Would you pay (Twitter) for better customer service?

Hasan Syed's displayed wry wit while complaining about British Airways on Twitter.
Hasan Syed’s displayed wry wit while complaining about British Airways on Twitter.

The latest evidence that social media shaming isn’t what it used to be arrived this weekend, when a disgruntled British Airways flyer felt compelled to pay for a “promoted Tweet” to complain about his lost bags. Even with the extra Twitter prominence, lost bag victim Hasan Syed still didn’t get satisfaction right away. That came later, after major media and a competitor joined the discussion.

Props to Syed for putting his money where his complaints are, but sadly he has so far refused to share how much he spent on the promoted Tweet. That’s important, because I do believe we are seeing formation of a marketplace. Imagine Syed paid $20 to get his bag back. Wouldn’t you? Maybe you’d pay $50, $100?  One thing I fear — social media shaming won’t be free much longer, as the glory days of social customer service might be coming to a close. Syed’s purchase indicates he felt strongly that simply posting about his trouble as a regular user wouldn’t get him anywhere.

Twitter is a third-party greaser in this situation, a way to get around voice-mail hell, a mechanism for buying V.I.P treatment and getting to the front of the line. BA has since told my buddy Ben Popken that it is returning Syed’s bag today.  Syed’s paid Tweet may not have done the trick. It’s unclear whether Syed’s real success was the result of major media interest — Mashable picked up on his Tweet early on; or of subtle nudging by competitors — JetBlue’s Senior Vice President of marketing Marty St. George called attention to it by commenting on it, calling it a trend.

If so, the promoted tweet “trend” won’t last, as it will also become routine and not worth the money.  The market observer in me says something more interesting is afoot, however.  I think someone will devise a way to allow the Hasan Syed’s of the world to pay something to get proper treatment from misbehaving companies, and that something will be far less than traditional legal fees.

It would be a welcome alternative, but of course, it would be better still for firms to treat people right in the first place.

About Bob Sullivan 1215 Articles
BOB SULLIVAN is a veteran journalist and the author of four books, including the 2008 New York Times Best-Seller, Gotcha Capitalism, and the 2010 New York Times Best Seller, Stop Getting Ripped Off! His latest, The Plateau Effect, was published in 2013, and as a paperback, called Getting Unstuck in 2014. He has won the Society of Professional Journalists prestigious Public Service award, a Peabody award, and The Consumer Federation of America Betty Furness award, and been given Consumer Action’s Consumer Excellence Award.

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