Social Media Firestorm

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I was recently at one of my favourite restaurants and watched a transaction that occurs all the time and fascinated me.  A customer approached the hostess stand asking if the hostess if she could charge her almost dead phone, the employee happily complied and plugged the phone in to the cable she had on top of the stand. And the customer returned to her table out of sight of the hostess. Minutes passed and the hostess was called away to the kitchen leaving the $1000 iPhone unattended.  Upon her return five minutes later I asked the question; if the phone was gone who is to blame and, more importantly, who is to pay? Like most restaurants there was a sign by the coat stand letting the patrons know that the restaurant accepts no liability for anything left laying around but vague and aimed at the coat rack. The hostess shuffled nervously at the question and shared with me that she had thought about that scenario as customers ask many times a day to leave their phone at the stand.

Conversations with a couple of lawyer friends seems that the replacement cost falls to the customer but from a real world perspective, the social media firestorm that would come after seems unavoidable. Being curious I Googled the question and found no shortage of upset customers, mostly blaming the wait staff rather than themselves, for the stolen phones; followed by apologetic paragraphs from besieged Managers trying to calm everything down while at the same time not giving someone $1000 for a new phone. Google, Yelp, Facebook, Open Table, Trip Advisor … the list was endless. Phones today are really mini computers that you occasionally make a call on and their appetite for power is insatiable; photos, videos, checking email, posting on social media the demands are endless with no change in sight.

I saw the ChargUp USA product in a coffee shop and was struck by the simplicity and ease to correct this all too common and complicated problem. As a designer of interior spaces it’s wire-free nature made perfect sense in a restaurant environment where outlets are at a premium and almost always on the walls and not bedded in to the floor. Tables move; two tops become four or six and back again allowing no way to predict the placement of outlets to cover every formation.

All this from an innocent lunch at my local restaurant, life’s serendipity.


Karen Millhouse

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