Price Chopper Supermarket Emails Customer's Employer, Demands Disciplinary Action For Negative Tweet

Last week, a customer at Price Chopper in upstate New York tweeted a relatively mild insult about the store: “Every time I go to @PriceChopperNY I realize why they r not @wegmans. Tonight -bare produce areas & this sign 4 ex http://yfrog.com/2tfj9sj.” In return, Price Chopper contacted the man’s employer and complained about him.

A professor at Syracuse University started a Tumblr blog about the issue. He says the customer who was targeted was his friend, and that he therefore has a first hand an account of what happened after his friend posted the tweet. He says someone at Price Chopper obtained the customer’s employer information and proceeded to contact people there. (To clarify, the professor says that the customer does not work for a company that has a business relationship with Price Chopper.)

Although Price Chopper did reply to the customer directly, they did not wait for a response before dragging the individual’s employer into the mix. In an email addressed to a seemingly random list of executives at the customer’s workplace, including the customer’s supervisor, Price Chopper labeled the individual as destructive and negative. They suggested that this individual’s distaste for their stores could jeopardize the relationship between Price Chopper and the company where the individual is employed, and they requested action be taken against the individual.

Once the Tumblr page went up, the director of Price Chopper’s PR department jumped on to comment, and said that they were reaching out to the customer to apologize for what happened. Then the rogue employee who targeted the customer left a public apology as well. It reads in part:

I took matters into my own hands. And though well-intentioned, I clearly went over the line – without the knowledge of our consumer insights people or my direct supervisor, the Vice President of Public Relations and Consumer and Marketing Services. I was trying to understand and engage a disgruntled customer and clearly lost sight of my goal.

I’m not sure how contacting someone’s employer and requesting disciplinary action–over a tweet posted from a private Twitter account, no less–can be considered “well-intentioned” by even the loosest definition, and from her apology I get the impression that this employee learned nothing except to be more subtle when she tries to punish a customer next time. But hey, at least her behavior was exposed.

And remember, if you want to shop at Price Chopper, make sure you use an anonymous Twitter account before you complain about their barren produce section or dumb store signage.

pricechopperfail.tumblr.com [via All Over Albany] (Thanks to Steven!)

Comments

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  1. AI says:

    I wish a company would do that to my employer. We could all use a good laugh.

    • you-toe-pee-an says:

      “We could all use a good cause for a defamation complaint.”

      Fixed.

    • DariusC says:

      LMAO! Exactly what I was thinking… Seriously, I want to know what those executives think of this. I know if this happened to a military person, they would have gotten reprimanded with a letter (because the military believes you don’t have an opinion when you are in the military).

  2. rpm773 says:

    This isn’t something Wegmans would do.

  3. mergatroy6 says:

    What am I missing about the sign?

    • jesirose says:

      I was wondering that too, I guess the trash bags don’t fit that aisle? Otherwise it seems fine. Random baking/cooking stuff. So?

      • Tim says:

        In that case, what about syrup and pie fillings? Nothing seems too different from other things … except maybe the syrup and pie fillings.

        • jesirose says:

          Random baking/cooking supplies. Where I shop, cooking oils and pie fillings are usually close to each other. Also, for some reason a TON of people think canned pumpkin should be with canned fruit, and it never will be. It’s always going to be with pie fillings. I buy plain canned pumpkin a lot and when I go to a new store, I have to hunt for it and convince my shopping partner that it’s not with the fruit. :-P

          Long story short, I like to see pie fillings on a sign.

      • full.tang.halo says:

        If you buy a pie tin, a pie crust kitchen gadget, and filling, you’re gonna need a trash bag to put the empty pie filling can, and the box the crust maker came in.

        • Toffeemama is looking for a few good Otters says:

          There are kitchen gadgets specifically for pie crusts?

