JONESBORO, Ark. – After Wallace Fowler, Jr.’s business received a one star review on Facebook over a child “running wild in the store,” he publicly admonished the mother of the child on her Facebook wall.
Ironically because of screenshots of that post going viral, the business was review-bombed with hundreds of one-star reviews and has since been unpublished – twice – as management struggles to contain the social media disaster.
Fowler, Jr., son of Jonesboro-based business baron Wallace Fowler, serves as the owner of Godsey’s restaurant establishments in Jonesboro. He owns the restaurants himself and is not part of the Fowler Foods group, as some have confused. Although the Godsey’s restaurants were founded by a different group, Fowler purchased them – one on South Main Street and one at Hilltop – several years back.
During a public post to a customer’s Facebook wall, which went viral over the Sept. 30 weekend, Fowler – or someone under his name – made a “blount” post because he was concerned over a one-star review.
Copies of this screenshot have been sent dozens of times to NEA Report.
The post was made on the wall of Carey Hardin who spoke to NEA Report on Monday. Hardin frequents Godsey’s and knows many of the staff there, she said, having worked at the location once before. Now, she’s a customer and a friend to many who work there.
One of the biggest questions with the situation is why the post was made publicly, rather than through a private message. Hardin said she was “mortified” when she saw the post, visible to all of her and Fowler’s Facebook friends. Understandably, she worried for her child.
“The thought of my child being labeled if we are seen out and about is not something I would wish on anyone,” Hardin said. “And that will be how he is viewed from here on out.”
Friends of Hardin perceived the misspelled-message as an attack on a mother and a special needs child. They rushed to her aid, defending her in comments. Despite a litany of replies from people telling Fowler he was wrong, the man known as “Wally Jr.” wouldn’t back-off.
In one comment, he said he no longer puts up with “shit” from others.
Fortunately, she wasn’t alone.
A friend of hers invited her and her child to stay with them until things calmed down. The friend was one of the Godsey’s co-founders, Gray Hurt.
“Thank goodness they were there for us,” Hardin added.
In a public post by the other Godsey’s co-founder, Lisa Godsey added her support to Hardin.
“What happened yesterday on FB should never have happened,” Godsey wrote.
It would not just be her friends who were there for her and the young child. The internet adopted Hardin’s cause and began to respond en masse, as friends took screenshots of the crass post by Fowler and began sharing it. For each friend who shared it, more became angry and continued to circulate the post.
At the beginning of Sunday, Godsey’s enjoyed several hundred reviews on their page with the downtown restaurant ranking over 4.0 on a five-star scale. By Sunday night, the rage-reviews had driven the restaurant below two-stars. There were more one-star reviews than five-star reviews – by the hundreds.
NEA Report reached out to Godsey’s Grill Downtown for comment. The message was read but we received no reply.
One thing which did not help matters was a post made by the page admin on the Godsey’s page on Sunday. In the post, the “management team” apologizes for disabling the business page for a short time Sunday morning. Notably absent from the post, as many pointed out, was any apology for comments made to Hardin on her wall.
By Monday morning, once again, Godsey’s Grill Downtown was no longer found on Facebook. The page had been removed from the public due to the massive backlash and process known as “review-bombing.”
A review bomb is an internet phenomena by which large groups of people leave negative reviews for a product, brand or business in an attempt to harm their sales and popularity.
While hundreds made their feelings known to the Godsey’s management through reviews, Hardin felt sympathy for the staff of Godsey’s. She said the staff had reached out to her and showed her comfort and compassion during the fallout from the comments.
“These people have taken care of me in my darkest hours,” Hardin said. “They have fed my child when I couldn’t. They have let me breath when I needed a break that so many people cannot & will not ever understand. I love those people, the backbone of Godsey’s.”
There may be a stark contrast between previous and current ownership, as comments above indicate, but Hardin said the most important relationships would never change.
“…one thing that has remained the same is our Godsey family,” Hardin said. “We truly care about each other.”
Stan Morris Reporting