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When The Ranch Hotel totally mismanaged a social media complaint, it made it into the national news.

Read the full story here.

But briefly, a customer found maggots on her steak. When she complained, she was given excuses rather than action, so she, quite understandably, published an account on Facebook. She accused The Ranch of deleting her posts and negative comments.

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Social Media Mistake 1: Trying to kill the social media conversation

Once a conversation starts you have two options: join in or stay out of it. The option you don’t have is to be seen trying to stifle it. Ms Kim claims the hotel deleted comments and removed its reviews page. Another commenter said they had deleted his comments from Trip Advisor. That only makes the hotel look like they have something to hide.

If the story is out there, join in and tell your side. If your customer has a complaint, answer it.
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Social Media Mistake 2: Not accepting responsibility

Your customer has maggots on her steak. The only way that it is not your responsibility is if you are claiming she put them there herself. Otherwise, take the blame. Don’t worry about telling us how good your kitchen is, tell us how you’re going to make it better.

And whatever you do, don’t talk about the other 262 steaks served without complaint. That only makes me think of other diners eating steaks without noticing the maggots. Ewwww!
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Social Media Mistake 3: Not addressing the emotion

Speaking of ewwwww, if you see maggots crawling on a steak and it doesn’t gross you out, then something is wrong. There’s no harm in recognising the emotion and empathising with it. The easiest way to get someone on your side is to agree with them.
In this case, it seems the lack of empathy may have begun at the initial complaint. From Ms Kim’s Facebook post, it certainly doesn’t appear she was in any way appeased by the hotel’s actions or explanations.
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Social Media Mistake 4: Not engaging with negative commenters

Most of the comments that followed The Ranch’s Facebook post were pretty nasty. Many disagreed with the hotel’s explanation of the source of the problem and offered alternative theories.

You can read the full comments here, but the most popular idea was that the kitchen staff had cooked the food and left it sitting around for hours before reheating it. Quite a few went so far as to Google the life cycle of flies and state knowledgeably in that fly eggs take between 8 and 24 hours to hatch.


That kind of research shows commitment, especially for a comment on a Facebook post. It’s the sort of effort that should have made it clear to The Ranch how seriously their patrons were taking the incident. Over 100 people commented on their response.

Others also took the opportunity to lash out at the hotel on other issues including dirty toilets and rude staff. (Hey, since we’re talking about bad stuff, let’s get it out there.)
The Ranch, to date, has met these comment with silence. They’re using the “the best thing to do when you find yourself in a hole is stop digging” approach.

What they should be doing is talking to their customers.
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Social Media Mistake 5: Dismissing the complaint

“The Hotel takes all food safety issues very seriously and has conducted a thorough investigation into the matter. Our investigation concluded that the incident was due to blowfly larva laid after the meal was cooked, as it is not possible for lava to survive the cooking process.”

What was the thorough investigation? Who conducted it? How did they come to their conclusion? By not elaborating on the process, The Ranch left themselves open to criticism and alternative theories.

Recently, Aldi had a couple of maggot incidents, with wrigglies being found by separate customers in their chicken tenders and their beef. On both occasions, they hired an independent entomologist to investigate.

Did The Ranch’s “thorough investigation” include having anyone independent look at the steak or review the hotel’s food preparation procedure? How much might an entomologist charge to prepare a report? Several hundred dollars? A thousand? Could it possibly be more than the cost to your reputation of having your name blasted across every news site in Australia?

There’s also no mention of change. The reader knows something went wrong, but the hotel is denying that anything went wrong, and they are changing nothing. This leaves the reader with one simple conclusion: “This could happen again – to me.”