          • selianth says:

            There are definitely pie crust gadgets. Pie crust shields, which you put over the crust edges during baking when the inside needs more baking time but the edges are already brown enough. Pie weights, which you use in the bottom of a crust that you are blind baking (that is, baking just the crust with no filling in it) so it doesn’t bubble up. Pie birds, which you put in the middle of a pie that has a top crust instead of pricking it with a fork, so it will channel the steam out of the pie instead of creating a big dome. There you go.

            • Toffeemama is looking for a few good Otters says:

              Wow, all that stuff seems unnecessary. But then again, I don’t bake pies that often.

              • gc3160thtuk says you got your humor in my sarcasm and you say you got your sarcasm in my humor says:

                Ugghh I hate pie, no really I do. I would just have to skip that aisle and damnit I wouldn’t remember to get trash bags because of it. LOL.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      Yeah, why are they picking on the sign?

    • Veeber says:

      I’ve never been in a grocery store which puts syrups and pie fillings on the list. Not sure if the list is customized based on what their customers ask for a lot. Probably a different customer base at the two stores so it’s a bit of commentary on the quality of products you typically find there.

    • Leksi Wit says:

      And the fact that trash bags is on that absurd list with baking goods, cooking oils and “sweet” stuff? Perhaps Price Chopper should hire you to organize their store.

  4. Ouze says:

    Sometimes, WTF is all that can be said, really.

  5. Mobius says:

    PR departments really should have a huge sign that says “Pyrrhic victory” on the walls of their office and then look at that before they think about attacking some lone Twitter user or any other random jerk off the street with whom they take issue.

  6. wenhaver says:

    Holy crap! I tried to click onto the Tumblr blog, and my work filters (overzealous at the best of times) labeled it denied because it’s categorized pornography!!

    Anyone want to contact my employer and tell them I’m disgruntled over a random good or service? I think that, coupled with the porn ding on the filters, would be enough to get me fired.

  7. TardCore says:

    Thank you interwebz, for making idiots accountable.

  8. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    I may be wrong, but isn’t it happening to a “friend” not first hand knowledge? I don’t even think it would be admissible in court, as it would be hearsay.

  9. dragonfire81 says:

    What the hell?

    I would be tearing someone at Price Chopper a new one if they tried something like that with me. If you run a business then you are going to be criticized, acting like a whiny child when that happens just makes you look like a giant insecure douche. I will never set foot in a price chopper again.

  10. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Why on earth should that guy’s employer care that he likes Wegman better that PriceChopper? Does his employer actually have a business relationship with PriceChopper or is the rep who wanted him fired just nuts?

    • pandroid says:

      If you google map “grocery store” in “Syracuse NY” you’ll notice that Price Chopper is *the* closest major chain grocery store to Syracuse University (the employer). I can only imagine that Price Chopper would like gullible SU students to continue shopping there.

      • pandroid says:

        I also want to add that being randomly vindictive because someone said something bad about you is not an uncommon reaction in Central NY, and that likely Price Chopper won’t take a local hit for this misstep. I blame the harsh weather for the harsh attitudes.

      • pinkbunnyslippers says:

        Meh – most of the kids at SU make the extra 4 mile trek to Wegmans. That PC is way too ghetto for most of the upper crust kids who go there. ;) All it takes is one visit to Price Chopper at 11pm (beer run) when the most crazy people are there shopping, and they’ll be a Wegs convert for the next 4 years…

  11. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Sorry, my question got answered in the comments in the blog:

    It has been confirmed that the customer who was targeted in this situation did not work for a company that had any existing relationship with Price Chopper. They were not a client or a supplier of any kind. They are completely unrelated businesses.

    So I have to ask again: Why on EARTH should a completely unrelated business care that one of their employees said something negative about a supermarket? To think this would actually get him fired is just nuts.

    • RevancheRM says:

      Not really clued in on Twitter (tho, with no regrets). How did they know who he worked for? That’s somewhat more troubling.

      • RandomHookup says:

        You can post a link to a site…perhaps your employer or to a blog where your employer is referenced. It’s entirely possible he works in a field where his Twitter handle is used as a primary identifier for his work, so it would have been easy to find online.

