Benihana Kuwait demonstrates how companies should not deal with bloggers.
The problem with being a critic is that people don’t always like what you have to say, even if you are being honest – or in a lot of cases, especially if you are being honest. Often when we write a critical review, it results in people taking offence. In mild situations, it usually involves a phone call from the company to ask us if they have done something to offend us or in more interesting cases, if we have taken a bribe to write bad things about them. In more extreme cases, companies refuse to advertise with us on account of something we have written and stop dealing with us altogether. The worst thing that can happen though is that you get sued or issued threats for what you’ve written.
What companies don’t realize though is that one surefire way to commit media suicide is to publically issue threats against writers or bloggers. It’s a bit like heckling a comedian during a stand up act – you know you’re not going to win. He has the crowd behind him and the mic and you’re just a tiny voice in comparison. The situation gets worse a hundred fold if you’re in the wrong.
A couple of weeks ago, Benihana Kuwait issued a lawsuit against Mark Makhoul who runs the 248am.com blog, one of the most popular blogs in Kuwait. It started with Mark visiting Benihana in Kuwait and having an unpleasant experience. He writes about it in his blog here. As any good reviewer, he voices his opinion on what he thinks is good and bad about the restaurant. As a critic, I have to say it’s a rather mild review and not overly harsh. However, the GM of Benihana Kuwait takes offence to it and replies with a threat to sue the blogger.
Mark’s blog has a decent readership. If Benihana Kuwait had not issued a lawsuit, it would have probably been read by a few hundred people and be dismissed as just another food review. However, thanks to the lawsuit, the review and Mark’s website has reached millions of people across Twitter, newspapers, websites, radio and TV. In fact, the first thing you now see on a Google search for “Benihana Kuwait” is information about the lawsuit. What was once a molehill of a slightly critical review is now a mountain of a social media disaster.
The Benihana Kuwait disaster will certainly go down as an important case study in social media books. Hopefully, it will serve as a reminder of how not to handle a critical review.