"The public is the only critic whose opinion is worth anything at all." – Mark Twain

Lindsay here, LCI’s newest intern. From a young age children are taught to ‘think before they speak.’ And while it takes some longer than others (guilty as charged) to master this, society expects it to be in effect by young adulthood. I can’t tell you how often I hear someone speaking and think, “Did they really just say that!” From a PR standpoint: what you say, where you say it and how you say it, can make or break your reputation. And now that we’ve entered the digital age of internet and social networks, once something is said, it’s out there forever. We no longer rely on word of mouth for reviews: we have Yelp, Yahoo, Google and Facebook.

About 6 months ago in Paris during the last leg of a four-month backpacking trip across Europe, my friend Kiera and I were strolling down the Champs Elysées and spotted a quaint outdoor café. The words “hello” and “can we please see a menu” were not five seconds out of my mouth before the waiter scowled at us, stuffed his notepad into his pocket and stomped off muttering something about, “Americans.” After deliberating over the menu-français, I ordered the chicken Caesar.

A Caesar salad this was not. I received two bread sticks covered in chopped chicken with a few shredded pieces of mesclun lettuce covered in wasabi. When I tried to explain to our server that I hadn’t received what I’d expected to be a Caesar salad, I was shocked when he began screaming at the top of his lungs (in French of course). He then grabbed my fork and started shoving the salad into his mouth while repeatedly yelling, “Stupid Americans” (except instead of stupid, he was screaming something far more obscene). Mortified and beyond angry, I was ready to get up and leave but Kiera had just gotten her food, so I calmly ordered the house salad, vowing to tell everyone I knew about this whole horrible experience. Upon receiving our check, I noticed that in addition to charging for the “Caesar salad,” our server had also charged me for the replacement salad and calculated his gratuity into the check.

What I find most interesting about the experience is that the waiter and café owner (who pretended only to speak French when I complained) could not have cared less about whether other patrons of his restaurant could hear his outburst, or the consequences it may have had on his business. The concept of negative reviews was literally a foreign one. If this had happened to me in San Francisco, negative reviews of that café would have flooded the internet.

So, whether you are a publicist, member of the media… or even a server, it is important to always be on your best behavior and remember, think before you speak! In the words of Benjamin Franklin, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences! Email me at: [email protected]

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2 Comments

  1. David Landis Reply

    Lindsay – good blog post. One thing I learned especially when travelling in a foreign country. It’s always a good idea (and required when in France) to begin a conversation with a greeting, such as “Bon Soir, monsieur” – something that shows respect. I try to say (in the native language) “I’m terribly sorry, but I don’t speak the language well. Do you speak English?” I’ve found it goes a long way towards building bridges internationally.

  2. Leslie Orlando Reply

    Lindsay– love the post and congrats. I agree with David about remembering to take the time to extend a greeting to those you meet. For me, it doesn’t take being in a foreign country to follow this lead. I use it everywhere and daily. Including with others who are not strangers. It adds meaning to my day and to my relationships with others. Life is short…. Enjoy it!