by Kenneth Rudich
Every business with any number of employees, be it one or thousands, would be wise to heed the lessons to be learned from the social media firestorm ignited by a bartender of an upscale Chicago nightclub.
If you’re not already familiar with this story, here’s what you’ll need to know for the sake of this case study.
In an apparently exasperated state of mind due to something that happened earlier at work, the employee, who is white, initiated a patently racist rant against blacks on her personal Facebook page. As her other Facebook friends joined in, the discussion became increasingly animated with similarly disdainful remarks. You know the type – entirely hurtful and wholly inflammatory.
At some point, a nightclub manager intervened. “Hey Hitler,” he wrote, “You’re violating your social contract.” He then directed the employee to delete the disparaging statements “ASAP,” to which she callously responded, “R U joking? I have a life outside of the club.”
When the owner of the nightclub caught wind of it all, he immediately fired her.
Twenty-four hours later, he also issued the following statement (author’s note: I’ve excluded the nightclub’s name and the bartender’s name because they are not materially relevant to this as a case study):
“(nightclub name here) would like to confirm its belief in equality, fairness and tolerance to all our friends and partners. Sadly, on occasion, we are all exposed to ignorance and racism. We believe that by continuing to be true to our ideals and leading through our actions that each of us can be an agent for positive change.”
Social Media Fuels Social Networking
This story might have ended here except for one thing: a local nightlife commentator named Audarshia Townsend chose to retell it on her blog, and from there it went viral. Several news outlets picked up on the story, such as the Chicago News Report, NBC Chicago and the New York Daily News to name a few.
Nor did the startling speed with which it spread stop there. A seemingly endless stream of responses poured in from readers and viewers alike. While their reactions were mixed, none of the key players involved managed to escape without getting bruised.
Of the nearly 500 total responses I saw, an appreciable number used this opportunity to take a swipe at the nightclub itself. I’ve posted a small but representative collection of them below to illustrate how one employee’s online social behavior, even though done on his/her own time and his/her own personal page, can inadvertently spark a controversy big enough to engulf a brand in something terribly unpleasant.
These comments set the stage for a discussion about the business lessons to be learned from this incident, as is planned for Part 2:
1. I went there for a friend’s bday party (sic) and while I was having a good time, I had no idea that the bouncer was giving some of my friends a hard time getting in when they were all dressed according to the dress code. The way he was treating them definitely came off as racist….he was just letting everyone in ahead of them. They got sick of it and just left and I don’t blame them.
2. I don’t understand why people are giving (club name here) credit for firing her. They did it because they knew it was going to blow up. I have been to (club name here) a handful of times and regretted it every time. I will NEVER go there again. Go on yelp and check out their reviews, nothing but awful things to say about this place. I find this absolutely appalling, the ignorance that some people have, it makes me sick. BUT, does this really surprise any of us? She was clearly an uneducated female who got by on her looks and definitely not her personality… looks like she’s going to be the one struggling to find a job, how ironic!
3. Disgusting. The damage is done. I am frequently experiencing Chicago night life, but I won’t be visiting (club name here) any time soon.
4. For everybody defending (club name here), I would just like to highlight their responsibility as an employer to create and nurture and (sic) environment that promotes a business culture true to the ideals expressed in their official response to this incident. Its (sic) one thing to preach equality. Its (sic) another thing completely to see that it is maintained in your work environment. The pure audacity of this employee speaks to a probable truth that this sort of thought process and hate speech was actually TOLERATED within the venue. She had no problem airing it out in public because she is so used to it being tolerated in the (club name here) bubble that she lives in. Of course, (club name here) natural response as a public entity was to distance themselves from the young lady’s comments, but for me that’s too little too late. If you ask me, this wasn’t a rogue employee. It was just a rogue post. Let that marinate.
5. Notice how that hot dog “restaurant” looks more like a currency exchange than a place to eat. I have a feeling this type of behavior is very commonplace there, and anything more valuable than napkins is kept on the other side of the steel cage…
6. The same night, another friend of mine went to the bar to order a round of shots. After the bartender started making them, he went and added one more shot to the order and then blatantly saw her fill the shaker with WATER instead of alcohol. When he asked her why she did that she shrugged and said she wasn’t paying attention.
7. The above scenarios are just two of the many problems that my friends ran into in just that one night.
8. We were a group of friends that were paying money at the bar and had even purchased bottle service and I am shocked with how rude the majority of the staff was and unbelievably disrespectful. My friends and I will never go there again and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone.
9. The staff is AWFUL! I had not one but THREE run-ins with bad service in 1/2 hour! I also got yelled at by a staff member because someone else (on their staff) took a bunch of coats downstairs without telling anyone. How is this MY fault?! I just wanted my coat. The drinks were tiny & most of the staff was rude.
10. I will not be returning here. Sorry (club name here).
11. the place is awful, i think they are racist
12. I wanted to go to this nightclub/yelp venue because my good friend was throwing his birthday party there – but they wouldn’t let me (or my friends) in because I was Asian. I’m used to seeing racial acts of discrimination at times because of my ethnicity, but I thought that since my friends were throwing a birthday party there, it would be alright. I was proven wrong.
13. maybe someone should ask the club about their opinions on race again…. funny considering they pride themeselves (sic) on not letting black people in…… and the joke of a “general manager” refers to the black doormen as his “slaves”… asking them to “smile so he can see them in the dark” and making other even more derogatory statements.
14. I vow to never go to this place again, nor will I ever support any party (social or profession) there because of the treatment I was given because of my race. If the place goes bankrupt in due time, it will only be because they deserved it.
Come back for Part 2, won’t you?