Archives of June 2005

How Not to Handle Bad Publicity

Herkko Hietanen wrote a reclamation about the bad service he and his companions received at Ravintola Lehtovaara at the beginning of the year 2004. He received no reply and he subsequently blogged the letter. Now, one and a half year later, the restaurant sent him a nastygram demanding that he removes the post from the Internet and pays them 80000 euros for damage.

One of the most tenable sayings that exist is never attribute to malice what stupidity can explain. In this case, unfamiliarity with the workings of Internet communities is probably a more likely case than just plain stupidity. Accordingly, I assume that the restaurant just wanted to get rid of the writing, which appeared as the third search result in Google when searching for "lehtovaara". Resorting to outrageous legal threats just made the situation worse for the restaurant, by several orders of magitude! Probably they just tried to scare Mr. Hietanen, who happens to be an IT lawyer by trade, so in this case the scare factor of the letter may have been largely reduced.

It's not uncommon to find unflattering commentary on any restaurant, hotel or bar, and acute net users surely know that with thousands of customers there is bound to be someone who is not satisfied. I have never been to Lehtovaara, but I do know several restaurants in Helsinki area which I shall never enter again, even though others have praised these very same eating-houses. Had I planned having a dinner at Lehtovaara, I would not have changed my mind based on the writing, since Google provided mostly good reviews.

However, this is completely different. Legal threats tend to get very strong reactions in web communities. For example, grabbed the story using the illustrious headline Helsinki's Lehtovaara: Crappy service and a bullying owner. Without the legal threat, the 1,5 million readers of boingboing (and the few thousands of this site) would never have known about the bad service someone had at the restaurant, let alone it's ways of handling critique - and this is just the first day of the snowball effect that is likely to come! There will be many potential customers who will read about the case and who will choose not to support a restaurant acting thusly.

It's surprisingly common that people just do not understand that criticizing or even scolding posts have much less impact than the bad publicity that results from the attempts to stifle them. Several people will write about this case in their blogs and the likely outcome is that several result pages of Google will have few other issues than the arrogant behavior of the restaurant management. I wouldn't be surprised if some Finnish magazines or news sites wrote about the case, too.

PR stunt of the year, indeed.

Categories: Advocacy, Web
Posted by Matias at 28.07.2005 12.06 (12 years ago) | 304 comments

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