      • aloria says:

        If his full name is on his Twitter account, and it’s not a very common name, a google search might bring up that info. Googling several of my friends brings up their LinkedIn profiles, which essentially contain their entire resume.

      • Rectilinear Propagation says:

        It was in his bio on his Twitter account. He’s since removed it.

    • runswithscissors says:

      It doesn’t really matter whether or not it would have worked – the problem is that this PR person TRIED it.

      Her actions are simply not acceptable, whether successful or not.

    • magus_melchior says:

      “Borrowing” RP’s comment to link this here follow-up by the professor:

      http://pricechopperfail.tumblr.com/post/1173807923/common-questions-price-chopper-fail

      I’m also noticing a good cop/bad cop-like dynamic to some of the comments in the original blog (a PC rep being conciliatory, an unlinked commenter accusing the professor of abusing his position and profusely thanking the PC rep…).

  12. trey says:

    what a pathetic store

  13. jessjj347 says:

    Wow. How did they obtain the customer’s employment information? Backdoor access to information at Twitter? Or maybe just good old-fashioned lurking the Web?

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      The article said it was on his Twitter account.

    • LastError says:

      Easy. People tend to twitter about stuff where they work, and sometimes profiles even include the name of the company. If not, it’s not hard to figure out which of someone’s twitter friends appear to be coworkers, and then you check out their profiles and look for clues or commonalities.

      If they link to their Facebook page, go there and look for the same info. Facebook makes it even easier to find employer info and coworkers.

      Sometimes people post pictures of work events. Look for banners or other things.

      If an email address can be found anywhere, google it and see if it has appeared on resumes or other public documents. If the person’s real name can be found, google that and get their home address and such. If a car license plate can be seen in pictures (“Hey look at my new wheels!!!”) take that tag number to the state tag office and get an MVR which usually lists home address and sometimes a work address.

      This is all simple stuff. Detective 101.

  14. zantafio says:

    I don’t use tweeter, can someone explain to me how was it possible to find the user’s employer?

    • ncboxer says:

      If you go to the guy’s twitter account, he says what he does.

    • emax4 says:

      The first clue was the link at the top for the actual tweet. When you open it up you see “@jjhoster” at the bottom. Google “jjhoster” and you’ll see a link for his Facebook page. When you open that up you’ll see that his main profile photo is the same on his twitter account from before.

      Do a new google search for Jonathan J hoster and not much new comes up, but do a search again for just Jonathan hoster and you’ll see a LinkedIn page. Voila..

  15. MeowMaximus says:

    Anyone who has ever HAD to shop at Price Chopper, knows why Wegmans is so successful. Price Chopper stores are dirty, poorly organized, and staffed by surly employees, Wegmans stores on the other hand are clean, well organized, have a huge selection, and are actually good at providing customer service.

    IMHO, the Price Chopper employee who pulled this lame stunt should be fired.

    • Alex says:

      Careful! Or you will be the next to receive a (Well-intentioned!) attack!

    • Verucalise (Est.February2008) says:

      I agree, the rogue employee should be canned on the spot. It sucks that you’ve had such a rotten experience with Price Chopper… they are my favorite supermarket. Most of my local ones are huge, very clean and organized. But, in your defense… I have seen the bad ones. And if I only had a choice between the bad Price Choppers or Hell– well, lets say I’d have a hard decision to make.

