Two McDonald’s workers have lost their jobs after poking fun at a customer who took to Facebook to complain about the service she received at the fast-food chain.
The Herald Sun reports the store manager of a McDonald’s restaurant in the Melbourne suburb of Craigieburn, Sonam Dhindsa, and an employee at the venue, Lorie Petraroli, called customer Nancy Sarfisis a “low life” and told her she should “go run on a treadmill” earlier this week.
Sarfisis was a regular customer at the restaurant but after becoming frustrated with the level of service she was receiving, posted a video on Facebook of her asking drive-thru staff to give her some napkins.
Dhindsa replied to the video by saying, “some people just need to stop sitting at home and eating fast food. Maybe then … their brains would actually work. Low life”.
Petraroli also commented “go run on a treadmill instead of going through drive-thru”.
In an interview with Seven News, Sarfisis said she felt “humiliated” and “bullied”, but Dhindsa also told the network the incident was “a silly mistake” that she did not deserve to be fired over.
Some Facebook users have agreed with Dhindsa, leaving messages on the fast-food chain’s Facebook page saying the company should be “ashamed” for sacking the employees.
“The customer clearly wanted a reaction and it’s unfortunate that a worker who had spent seven years within the business has been terminated for such a petty issue,” said one Facebook user.
“I wish the young employees all the best in finding new work and I’m sitting here shaking my head at McDonald’s Australia.”
The video appears to have now been deleted, along with Sarfisis’ Facebook page.
A spokesperson for McDonald’s told SmartCompany this morning “we are a service business and even in trying situations, we expect our employees to treat our customers with respect at all times”.
“And, we believe our employees deserve the same,” the spokesperson says.
Social media specialist Catriona Pollard told SmartCompany in service industries, it is important for both employers and employees to understand “speaking to a customer in person is exactly the same as leaving a message on social media”.
“There is no difference,” Pollard says, adding that it is essential that representatives of a business are respectful.
While Pollard says it may be the case that the customer in this instance was seeking some form of attention, the motive is “irrelevant” for the business.
“If you are working for a business or brand, especially one with such a high profile as McDonald’s, you have to understand the employee guidelines, regardless of if you are facing the customer or sitting behind a keyboard,” she says.
Pollard says the incident is a reminder to businesses, big or small, how important it is to have a social media policy that provides a mechanism of taking action if employees act in unacceptable ways. And she says McDonald’s now have an opportunity to have “store-wide conversations with employees about how to behave on social media”.
Nicole Matejic, author of the book, Social Media Rules of Engagement, agrees with Pollard, telling SmartCompany the lesson for small business owners is to have a “stringent social media policy for staff” and to make sure all employees read and sign-off on the policy.
“Employers are vicariously liable for the comments employees make on social media and so McDonald’s have done the right thing by taking responsibility,” she says.