Papa Johns and “Lady Chinky Eyes”

by JR Griggs

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papa johns lady chinky eyesIn a recent example of how a bad experience can go viral on Social Media, Papa Johns finds itself with a PR issue. An employee at a Papa Johns restaurant in NY, used the name “Lady Chinky Eyes” when entering the name of an Asian customer on a receipt. The woman later posted the receipt on her Twitter account with the message “Hey @PapaJohns just FYI my name isn’t “lady chinky eyes”. (Click the image to the left to see a larger image of the receipt)

Of course that spread like wild fire and hit plenty of major news outlets. Papa Johns then released a statement apologizing and saying they fired the employee. Aside from trying to understand why someone in NY is buying Pizza from Papa  Johns, there are lessons to be learned in this story.

To make matters worse, some of the employees of that store later stated that they think this whole thing is blown out of proportion. They explained that they use descriptions as names to identify people because of how busy they get. Like “Guy in blue jacket” for instance. I have seen this done a lot in bars to identify a tab. Even if that is something your employees are allowed to do, I am sure there was a better description than “lady chinky eyes”.

Here is the big issue, this particular Papa Johns (unless they all do it) got lazy. Instead of finding a way to remember the customers name or using another method to identify them, they resort to creating nicknames. I mean, “lady chinky eyes” is pretty bad but who’s happy with getting a receipt and seeing your name is “guy in blue jacket”?

Forget the fact that we all love to hear our own name and customers love it when you use their name. Forget that tips increase when using a customer’s name, loyalty, etc. Let’s throw all that out the window and save time by referring to people as “guy in blue jacket” and leaving the choice of nickname to our minimum wage employees.

Do you see where the real issue is? Papa Johns would be doing themselves an enormous favor if they blame themselves and not just the employee for this. This was a failure long before it got to this particular customer. This is a failure of policy and training.

Papa Johns needs to have a heavier focus on making business personal and having employees get the customers name and use it.

Making Business Personal

Social Media has put every business in a small little town where everyone knows your name. It’s made business very personal. News can spread fast, both good and bad. This means that businesses need to be paying extra attention to detail. This is not the first time something like this has happened and it probably won’t be the last. But as a business owner you need to be mindful of how fast an incident like this can spread. In fact, it can dominate the search engines when a potential customer searches for you.

Here is a search for “Papa Johns” on Google right now.

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Not good huh?

It’s kinda like being in a small town and word spreading fast. Next thing you know everyone is walking past your store and giving you dirty looks. You don’t even get invited to the next pancake social.

Now honestly, there’s no telling if this will hurt Papa Johns or not, they sure are getting a lot of attention out of it. I would imagine that there are plenty of people upset about it and there are probably people who couldn’t care less. Only time will tell. But every business would be smart to learn the lessons here.

It is important to make sure that your policies are made for the customer not the employee. It is also important to understand how viral a mistake can go today. I certainly hope that Papa Johns learns the real issue here. I also hope that you take a look at your own business policies and see if there might be some tweaking to be done.

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