For businesses large and small, the debate rages over the appropriateness of taking to social media to voice personal political opinions – especially for small travel businesses intricately linked to the people who run them.
A bed and breakfast in Edgewater, NJ, USA, found itself in the middle of controversy this week after responding to a local woman’s disapproval of the inn’s “Chick-Fil-A Appreication Day” advertisement.
The inn, The Whitebriar Bed and Breakfast, was using signage outside their establishment demonstrating support for Chick-Fil-A amidst the ongoing same-sex marriage backlash.
A local woman, a lesbian mom namedÂ Joianne Fraschilla, posted her disapproval to Facebook, writing:
“This is somewhere my son loves to pass by and we have been excited to visit. I’m sad to see a local business anti LGBT marriage.”
The inn, owned by Carole and Bill Moore, apparently responded with the following:
“Isnâ€™t it wonderful Joanne (sic) Fraschilla, that you and your son can enjoy the animals here because I have a traditional marriage with a husband who works with me 90 hours a week to take care of these animals, and the summer campâ€¦.weâ€™re 66-68 years oldâ€¦.there were no gays or queers in our timeâ€¦..if two old ladies chose to live together..so be it, let them deal with God when they get thereâ€¦but to have the ‘face sucking’ thrown in my face of two gay lesbians who are totally destroying the ‘normal balance in a childâ€™s life’ as you claim your sonâ€¦”
“Where is the role model that your son needs to know how to act like a man? or will he only see the ‘one sided selfishness’ of a ‘single parent’â€¦and end up an out cast in society by being ‘gay’ himself because he didnâ€™t have a father as a role model. Iâ€™ll pray for youâ€¦.remember what the bible says: ‘Lay down with dogs, get up with fleas’â€¦..guess thatâ€™s why God invented aidsâ€¦.
THIS LOCAL BUSINESS WILL BE ONE MAN ONE WOMAN ONE GOD MAKES MARRIAGEâ€¦.AND PROUD TO DO SOâ€¦.YOU SHOULD BE SO LUCKY TO OWN YOUR OWN BUSINESS”
Understandably, the reaction has not been favorable.
The Professional Association of Innkeepers International felt compelled to respond, emphasizing their disapproval of Whitebriar’s actions.
“On social media web sites, we expect to see some form of bigotry almost daily,” said Jay Karen, President & CEO of PAII. “But I was honestly shocked to see such hatred from an innkeeper. My experience with the thousands of innkeepers I’ve met over the years has been quite contrary to the behavior we saw this week. I stand with our board in condemning the language expressed by this innkeeper.”
The official statement continues:
“While we believe in the First Amendment right to freedom of speech in the United States, we take issue with the extreme hatred displayed by the innkeeper at the Whitebriar Bed and Breakfast in Edgewater, New Jersey. The attack is not becoming of a professional innkeeper, and it is an embarrassment to our industry.”
The risk of alienating one cohort in favor of another is usually not worth it for a business that relies on all kinds of people to stay afloat.
An inn in Canada, now-defunct, was fined $4,500Â in 2009 for refusing to honor a gay couple’s reservation.
This is yet another example of the perils of social media for small travel businesses: the Internet can magnify even the smallest infraction, making it ever more imperative that travel companies have robust social media policies in place to avoid any self-inflicted crisis.
What sorts of lessons have you learned from social media interactions?