What To Do When Things Go Wrong

Dec. 6, 2018

Social media has once again shown its ugly side for one unlucky operator in Southern Florida. A video of a rat scurrying around products in a high school vending machine is being circulated in the community on Snapchat, Twitter and WPTV 5 news. The reporters interviewed students and even quoted a mother talking about it being “disgusting.”  

Is it fair? No. All furry creatures are looking for things to eat, and, even in Florida, a warm place to live as winter comes. The vending machine was on school property, a place outside the vending operator’s control. Does the operator still have to respond? Yes. This is a delicate time, when the correct response can win over customers, or drive them away permanently.  

Take immediate action 

In the news report, the school is said to have “locked” the vending machine so students could not access products on the rat was reported. It also called the vending company and an exterminator immediately. Good start. Now the vending operator should respond. Because this is on a public forum, treat the situation as urgent. It will reassure the customers you acknowledge their concerns and care about them. Either contact them directly or use signage on the vending machine. Because the video was on some social media platforms, it would be best to respond there are well.  

How to respond 

There are many great real-world responses to these types of situations. Some of my favorites to read and imitate are from reviews as they are very specific. Here’s one example from Review Tracker that has some responses and explains why the responses work. I like it because while it certainly encourages the business to admit mistakes, it also provides examples where the business educates the complainer (and all future consumers reading the review) about why the prices are high or why the experience would have been inconsistent. Whether the vending company will just want to apologize for the poor experience, offer a credit or explain the incredible flexibility of rats to get into tiny spaces, is up to the company and their public voice. 

The take away 

This incident is not isolated. Through my years in the industry I have heard of instances of roaches in vending machines, mice nibbled packaging, etc. It’s a reality of having food on premises and being at the mercy of what is happening at a facility. Unfortunately, social media has made it easier to share these incidents among consumers, making it imperative that operators have a response plan in place and use it. Students at the high school may not look online for reviews before purchasing from a vending machine, but when they see the video on social media, they will certainly think twice (or at least be told by their parents to think twice) about buying anything from the vending machine. With the proper response, the vending company should be able to put the concerns to rest and earn points in being a responsible company with excellent service.