The CVS Receipts are too long saga finally reached it’s anticlimactic conclusion. This surprisingly long running story gives an example of how negative Twitter comments, and social media in general, can not be ignored by businesses. We’ll look at how the story developed, how it was not handled well, and what your business should do to avoid a PR nightmare on social media.
How social media spread the Receipts are too long meme
The Receipts are too long meme first began back in 2008. Yes, 5 years ago and it is just reaching a type of conclusion now. That’s an eternity in internet time! The entire meme began on Facebook with a group titled ‘One Million Strong Against Unnecessarily Long CVS Receipts,’ which never really took off with only 13 members. Why this is important is discussed later.
Things stayed pretty level on the social media front until around 2011. This is around the time when Twitter started coming into play. More and more consumers were posting jokes, pictures and comments about how long their receipts were. Retweets and favorites went up and a dedicated Twitter account started called @CVS_Receipt. The account now has 965 followers and 500+ tweets.
Before CVS knew it they had a full blown PR problem on their hands and they did some small damage control. However, they did not once make any effort to appease their Twitter users complaints, excuses such as the coupons that are on the receipt use “less paper than printing coupons on additional paper or that would be required if we sent direct mail offers to our members” were used. Which may very well have been true, but did not do a thing to stop the bad press as the problem only worsened.
What your business can learn about how to handle a PR problem like the ‘Receipts are too Long’
The strategy that your company should take when faced with something like this should be more proactive. CVS chose to ignore the problem, when that didn’t work they tried blowing it off with half hearted excuses. Finally, they bowed to pressure after a massive uproar on Twitter, and have agreed to shorten their receipts by around 25%. Which may or may not appease consumers as their 3 foot receipt will now be more like 2 feet.
This is a prime example of a company digging it’s own social media grave. Instead of responding directly to consumers and addressing their concerns, they chose to ignore it or give half hearted explanations and the problem only grew.
For your business, you must speak directly to those who are making the complaints and address their concerns. CVS made a statement saying that they will shorten their receipts, but they did so on Facebook where their consumers were making complaints – 5 years ago! Not only are they behind the times, but they’re on the social media site where only 13 people were part of a group denouncing them, instead of nearly 1000 on Twitter!
Take a look at the CVS_Receipt account on Twitter, it is still going strong with 3-10 new tweets hourly, despite the company making their statement already. This is a textbook example of a company not choosing the correct social media platform to address their consumer’s complaints. My belief is that this will drag the issues out for even longer, despite the fact the company is trying to address public pressure.
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The Receipts are Too Long saga once again shows you that you must go to your consumers and speak to them on their platform. A Tweet sent directly to the CVS_Receipt account by a prominent member of their marketing team would be a start, finding some of the most retweeted mentions of their company and addressing those as well could go a long way to reducing their bad press and can start to heal relations between them and their consumers.
Take the time to learn what your business can do to avoid a PR nightmare such as this one on social media. Speak to your consumer right away, speak to them on their platform and try to offer real solutions, not just bland placating comments.