#CmgrChat 9/22 Digest – Open Forum: Handling Negativity in a Community

We had a pretty interesting topic fall in our laps this week.   On Monday a Tumblr made itself known on the internet called “Pricechopper Fail” and it was written by Anthony Rotolo, a professor in social media at Syracuse University.  A few have questioned its validity and we can personally assure you that it all to be true.  He was using a specific incident as a teachable moment and we figured we could do the same here.   Community Managers deal with positive and negative fallout constantly and there are good and bad ways to handle customer service issues using social media for every company, not just ones in the northeastern part of the country that make gigantic mistakes.

Today’s open forum saw a total of 854 tweets and 123 contributors.  There were so many questions, opinions, thoughts, and suggestions that @JPedde got herself rate limited and @KellyLux rocked it all on her own for the last 15 minutes.   We were also lucky that Anthony Rotolo was on hand to answer any specific questions related to the Tumblr that’s been spread around the internet.

Three Special Posts on the topic:

@Brandyourself: Hot off Press: How Your Small Business Should Handle Negativity through Social Media

@RelocationAlly Customer Service 101 (W/ a Focus in Social Media):

@muruganpandian Why Tylenol Got a Pass and BP Didnt

You can find the full transcript of course, on or here.


Q1: As most of you should maybe know by now, this article was posted Monday: // So today’s chat will be an open forum discussing handling negativity. If you’ve read the article Q1 is about your impressions

pushingvision: Seems like an old-school mgmt tactic, from say back in the 80s-90s.

Draddog: Stupid, bad PR move on their part, but is it likely to cost them customers or sales? How many inahurrytogetdinner moms care?

buona_vita: I just read the article about an hour ago, I could not believe it! No reason to go to the employer

THO_R: Hey, at least A LOT more people know about Price Chopper than before 😉

40deuce:The article made it seem like @pricechopperNY doesn’t understand how to effectively use social media

JMattHicks: I don’t understand why they got that upset. I’ve worked retail, that surely wasn’t the first negative thing they had heard!

krusk: Think Rogue employee deserves a smidge of credit for being so loyal & passionate about employer. You know as a silver lining.

JPedde: Ya know, that’s a good point too. She really was just trying to do her job. Maybe didnt know what job really was/how to

joshshear: If this employee was trying to do her job, perhaps they should have someone in the job who knows what they’re doing?

firebelly: re: price chopper – awful customer relations #1 poor PR judgement #2 social media #fail #3

firebelly: Pricechopper forgot that a complaint is an opportunity to improve the experience & potentially win a customer for life

firebelly: punishing someone with a complaint = shooting your foot when it has a sprain, bad idea if u plan to run walk in the future

BPMacKenzie: Im sorry but the PC apology sounded like the individual was a overzealous teen when it was really an “MBA educated PR Specialist”

shawnabraham: There seems to be a really weird tone in all of their “apologies” and explanations. It just comes of insincere.


shawnabraham: Silence is not the way to go. RT@JPedde I’ve been tweeting to them all day. @PriceChopperNY hasn’t tweeted in 24 hours.

rotolo: I’m not sure I understand how tweet got past the CM & into hands of someone not authorized to respond. Would like 2 know

@tgrevatt: a prime example of SM training being needed since apparently it isnt common sense for everyone

KellyLux: One of the reasons this became so big was that a lot of people don’t care for Price Chopper in the 1st place

BPMacKenzie: Price Chopper first need to own it, the mistake, instead of just placing blame on the individual & future steps co to take

harkherold: Kind of like lighting a fire in a crowd and turning away, thinking that no one is watching. Bad move

40deuce: if something gets complained about in public it gives a perfect opportunity to fix things in public. the beauty of social media

jessicamalnik: Bad SM management. There’s no PriceChopper near me, but if there was I wouldn’t shop there

krusk: Good point-the co was no prepared to deal w/situation-no policy likely, which is why employee reacted in a bad way

rotolo: Price Chopper claims they never thought it ok to contact employer… but they did. Can’t imagine it was a secret

blaisegv: If they’d spent as much time addressing customer’s complaint as it no doubt took to find out employer, they’d have vhappy customer

shawn_grainger: I think the real issue is, not everywhere is ready for open negative criticism, so not many know how to react

