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Hint to social media people, especially those working for +Walmart. Never censor your customers. It just pisses them off more and makes it more likely your brand damage will spread to places you don't control.

When I worked at Microsoft I fought this kind of stuff successfully a few times. It's always better to engage your customers on your own turf. It's amazing how badly Walmart is reacting here. They could have just dealt with the claim in their comments and called Thomas and his family. 

I'm so lucky to work for an employer who gets customer service that cares about how to learn from an angry customer. The angry ones are the ones who help us improve. Too bad so many companies don't get that.

And, yes, this makes me far less likely to go into Walmart in the future.
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41 comments
 
Just asking for more trouble... not smart
 
Wow that's pretty lame thing for +Walmart to do to a customer. As long as the customer doesn't use profanity why censor?
 
This seems like an easy way for them to make some good press.
 
That's just one of the many reasons that people should stop shopping there. The only way to drive this corporate behemoth into the ground is to stop shopping there, and remember that every dollar you spend there encourages them to continue their many harmful practices. I live one mile from a Walmart and haven't been there more than 4 times in 5 years, and I feel guilty about those 4 times. 
 
+Sam Haddad we work on customer service and study good and bad. That's why this interests me so much. Thanks for noticing! 
 
Seen this happen before – and it ALWAYS blows up in the censor's face. Some companies never learn.
 
Also don't censor employees - give them a voice at least internally. Filtering their opinion of the company means they are bad mouthing you behind your back. 

Transparency is ALWAYS king.
Don S
 
Perhaps it blew up in their face, to you and me but it's a balancing game to them.  They are banking on the notion that there's less damage by censoring because the unwashed masses won't hear about the censoring.  And they're probably right.
 
+Jeff Sepeta absolutely true. Rackspace's headquarters is in a former mall. Initially the employees hated the idea of moving there. Why? There was a murder on the mall property. Made them feel unsafe. Now it's a wonderful headquarters, but that image is still stuck in my mind. Walmart just pushed this into a much bigger deal than it would have gotten otherwise.
 
WalMart is starting to have a habit of opening super center stores in areas where they think no one will drive farther from to go to a different store. Well, while there is a WalMart store I can see while standing on my front porch, there are 2 KMarts and a Best Buy well within driving distance. 
 
+Don Vikingisson Schupp yup, they might have gotten away with it nine times out of 10 but this was +Thomas Hawk so people like me took notice. It's bad customer service to delete customer comments without answering them, or redirecting them somewhere else.
 
+John Blanton the truth is most of us go to Walmart due to low prices. Will this bad PR hurt Walmart? Probably not much, if at all. But it does leave a bad aftertaste in my mouth. Social media has so much promise to really lead to better customer service but you gotta want to provide service, even to your angry customers, to get to that promised land. 
 
Completely agree. On the social accounts I've worked on, if the brand/company is generally doing a good job the social community will actually defend them against criticism. Also, responding to the negative comments in a public forum is often the best way of turning around the sentiment and leaving a good impression on everyone else looking in, basically the opposite of Walmart's approach...
 
+John Blanton  Walmart also has a habit of opening super centers in smaller communities amid rural areas and driving out any and all competition by undercutting prices...just until they've succeeded, then they go back to normal. People lose their jobs at smaller stores when they go under, and are forced to work at Walmart (usually for less pay), and since Walmart is the only place to shop (or the only place they can now afford to shop given Walmart's low salaries) their paycheck is recycled back into Walmart...hooray! Evil. 
 
People should be aware that once using social media, your costumers will be even more active and this behavior should be embraced not condemned... 
 
While I am also concerned about the censorship I am more concerned with Walmart's attempt to dissuade the victim from notifying the police. That is a crime in most jurisdictions in and of itself. 
 
A facebook page is not just about grabbing eyeballs and selling stuff.  It's about a direct connection to the customer.  Deleting "negative" comments breaks that connection and makes the page useless to your customers.  And makes the page owner look like a jerk.
 
I think we're all ascribing too much thoughtfulness behind Walmart's actions here. They probably have someone like an intern handling that page, not savvy enough on social media to imagine all the negative effects of knee-jerk censoring of posts.
 
+Paul L. McCord Jr.  You may personally think it's appropriate for Wallmart to try to cover up an assault that happened on their property, but I doubt others will.  Don't you think a simple response would have been better?  Deleting it just sends the message that they don't care.
 
+Rohit Jain I agree.  It was probably a marketing persons decision to delete the comment but I've seen news stories about assaults in Walmart parking lots for years.  It's a known issue.  Walmart should have a set policy about this on their facebook page.  I'm guessing they don't.  (That's the generous guess.)
 
+Rohit Jain If that is the case, then this is an even bigger fail. They need to take notice of the opportunity and importance of customer engagement. It cannot be an afterthought. It has to be a primary concern and handled by people who are skilled in the dialogue necessary to connect, learn and engage with their customers. To have an intern manage a FB page would be a mistake - I doubt they did that. If they did, then yet another lesson to learn. 
 
+Pierre Calzadilla Agree with the sentiment behind your comment. Yes, it may not be an intern, but my point was it's probably not someone acting on the basis of a well thought-out policy. (Agree with +eric susch as well on that one.)

So many companies do the whole social media thing because they have to, since everyone else is doing it. When you get mostly positive posts, it's easy to deal with it and anyone can do that. It's the brickbats that require real experience and a policy to back your actions, and I'm guessing Walmart hasn't reached there in their social journey yet.
 
Good points about the inequities of corporate action or lack there of.  Let's now focus in on the thugs who committed the criminal act.  That's where the real issue is.

Slam the thugs and animals to prison and throw away the keys.  
 
I'm astounded Walmart responded like this. Hopefully someone will be able to do a case study of what led to the deletions -- policy? Rogue employee?
Walmart
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Thanks all for the comments. We conducted an internal review and found that it was a system error that flagged Mr. Hawk’s post as containing profanity. It should not have been deleted. It is not our policy to delete negative comments as long as they follow our guidelines. We have followed up with Mr. Hawk and his family and reposted his original comment.  We apologize for this error.
 
Those darn computer errors...
 
At least they're being pro-active here, I'm +1'ing them for reaching out.
 
Walmart is always tact. ALWAYS.
 
I've had a lot of recent issues with Wal-Mart regarding customer service. I've slowly been moving to other retail outlets, simply for the bad service I have been getting at my own local Wal-Mart. (Canada)
 
Bomb Walmart's Facebook page with the link, if you've got a FB page. I am. They're indeed censoring it.

They can censor little ol' me within a few minutes. I wonder how fast they can censor all of us?
 
+Walmart is lying. They have been censoring the same post all day long, and it's not had profanity. Here's a verbatim copy of what I've been posting:

* * * 

I can keep posting this all day. You can only censor it so fast from one person. 

How fast can you censor thousands?

Come on, Walmart. Enough with the censorship. Explain yourselves, please. Why did you censor Hawk's posts? Why are you censoring mine? 

And exactly how well do you think the censorship will work?

(EDIT: Let's keep a running count. This is the third time this link has been posted with a request for explanation. How many can we get to before Walmart decides to either man up and respond, or simply start banning profiles and making it worse?)

http://thomashawk.com/2012/08/walmart-censors-my-2nd-post-asking-why-they-censored-my-1st-post-about-my-wife-being-mugged-in-front-of-their-oakland-store.html

* * *

Not one single curse word, +Walmart. You're lying.
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