Tavern-to-Tavern 5K: a Disaster in Social Media Marketing

I have to admit, I don’t usually bring my work into my blog, but today I’m going to drop a little social media marketing knowledge on you all.

As you know, the Tavern to Tavern 5K was scheduled for this Sunday. Due to Hurricane Irene it has been rescheduled for next Sunday. Next Sunday is Labor Day so many people (including yours truly) are traveling and will be unable to attend the race. When people signed up for the race, the registration information explicitly stated that there would be no refunds under any circumstances. Now, people are upset about not being refunded their money after the race has been rescheduled on such a popular travel holiday.

Do I think it sucks that they rescheduled it for next weekend? Yeah I do, but I’m over it. I’m out $25. It’s life. Shit happens. Hurricanes happen.

So, social media.

One of the main tenets of social media is to remain professional at all times and to clearly and succinctly address any feedback that arises (whether it be positive or negative). Tavern to Tavern 5K should have anticipated that some of its runners would be very upset at the rescheduling of the race and the lack of a refund.

The people organizing the race should be doing several things:

  1. Remaining professional
  2. Apologizing for the inconvenience
  3. Continuing to apologize
  4. Explaining that there can be no refunds, as was explained in the contract every running signed
  5. Acknowledging the inconvenience and thinking of another solution to help make people feel better, and let them know that they are their top priority
  6. Such solutions could be–Offering 1/2 price entrance to the race next year; 2 for 1 entrance to next year’s race; a free beer at tavern if you can prove you paid for the race but couldn’t make it

The most important thing the race organizers should be doing is letting people know that they feel terrible for the inconvenience, but that they are doing whatever they can to make the situation better. Instead, they are attacking and chastising those who are upset over the rescheduling and lack of refunds. 

The organizers must recognize that these would-be participants are their lifeblood. Without participants, there can be no event. And with the way the participants have been treated after the happenings of this event, the Tavern-to-Tavern 5K might be hard pressed to find participants for next year. 

What do you think? How should Tavern-to-Tavern 5K be better handling themselves (and their social media outlets)? What would be a good solution for you if you can’t run the race but know you can’t get your money back either?



7 thoughts on “Tavern-to-Tavern 5K: a Disaster in Social Media Marketing

  1. I had the same response – at first I was upset about the no refund, or not being able to run, which I could get over. Then I saw their replies on Facebook (which were just as awful), so I commented on the thread. I said that most people never remember an actual event, they remember the way you responded – which is crisis management 101. I continued on, saying I’ve been a pretty good customer to both the Central and Porter Tavern, and that their response had lost my business. I was honest, not passive agressive, and not snarky – but they deleted my comment from the Facebook thread. As someone who works daily in social media, I wanted to hold this up as a textbook case of what NOT to do, ever. Glad to know that I’m not the only one who feels this way!

  2. Was going to be my first 5K as well, and as you saw in the replies back and forth, I’ll be away and can’t make it either. But thanks for writing this. I was over the refund pretty quickly — it’s only $28 — but then, at least to me, it was about how you treat your customers — past, present and potential. The responses from them calling those who expressed disappointment “babies who didn’t get their ways” was ridiculous.

  3. Thanks for this. I agree with all your points. I am upset that it was cancelled as well, but assumed I’d just go pick up my shirt (hey, I paid for it right!?!?!) on my way out of town and I’m over it. When I’m NOT over is their horrible attitude. I understand that my money is going to a scholarship and probably a good cause since most 5Ks are raising money for something. But there is no need to be rude.

    Alienating participants and being snarky and rude to them isn’t a way to keep cliental at the bars or gain participants for next year. Not to mention some people are complete bitches and might go out of their way to remind next year’s participants what happened the year before 😉

  4. I noticed they’ve deleted the inappropriate tweets from their account. I’m glad you have screenshots and I hope that the Tavern management is aware of how the person in charge of their Twitter account has been acting. Totally inappropriate.

  5. Thank you everyone for your comments! Tavern’s reaction was completely inappropriate, and I, like many of you, have been a loyal customer of Tavern for a few years now. This really leaves a bad taste in my mouth and makes me not want to give my business to such an unprofessional business. To delete tweets and Facebook messages really demonstrates a lack of transparency and honesty, and makes me question every comment I will ever read about them again. Instead of addressing negative feedback, they simply ignore it and delete it, acting like it’s not there.

    I am going to do my best to reach out to Tavern and let them know how completely unprofessional they were to see if we can make this situation right. I know we’d all just prefer if Tavern apologized and remedied the situation in some way so that we could go back to enjoying a bar and restaurant that we all loved.

    • If it makes you feel any better, I found the email address for the Director of Operations for the Arcari group, which manages all the Taverns + Union Street. I notified him what was happening and he apologized a few times, saying that he wasn’t aware of how it was being handled. He could not promise anything to be done in terms of refunds, as this is actually being put on by an outside event organizer and the Tavern is just a sponsor who is throwing the post race party, but I assume he did at least do something to make them act in a more professional manner. Right about the same time I got my response email, all of the rude things that Tavern2Tavern5K said came down off of twitter and facebook. I don’t believe that was coincidental. Or maybe it was my tweet that was retweeted by NewtonUpdate (the Newton division of Boston.com)……

      • I’m glad you were able to get in contact with him. This whole thing has been absolutely ridiculous, and even if people do not get refunds they should at least be able to pick up their shirts. Tavern could make this such a great opportunity to get people into their restaurants, but instead they just alienated everybody.

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