In business, “customer is king” is a foolproof guiding rule that’ll ensure a spanking clean brand image. While the customer isn’t always right, the more pressing problem at hand is how to salvage your brand’s reputation before it crashes to rock bottom in the event of a PR crisis.

It is one thing to disagree with the customer, but it’s a totally different thing to launch an angry tirade or personally attack customers like some of these brands have done. We take a look at 5 PR sagas that transpired in Singapore, and how not to handle client complaints or poor reviews. 

1. Chicken Hotpot

worst pr mistakes
Image credit:

F&B businesses are no strangers to unsatisfactory restaurant reviews and customer complaints. In a typical case of an unsatisfactory dining experience, customer Xiu Wen Koh took to Google to leave a 1-star review for Compass One’s Chicken Hotpot. 

While this isn’t anything out of the ordinary, what’s abnormal is the fact that the restaurant took things one step too far by using the customer’s given email in the feedback form to escalate matters to her school. 

Their excuse: to check if the review was a scam. The IG post however did draw supporters from both camps – some believing Xiu Wen was at fault for blowing things out of proportion, and others blaming Chicken Hotpot for the dramatic move. 

But the moral of the story here is that there is a right way to remedy an online complaint, and it is by being direct, transparent, and polite, above all things.

2. Baby Expo

Worst PR mistakes
Image credit:
Baby Expo

Having a baby is an exciting affair, and visiting a baby fair when you’re pregnant is almost like a rite of passage to becoming a new mum. But one such mother-to-be got a rude awakening when she visited the Baby Expo to shop for her newborn essentials.

Instead of attentive service, Christabell claimed that she was told off for trying to touch the product. To add fuel to the fire, when she enquired about the specifications, the staff on duty not only clapped back at her for asking so many questions, but she was also called out for having only one “miserable” item in her shopping basket in a Facebook comment.

If there’s one thing to takeaway, it’s that a brand should always maintain professionalism in the face of criticism. It’s fine to explain your side of the story for a fairer view of the situation, but insulting your customer in return and calling them a loser don’t reflect positively on any brand.

3. Grain Alley

worst PR mistakes
Image adapted from:

Looking up a brand’s Google reviews is a nifty way for us to decide whether or not we should patronise a brand – think of it as guaranteeing ourselves a positive experience.

From a brand’s perspective, getting your business listed on Google is a big move to get your business more visibility and footfall. Responding to customer reviews is another way to show sincerity as a business owner as well.

Worst PR mistakes
Image adapted from:

Local cafe Grain Alley is one such business that is known to be especially active on Google reviews and has no qualms about responding in a scathing manner to 1-star reviews on their Google page.

All we can say is… Business owners, please respect the customers right to voice out their opinions about your prices, portions or service. You can’t please everyone, but you can save yourself from looking spiteful and childish.

4. Mr Kneady’s

mr kneadys
Image credit:

Mr Kneady’s at Bedok Marketplace is well-loved for its atas handmade bread and pizzas in a hawker centre setting. And though the quality of their offerings may have earned them a little bit of a following on social media, the brand is also not one to hold back from roasting unreasonable customers on their Instagram page.

And while the roast posts do amass a number of comments supporting the brand’s actions and quips, we can’t quite add shaming customers on social media into our best practices for brand loyalty.

5. National University Hospital – NUH

Image credit:
@National University Hospital – NUH

In a recent case involving National University Hospital (NUH), a woman alleged that she suffered a miscarriage after a 2-hour long wait to see the doctor whilst bleeding profusely. The original Facebook post posted on 21st March quickly made headlines after 4.7K shares with thousands of people expressing their concern and condolences.

Just a day later, NUH released a statement revealing that the hospital was looking into the incident and urged the public not to speculate. This seemingly harmless response was not taken lightly by the public, who felt that the post was cold and heartless. This led to a wave of over 250 comments berating the organisation for not addressing the situation in a more compassionate manner. 

And though the hospital did come forward to address what had happened, this apology post was not accepted by the public who threw shade on NUH for using the pandemic as an excuse for this malpractice.

In such cases, even though the hospital was timely in addressing the mounting anger of the public regarding the situation, the severity of the case and the fact that a life had been lost still demanded a little more empathy.

Edit: In the latest press statement, MOH concluded – after thorough investigation – that NUH “did not contribute” to the miscarriage.

BONUS: Breadtalk 

breadtalk lizard
Image credit: Instagram

Finding “foreign substances” in our food is universally one of our worst nightmares – especially when that foreign substance has eyes and a tail. A Breadtalk customer took to Instagram to rant about finding the carcass of a lizard peeking up at her during her tea-time break.

While Breadtalk was reported to have been “civil and apologetic” in their service recovery, their insistence on innocence was what rubbed the customer the wrong way. 

The brand did dig up the CCTV footage of the store to show that no lizard was present in the box when the items were packed to back their claims; but all in all, this coupled with the fact that they requested for the post to be removed a grand total of 3 times, left a bitter taste in this consumer’s mouth.

Worst PR statements in Singapore to learn from

Whether you’re a customer or a business owner, we’re all humans with emotions at the end of the day. As a brand and business owner, it can be mildly infuriating to be wrongfully accused of poor service or a terrible product – especially if you’ve yet to share your side of the story. 

Regardless, a respectful and empathetic response will only multiply good vibes for your business and gain you the respect of other people who might just be swayed to patronise and support a 100% wholesome business.

Check out these other marketing articles:

Cover image adapted from: Baby Expo, @xiuwen_imnida


Comments are closed.