In the 1992 film “School Ties,” Brendan Fraser plays a young Jewish athlete named David Green, who hides his Judaism from his peers at a preppy New England boarding school during the 1950s, for fear of being the target of anti-Semitism. In an ironic twist of fate, 21 years later, a different David Green is involved in a new anti-Semitic tale, only this one isn’t playing out on the big screen, but rather in real life. Also, this time, David Green isn’t the recipient of the anti-Semitism… it’s his company, Hobby Lobby, that’s being called a bigot.
For those not aware of the controversy currently swirling around Hobby Lobby, here’s a quick summary. A customer in New Jersey walked into a store, and when she inquired about the absence of Hanukkah decorations for sale, a cashier told her “sorry, we don’t cater to you people.” The customer contacted the manager of the store to discuss this matter further, and when asked why Hobby Lobby wouldn’t be selling Hanukkah decorations, she was told “Because Mr. Green is the owner of the company, he’s a Christian, and those are his values.”
Hey, this is America and we’re all guaranteed our 1st Amendment right to freedom of religion. It is totally Mr. Green’s call if he doesn’t want to sell Hanukkah decorations… he can sell whatever he wants. Not selling Hanukkah items is NOT anti-Semitism. (There, I said it.)
But to have such a thinly-veiled hostile anti-Semitic corporate culture (Really? “You people”?) that has clearly filtered down to its lowest-level employees, well that’s when Mr. Green’s right to sell what he wants becomes my right to no longer frequent his stores.
What year are we living in? I thought we had all moved past the whole “you people” sideshow. Don’t we have bigger fish to fry (like a government being shut down)? I don’t think even Jesus would have called this approach a “Christian value.” To quote my husband’s Bubby, “It’s a shanda” that in 2013, this issue is being discussed at all in modern America. I almost feel like we’re back in the 1950s with the Jewish David Green.
But let me get off my soapbox about the substance of the controversy, and focus on the real reason I’m writing this post… not only does Hobby Lobby have a reputation problem, but they also have horrible social media policies.
Banned From Hobby Lobby’s Facebook Page
Through my perusal of social media, I’d heard a rumor that Hobby Lobby’s Facebook page was deleting any and all comments that referred to the controversy. So, as a test, I posted this comment:
Lo and behold, within a few hours, the comment was gone. Actually, it was worse than gone… I could still see it, but nobody else could. And suddenly, I was no longer able to post comments on the wall, respond to anybody else’s comments, or LIKE any comments. Yes, it’s official, I was banned from the Hobby Lobby Facebook timeline. No big loss for me personally, but them’s fighting words.
I shared this new development on my personal Facebook page, and some other friends took a trip to the Hobby Lobby Facebook page, posted comments as well, using the word “anti-Semitic” and BAM!!! Also banned. (Sorry Scott… ) My friend Hillary posted, “Why are you deleting posts and comments that question your business practices?” and within 30 minutes, it too was gone. She didn’t even mention religion, and she was also banned.
A few of my friends tried different approaches… one friend posted this comment which let them know she was unhappy. Clearly, Judi was more diplomatic than me and her post still lives.
Another friend posted this. Knowing my friend, I don’t think his was an effort to be diplomatic… he was clearly testing the boundaries of Hobby Lobby’s so-called social media professionals. His post is still there.
And finally, another friend of mine posted this image. I guess Hobby Lobby doesn’t mind some references to the existence of the Jewish religion on their wall. Maybe it’s because this one has a cross in it too. She got 52 Likes and said it beautifully. Good job, Beth!
No Response To Comments Allowed Either
Upon further examination, I discovered that not only had Hobby Lobby banned me (and I’m sure a ton of other people who came to express their outrage) but any responses posted to the “Recent Posts By Others” section had also disappeared.
Case in point: before being banned, I had gotten involved in one conversation on their wall, responding to a man named Ben who said Mr. Green was an excellent example of a Christian and he respected Hobby Lobby. I responded to Ben saying he and those of his ilk (one of my favorite words that I rarely get to use) were rather unfairly making the rest of the Christian world look bad. Another woman (clearly Jewish) liked my comment and responded to me, and then we had a nice little conversation for about 4 comments. Not so ironically, Hobby Lobby kept Ben’s ignorant comments and deleted ours.
Here’s an experiment: peruse the “Recent Posts By Others” section and look for posts where people are praising Hobby Lobby to the hilt. If it says “10 comments,” go ahead, try to read those 10 comments… you’ll only only be able to see 1-2 comments. That’s the fine handiwork of their so-called social media team: they’ve deleted the comments from people criticizing Hobby Lobby or its supporters. Here’s the post I mentioned from above. It supposedly has 20 comments.
Apparently, not only does Hobby Lobby believe the “freedom of religion” aspect of the first amendment is selective to themselves, they also don’t care much for that little codicil about “freedom of speech.”
Free Speech Police
As a social media professional who has managed many pages, all I can say to their social media team is, “WHAT ARE YOU PEOPLE THINKING????”
One of the basic tenets of social media is that this is a conversation. Certainly, FB pages have rules that need to be followed, usually no profanity, spam, or being disrespectful of other fans. But since when is “no mentioning controversies about the company’s own policies” grounds for banning?
When first launching a FB page, many clients ask, “What if people say negative things about us on our page?” Legitimate concern, but if you have a skilled social media team, they can handle it deftly. You’re never going to be able to make everybody happy, but you need to let customers vent, let them know that you’ve heard them and that you are working on their issues. Ignoring the problem often makes the problem worse.
To paraphrase Jay Baer (social media guru), you may never be able to make that complainer happy, but the bigger goal is to let other fans know that you care about customer concerns.
Boy, did Hobby Lobby take this in the opposite direction. By banning me and deleting my comments (and those of countless others), they gave me the following messages: (a) they still aren’t catering to “my people” (b) they don’t give a crap about the fact that this controversy bothers me, and (c) they only want nice happy things on their page. Kittens and rainbows, apparently that’s what they want.
Had they just responded to my original post and said something like, “Hi Karen, our corporate office is looking into this Hanukkah decoration policy,” I probably would have gone away a bit unsatisfied, but wouldn’t have been angry. Instead, they’ve infuriated people like me and likely prompted a flurry of blogs, comments, etc. And now, they are having to deal with a religious battle between those who are upset with Hobby Lobby and its supporters. Also, some very clever posters gave us these gems:
Seriously, a trip to their “Recent Posts by Others” section is highly entertaining now. Their social media team just can’t keep up any more. They’ll be busy for a long time to come, cleaning up this mess.
UPDATE: Since I began this post, Hobby Lobby has changed their social media tune. First of all, they posted this apology.
Furthermore, not only is the social media team no longer trying to censor commenters, they are finally responding appropriately to many of the comments:
It’s really a shame that Hobby Lobby took so long to realize that they had created their own Perfect Storm. Hopefully, this change of heart is related more to them realizing the true error of their ways, as opposed to watching their profits flush quickly down the toilet. Whether I’ll return to Hobby Lobby remains to be seen. They’ll have to earn my business back.
And by the way, just for the record, my social media policy is that I am not going to respond to any comments you may leave here, defending Hobby Lobby’s actions… you’ll never convince me that they were right. But if you want to discuss why this was bad social media, I’ll be happy to talk turkey with you!