    • Rachacha says:

      Dear Meow Maximus,

      We are coming to get you, so you can either cooperate with us and do it the easy way, or we can do it the difficult way. Please provide the following information so we can push our well-intentioned thoughts on you:

      First Name:
      Last Name:
      Home Address:
      Phone Number
      E-mail:
      Employer:
      Employer Address:
      Direct Supervisor Name:
      Work Phone Number:
      Blood Type:
      Name of first born child:
      Do You Own a Small Dog?
      Social Security Number (For Identity Theft Purposes Only):
      Driver’s License Number:
      Credit Card Numbers:
      Wegmans Shoppers Club Number:

      Sincerely,
      Price Chopper

      • MeowMaximus says:

        We are coming to get you, so you can either cooperate with us and do it the easy way, or we can do it the difficult way. Please provide the following information so we can push our well-intentioned thoughts on you:

        First Name: Meow
        Last Name: Maximus
        Home Address: the sunny windowsill
        Phone Number: (555)-AWE-SOME
        E-mail: meowmeowmeowmeow@meow.cat
        Employer: Acme Exterminators Inc
        Employer Address: the house with the sunny windowsill with the handsome cat in it
        Direct Supervisor Name: Me! Its my Company, silly
        Work Phone Number: (555)-DIE-MICE
        Blood Type: Q
        Name of first born child: Scruffy
        Do You Own a Small Dog? HELL NO
        Social Security Number (For Identity Theft Purposes Only): 3 (yes I got one of the early ones)
        Driver’s License Number: none – my chauffeur handles that
        Credit Card Numbers: I don’t need them, I pay cash for everything
        Wegmans Shoppers Club Number: 1 (been a loyal customer for a LONG time)

        Sincerely,
        Price Chopper

        You’re welcome! Now you still owe me for that last extermination job, so PAY UP or I let the mice & rats back IN to your store…

  16. sqeelar says:

    This is what happens when you have too many employees with too much time on their hands. There’s a recession on, get with the program. Layoff a few dozen.

    • 99 1/2 Days says:

      Worse, this person was hired two months ago. In other words, she probably beat out dozens for the job. And I doubt she will get canned. She didn’t even give a real apology.

  17. jimmyhl says:

    In the old days it was much harder to make an ass of yourself so quickly.

  18. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Also, how was this even worth getting upset about in the first place? It doesn’t get more mild than complaining about a store being out of stock and a photo of a sign that doesn’t have any spelling errors or double entendres.

  19. emax4 says:

    The customer was not out of line by simply Twittering his opinion of the store, but the Price Chopper employee WAS DEFINITELY out of line.

    On the other hand, if the Twitterer was being an obnoxious customer and giving the staff a hard time, AND was there representing his or her different business, then I believe that this is acceptable.

    • Twonkey says:

      What happened here wouldn’t be okay even if the customer in question was being a douche. You don’t call up someone’s employer to complain about something that has nothing to do with his job.

  20. teke367 says:

    Never been to a Price Chopper, but there is no shame in not being a Wegmans. Wegman’s is awesome.

    It’s actually cheaper by me than the ShopRite. I think part of the reason it has an expensive reputation is that is offers expensive items I wouldn’t find at ShopRite. But for similar items, I generally find that they are comparable, and in some cases, the Wegman’s brand is cheaper than the ShopRite brand.

    And there are like 18 different cafes/delis there. Only downside is that in trying to be “fancy” the aisles get a little hard to navigate and get congested.

  21. u1itn0w2day says:

    I guess if they’re firing people for party or porno pictures on the internet why not expand into personal opinion.

  22. emax4 says:

    The first clue was the link at the top for the actual tweet. When you open it up you see “@jjhoster” at the bottom. Google “jjhoster” and you’ll see a link for his Facebook page. When you open that up you’ll see that his main profile photo is the same on his twitter account from before.

    Do a new google search for Jonathan J hoster and not much new comes up, but do a search again for just Jonathan hoster and you’ll see a LinkedIn page. Voila..

  23. emax4 says:

    Sorry, that meant to be a reply for someone else’s comment

  24. Buckus says:

    This wasn’t “well-intentioned” in any sense of the words. It was malicious and petty. And now, thanks to the Internetz, there’s a buttload of people who will no longer shop at Price Choppers.

  25. Buckus says:

    This wasn’t “well-intentioned” in any sense of the words. It was malicious and petty. And now, thanks to the Internetz, there’s a buttload of people who will no longer shop at Price Choppers.

