Posted May 18, 2010 2:21 pm by with 10 comments

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Like most people in the service industry from time to time, Charlotte waitress Ashley Johnson got a bad tip recently. After a couple took a three hour lunch—forcing her to stay an hour past the end of her shift—and left a $5 tip, she vented on Facebook. A couple days later, her boss called her in. They had her Facebook post and informed her that she’d violated company policies on not making disparaging remarks about customers or casting the restaurant in a negative light.

Johnson was fired.

Johnson regrets the comments, though she’s not sure how her manager got ahold of them. (She says they’re private, and only her friends can see them—but I think we all know that few people know exactly what is and isn’t public on a social network, especially with Facebook privacy settings changing all the time.) But Johnson isn’t alone—Facebook remorse is on the rise, according to a survey by Retrevo. 32% of people surveyed have posted something online that they regret. Of that 32%:

Interestingly, mobile access apparently gives us even more opportunity to mess up. 59% of iPhone users and 54% of smartphone users have posted something online they regretted. (Age, however, may help: only 27% of people over 25 have posted something they regret, while 54% of those under 25 have.)

Now, before we have the usually “this violates her right to free speech” complaints, let’s remember that it doesn’t. Johnson’s employer, Brixx Pizza, is not the government. The Charlotte Observer reminds us that Brixx Pizza was well within their rights:

While the First Amendment bars government from infringing on citizens’ freedom of speech, [Megan Ruwe, a Minnesota attorney who counsels employers on handling workers and social networks] said, it typically doesn’t stop private employers from limiting their employees’ speech. She advises companies to set policies to make their expectations clear.

If you say something on social networks that puts your employer in a negative light, she said, “that’s not very different than an employee standing on a corner and holding a sign or screaming it. It’s public, and it’s out there for the world to see. Individuals can forget that it is a very public forum.”

Yes, in the USA, we’re allowed to say almost anything we want. But that doesn’t free us from responsibility for our words. We all have to remember: part of online reputation management isn’t doing things you’d be ashamed of on the Internet—even when you might think no one will find out.

Of course, now Brixx Pizza has an ORM problem of its own with people who don’t understand that—and people who sympathize with Johnson. Johnson, for her part, has apologized to the restaurant and is looking for a new job—and has had more than enough of the publicity this story has brought her.

Hat-tip to searchengineman

  • Larry Chandler

    Just because you protect your privacy and your comments doesn’t mean that someone who is permitted to see things won’t mention them to others.

    Because it’s so easy to post a comment on Facebook, Twitter, and other sites, people may forget to think twice before posting.

    But saying things in public about your current employer is dumb. But responding as this restaurant did is also dumb.

    • Larry’s right. You can’t control who passes things on. It reminds me..

      It’s not me who can’t keep a secret, it’s everyone I tell.

  • Nathan

    Firing an employee for posting something on Facebook can cost you your customer base, cause a PR nightmare and pretty much destroy your brand identity. Check out all nasty comments on Brixx Pizza’s Facebook page. It looks like the average American consumer is disturbed by Big Brother behavior from businesses and are willing to boycott and generally drag the brand name through the mud (link to FB page below)!/pages/Brixx-Wood-Fired-Pizza/84618206631

    It’s obvious that Brixx has made the bigger mistake and is suffering far more dire consequences than the fired employee. They are now “That Nazi Pizza Place”.

  • I’m not one of the folks who is paranoid about the lack of privacy on Facebook. The mass exodus of late seems overreactive to me.

    Having said that, one of my LEAST favorite “features” of both Facebook’s iPhone app and the Twitter app I use (TweetDeck) is that I cannot DELETE a post I’ve just made.

    I’ve only used this function for correcting typos immediately after I make them, but could have been a more embarrassing event if I wasn’t home or at the office or near a computer. I like to delete the unwanted content and replace it with the corrected version immediately, of course, before anyone notices.

    They need to make it easier to delete content from a mobile.
    .-= Jeffrey Holton´s last blog ..How Steve Jobs and Apple keep me coming back for more =-.

    • Larry Chandler

      The problem with deleting a post (even immediately) is that it can be sent out to friends via SMS or email the second you post it. So there is a record of it even if you do delete it and write another version. Sometimes I do write something I shouldn’t have, but if I worry about it I will become immobilized and never post anything. I try not to be too snarky or get caught PUI (posting under the influence).

  • Whatever happened to calling your friend or family member and talking over the phone or even in person? Why do people feel the need to publically post their transgression, issues and problems? It doesn’t make sense to me consider that anything that is posted online can be had and read. I don’t care what kind of privacy settings are out there for social networks and such. You post it…it is public, no matter of the settings.
    .-= Jaan Kanellis´s last blog ..Google Releases New SERP To ALL Users =-.

  • Thanks for the Hat Tip.

    I for one have put my opinion directly on the site, via Google Sidewiki.
    If Brixx wants to do a social save:

    A) They should post the policy she violated.
    B) Retrieve her post its (public) now.
    C) Explain the policy that the employee violated annotated so we can all agree,
    and say yep you really were a goof…end of story.

    If you can’t and won’t..suffer the reputation loss, and (whuffie deficit)
    Personally I think Brixx over reacted..and this has exploded in an OSM disaster.


  • Do people feel the need to public ally post their transgression, issues and problems. It doesn’t make sense to me consider that anything that is posted online can be had and read.

  • At my place of employment there have been instances of things being posted on facebook for all to see that should only be said under your breath.

    Some people just don’t realise how ‘Real’ facebook is and that it isn’t another world.

  • Karla

    Most likely, the company was just looking for an excuse. I worked at a company that fired an employee who’d had lunch with a former employee and made disparaging remarks about the company to the former employee. (How her boss knew that, I do not know, but gossip travels, even without FB.) The employee was promptly fired for “putting the company in a bad light”–the lawyer there told me that they’d had other issues with the employee and that incident gave them a good reason to fire the employee. Momma’s advice still applies: “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”