Published August 12th, 2016
by Steven Clark

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Social Media Turds

Despite what I write about here or what my old colleagues may tell you, I’m not a particularly confrontational person. I will admit I can be a little overly enthusiastic when it comes to things I enjoy and – besides drinking – this mainly includes my work. I have, in the past, told a sales manager that his ideas were “shit awful” during a meeting and had what I would call “animated discussions” with account managers over what I saw as needless (but chargeable) busy work.

But before I achieved my dream of working for agencies or making websites in my underwear, I worked in retail. Like many others, I had a part time job at a local supermarket during University where I stacked shelves, organised stock and pointed at things customers couldn’t find.

And it was fucking miserable.

Supermarket Sweep

That said, a job in retail can be a good opportunity to learn things and pick up new skills. For instance, it was in ASDA that I learned that being mouthy and easily replaceable wasn’t an ideal combination. I also learned that dealing with members of the public on a regular basis is as about as fun as scooping out your insides piece by piece with a plastic box cutter.

Christmas was the worst by far. A tirade of irritated customers, many with their extended families tagging along, standing with their trolleys and prams diagonally blocking aisles whilst staring gormlessly at labels and signage. Then inevitably they would complain when they couldn’t find the goose fat or stuffing mix despite walking past a fully stocked seasonal aisle moments before.

Thanks to Twitter, we’re now living in a permanent supermarket Christmas. Entitled idiots regularly mouth off at corporations about nothing, prompting a tense conversation with a social media coordinator or likes and retweets from their sycophantic followers. The same people who would rail against trolling or online bullying (despite not knowing what it actually is) are happy to post pompous and entitled tweets to large organisations moaning about innocuous bullshit demanding immediate recompense.

How dare they fly these bananas to me from another country only for them not to be ripe

Idle threats and criticism on the internet were more common before people used their real names and uploaded photographs of themselves naked to their social media profiles. Instead, it’s now large organisations that reply and post relatively anonymously, with members of social media teams using their names and initials for the sake of approachability and accountability. Often in vain, these unfortunate people try to quell the posts from these lunatics who are happy to be personally associated with a petty public scene of their own creation where they’ve unironically called the lack of mayo in their chicken sandwich a “disgrace”.

I’m sure Richard read your tweets in disgust

That’s not to say that communicating with a business online can’t be productive. If businesses didn’t shit themselves at the advent of social media and hire a bunch of tired 20-somethings to politely tell you to shut up and email your complaint to them directly – instead of going through more traditional channels – no one would do it. It can be even be entertaining. The now infamous “am no a grass” tweet to Tesco remains a personal favourite of mine and garnered quite a ridiculous amount of media attention.

But most people aren’t approaching complaints with tongue in cheek or like they’re communicating with an actual human being and not just a corporate logo. They’re spitting venom online and thinking themselves the vanguards of public decency and good customer service.

I remember talking with the colleagues that worked the customer service desk at our store, hearing their occasional horror stories about what customers had demanded from them with little to no proof of purchase, vague threats and a handful of swear words.

Supermarket Sweep

Thanks to Twitter and a gaggle of confrontational attention seekers given agency by the impersonality of communicating via the internet, these horror stories are now an everyday occurrence. If you wouldn’t complain in store to a person about it, it’s probably not worth grabbing a quick picture and taking your complaint home with you.

I’ll admit organisations like supermarkets are mostly large faceless corporate entities that don’t need defending but I think it’s worth remembering that when you tweet bile their way an actual human being has to mop it up.

Note: This post originally appeared on the Habanero Digital blog meaning certain parts are probably weirdly self referential or talk about ongoing feuds that probably exist almost exclusively in the mind of the author.

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Steven Clark

by Steven Clark

Steven is a designer/developer and wannabe intellectual with an obsessive personality and too much spare time. Don’t follow him on Twitter.

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