Tip #50: When You Step In It, Apologize First, Then Wipe Your Shoes

Earlier today, a friend sent me a link (which led me down the rabbit hole) on the scandal surrounding a bakery here in San Cristóbal de las Casas: the Oh La La! Bakery threw out patron Ali Roxox after “confusing” her with a street vendor based on what she was wearing — her customary Maya k’iche dress. My first thought? “This isn’t going to fly with the clientele in San Cris.” A visit to their Facebook Page confirmed my hunch — but it’s not just locals who are outraged by yesterday’s “misunderstanding” (as Oh La La! management characterized the event) — folks all over the Americas have caught wind of the incident and are handing this little bakery some big criticism.

Ouch, Oh La La! You really stepped in it. What’s your plan? Oh no…don’t wipe your shoes first! 

Yup, they did it. As news of their racist move began to spread, Oh La La! management took to their Facebook Page and, though I imagine their intention was the opposite, proceeded to smear the effects of their shit storm all over the damn place. After denying they did anything wrong, their non apology concluded with:

RECORDANDOLES QUE TODOS COMETEMOS ERRORES EN CIERTO MOMENTO PERO ES DE HUMANOS ACLARALO.

REMEMBER THAT WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES FROM TIME TO TIME. IT’S HUMAN. LET’S BE CLEAR. 

After a big ol’ self aggrandizing back pat, Oh La La! topped it off with a condescending call to chill out because, hey — we’re all human. Now, that may be true, but it was a human you threw out of your restaurant, so “misunderstanding” or not, where’s the acknowledgement of her feelings and experience? Or is Oh La La! the victim here?

Oh La La! might have taken a lesson or two from Amy’s Baking Company, after their social media meltdown this spring. I almost feel silly re-capping the ABC controversy, since it clung to headlines for far too many weeks, but indulge me here. Let’s go Cliff’s Notes:

  • Amy’s Baking Company featured on Gordon Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares
  • Tantrums are had, employees are fired, and Ramsey essentially fires ABC from his show
  • Some time later, ABC receives negative reviews on Yelp! and Facebook
  • ABC management responds by wiping their shoes first i.e. covering their asses + deflecting blame + criticizing “haters”
  • ABC antics go viral and management continues shoe wiping, blame deflecting, and critic hating
  • The ABC name is now synonymous with Awfully Bad Customer (Service)*

*Okay I just made that up, but I bet I’m not the first one. 

Now, I myself am no stranger to shit storms hitting my business. I step in it, screw up, and shoot myself in the foot all the time. (This very article is a shit storm of bad foot analogies.) And I’ve tried it the Oh La La/ABC way — wiping my shoes first, worrying about everyone else later. But the thing is, when you drag other people into your shit along with you, sometimes you gotta wait to wipe. The ol’ “Put your mask on first” rule doesn’t apply when the plane is going down after you sent it in that direction.

When the shit has already hit the fan (like the metaphors in this post) the air is going to stink for a while, no matter what you do. Whether you’re around long enough to smell sweeter days is up to you. In the case of Oh La La! the damage was done the minute they took the first prejudiced step towards Ali Roxox. And there’s no amount of bleach that will take the stink away. But after their dismal non-apology, not even a full service scrub down could rid Oh La La! of the stench. Not for a while, at least.

I’m not saying an apology is tantamount to verbal air freshener. But it is the first step — the only step — towards cleaning up a mess when you make it.

The moral of the story?

Tip #50 for working with heart – when you step in it, apologize first, then wipe your shoes. 

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