Oh, Shucks: Here’s Why This Local Oyster Bar is Receiving Backlash on Social Media

Receiving negative comments and criticism is part and parcel of running a business, but how should you respond to them? Let’s take a look at the case of local oyster bar Wantusawa.

Did you know that, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 600 million people end up getting sick every year after eating contaminated food? That’s one in 10 people every year!

That staggering number highlights how important food safety is. In fact, it is considered one of the top priorities of food service establishments anywhere in the world, especially since they cater to hundreds and even thousands of customers each day. 

So what happens when a food service establishment starts receiving complaints for say, food poisoning? Yes, this may sow the seeds of doubt about how they handle their food and their value for customers’ well-being. But, as a business, you’re just trying to make ends meet, and in cases like this, a response is better than just avoiding the issue altogether.

Thing is, the wording and message conveyed in said response are just as important. And when done wrong, it can do more harm than good for a brand’s reputation. This is what recently happened to Wantusawa, an oyster bar in Makati that drew criticisms after customers complained of food poisoning. 

What Happened?

Wantusawa began receiving a flood of complaints on its social media pages—that a number of its customers ended up with food poisoning after eating their oysters. Moreover, it wasn’t just the raw oysters—even the baked ones gave them varying cases of diarrhea, fever, and upset stomachs.

While many customers said that they dined sometime in January, some said that they actually experienced the same when they ate at the restaurant last December. “Went there on the 30th [of December]. Ordered 4 baked oysters, the tataki, and the seafood dynamite,” one review written on Wantusawa’s Facebook on January 2 says. “Service was good, but we had food poisoning the next day. Not a good way to usher in the new year.”

“Sad that after 3 weeks of being a food poison victim of this restaurant, there are still recent complaints of the same case as seen here,” another review on the Facebook page written on January 24 reads.  

Some of the complaints say that they privately reached out to Wantusawa to air their grievances over the food poisoning experience and got no reply at all. On the other hand, those who got a reply said that the establishment claimed these were just isolated cases. Given the flood of similar cases narrated—not only in reviews but in the comments as well, it looks like it is far from being an isolated case. 

Wantusawa’s Response

Wantusawa has responded to the intense criticism online by posting an official statement on their social media accounts. The statement claims that, despite some customers saying that they received no reply at all, the establishment “addressed each issue in a timely fashion requiring the details in a fair and scientific manner.” 

Furthermore, the oyster bar assures customers in its statement that laboratory tests on their oysters showed a negative result for bacteria. However, the statement also decries the “social media bullying” that it has received as a result. 

“In our pursuit of truth and due process, we shall likewise review our options to take any legal action against these purveyors of bullying and untruth,” Wantusawa declares.

Wantusawa’s response, as seen from its official Instagram page

Moments after, Wantusawa’s response received intense backlash online—with many calling the oyster bar out for its lack of empathy, accountability, and sensitivity.

“Wow! This is the most insensitive statement that I’ve read so far,” one comment on Wantusawa’s Facebook post reads. “I’ve been working in the customer service industry for years, and all I can say is; this is not how you respond to complaints. Zero empathy, and zero resolution.” 

“So you’re saying everyone that complained is lying? Lol,” another comment on the Facebook post reads. 

Moreover, many comments expressed demands that the lab test results be released to the public, since said lab tests were nowhere to be seen when the official statement was released on January 25, 2023. 

What We Can Learn From the Wantusawa Issue 

Handling negative criticism can be a very tricky and delicate thing, especially when the issue involves the health and well-being of customers. Given the severity and sensitivity of the concern, it is all the more important to take negative feedback graciously. Being polite and professional is a must when communicating with customers. Moreover, you must remember to acknowledge their concerns and always be sensitive with how you word your statements—even your replies.

With that being said, it is not good practice to actually ignore negative feedback on social media, as this can just further justify what is being said. Instead, it is best to own up to what has happened, acknowledge the negative input, and express an intent to fix the concern being raised—with the goal of doing better moving forward. 

Furthermore, it is also important to reply respectfully to comments—whether positive or negative—in a timely manner. Not doing so may result in negative situations that can escalate into something much worse, due to the lack of feedback from the brand or company. This is because the customer may resort to airing their grievances in public for everyone to see in order to be heard. 

Lastly, do not be afraid to take the high road. Apologize and politely explain your side of the story—even if it’s really not your intention for things to go wrong. Always provide solid proof that supports your side, especially if it can help improve the situation. This will help your claims to look more credible to the public and provide the assurance that you really are exerting every effort to correct the problem.