ESPN’s Britt McHenry is caught on camera ranting against a polite tow company clerk, the incident goes viral, she gets suspended, and she may be fired. Here is what you should do in her situation.
For a bit of background, Advanced towing in Arlington, VA (just across the river from Washington, D.C.) hooked up and removed her car for a parking violation and when she showed up to pay for the incident she made a few choice comments caught on tape.
“It makes my skin crawl even being here,” McHenry told the clerk. “Maybe if I was missing some teeth they would hire me, huh? Cause they look so stunning.”
“I’m on television and you’re in a f***ing trailer, honey,” she pointed out, forgetting that many famous actors sit around in trailers while waiting to be called on set.
McHenry also gives some fashion and personal development tips, saying, “lose some weight, baby girl.”
Now what I want to talk about is just why you should never follow her example the way she did it, BEFORE she got her car back. After you are in your car driving away you can pen a nasty note on Facebook where it belongs.
As someone who has been in media for decades I would never hire someone stupid enough to do what McHenry did and not just because she should have known any such business would routinely video all interaction with the often unhappy public.
Here are some reasons for not following her example even if you have no fear of bad publicity and a suggestion for better approach beginning with a few questions for her starting with a more familiar situation:
First, I would ask if she also routinely berates a waiter or waitress BEFORE they bring her food? The result can easily be predicted by anyone who ever worked their way through University in the food service industry.
First the server asks the kitchen staff for any meat which was dropped under the five second rule – many restaurants hold onto those for potential use in just this sort of situation. If not, they are sitting near or on the top of the trash barrel ready to be picked up.
Next, the server you berated excuses themselves for a quick trip to the bathroom before picking up the new set of utensils which replace the ones you criticized for having a few water spots.
Finally, if and only if they have a cold a quick expectoration (spit) into the mashed potatoes finishes the food prep. If not, there is always someone in the kitchen who has a cold so ask them to help out.
The correct time to criticize that poor server is with the traditional, yet tacky, penny tip which shows you know enough to leave a tip but also expresses your feeling about the service.
But here again the timing is critical. If the server sees the penny BEFORE picking up the check with your credit card you can expect to see a lot of unexpected online purchases in the next bill.
As for the etiquette at a tow company, remember that they probably towed the car because of a police order or because you violated someone’s private property so you are always in the wrong.
The result of ranting at the totally innocent clerk BEFORE getting your vehicle returned often results in a follow up conversation with the manager along this line … yes, we did notice you had three flat tires, it is a good thing we brought it in to a garage isn’t it?
The cracked windshield? Of course we feel that should be repaired before it leaves our facility because it is quite dangerous, not to mention illegal. Oh yes, did you notice that police car parked down the street?
Radio? No, I don’t see a combination radio and integrated satnav unit noted on the driver’s pickup report but I do see where he noted a large hole in your dash. You really should be more careful about where you park, some neighborhoods around here are dangerous. You parked at The Pentagon? Well, like I said …
By the way, you really should have those airbags replaced too. I think we have a set that exactly fits your car if you’d like to buy them at half the cost your dealer would charge.
If you find yourself in a similar situation what you have to consider is that the clerk who may make more than you do, and is the sister or girlfriend of the tow company owner who makes about $100/hour profit from each of those 10 trucks he owns.
In some neighborhoods you should also remember that there are a lot of really rugged looking employees just a quick yell away and if the clerk has any brains at all she buys donuts for them at least once each week.
So, while it doesn’t take much in the way of intelligence for an ESPN reporter to hold a microphone up to some ballplayer and ask what they thought of the game, it does require a bit of common sense.
Britt McHenry – good luck in your next career, I hear fast food service has a number of openings.