One Bad Melon: You're Only as Good as Your Worst Supplier

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My town has a Facebook group and it’s probably not very different from many others. Postings range from, “What was that loud banging I just heard, did anyone else hear it?” to cute photos of the kids at the local schools. It’s mostly all good stuff, as that’s the tone the moderator insists on. But a recent posting of the local fruit and vegetable store drew 130 comments, most of them bad.

Ruthanne Terrero

The photo posted was of a bin of cantaloupes for sale. All of the melons in view were badly bruised, with black marks all over them. As my mother would say, “They had passed their peak.”

“What’s going on here, it’s like they just don’t care anymore!” commented the woman who had posted the photo.

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A barrage of comments ensued on how utterly disgusting the melons looked, how the store was clearly going downhill and thank goodness there were much better places to shop that weren’t so appalling. 

Eventually someone from the store posted that the melons had been removed, but did point out that they were on sale for just 99 cents, which wasn’t a bad price since they were usually $1.99. And besides, if you cut off the ugly black spots the melons would likely be amazingly ripe and tasty.

That brought on a slew of indignant remarks that the rotten melons weren’t worth any price. I’ll spare you the rest.

This store has been a cornerstone of the community for years. I’ve always liked it and I’ll go back to it, but this experience speaks volumes about how instantly angry perfectly normal people get when a vendor provides a blatantly bad experience. They find it insulting, baffling and simply wrong. And there’s no hesitation to go on social media to vent about it.

This means that in business these days, you’re only as good as your worst product offering. A huge negative can’t be outweighed by a million positives.

If you have to explain to your clientele why something that is clearly just god-awful is really OK, you’ve already lost.

Taking it further, as a business owner, you’re only as good as your rudest employee. Who cares what wonders you’re conjuring up behind the scenes if you’ve got someone up front insulting your customers by being indifferent or snide?

As a luxury travel advisor, you’re only as good as your worst supplier. It doesn’t matter how much magic your amazing preferred hoteliers and cruise lines are creating for 99 percent of your clients if you’re also partnering with a company that delivers mediocre, sketchy or sporadic service. That supplier has no business being in your portfolio because it’s tainting the rest of the companies in the bin. One bad run-in for a high-end client could spur a litany of insults against your agency on social media, or perhaps simply within a conversation among influential locals at the country club. 

The luxury travel business is thriving right now and it’s really hard to get it wrong if you’re paying attention to all of the moving pieces of sending ultra-affluent clients on vacation. Just keep in mind, however, that the consumer has changed. They’re not only more engaged and knowledgeable than ever, they’re also more intolerant of real and perceived slights and they’re downright anxious to share those issues with the world.

As for those rotten melons, eventually a disagreement broke out within the Facebook group. Someone said that instead of posting the photo of the cantaloupes, the person should have spoken to the store’s manager about it. Her response? “I don’t want to speak to anyone about what’s wrong with their store anymore. I’d rather just post about it.”  

She quickly got one very enthusiastic response agreeing with her: “Yes! That’s the new American way!”

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