Last summer, I wrote about a Liverpool music festival that was not only cancelled in farcical circumstances, but was also followed up by one of the worst pieces of social media crisis management I’ve ever seen. I’ve been reminded of this thanks to a similar shambles of an event last weekend, and the unwise Twitter follow-up given by the organisers.
When it comes to an event failing at the first hurdle, an all-you-can-eat pizza festival running out of pizza is hard to beat, but that’s what happened at the Notting Hill Pizza Festival in London on Saturday. According to a BBC report, hungry festivalgoers who had forked out £16 for a ticket complained of waiting nearly an hour for just one slice of pizza, and going by some of the unappetising pictures taken of the meagre fare, it was hardly worth the wait! In fact, one Reddit user penned a scathing, if somewhat amusing, review of the event.
It appears the paucity of pizza was down to an oven breaking down, which perhaps is an unforeseen disaster that may be forgivable in itself, and could be rectifiable with a professional response from the organisers Bellmonte Life. Sadly, the tweet put out by the “luxury lifestyle experiences” firm does not seem to have helped their cause.
So what’s wrong with this letter? There are three main points I would pick out here where Bellmonte has made a pig’s ear of things:
1. Not taking responsibility
The letter argues that the main oven breaking down was “beyond our control”, but as the event organiser, it is down to Bellmonte to make sure provisions are in place and all electronic items are functioning as they need to be. Did they test the ovens first? Did they have backup ovens in case this happened? Was a maintenance worker on site in the event of an appliance failing?
The aforementioned Hope and Glory Festival had an irritating habit of blaming suppliers for the failings of the event and playing the victim, but customers aren’t interested if an oven company has let the organisers down. Bellmonte would be better off accepting blame and taking up any disputes they had with the supplier or manufacturer of the oven in private.
2. Quibbling over semantics
The letter is far too defensive about the “not enough pizzas” claim, arguing that there were enough pizzas, but the oven problems slowed down service. This is irrelevant.
The event was billed as “all-you-can-eat”, and people did not get all they could eat. It is therefore accurate to say there were “not enough pizzas” to satisfy the demand, or at least not enough ready-to-serve pizzas. In the event of a disaster like this, companies should not obfuscate matters in this way, as it comes across as petty and annoying to customers who already feel disappointed.
3. Blaming customers
Perhaps the biggest of all Bellmonte’s blunders is apportioning some of the blame on the “overzealous appetites” of the attendees.
As Homer Simpson would argue, “the sign said all-you-can-eat!” You can’t advertise “Unlimited Pizza” and then criticise people for failing to impose a limit on their eating. Again, Bellmonte had simply failed to cater to the demand and should acknowledge this.
What’s more, people complain of Bellmonte not responding to emails and social media messages following the event. One Twitter user even says that her email to the address given on the letter bounced back. Indeed, it probably isn’t a good sign that the Bellmonte Life website is down at the time of writing.
There are one or two things the letter has addressed correctly. Bellmonte are right to praise the staff, who can’t be blamed for the situation and must have endured a nightmare weekend. The company has also offered ticketholders free admission to its BBQ festival in July. Having let down pizza lovers at the weekend though, and followed this up with a flimsy apology that borderline insults them, Bellmonte will have some work to do at the July event to win them round, and it’s little wonder that some ticketholders are turning down the offer and demanding a refund.