Wow, That Took Off Quickly

Little Bear LostOn Friday 13th December, Lauren Bishop Vranch found a little lost bear, obviously much loved, on an East Coast Train at King’s Cross, and tweeted a photo of it: “Found this well loved little dude on an East Coast train at Kings Cross – let’s find the owner, Twitter!”

By Sunday evening, that original tweet had been RT’d 6192 times. Lauren went on posting pics of the toy to Twitter, which got reposted on other social media including several Facebook groups, and at last, the father of the child who’d lost the bear contacted her.

‘WOW the power of the internet and kind folk – that’s my daughter Phoebes bear – she has been in tears all weekend and I’ve just shown her the picture and she is over the moon. Thank you all so much!
‘It was a special suprise trip to london – theres Roar again on the table. Phoebe is very much looking forward to being reunited with him. Thanks again to everyone!’

It’s an extraordinary, ordinary story: the power of ordinary human goodwill to a child bereaved of a loved teddy-bear multiplied massively by the power of social media.

The Plough tweetsThen there’s this.

On 11th October, the twitter account @PloughPub sent its first two tweets: “Right let’s get the ball rolling then… Our kitchen has been officially signed off and is now ready to rock.”

The Plough Pub bills itself as “a free house serving great beers, wines, and fantastic food.”

According to the website for the village communities of Great Haseley and Little Haseley, the Plough Pub in Great Haseley is “now owned by the village community – visit http://www.ploughpub.com for latest news”.

Jim Knight - Have Not HackedUp until 7pm Sunday 15th December, their chef was apparently the 28-year-old Jim Knight, who seems to have been an enterprising kind of cook, if he was the one who launched the pub’s Twitter account.

Because between 7:27 and 7:32pm Sunday evening, someone with access to @PloughPub twitter (which then had a couple of hundred followers and now has well over 1500, going up very fast) sent the following. The seven tweets said:

Happy Christmas everyone. / We’d like to inform you that we’ve just fired our head chef. / Unfortunately he wanted to have a weekend off this month and Christmas Day this year for family commitments so we thought we’d sack him / Yeah a week before Christmas! / We don’t care that he has a 7 1/2 month old baby daughter. / So anyway come on down and continue to pay a premium for Australian sirloins, New Zealand lamb and everything else that is bought from asda. / Happy Christmas everyone!!!!!!

At 8:53pm on Sunday evening @chefjimknight (whose profile identifies him as “Jim Knight. 28, Dad, The Head Chef that got sacked from @ploughpub a week before christmas. Comments and opinions are my own”) tweeted:

Calling all chefs. Is there some sort of forum for naming and shaming bad employers?

He then directed one of his followers (his follower count has been rising too – over 650 as of end-of-day Sunday, not to the extent of @PloughPub) to the Twitter feed.

Thanks for the kind wordsTwitter had a new story, and Twitter liked it.

One interesting aspect is: what happened to the Plough Pub website. At 9:30, there had been 217 hits in the past 24 hours: 401 in the past 7 days: 858 hits in the past 30 days: and 69 people were looking at it at that moment. Two and a half hours later, it had 2000 more hits. This is social media success, but not really the right kind.

Jim Knight TweetsGranted, the chef doesn’t necessarily show up at the good guy, though you’d have to be inhuman not to feel sympathy for someone losing their job at this time of year.

As others noted, 7-month-old daughter or not, the head chef of a pub that was opening Christmas Day wouldn’t normally expect to get the day – or a December weekend – off.

Since the Plough Pub has apparently not yet noticed the Tweets, Twitter is waiting breathlessly to find out what will happen when they do. If the head chef was really fired on Sunday night, the pub management may at this moment be thinking that their worst problem is going to be hiring a replacement in time to fulfil the Christmas Day bookings: but as they will find out shortly after they discover those Tweets, their worst problem is going to be how to manage the social media fail.

Here are two possible stories that I can see coming out of this scenario:

  1. - The chef was a hard-working new father and good bloke who’s just lost his job after being treated unreasonably by his employers. They failed their social media management so he let the world know they were bad employers. He used Twitter a bit rashly but it was understandable, losing his job only ten days before Christmas.
  2. - The employers are a village community trying to keep the local pub open as a free house and pub restaurant, and they made the mistake of hiring a head chef who was too young for his post, made rash decisions, and who wanted last-minute time off at a hugely busy time of year. Still in his probationary period, he was let go, and then he compounded the problem by telling fibs about the pub’s food on the Twitter feed that he no longer had the right to use.

