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Here’s a lesson for businesses in how not to respond to criticism, all the way from Kuwait. Beware the power of bloggers and social media, thinks Kipp.
January 31, 2011 1:51 by shafeer
Kuwaiti blog TWOFOURTYEIGHTAM (2:48AM to you) is a lively and wide-ranging affair put together by bloggers Mark and Nat. It’s respected, popular, well-written, pretty objective and, as both are designers, is clean and easy to read. The B-side to 2:48AM is 2:48PM, which is a community blog and is pretty big as blogs in Kuwait go (and Kuwait has a lively blogging scene).
In the middle of December last year, Mark posted a review on the A sides of Kuwait’s newly opened Japanese restaurant Benihana. It’s linked here for your delectation and delight. Mark wasn’t terribly impressed by his experience at the restaurant. Although he pointed out that, “The service wasn’t too bad for a restaurant that’s just been open for a few days and the staff were really friendly.” he also went on to say: “The problem with my experience last night though was with the food, it was disappointing to say the least.”
Mark then explains the reasons for his disappointment in detail, concluding, “Would I go back to Benihana? No I wouldn’t.”
He also took a video of the ‘show’ the chefs put on while cooking. The acrobatics at Benihana are apparently something to behold, but this is a very ordinary looking display of, well, cooking.
So there we go – a bad experience at Benihana gets a bad review from a customer. And there it ended. Or not quite. Nested in the 74 comments (I said it was a popular blog, didn’t I?) are several ‘happy customer’ astroturf comments that came from, as Mark pointed out, the same IP address. And then there’s the comment (linked here for your listening pleasure) from a geezer called Mike Servo, who claimed to be the general manager of the Benihana management of Kuwait and who threatened to sue Mark. A couple of quotes:
“…our rights and name is being used in a wrong way and broadcasting the video without a proper consent from us is really annoying specially Benihana is just opened up its doors to the public. We are seeking and consulting our legal dept. on how we can form a type of law suit against your website to be brought up to the Kuwait authorities.”
He goes on to trill: “We want you to give us your information, your name, your number and your address so our lawyer will take it from there and be sure that you in Kuwait were the jury is 100 % clean and fair.”
And then for some bizarre reason starts talking about elephants: “We also expect that you might be sending people to Benihana to make a play and that is why we have informed the CID about that, In the past we encountered your add in Subway and it is one of our companies franchise, we really didn’t give it any attention, and it very clear now that Subway is an elephant while other competitors are closing down, however this time we will not let it go and we will follow you legally.”
Not terribly nice, in all. He ends the comment by asking Mark if he’s Lebanese!
“A comedy classic” says one following commenter.
“I have a feeling that your restaurant will be closing in no time at this pace! I’m planning to try it out to see how bad it really is, and if it is bad I’m going to probably write a worse review” says another.
“I was going to visit Benihana .. but after seeing how you treat customers reviewing your restaurant, I plan on avoiding it at all costs.” Is another comment.
This comment neatly sums up the considerable outpouring of anger at the management of Benihana Kuwait – for astroturfing, for its furious reaction and for threatening a lawsuit. “As a representative of such a well known brand it is shocking that you would conduct yourself in such an unprofessional manner. I am sure the franchise policy of Benihanas is not one of engaging those who are not satisfied with its product by posting baseless claims and threatening frivolous lawsuits that serve no other purpose but discredit any legitimate concern or issue you may have.”
Mark posted up on Twitter yesterday that he had received the lawsuit. Benihana Kuwait actually went ahead and sued a blogger for writing a bad review of their restaurant. I have the feeling this won’t end here…
Alexander McNabb is Group Account Director of Spot On Public Relations, Dubai. He regularly blogs at fakeplasticsouks.blogspot.com, where this post originally appears.