Using the Internet For Bad… or Good?
Just because I’ve never let the idea escape out my fingers doesn’t mean that the thought hasn’t been in my brain. As the contractor was being a complete dick, telling us that he wasn’t going to correct his mistake and that we were just going to have to live with a doll sink for the rest of our lives, I was thinking,
“I am so going to write about this and post it on the Internet with the name of your company SEOed to infinity. And everyone who Googles your company will find my scathing review. And then I’ll write a Yelp review that will make your head spin and give you one-fucking-star since that’s the only amount of stars that would fit in a sink that small.”
But you’ll notice that I didn’t use the name of the contractor nor did I SEO the post to infinity. Nor have I written a Yelp review. I wrote about the incident because I needed to vent (and because I was proud of myself for speaking up), but I left the contractor unnamed so he will never be affected by Googling. It remains only a story.
It would be wrong to negatively affect someone else’s livelihood just because they upset me. There are proper channels for addressing an issue, and going online to complain about the company in order to get them to bend to my will is not one of them. And the point is that without dragging the rest of the Internet into our disagreement, we worked it out offline and the company is making good on their mistake. Plus making that one incident the sum of the whole ignores the gorgeous workmanship the installer has done.
I also depend on online reviews to make decisions. Maybe not for small purchases, but when purchasing large items or lining up service work, I go online to see other people’s experiences. I ignore reviews were it’s a matter of taste such as movies, books, or music. And with restaurant reviews, I only care about the service and cleanliness knowing that other people may enjoy food I would despise and vice versa.
But service-related reviews are so helpful, and I’m grateful when someone goes online and gives their honest opinion. If it’s negative, well, they may have saved me stress or money. And if it’s positive, I still go into the experience knowing my mileage may vary, but hopefully it will be similar to the people in the reviews.
So where is the line between warning others of a negative experience and writing online to ruin someone else’s business? Is it the intention?
Because while I may have rationalized it later to say that I was saving other people from having a negative experience, the reality is that I would be using my online power to get him to fix his mistake or punish his dickishness — a scenario we’ve seen played out daily on social media when people go online to tweet about a negative experience with an airline or appliance dealer or restaurant. It gets results, but was it the best use of the power of the Internet? Would we want it done back to ourselves in the future?
And it’s true, it may have saved someone from a negative experience (though not using this company would also keep you from great workmanship, a lovely end product, and a decent price), but if that wasn’t my intention — if it was only a side effect of my actions — should I ever post something like that online?
It’s so hard to know where the line is because I’ve possibly benefited from other people speaking up negatively online, and yet I also know how difficult it is for businesses in this day and age, where word-of-mouth not only spreads in the moment but is Google-able for ages to come, to do their work while shuddering under the silent threat of a bad review.
What do you think of negative reviews, tweets, status updates, or posts, naming a business? Is it fair for consumers to use the power we have at our disposal — word-of-mouth — to negatively impact a bad business, or should we stick to the old channels of addressing issues offline?
And I do always take online reviews, in general, with a grain of salt knowing that people are much more likely to put out the effort to vent than they are to go say something positive.