  26. DanRydell says:

    That’s hilarious – they had a problem and they sent out an EECB to deal with it. I haven’t read the comments yet, but I can only assume everyone here supports their actions.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      You’re right, it was an EECB. That’s hysterical.

      EECB fail.

      • magus_melchior says:

        It’s the sort of thinking that says, “Hey, these guys got results by emailing execs. We’re big powerful people, we deserve results too!”

        It’s like whoever called for that email barrage (or other form of revenge) needs a kindergarten teacher.

    • Rena says:

      The problem is, they went straight to the EECB without trying anything else first.

  27. BStu78 says:

    The Price Chopper employee who did this should be fired. Really, there is no way that behavior is excusable. He recklessly damaged someone else’s career in a way that wasn’t simply out of proportion but wasn’t even functionally related to what happened. The “apology” is plainly inadequate and self-serving in ways which defy comprehension. Good intentions are implausible here. Claiming to try to understand or engage the customer is implausible unless a good deal is being left out. The Price Chopper employee made a grave error of judgment and shouldn’t continue to be employed there.

  28. dolemite says:

    “trying to understand and engage a disgruntled customer”. I believe she got her definition of “engage” from Star Trek TNG. “Number one, target the Borg with all phaser banks and torpedos……engage!”

    Seriously, if anyone’s job needs to be in jeapordy over this, it is the Price Chopper employee. How did she find the employer of the customer in the first place?

    • RandomHookup says:

      His Twitter handle is his name and it mentions his role with a prominent local alumni association. Wouldn’t take long to find him…he wasn’t trying to hide.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      He had his employer in his profile before this happened.

  29. Alex says:

    “My unsuccessful efforts to kill your wife and children were well intentioned, but…”

    Just another way to say that you really did not do anything wrong in concept, just execution…so to speak.

    • El-Brucio says:

      I am continually surprised by the amount of “fake apologies” that come out from various companies that I see on Consumerist.

      I’ve always assumed it was because their legal department was forcing them to use language that doesn’t technically admit any wrongdoing, but now I wonder if they are just awful people.

  30. sybann says:

    Price Chopper boycott. That is WAY over the line.

  31. Nyall says:

    File for a restraining order.

  32. 5seconds says:
  33. jerryambler says:

    yes , you went over the line. you went over the line for me to remember the name of you store and put it in a special file on my phone with all the companies to avoid doing business with because they are bullies. Someone shold get you fired for being a schmuck. these days when jobs are hard to come by you went out to get someone fired because of their opinion. you sir SUCK!

  34. sopmodm14 says:

    first of all, wegmans/tops owns here in buffalo

    as per price chopper, this is NO way to address a service issue …. what kind of customer service chain do they have ?

    since they value the business relationship so much, i say they have quite a hill to climb to get back into their good graces

    maybe the employee who went out of bounds should be reported to their HR, or have their diploma revoked from school, so as not to tarnish the schools reputation or Price Choppers, lol

  35. Crunchbones says:

    Anyone notice that the pricechopper website is down? I get:

    “Webstop.com Server 6

    Error: The domain name is pointing to the wrong server, or has not been setup on this server.”

  36. BurtReynolds says:

    Price Chopper is terrible. Plain and simple. In college, I would drive 20 minutes out of my way to go to Wegmans despite a Chopper being down the street. Now that I’ve moved to Virginia, I can say Price Chopper remains the worst grocery store I’ve shopped at, out of Wegmans, P&C, Giant, Safeway, Harris Teeter, Bloom, Food Lion (which is pretty bad), and Shoppers.

  37. cinnarose says:

    I had this happen with a local hotel. One of their customer service people replied to my tweet asking me to email the details, which I provided. The problem was fixed quickly, much more quickly than if I had to wade through the sea of morons in their reservations department.

    After that happened, their sales rep that deals with our account called my boss and complained that I should have called them rather than complaining on Twitter. My boss was all, whatever. My comment to her was, it was fixed, wasn’t it? I still complain when I see fit, not that it usually does any good.