I have no idea how close either story is to the truth. I doubt if we who know the story only by social media will ever know. But one reason why the Plough Pub’s follower count is going up faster than Jim Knight’s is that people understand instinctively that the next stage in the story is with the Plough Pub’s management. As soon as the tweets disappear, we’ll know that they know they have a problem that didn’t occur to them. How long before they notice? Will they not notice the Twitter feed until a journalist contacts them about it? Above all, when they notice, what will they do? The Twitter mob is hoping for an interestingly dramatic meltdown.

There are a lot of bad responses possible, which would generate more sympathy for the sacked chef, and make the Internet more likely to believe the first story. Naivety about social media and anger at the sacked chef would drive bad responses. The best initial reaction would probably be to delete the tweets and remain silent under provocation. The worst would be a couple of fix-it tweets laying blame, which would be screen-capped before deleted, followed by a badly-thought-out press release followed by a second press release that compounds the first errors in trying to “fix” them.

But whatever the facts, and whatever the story we all end up believing, to a certain extent this has now gone beyond anyone’s control. The force of mass interest which helped reunite child with lost bear is now focussed on a small village pub fifty miles from London, with management who may not even be aware that so many people are wondering what they’ll do come Monday morning.

Wow That Took Off Quickly

PS: As of quarter past nine Monday morning, the Plough Pub’s Twitter feed has 2296 followers, their website has had over 3000 hits in the past twelve hours, and the seven tweets still haven’t been deleted, because it seems they haven’t noticed yet.

PPS: As of 11:35 Monday morning, the Oxford Mail says “Nobody from the pub has so far been available to comment.” And the tweets are still up. (The news is also in the Metro, and – good news for Jim Knight – he’s been offered another job, though I suspect they will not give him the password to their Twitter account.)

Plough Pub Got a new job

Plough Pub dormant twitter accountFinal note at quarter past twelve – seventeen hours after the tweets were posted – the Twitter feed for @PloughPub no longer links to the Plough Pub website and the profile now reads: “Let this be a lesson to all bad catering employers.”

If the decision has been made by the pub to let the Twitter account – three thousand followers since last night, it’s fair to say probably none of them particularly interested in drinking or eating there – simply go dormant, to ignore the issue on the pub website (no reference to it there) and to move on with the business of hiring a new chef in time for Christmas, that is probably the most sensible decision they could make.

Of course, despite the news now being in the Independent, it’s also possible they just haven’t noticed yet…

In this great digital age, it is a truth that should be universally acknowledged. Before sacking an employee, make sure they do not have access to the company’s official Twitter account.

Update, from news published after one o’clock:

There has now been a response from Steve Potts, the landlord of The Plough Pub:

“When Jim, as head chef, informed me that he would not be working on Christmas Day, and other Sundays in the near future, I was left with little choice but to end our arrangement.

“I had been quite clear with him when he started here that Sundays are our busiest days of the week, and that all our chefs have to work that day.”

He added: “Certain staples come from our nearest supermarket, which is Asda, but the implied suggestion that we are buying cheap meat and passing it off at a premium is, frankly, outrageous and untrue.”

He also said:

the claim about the pub’s produce was “outrageous and untrue”.

“Our suppliers are transparent: our meat is fresh, never frozen, and comes from Booker’s in High Wycombe and from a local farmer called Peter Vogt.”

He added: “I’ve been in this business 25 years and have a lot of contacts who have been asking me on an ongoing basis if there is a position available, as this is a fantastic pub to work for.

“Since the villagers bought it out two years ago, it’s been renovated to a wonderful standard, the kitchen facilities are second to none and it must be one of the most beautiful villages in the country.”

To which Jim Knight replied, at 12:32:

Well a reply statement was inevitable. I stand by my comments whole heartedly. / Also without a requested written contract. Assumption is not a viable excuse.

Jim Knight tweets in response

Update, just after midnight, 17th December

I began this blog thinking the story of the bear called Roar being reunited with the child would be the happy ending story of the two, because in all honesty, a story of an ex-employee tweeting angrily on his former employer’s Twitter account does not usually end well. But I’m really pleased that both stories turn out to have a happy ending: no Internet meltdown on the part of the Plough Pub or its management, and Jim Knight’s got a new job at the Shepherd’s Crook, also in Oxfordshire.

And yes, he will get Christmas Day off to spend with his family.

Shepherd's Crook + Jim Knight

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2 Comments

Filed under About Food, Employment, Restaurants

2 responses to “Wow, That Took Off Quickly

  1. patrickhadfield

    Damn. Now I’ll have to follow the pub to find out what happens!

  2. Simpon

    I bet he’s wanted his salary paying through January February and March when it goes dead in the post Xmas lull. What’s that thing about ” if you can’t stand the heat….” ?

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