Small-Business Owners: How Not to Behave on the Internet

Lashing back at dissatisfied customers online is not the proper way to deal with critics, experts say.

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Insulting your customers seems like an obviously bad idea.

So did the owner of an Arizona pizzeria lash out at critics on Facebook after the business was portrayed in a negative light on Fox reality TV show “Kitchen Nightmares”? Many of the postings have been deleted, but here’s an obscenity-free sample of what was said, from BuzzFeed‘s screenshots:

I AM NOT STUPID ALL OF YOU ARE. YOU JUST DO NOT KNOW GOOD FOOD.

To all of the Yelpers and Reddits: Bring it on. come to arizona. You are weaker than my wife, and weaker than me. you are just trash.

The owners of Amy’s Baking Co. now say the rant was the result of a hack, and police are investigating, The Associated Press says. AP also says that “social media sites show someone posting as a member of the Bouzaglo family had been insulting customers over negative reviews since at least 2010.”

On the show, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay gives advice to struggling restaurant owners. Amy’s Baking Co. has been open for six years, and in the episode Ramsay panned several dishes and criticized owners Amy and Samy Bouzaglo for getting increasingly defensive, AP says. The episode also showed the owners yelling and arguing with customers who complained about delays and undercooked food.

AP interviewed several marketing experts, all of whom agreed that the situation was very poorly handled. Businesses need to be humble, acknowledge mistakes, and find ways to bring unhappy customers back, they said — not chew them out for being dissatisfied.

The restaurant was temporarily closed last week. It has reopened, and the company’s page now features a press release that states in part: “When re-opened, a portion of proceeds will benefit a charity organized to bring awareness to cyber bullying.”

It then said reservations may be made by emailing a public relations company.

More than 1,500 people requested a table, according to AZCentral.com. That site also says the PR company and Amy’s Baking Co are parting ways after they “disagreed over public-relations strategies.”

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