  38. doobiewondersmoke says:

    Their Twitter page is getting hammered with angry customers and those just pissed about this story. This is a good example of what’s right with social media. Global recognition and smackdowns when they’re deserved. No one is safe!

  39. INTPLibrarian says:

    I’m amazed at how many people, it seemed to me, on the tumblr site are saying, “Sure, the Price Chopper employee over reacted, but…” and then some sort of warning to people about being careful what they say in public, or that complaints should go first to the company and only if it’s not resolved to say anything, etc.

    “Most companies at least want to have the chance to answer an unhappy customer directly. Lets give them a chance to listen if we want to share our dissatisfaction. If we continually spout off in social places our intimate secrets, thoughts and unhappiness, can we really blame the backlash that occurs.” and “But, we should also learn how to use social media, we should only write here, what we are ready to say in person, and what we are ready to deffend in a court.
    The right we have to express anything does not mean we have to do it. “

    “I’m always surprised at how most people think freedom of speech gives them the right to damage other peoples interests.”

    WTF? It wasn’t a formal complaint. It wasn’t slandering the store. It was letting off a little steam when irritated.

  40. JollyJumjuck says:

    Too bad the targeted customer wasn’t a 4channer. The store would be out of business in a week, and management standing in the bread line in a month.

  41. Laura Northrup says:

    That tweet isn’t an insult. That’s a statement of fact.

  42. kylere1 says:

    I would find the person who contacted my employer, laugh at their pathetic excuse and slap them as they deserve, Price Chopper needs to terminate their employment.

  43. 44Wadeable says:

    Hey, I’m from Syracuse originally, and it’s true; Price Chopper (or any grocery chain anywhere) does not compete with Wegman’s.

  44. hypnotik_jello says:

    Nice going PR department, now you’ve gotten more bad press about your store than if you had just ignored the tweet. haha.

  45. ElizabethD says:

    Holy crap, what an a-hole that employee is. And: Not fired?

  46. MountainCop says:

    I wish they would do that to me… because my attorney and I would be able to retire forever.

    But, alas, we don’t have PriceChopper here in Colorado… maybe a blessing in disguise.

  47. jaymer says:

    Price Chopper

    I went to school in Rochester, NY (home of Wegmans) and now I am living in Northern California. I miss Wegman’s so much, it can’t hold a candle to Safeway…

  48. deleted2 says:

    There’s a Price Chopper just a few blocks away from me. Since I live in a small town they’re stock at this store is limited and they don’t have the selection of their larger stores.
    I shop at the Hannaford 5 miles away instead. Overall, prices are cheaper and Hannaford has a better selection.

  49. dush says:

    I love the consumerist. It shows me where I should never take my business.

  50. CBenji says:

    Ok, I know this is not going to be popular here, but I like both Wegman’s & Price Chopper. I have heard stories about this other Price Chopper store near me that is a _____ hole, but I still have not found it. Somebody told me it was ghetto, whatever that means. Wegman’s has more variety, but this particular Price Chopper gives me a discount on fuel & is much closer to my house. Also it is a brand new store and is nice, clean, bright, and has almost everything, but yes Wegman’s would be better if it weren’t 6 miles out of the way.

  51. nacoran says:

    I miss Wegmans. I used to love them when I lived in western NY. They seem to have an agreement not to play in each other’s sandbox with Price Chopper.

  52. JonBoy470 says:

    If I was this guy’s supervisor, I’d have told Price Chopper to pound sand…

  53. conswirloo says:

    EECB works both ways?

  54. magus_melchior says:

    I really don’t see how getting a tweeter’s employer involved in a PR dispute (which is what this is, although a better phrase may be “ego revenge”) is anything but an attempt to bully the tweeter into submission.

    I hope she still has her job, because this is a really evil thing to do. What would add insult to injury is if the grocer sued both the tweeter and her employer for lost business.

  55. Melsky says:

    Not only does their produce suck and their employees are rude but they are more expensive than Wegmans!