How Not to Handle a PR Crisis: Boston Market
by David Klemt
So, you boasted about a significant boost in sales linked to one of America’s biggest holidays and then under-delivered to a catastrophic degree.
What do you do?
Certainly not what Boston Market did and is still doing: Proceed with your Thanksgiving-themed social media campaign and remain silent on your reported failures.
Last week, on Thanksgiving Eve, Randy Miller, president of Boston Market (which reportedly received a PPP loan of $5-10 million), told CNBC that Thanksgiving sales were up approximately 172 percent compared to 2019.
There are 346 Boston Market stores in the United States. Pop open Twitter, search “Boston Market,” and check out the tweets from about November 21 to today.
Twitter users, some of whom claimed to have spent $300 or more on preordered and prepaid Thanksgiving meals prepared by Boston Market, experienced a range of issues when they went to pick up their orders.
Tweets and reports abound of Boston Market customers experiencing one or more of the following:
- Waits of up to three hours (if not longer). In a pandemic. On Thanksgiving Day.
- Incomplete orders. Supposedly, this was due in some situations because walk-in guests were permitted to place orders they received before those waiting in line for preorders which, again, were paid for in advance.
- Unprepared orders. Some Twitter users claimed they were given frozen or raw items to prepare themselves.
- Missing orders. There are claims that some customers arrived to pick up their orders only to be told it wasn’t there.
Of course, that’s not the complete list of issues reported by Twitter users. Other tweets—and there are a lot—claim that people placed preorders, paid for them, and then received messages canceling their orders. Some of those cancellations allegedly occurred on Thanksgiving Day—and without refunds.
And what has Boston Market done so far? Continued to tweet on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and the following Sunday. Those tweets are still up, with a November 29 tweet about the final day of their Black Friday deal being the most current.
At the time of publication, there’s no tweet addressing Boston Market’s apparent Thanksgiving debacle. But there are plenty of replies with messages like this from one user:
“It’s not a happy thanksgiving when you tell us to wait in a very long line our Thanksgiving order that WE PAID $140 – and we’re here during our window.”
And this one, from a user who shared an image that purported to be of their $175.30 order:
“I’d be thankful if I could have waited in line for 2 hours to pickup our family’s Thanksgiving day meal. Unfortunately, the food was paid for, but never delivered to us. We’ll be eating sides from the grocery. Thanks Boston Market.”
The situation is no better on Instagram, with one user there commenting, in part, “Boston Market has taken NO RESPONSABILITY for the Thanksgiving disaster.” (Emphasis theirs).
Perhaps Boston Market is addressing or has already addressed affected customers offline. Perhaps some of the tweets weren’t real and posted by trolls doing their troll thing. Not everything, it turns out, on the Internet is real.
Boston Market still needs to release an official statement addressing what happened to many of their guests on Thanksgiving. That statement needs to be accompanied by social media posts.
How negative an impact Boston Market’s silence will have on their bottom line moving forward remains to be seen. However, as most owners and operators of customer-facing businesses know, an apology and offer to make things right goes a long way. Simply acknowledging a problem occurred and vowing to look into it can keep a bad situation from devolving further.
Saying nothing? Not a winning strategy.