I admit that I am guilty of trying to use Twitter shaming to get my way.
Ryanair dealt with it quite professionally, quickly and to be honest I was only mildly annoyed with them because with hindsight my luggage might have been damaged by the airport staff.
I wrote a nasty tweet about a regional office of Thrifty Car Hire, informing people that they should never hire a car there unless they wanted to be ripped off… or words to that effect. I was furious at being charged around 400 Pounds for damage under the front bumper, which must have been made from driving over speed bumps at some lick - a thing that I simply did not do. I was mad, I wanted revenge, my ire needed instant gratification and Twitter provides just such a vehicle.
I could have waited to go down the traditional route of making an official complaint to Thrifty through their Customer Support channels. But that takes time and effort and I would probably cool down before I got home to my computer… and I was mad, raging, frothing mad. Did I mention that? So I tweeted something unpleasant.
Now, of course it made no great impact on the web. I am a Twitter nobody and the few people who picked it up had similar gripes and were obviously looking for similar souls with whom to bond in their frustration. Thrifty picked up on it. They asked me what the problem was and instructed me how to complain through the official channels. Job done from their point of view. I stopped whining about my injustice in public.
Yesterday, I was so close to doing the same for NatWest and Fedex. The latter wouldn’t let me open an account because my cards were blocked (by the former) and I was transferred between machine and human for the best part of an hour as they failed to help me send a document. It was the second time in a week I had problems with this courier as their site charged my card but did not process the order, a few days earlier.
NatWest on the other hand, my lovely bank of 25 years that won’t give me a mortgage - correction, won’t even grant me a discussion with a mortgage advisor - because I have lived abroad for a long time and lack a 12 month credit history in the UK, well they blocked all my cards, having declined several of my Christmas shopping transactions as suspicious including the big pre-chrimbo super market shop. So now it's suspicious that around Christmas I spend a considerable amount of money in buying food and drink in my home town!!
Anyway, another 30 minutes on the phone with NatWest, flipping between machine, customer support, business support and fraud support really ground me down. I was frothing again. My wife was looking at me as if I had two heads.
I am rambling… the point is I was so close again to just posting rude messages on Twitter, because its easy. Because you get an intoxicating hit, from getting something off your chest and getting a reaction. But what does it actually achieve? I definitely feel I received bad service. But on all occasions it has only been sorted out by going through the official channels.
- Ryanair gave me nothing because, well because of the small print.
- Thrifty gave me nothing because it was my word against theirs.
- NatWest gave me 50 quid to cover my inconvenience and they promised to work harder to profile their clients to avoid erroneous fraud detection.
- Fedex, well... DHL sorted it all out in 15 mins 😃
All this was achieved through the official channels. So whats my point?
I think bashing companies on Twitter, whilst not totally unjustified in certain cases, is a very short term solution and one that is likely to lead to us to exaggeration in the hope of getting what we want. It is a short cut, which makes us say things we might not otherwise say. Reactions are often magnified on social media and it may end up affecting individuals not just some huge corporation.
I repeat, I am a nobody but I have seen some well known people tweet negative comments about, lets say their kitchen supplier, in an obvious attempt to hold them to account publicly for some minor failing and more likely, get something free. That is not cool.
So, take a deep breath, go through the correct complaints procedures. Perhaps if this is ignored take to Twitter.
So You've been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson. This book is not strictly about picking silly fights with big business on Twitter but it does illustrate the use / abuse of Social Media. For three years Ronson travelled the world meeting recipients of high-profile public shamings. The shamed are people actually ordinary people; people who, may have simply made a joke on social media that came out wrong, or perhaps made some kind of mistake in the workplace and end up being demonized and vilified by the masses who don't need to know the full facts or stop to think because, anyway there are no real consequences... are there?