Do you offer constructive criticism or do you simply complain?

On facebook I found an event advertised by our local Farmer’s Market. It was an Easter event on Saturday that was going to have an Easter Egg Hunt, bonnet making, face painting, animals to pet, coloring and cookie decorating. It sounded like a great event so we headed down to it. We waited for the egg hunt and quickly realized that there were more kids than eggs and plus it was in a small area so we decided to make bonnets. You could tell that there were a ton of people there. We made our bonnets and walked through the Farmer’s Market and came home. We had fun and it didn’t turn out exactly how we expected but no big deal.

Then the other morning I woke up and I saw a post to the Facebook event from one of the people that was on the board that put on the event:

“Dear Freight House Supporters:
First let me start by wishing you and yours a Happy Easter. I hope you have a lovely holiday spent with friends and family celebrating this time of renewed hope and faith. We at the Freight House Farmers’ Market celebrate this holiday in many ways, but we view this time of year as a time to renew and rekindle our relationships with our community to remind them of the upcoming Market season. New plantings have begun to sprout, filling hoop houses and greenhouses throughout the Quad Cities in anticipation of the hope of what is about to come, the 2016 Market Season.
The planning for our Easter event began only weeks after last year’s event. Each year we experience such an outpouring of support from our local community it is utterly heartwarming. You have no idea how much your local vendors look forward to this event to showcase their work and attempt to give back in appreciation for your patronage.
We knew going in that this event would be bigger, more heavily attended than last year’s event. We didn’t know to what extent, no one could! We doubled our budget and had hoped it would be enough. Painfully, it was NOT ENOUGH. Not nearly enough. For this I sincerely apologize to each and every single family that took the time to attend our event and left disappointed.
It is my hope that you can acknowledge that we are a 501c3 (NON-PROFIT) organization that runs solely on volunteers. We have one paid employee on staff. That being said, we were simply unprepared for the increase in participants. Last year we hosted to a couple hundred, this year there were a couple thousand. Nothing could have prepared us for this. Hindsight is 20/20.
I have been a vendor AND volunteer for this organization since its inception and am saddened that we could not deliver to your expectations.
As we move forward, I find myself wondering if these events at market have simply outgrown our ability to host them. There is an upcoming Board Meeting in a few weeks and it will be discussed in length, I assure you. There are many options including discontinuing these events and just sticking to business as we know it, that, we do VERY WELL.
We value each person in our community that makes the Freight House Farmers’ Market a part of their daily lives, we value each volunteer that tried to make a difference before, during, and after the event, and we value each grower, baker, and maker that participates with offering our community their fine wares week after week come rain, sleet or snow.
Again, thanks for your support of the Freight House Farmers’ Market and even your constructive criticism. It was heard loud and clear.
Happy Holiday,
Darcy Rostenbach
Vendor, Volunteer, Market Chairperson”

So then of course I was curious as to what sparked this post and so I started to read:

“this event was horribly planned. we got ZERO eggs. it said the hunt was at 11am. so we had to run when we saw it had started at 10:50. we were not the only ones to have zero or 1 egg. a lot of very disapointed people. At Christmas time we came to see santa also. there were supposed to be activities. when we got there for that it wasn’t set up. then when they finally set it up it was just coloring and not the other activities and after waiting for half an hour to see santa we were told he wasn’t coming. we love the summer farmers market but we won’t be coming to anymore special events there. we just leave disappointed and upset.”

OR

“Our oldest got ONE egg with nothing inside!! She threw it on the ground and said “this was a joke”

OR

“ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!!! It’s not rocket science to put on an egg hunt! So whoever put this one on u are gonna want to let someone else do it next year (that is if anyone shows up next yr)!! This was a joke! Kids left crying most didn’t even get 1 egg!!”

The comments go on and on.

Now there is nothing wrong with expressing criticism but I feel that we have gone way to far in the causal direction. It seems like since we can post it on Facebook we don’t even care about the people that put it on or their feelings. I was at the event and it was busy. I don’t think it was “horribly” planned. I thought they tried to be very organized. Things were well set up in stations. They just couldn’t have anticipated how many people would show. Could you imagine planning a birthday party for 10 kids and 100 show up? I think we would all fail too, no matter how organized we were.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t express our disappointment or give feedback but reading these comments I don’t feel like they were helpful. Also, I’m disappointed that because people’s posts on Facebook companies feed obligated to save face and give in to comments and apologize to save face. Sometimes I wish companies would stand up for themselves. Now hear me correctly they should deal with customer complaints but one that is just outright complaining are the ones I’m talking about.

So how can we give criticism in a direct, kind way, and get results?

  1. Try first to contact the person directly in a phone call or email. I understand people most likely went to Facebook because they weren’t sure how else to communicate. I think they could have tried a private message before posting for the public to see. When you post for the public it just brings out more people to jump on the “I hate this” band wagon.
  2. Lead with something they did well or compliment them. Something like: “Thanks for taking the time to put together this event.” or “I could tell you tried hard to have things organized but it seems there was more people then anticipated.” If you can’t think of something nice ask a question. “Is this your first year putting on this event?” Or maybe ask who put on the event or funds it so you can better understand where they are coming from.
  3. Give something specific that you say was an issue. Sometimes this isn’t even necessary. Most of the time people are smart and can figure out when something is a bust. We have all hosted a holiday, event or birthday party and realized afterwards it was a bust! We don’t necessarily need to be told that. Examples: “There were no signs clearly posted to know where the specific activities were going to be.” or ” The various activities listed were not for the entire time duration of the event.”
  4. Offer a solution. If you are going to complain than offer a solution. Sometimes you realized there isn’t one and in that case I usually think they did the best with what they have. Examples: Signs to point out the various locations would be very helpful or a small map as to where to find things along with a timeline of all the activities.
  5. Ask how you can help or what you could do differently. Usually when approaching a company it’s not always necessary to do this. But let’s say it’s a complaint at school. How can we help so this situation doesn’t happen again.

Outright bashing doesn’t help the company or anyone else. We need to learn to manage our own expectations. We all read a description and immediately start to dream up in our brain what we think it should be like and that is not always what it is. People were caught up in this event that there weren’t any animals. Well there were 2 baby goats there. I’m not sure what else they would have said to advertise but obviously people were expecting a petting zoo of decent size.

Every situation is different and of course sometimes we are paying for a service but either way we can still do so nicely! Think about your wording and if you are upset breathe. Many times places have a reason or are more then willing to compensate you for their poor service. I also think it’s fine to just not go back. If they don’t do a great job long enough natural consequences will take their toll. They don’t need us bashing them all over the internet.

Jessica

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