious place for a playwright to take a stand.

Shag gets Lord Cecil's permission to visit two of the condemned in prison--young noble Thomas Wintour and Father Henry Garnet, a leading Jesuit--in order to get the play's story straight. As several scenes unfold, the audience learns two important lessons: what it is to be truly human and "How to speak the truth in difficult times," through the art of equivocation.

Superb actors Anthony Heald, Richard Elmore, Jonathan Haugen, John Tufts and Anthony Linington are at the core of this outstanding production. And as a corps, they illuminate more than 20 characters in a seamless array of scenes through absolutely stunning performances. Christine Albright's touching portrayal of Shag's daughter, Judith, deeply moved me: "I'm the same as my brother." Who in the audience did not weep at this moment?

Cain's scriptwriting is so perfect it's no surprise the audience laughs, weeps, wonders and is shaken to the core of their humanity by this play. Just as Cain, speaking through Shag, intends:

"I live for the day when an actor can walk on stage, stand stock still and have the audience applaud in sheer wonder that--in spite of plague, politics and the foolishness of this age--this thing has managed to stay alive."

As an actor, I couldn't wait to read the script after arriving back home. And so I understand how Cain's magnificent story lends itself to being so beautifully interpreted by director Bill Rauch and the OSF ensemble. "Equivocation" is a perfect piece of writing, just waiting for fine actors to breathe life into its many characters.

Word on the street in Ashland is that "Equivocation" will be nominated for a Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It can't help but win. It is, after all, the play of my lifetime.