On July 6 this year, myBurgerLab (MBL) posted screenshots on Facebook of a private conversation they had with a student who threw expletives at the company and its people after his expectations weren’t met.
In the original post, they shared images of his profile with his name and even publicly tagged the college he studies at.
This began a fiasco of some accusing the brand of cyberbullying, while others argued that the student himself had first verbally attacked MBL out of the blue.
Following the comments, the brand edited the post by censoring the student’s details, taking out their alleged hateful speech, and removing the name of the university.
It became one of MBL’s bigger PR crises of the year, and Vulcan Post wanted to get a better understanding of what happened.
So on Monday, October 12, we invited Renyi Chin, co-founder of MBL to our office to talk about what happened.
It Started With A “Hi”
It was July 3, 2020, when myBurgerLab received a message from a student looking to interview them for a school project.
Writing in at 12PM, the student sent them a Facebook message saying, “Hi”. “Hi there,” MBL soon replied, a default response to customers.
The student then shared his intention about wanting to know more about MBL’s business for a school project.
For MBL, their usual procedure for such requests would be to leave it to the end of the day when they’d have more time to address them. During operations, customers’ messages are understandably the priority.
At the time, MBL was flooded with orders from their lunch crowd, with most ordering from home due to the MCO.
Just when they were about to reply the student around 3PM with a little more time on their hands, another message came in.
It said, “Useless company.. Asking stuff didn’t even reply shit.”
Renyi’s team was about to respond before he stopped them, assuring that he’d handle it himself.
“We get so many messages from students every other day and week to ask for opportunities for interviews, which we will oblige everyone,” Renyi shared in the interview.
“This, we wanted to make an example of.” Thus, their Facebook post was made.
“I Could’ve Worded It Better”
“Now, in hindsight, I could have worded it better,” Renyi told Vulcan Post.
However, he thought it would be a funny piece of content to share with their followers.
The post said, “Slow content day. Help roast this fella”.
Since it shared details of his university and his pseudo Facebook profile, it soon snowballed into a massive PR crisis with even fans voicing their concern over MBL’s handling of the situation.
In came some comments accusing MBL of cyberbullying, and others said they were condoning “cancel culture”.
Dictionary Time: Cancel culture refers to the popular practice of withdrawing support for (canceling) public figures and companies (usually on social media) after they have done or said something considered objectionable or offensive.
But Renyi was not having it. He needed to defend his brand, one he loved so much.
Having nothing to hide and a strong stance for his actions, he wrote a post on his personal Facebook profile to describe the thoughts that went through his head.
“I believe that he (the student) was the instigator of bully. Anyone that’s bullied should stand up for themselves. There’s no such thing as only the big can bully the small, the small can bully the big too.”
Many were questioning why the big brand even needed to entertain one man’s opinion as they could’ve just ignored it.
By retaliating the way they did, it painted MBL in an unprofessional or vengeful light. Commenters were saying that if put in Renyi’s position, they’d just ignore it.
But this was not Renyi’s first time calling out bad behaviour on the brand’s page. He believes that doing nothing about these situations would allow these bullies to get away with it, which just didn’t sit right with him.
Learning From The Aftermath
Renyi believes that founders should have a voice behind the brand’s posts so that audiences know that there’s a person behind the name. A person who cares.
MBL’s headquarters trust Renyi with their brand’s social media too, knowing that he’s made good calls in the company for the most part.
This backlash, however, sparked fear in the MBL team. They worried about boycotts and a drop in sales at a time when brands needed it the most amidst a nationwide lockdown, he shared with Vulcan Post.
His marketing manager was having nightmares, waking up in cold sweats in the middle of the night.
Students who worked with MBL addressed their discomfort to Renyi. They felt misrepresented by the company they worked for, and uncomfortable even.
One student even pointed out to him that before he accused someone of being right or wrong, he needed to check within himself first. Were the values he believed in and the culture he practised aligned?
And that became the advice Renyi would share with other founders when it comes to PR disasters like these.
Seek professional help, if possible. But more importantly, seek within yourself if you have the capacity to handle the situation to own up to the mistake and fix the problem. No matter how big the damages.Renyi Chin, co-founder of myBurgerLab
Though he stands by his brand and his actions, Renyi does hope that his story might help others learn from his mistakes.
As a sign of goodwill, he also volunteered to share his experience as a guest speaker at Berjaya School, where the student is from.
His partner also met up with the student himself and provided him with mentoring and counselling in hopes that he wouldn’t be too emotionally rattled by this situation.
This interview was done as part of our new Vulcan Post video series, Open Book.
Renyi’s story is chapter three of our new venture, and you can watch the video interview here:
- You can learn more about myBurgerLab here.
- You read more about other Malaysian startups we’ve written about here.
Featured Image Credit: Renyi Chin, co-founder of myBurgerLab