Last week Andy Beal blogged about the latest stupid human trick performed by a food chain employee which has caused an online reputation issue. This time it was Papa John’s. It appears as if pizza chains (remember the Domino’s incident?) have trouble hiring minimum wage workers with any scruples.
The long and short of the story is that a Papa John’s employee in NYC was stupid enough to use a racial slur to describe a customer. It’s not like they just said something either. Rather this employee (who has since been fired) decided to immortalize their ignorance by adding the customer description to a field that appears on the customer receipt. Boy, if there wasn’t morons out there like this we may not have anything to write about, would we?!
Here is the receipt from a CNN story about Papa John’s apology.
So how do you compound a dumb thing? Do it to someone like Minhee Cho who is a communications manager at nonprofit investigative journalism group ProPublica. Yikes! The plot thickens.
Then throw in a little more salt on the Papa John’s reputation wound in that this happens during a time when the chain is doing a huge advertising push as the official pizza of the Super Bowl and you have a reputation and general business perfect storm.
Now here is where I have to start to ask questions like is it really the fault of Papa John’s, the company, that this happened? I get that it was their employee but can you screen for racism when hiring? Can you really screen for poor taste, stupidity and just plain dumb? In the sense of can a person add or subtract you certainly can but when it comes to issues like this it gets very difficult to find out about a person in these areas in the hiring process. Imagine the questions companies would have to ask and the lawsuits that would be the result of trying to know the truth about your next hire?
The trouble with the viral nature of the Internet and most people’s unwillingness to look beyond a headline is that while Papa John’s has done what it can here (apologized to Ms. Cho and apparently fired the employee) people will paint the company as being insensitive when it was really an individual who happened to be employed by Papa John’s at the time who is at fault. Right now, Domino’s, McDonald’s, Burger King and more are counting their blessings that this person didn’t try to get a job with them. Why? Because they would have likely hired them just like Papa John’s did!
The world is filled with pathological liars and subversives who can do what they need to to get what they want, even if it is just get a job at Papa John’s. The online reputation landmine that exists for all companies is that it is usually far too late in the process when you learn someone’s true colors and the level of their depravity. Honestly, though, I can’t fault the company unless there is a culture of this kind of thinking which is hard to imagine in this day and age. It’s more of a societal issue but that’s for another post on another day.
As for avoiding this? I don’t think you can. Until people are conscientious enough to look past the headline nature of a reputation issue the best a company can do is to make sure it has stern and very intense policies about breaches of good taste and conduct in their employees. Even if you have employees sign some kind of paper saying they won’t do certain things that will not stop those things from happening. What it may do is lessen the impact after the stupid human trick was performed but to prevent things like this from happening at all? Ain’t gonna happen.
So what is your company doing to lessen the impact of what seems to be the inevitable in the social media world? Do you really believe that all of your current employees are incapable of doing something as crass and idiotic as this? I sure hope not because that means that the fantasy land you live in is so far removed from reality that you don’t stand a chance.
So in the end was Papa John’s REALLY at fault here? Could they REALLY have done ANYTHING to prevent this? Let’s hear your take? I bet there are more than a few opinions about this one!