Toys R Us uses Twitter to resolve potentially catastrophic customer service snafu.

March 08, 2017

Toys R Us uses Twitter to resolve potentially catastrophic customer service snafu.

toys r us uses twitter to respond to professional soccer player complaint
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Social media is that proverbial double-edged sword that not only creates opportunities to showcase amazing customer service, but also gives customers unprecedented access to a world-wide audience which can be used to destroy your brand in one fail swoop.

 Last week Toys R Us avoided a potential social media catastrophe through quick and personalized customer service. Professional soccer player Miguel Layun was in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal, and while there visited a Toys R Us with his family. At this Toys R Us, Miguel was outraged to find a mock border wall set up with an arrow pointing to U.S.A and another one to pointing to Mexico. To Miguel, who plays for the Mexico national team, the real-life proposed wall between the United States and Mexico is nothing to joke about and he found the display extremely offensive as the miniature border wall appeared to be making light of the real situation. He took to Twitter and Instagram to communicate his disappointment in the Toys R Us display.

This isn’t uncommon. Many people take to social media to express outrage over a policy or decision with which they disagree. However, what is uncommon in this case is that Miguel has over 1 million followers on Instagram and 2.19 million on Twitter. His reach is quite large, so when he complains about something, people listen.

As you can imagine, this is not the type of publicity Toys R Us wanted. They were quick to respond to Miguel to affirm that they were very apologetic over the display and that it wasn’t indicative of the corporate core beliefs. About an hour after his original posts, Toys R Us responded to Miguel via Twitter.


Whether Toys R Us uses a formal social media listening tool to monitor conversations on their various social networks is unknown, but regardless they did a fantastic job of responding to Miguel before things got any worse.

In a video response to Toys R Us, Miguel clarifies why he was upset and what Toys R Us said about the mini border wall:

I want to clear up what happened today at Toys R Us. I want to thank the manager and workers for speaking to me and my family to make it clear their intention was not to mock us or make us feel uncomfortable. The decoration was just that — a decoration for the “carnaval” taking place in Portugal. I also wanted to thank Toys R Us for letting me know that those are not the politics or ideals of the company. From the heart, I appreciate it. I also wanted to mention that it would hurt me very much if this led to the firing of one of the employees working in Gaia. That wasn’t the idea. It was simply to express that respect is important.

It’s a delicate subject that is affecting [people] and creating difficult problems for many people. It’s not a subject to play around with. Hopefully, I was able to make them conscious of this. That was my only goal. I hope that this served that purpose… I hope that we all do what we can because the last thing we need in this world is more reasons to incite violence. That’s all I wanted to make clear in my message, and again, I wanted to thank all the people at Toys R Us, for making it clear that’s not the way you wanted to decoration to be displayed… [I also send] a strong greeting to all the Mexican families out there.

It didn’t cost Toys R Us anything to send those tweets and respond to this one customer’s issue. But what could it have cost them to leave Miguel’s issues unanswered?

The problem may not have evolved into a full blown disaster…but it might have.

Toys R Us lost his sale that day. And perhaps, had they not responded to him, he may have never shopped in another Toys R Us. They would have lost all that future revenue, but really that’s negligible, right? How much can one person really hurt a major brand?

The effect of their tweet has much larger implications than just one angry customer. Miguel is an influencer, and his complaints about something as political as a border wall would resonate with his audience. There may be a few, or perhaps more than a few, of his followers that would boycott shopping at Toys R Us. That could be potentially huge. Furthermore, there are many in the media that love this type of story and would write articles, blog posts, and editorials about the indifference of a huge international toy store.

Look at the conversation this one interaction created: his first tweet had over 1,000 comments, was retweeted 14,062 times, and 16,669 likes. Likewise, his Instagram picture had 17,789 likes and over 600 people commented on it.

Articles from major news outlets immediately appeared spotlighting not only Miguel’s complaints but also the quick response from Toys R Us.

This is an excellent example of not only how to use social media (Twitter specifically) for customer service, but also the necessity to be constantly listening to your audience. It is incredibly difficult to create positive brand awareness, but extremely easy to destroy it. We tend to forget the good things and instead focus on the negative.

In the end, Toys R Us saved a lot of face through their quick and sincere response. They were aware of the situation and confronted it before it could get any worse, and in a couple of minutes no one will even remember that it happened.

How secure are you in your listening efforts? If your brand or your client’s brand were to have a similar problem, are you confident you could quickly mitigate the fallout? Or would it blow up beyond your ability to control it?

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