Gelato Messina has won praise from fellow business owners and hospitality workers for its response to an angry online reviewer who called one of its employees a “fat Asian bitch”.
In a review titled “Worst Customer Service”, posted on the Urbanspoon page for the Gelato Messina store in Parramatta in Sydney, a “diner from Sydney” claimed they received “unpleasant” and “rude service” in February.
“As we entered the store in great anticipation to have a fresh new experience, we were undecided of what to get from the wide range of interesting flavours in their tubs and the list of specials on the board. Being ‘welcomed’ by one of the workers there however wasn’t actually very ‘welcoming’,” the reviewer said.
The reviewer said they “simply” asked the staff member for the most popular flavours or for a recommendation but was met with “a nasty ass attitude”.
“In return I had received an annoying response by a fat Asian bitch who had said in her dumb ass excuse for an Australian accent, ‘I DON’T KNOW THERE ARE 40+ FLAVOURS HERE IM NOT YOUR TASTE BUDS THERE ARE SPECIALS AND ICECREAM FLAVOURS HERE. I MEAN THIS IS AN ICECREAM PARLOUR DO YOU LIKE GELATO? ICECREAM? …”
But disproving the old adage that “the customer is always right”, the team at the gelato store took the reviewer to task.
“’Fat Asian bitch’? really?” said “Everyone at Messina” in the store’s response in early March.
“In general, we enjoy constructive criticism. We enjoy feedback and we always do our best to make it up to customers if they’ve had a less than average time. We always say sorry and we always do so with great humility and without question. We are very proud of our business and what we do.”
“But why on earth do you think its ok to call someone a ‘fat Asian bitch’ because they didn’t tell you what the most popular flavour was? What gives you the right to be so insanely derogatory, small minded, and arrogant to think you can treat anyone like that simply because you got substandard service?”
The Messina team acknowledged that the customer’s “gripe is pretty fair” and said they had spoken to the team member involved as “the responses you mentioned above are not really up to standard for our business”. The team said it accepts the team member’s service “could have been better”.
But they said the reviewer “should be absolutely ashamed” of themselves and their “disgusting language”.
“Usually I would apologise politely and send you a nice gift voucher or ask you to come by and get some free gelato. But you know what? No-one deserves to be called a fat Asian bitch under any circumstance.”
“So I’m going to take the unusual step of deliberately not apologising and saying you get a big thumbs down from me for being a low life and referring to someone as such.”
“Don’t come back. You’re not welcome anyway.”
The response has won praise for the gelato chain from members of a Facebook group dedicated to the best and worst online restaurant reviews called “One Loyal Customer”. More than 1500 Facebook users have liked a post about Messina’s review.
SmartCompany contacted Gelato Messina but did not receive a response prior to publication.
Nicole Matejic, author of the upcoming book, Social Media Rules of Engagement, told SmartCompany the way Gelato Messina handled the review is a credit to the company’s management.
“It is rare for a business to take such an approach because they are afraid of the potential backlash,” Matejic says.
Matejic was particularly impressed with the way Gelato Messina was able to objectively identifying the customer’s concerns about the service they received and address them, while also calling out the inappropriateness of the customer’s comments about the employee.
“It shows a lot of good leadership skills,” she says.
Matejic says Gelato Messina’s customer base will likely be impressed by the company’s decision to “draw a line” at personal attacks on their staff, while the company’s employees will also appreciate that their employer has “gone into bat for them”.
While Matejic acknowledges business owners could potentially spend all day responding to customer concerns on social media and “pseudo” social sites such as Urbanspoon, she says opting not to respond to a particularly critical online review or comment could be a “missed opportunity”.
“If you can turn someone’s opinion around by demonstrated good customer service, nine times out of 10 you will change their mind,” Matejic says, assuming the comment is by a genuine customer and not a “troll”.
She says business owners don’t necessarily have to apologise, but they can empathise with a customer and by moving the conversation offline, can “take the heat of the situation”.