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Learnings from a Cardboard Cano

by Emily O'Shaughnessy

You don’t have to be a Yankees fan – or any type of sports fan for that matter – to appreciate this hilarious clip with Robinson Cano on Jimmy Fallon. There’s a good lesson in there for everyone, including small business owners.

If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a watch. Or if you don’t have four minutes to spare here’s the cliff notes version: 2nd baseman Robinson Cano left the Yankees to join the Seattle Mariners (10 year, $240 million dollar contract, really can you blame him?) and was back with his new team to play at Yankee Stadium. Jimmy Fallon’s crew (rightly) predicted he would get booed, and thoughtfully decided to prep him so he’d be used to it. They found random people on the streets – Yankees fans – and encouraged them to heckle a large cardboard cutout of Cano.

Some of the fans went all out, booing taunting and name-calling. Until the real Cano stepped out from behind the cardboard. Oops! Their reactions are priceless. My favorite stammered, “Uhh… welcome back to New York!”

I got a chuckle out of seeing these people caught in the act, but the sad truth is this is the type of thing we see day in and day out online and in social media. But in “real” life, particularly if you’re the one being booed, it’s not nearly as funny. Somehow the anonymity of the internet makes people type things they never would say to someone’s face. Cyberbullying comes to mind, as well as scathing reviews of restaurants, service professionals, retail establishments and other types of small businesses.

Think for a second — what would you do if the head chef at the restaurant you were blasting popped out of your computer screen, smiled, shook your hand and asked about your meal?

If Emeril himself were standing in front of you, would you continue with the same nasty rant (“save your money and get a Filet-O-Fish at McDonalds!”)? Tone it down and offer honest but respectful feedback (We enjoyed the service, but felt the salmon was too dry….”) Or change your tune entirely (“It was delicious!”)? Something to think about….

As a small business owner, feedback is good. Most welcome it and genuinely try to learn and adjust to make their products or services better. They appreciate their customers and value their opinions. If there’s a problem, they want to know so they can fix it.

Which is why most cringe when they read terrible online reviews about themselves. Even if they’ve learned not to take it personally, it’s still a bad feeling to realize a customer had such a negative experience that he decided to blast it to the world with the intent to hurt your reputation and sales. Most owners probably wish they had the opportunity to pop out of a cardboard box and confront the reviewer in person, at least for the chance to open a dialogue.

Reviews are valuable, useful and inevitable in today’s market. They can greatly help or hurt small businesses. But since they’re not going away any time soon, here are two things to keep in mind, from both sides of the coin:

1). If you write consumer reviews, particularly of small businesses, be honest but respectful. You can describe a negative experience to inform others without resorting to profanity or bullying. You never know who might read it or how it might come back to haunt you one day. Your reputation is on the line, too.

2). If you’re a small business owner and come across a scathing review of your business, remember that it’s not the end of the world. Take the opportunity to respond and confront the issue head on, but with class. Cano came out with a handshake and a smile.

Then the Mariners won.

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