On Saturday, January 7, 2012, at just past noon, a misguided Papa Johns employee rudely typed

“Lady Chinky Eyes” into their system for a pizza order.

Unfortunately for them, the woman they made fun of has engaged audiences on social media. Their customer, Minhee Cho, took a picture of her insulting receipt and shared it via Twitter.

Hey @PapaJohns just FYI my name isn’t “lady chinky eyes” http://t.co/RLdj2Eij

Minhee Cho's Papa Johns Receipt
Minhee Cho's Papa Johns Receipt

Let’s take a look at the event timeline:

  1. Cho tweets her disappointment with the racial slur printed on her receipt just past noon on a lazy Saturday afternoon.
  2. Her picture gets shared on Twitter as people express their outrage.
  3. No report of Papa Johns contacting Cho directly to apologize. No response from Papa Johns via social media either.
  4. Three hours later a blog post breaks on Huffington Post.
  5. All over the blogosphere and social media networks Cho’s story goes viral.
  6. Papa Johns remains silent while this online forest fire rages.
  7. After what seemed like ages (only 6 hours later!) Papa Johns takes public action.

They posted this well written apology to their Facebook Page, tweeted apologies, and terminated the employee who thought that typing in “Lady Chinky Eyes” was good customer service.







As the author of Online Reputation Management for Dummies (publishes Fall 2012!) I research this topic every day.

Here are some things we can all learn from this story, as well as a prediction:

  • Even with the best management, employees are going to be careless.
  • We’ve got to assume that everybody we interact with has engaged audiences online.
  • Having a superb online reputation, as Papa Johns does, helps, but no reputation is powerful enough to withstand an online firestorm without interacting.
  • Response time is of the essence. Six hours of public silence from Papa Johns seemed like an eternity to disgruntled people.
  • Once Papa Johns responded so well online the anger dissipated and their reputation started recovering.
  • Papa Johns hopefully put in a call with their Point of Sale techies to eliminate the possibility of insulting their customers that way ever again.
  • Hopefully other organizations are learning from this incident and fixing their systems before something like this happens to them.

My prediction?

You’re going to see a lot more social media firestorms. They’re going to burn faster and brighter than ever before because something in human nature loves to be part of a juicy story. We long to share something attention-getting and important. That’s what Journalists do, and everyone with an audience online thinks a little (or a lot) like a Journalist. Ask Cho. She’s a lot more powerful than some people might have assumed.

What’s your takeaway from this story?