Saskatoon business's reaction to negative online review stirs backlash
A Saskatoon-area business's response to a negative online review recently blew up on social media, with one business consultant describing it as a "textbook case of everything that you shouldn't do" online as a business.
"I think everybody's jaws dropped as they read more and more into the thread," Sarah Wheelwright of Trusted Market Services in Saskatoon, said of comments by Solar Gardens' Facebook account.
"I think as a business owner, you've got to have a thick skin. Your business is your baby and nobody likes to be told your baby is ugly. But you've got to be able to take the heat."
The lengthy exchange began on July 23 when a Facebook user going by the handle of Megan Lee posted a one-star Facebook review of Solar Gardens, saying the business was not event-friendly and describing her group's event there as an "incredibly frustrating experience."
Chris Carnegie, co-owner of Solar Gardens, said he didn't recognize the name Megan Lee. He said he had been in touch with a woman by the name of Megan Ekstrand that had organized the event and thought she seemed happy.
"There was no concerns brought up at the time that anything was wrong," Carnegie said.
When he saw what he described as a "mean" review, he said he wondered if Megan Lee had even been at the event.
He responded, saying that the business had checked in with the customers and had been told everything was perfect.
When the poster responded to deny this account, Carnegie came back with a lengthy response, that began, "Megan Lee, we and our lawyers are not taking your slanderous and malicious review, as well as your lying comments in your response, lightly," and went on to call her a "lying mean girls [sic] for sure," telling her to "Judge your self accordingly mean girl."
Megan Ekstrand's Facebook page says she started using Lee, her middle name, on the site once she started pursuing an education degree. Much of Carnegie's writing in the thread attached to the negative review focused on what he characterized as Ekstrand using a "fake name."
"When we found out she had been using a fake name, then to me, all bets were off," said Carnegie. He said later on, Lee changed her profile name back to Ekstrand, which made his comments to her sound like they were bullying.
When other customers chimed in support of Ekstrand, the business responded with a similar refrain, stating, "You think it is perfectly fine to trash a business using a FAKE name and Fake profile and then try to cover it up??? You're actually condoning lies and dishonesty??? SHAME ON YOU!!!"
The thread was posted last week on content aggregation site Reddit, which drew a lot of attention and led to upwards of 200 comments,
Ekstrand responded to a request for an interview by saying she was "extremely upset" by the business's response to her post.
Carnegie said he stood by his words.
"I just wanted to clear it up because everything she said was a lie," he said, adding that businesses, and particularly restaurant businesses, take a lot of heat online.
"It builds up over the years."
He said he didn't believe the incident would hurt the company in the long run.
Businesses advised to take positive action
Wheelwright said when businesses are faced with negative online reviews, she encourages them to listen to customers, empathize, apologize, and take positive action.
"I don't think any of that was done in this circumstance."
While Carnegie said he wished people would speak to business owners in person at the time of the incident, Wheelwright pointed out people have different personalities and some may choose other ways of expressing themselves.
"You have to understand that, and you can't expect everyone to do what you want them to do."
The way a business responds to customers isn't just about the one customer that posts a review but to the thousands of people that might see that response, and rethink whether or not they want to patronize it, she said, adding she's seen businesses close down over online commentary.
"This is not the reason you want to go viral."