JPedde: That person in a tweet told me she was the PR rep for price chopper at the time it all happened – she used that acct 4 work.

tgrevatt: It certainly serves as a reminder that even off-hours tweeting may have repercussions. That whole church billboard analogy thing

Hire_Friday: Just gave a presentation re: social media policy in the workplace – has 2 B integrated in employee policy


Q2: What is the proper way to deal with negative comments? Always respond? Ignore?

buona_vita: RT @pricechopperNY We were unaware of this associate’s conduct w our customer and with his employer We do not condone her actions

krusk: Yes, 1st thing I did was a SM policy for employees, we do reg training at co-wide lunch n learns

40deuce: I think it depends on the situation. Some neg. tweets should be answered and others should just be taken into consideration

40deuce: Again I’ll say: a negative statement can be a learning point for a company. may not need responding, but always should be heard

BPMacKenzie: PC should have engaged the customer to learn more & find out how to correct the issue. SM is a great tool to improve service!

shawnabraham: It’s important to respond to some. People need to know you are taking their concerns and criticisms seriously

blaisegv: Depends. At very least acknowledge, but understand motivations behind complaint. If num grows, step back and assess

joshshear: The first 2 immediate responses should be “Thanks for your input,” and “How can I help?” If crisis, discuss 1st, then respond.

THO_R: Be careful not to always start out with an apology. It’s not always your fault.

rjburkejr: Definitely acknowledge and say that their feedback is appreciated and if possible fix the problem or look into it

muruganpandian: Even if they don’t want a response, why not respond and surprise them

jasonarican: *Always* remember you are representing a company and brand. Don’t take it personally, and don’t respond in anger

rotolo: If something is truly not your company’s fault, apologize anyway for the customer’s bad experience.

rotolo: And tell the truth is mistake was made. People will find out eventually. Then you become a liar, too. Kills any trust left.

dwilde: The apology needs to be followed up with, “What can I do to make it better.”

agardina: Never use the immediacy of social media as an excuse to overreact to a negative customer comment.

agardina: It’s important to have processes for any situation you may encounter – and be prepared to be flexible for new ones.

joshshear:If there’s a second side to this story, PC is doing a terrible job getting it out there. Not our responsibility to seek.

BaristaJones: Equally important to the acknowledgment and apology is a clear plan of corrective action for the immediate future.


Q3: Any suggestions on how to rebuild after a crisis like this?

THO_R: Humor and humility

Draddog: Best way is to address it head on, learn and move on showing you can do better.

PJASchultz:How to come back? Simple. Own your mistake. Don’t keep lying and being phony. Show respect to/for customers.

shawn_grainger: Admit fault, do not fire PR girl.. but internally & externally use as a teaching moment

jasonarican: Take some time, be contrite about mistakes (including the original problem), create forum for discussion. It’ll blow over

SunnyinSyracuse: As the old saying goes, actions speak louder than words….and it is so true in trying to regain trust

agardina: So many people use social as an example of a focus group, but don’t implement the changes the community asks for

dwilde: You look at things like foursquare and many business reward you for positive feedback. Needs to continue

shawn_grainger: ask the orginal tweeter to get involved with helping rebuild

ConfiDaughtClub: Crisis? 1) acknowledge 2) fix original issue 3) recommit to cus ser 4) be teachable 5) ask for more feed back (only if sincere)

Draddog: Address the issue openly. Show wht has changed 2 let it not happen again. Apologize & start being a positive SM exp.

@UncleDuke: Other learning opp will be for PR practitioners/students in observing steps Price Chopper takes to recover

agardina: Lesson learned from @PriceChopperNY – need to have a social media policy for your entire company, not just your SM team.

jbbusch: I think Price Chopper should think of a great way to thank their customers


Thanks to all who participated!  Make sure to come back to #cmgrchat every Wednesday from 2-3pm EST for more chats – Next week’s Chat will be discussing “Social Media Policies!”
If you have any ideas or suggestions for future topics, leave comments or get in touch with myself or Kelly!

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About the author

Jenn Pedde

Jenn is a Co-Founder of The Community Manager and the Editor-In-Chief. She’s also an adjunct professor at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies. You can find her almost anywhere online, but specifically on #CmgrChat every Wednesday from 2-3pm ET.