When brands are really afraid of social media

The arrest, in Philadelphia, of two black men who were just having coffee at a local Starbucks was a despicable thing, but did Starbucks overreact to the whole incident by announcing the closing of their stores for training?

In my opinion Starbucks has overreacted to the incident in their store in Philadelphia.  The person responsible is gone and they apologized to the two men who were arrested but having the CEO go on a TV apology tour and closing all their stores clearly shows how fearful they are of social media.

In any big retailer, like Starbucks, people are going to be hired who probably shouldn’t be hired.  There are always some bad apples that slip through the cracks in the hiring process.   As part of the on boarding process employees should be required to take some online classes on dealing with customers of ALL races.  But Starbucks is fearful of the social media activists even though we still have a race problem in this country.

Starbuck should have apologized and fired the person responsible which would have been the end of the story.  The incident eventually would have been forgotten because of the headlines from an incompetent admiration which provides a lot of fodder for social media and the press.

According to the Times “Over the last couple of years, social media has become the preferred vehicle for the rise of consumer activism, turning the everyday purchase of dresses or shoes or, now, renting a car or buying insurance, into a form of protest or demonstration of ideology. Marketing experts say it’s difficult to determine whether calls for boycotts can truly have an impact on a company’s business. Rather, they say, once-angry customers either forget or move on to the next event or debate”.

Brands have to remember that social media activism is a passive aggressive way for consumers to vent their anger.  Amazon warehouse employees are woefully underpaid yet Amazon thrives; Facebook violated the privacy of every one of its user yet there hasn’t been a mass exodus from the site and Apple still tracks all of its users via iPhones yet they won’t even divulge what information they have on its customers.

I’m a Starbucks customer and will continue to be a Starbucks customer, but this latest incident clearly shows me that they are afraid of social media.