On the morning of March 23, 2016, a woman published a blogpost claiming she was violently assaulted in the lift line at Northstar Califronia.
To use her words:
“On February 25th an adult male snowboarder violently attacked me at Northstar in California — a Vail Resorts property.
The same snowboarder had ridden full speed straight at my 9 year-old son, screamed at him to get out of his way, and almost knocked him off the deck of the superpipe.
In the lift line, when I asked him to ride under control, the 6 foot man yelled at, threatened and grabbed me (I’m 5 foot 2 and was carrying a big filming camera and wearing a large backpack). He was inches from my face, with his body pressed against me, and had grabbed my shoulders…
…he screamed again as he came at me and hit me in my left eye with his bare fist. I was stunned from the punch and started to cry.”
The subsequently shared a link to this post on her Facebook page.
Within minutes the comment and share count has begun to explode. A couple tweets may have even gone out even before the Facebook post.
— Barking_Mad (@Barking_Mad) March 23, 2016
At this point, Vail Resorts had said nothing. Northstar had said nothing.
Meanwhile, the share counts coninued to skyrocket. By that evening the original blog post had over 250 comments.
By the next morning a link to the story had been shared over 3,500 times, a number that reached 4,500 by that afternoon.
— Gregg Blanchard (@slopefillers) March 24, 2016
As you might have expected, the boycott threats rose in parallel with the frustration.
— Christine Chrisman (@cpchrisman) March 26, 2016
— Leslie Ann Abbott (@LeslieAbbott82) March 25, 2016
— Chris Wright (@CW81) March 24, 2016
— 0xEugene (@0xEugene) March 24, 2016
— Natalie deWitt (@NataliedeWitt) March 24, 2016
Again, all the while Northstar and Vail Resorts had been silent. Then, at 3:03pm on March 24, 2016, Northstar Responded.
— Gregg Blanchard (@slopefillers) March 24, 2016
Without copying and pasting the whole thing, here are a few key points.
“As the General Manager of Northstar California, I feel compelled to respond to a situation at our resort described by a guest regarding an incident earlier this season between her and another guest. It is important for everyone to know our first and foremost priority is the safety of our guests and employees, and we have zero tolerance for acts of violence. We conducted a timely, thorough investigation into this matter, and given recent interest we believe that it is important to report the results.
On February 25th, at approximately 1:50 p.m., Northstar Ski Patrol was immediately alerted to an altercation at the Vista Lift Maze. Ski Patrol, Security and Mountain Safety promptly responded to the incident and completed an investigation. One eyewitness to the incident stated Mrs. Danelle Muresan-Foster was the party who was physically aggressive toward another guest.
Our security officer repeatedly offered at the time of the incident to contact the local authorities for Mrs. Muresan-Foster, however she repeatedly refused. After concluding our investigation, Northstar restricted the skiing/riding privileges of both guests.
We have zero tolerance for acts of violence or abuse by anyone at our resorts, and will suspend lift privileges and mountain access for anyone who engages in this behavior, as we’ve done in this case. We are saddened that this incident took place and so negatively impacted the experience of our guests and staff.”
At that point, it became very much a “he says she says” scenario where those watching (like me) waited for the next move from either party. A move, however, that never really came.
ShredMom posted a couple random tidbits after the fact that got virtually no reach or attention. And Northstar hasn’t really been hassled about it by more than a random person or two for weeks.
The whole thing, as far as I can tell, has come and gone.
A Clever Move
But hidden inside this story was a very, very interesting approach from Northstar with their response. Instead of posting a link directly on their wall or social accounts as you’d expect to see in this situation, it was shared as a comment on an unrelated photo Northstar had shared that day where some of the mob had come to complain.
In these situations, the Streisand effect (defined below) is almost impossible to avoid:
“The phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely, usually facilitated by the Internet.”
In this case, there were two different groups that had a story to tell – ShredMom (and those who believed her) and Northstar. But, and this is important, almost none of the people on ShredMom’s side followed Northstar’s social accounts.
Meaning, this wasn’t a beef with their customers, it was a beef with a social media mob.
Posting it for everyone to see would have only made it bigger than it needed to be. By sliding it into the comments of a post ShredMom’s supporters were already watching and engaging with, they limited the number of their own fans that got wrapped into the story while making sure ShredMom’s supporters saw their reply. This simple move almost completely removed the Streisand Effect from this story and let the mob move on (as it always does) without fueling the fire.
I have to say, for all that could have gone wrong with this story, that’s pretty well played.
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