What’s the worst thing about being a plumber – wading through other people’s shit? Squeezing your body into crawl spaces and wall cavities? No, it’s having to use social media.
In the past, a shoddy job or dodgy driving manoeuvre would result in a disgruntled call to head office at worst. In the internet era, however, one man’s faux pas (or series of faux pas) can circle the globe in seconds.
Social media is a great leveller. From celebs to humble plumbers, we are all equal. Which is why, when a plumber in an Edinburgh suburb went apeshit, the world waded in.
It all began innocuously enough when a woman called out The Secret Plumber’s bad driving on Twitter.
MASSIVE thanks to the @secret_plumber van reg no SL62FKG for almost driving in the back of me. At 9mths pregnant, I REALLY appreciate that.— Nicola (@nicolalalalala) December 7, 2013
The plumbing firm could have responded by issuing an apology or by promising to look into the matter. Hell, it could have responded by not responding at all – nothing would have been better than the response its boss ultimately went with:
Not content with calling a pregnant woman (and the world in general) a bunch of fannies, he went one further, informing the red-lipped Nicola:
Later, on Facebook, he dug a little deeper:
There’s internet butthurt, and then there’s the sort of rage that can only be felt by a man who has spent all weekend unblocking other people’s sewage. Our plumber would appear to have form for bad driving, by the way, with his Facebook page rich with comments from disgruntled customers:
From here, the story unfolds in predictable fashion, with the plumber’s twitter mentions exploding quicker than his temper.
Of course, social media fails are hardly uncommon. Every day we read of another corporation that has completely misread the public mood, usually by latching on to a public event and using it to promote their brand. There was Kellog’s with their “1 RT = 1 breakfast for a vulnerable child”, followed, only a day ago, by SpaghettiOs who tweeted “Take a moment to remember #PearlHarbor with us” accompanied by a picture of a grinning SpaghettiO holding an American flag.
Outrage and memes predictably followed, as did the overdue apology:
We apologize for our recent tweet in remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day. We meant to pay respect, not to offend.— SpaghettiOs (@SpaghettiOs) December 7, 2013
That so many corporations are still getting social media wrong astonishes me and every other person who (successfully) uses the internet. Seriously, how hard is it to drum this mantra into your social media interns:
Do not use sombre events to publicise your brand. Ever.
Superbowl power failure? By all means dive in with hilarious viral images. The death of Nelson Mandela or the anniversary of Pearl Harbour however?
With corporate social media accounts making a horse’s arse of the internet, what hope is there for a plumber from Dalry?
Twitter suicide – a fate worse than death?
This isn’t a corporation or even a medium-sized business we’re talking about. This is a man with a van and perhaps a handful of employees.
They don’t have a social media department. They don’t talk about ‘building a brand’ or ‘engaging in meaningful dialogue with the community’ to ‘create a buzz about their products and services’.
The same guy who runs their Twitter is the bloke who unblocks your drains (or did, assuming he’s now been blacklisted by Edinburgh’s netizens). The boss of The Secret Plumber is a twenty-something guy who appears to have been late to the internet party. (Full dox here courtesy of Kobra.)
He wasn’t raised on Twitter etiquette and social media 101. When you were first learning to limit your thoughts to 140 chars, he was crawling underneath bathroom floors with dust in his eyes and sewage in his nose.
The Secret Plumber is – dare I say it – probably not such a bad guy in real life. A bit dour. A bit grumpy. A bit Scottish.
Should the internet – myself included – be jumping down his throat just because of a humble labourer’s inability to grasp the nuances of Twitter?
Just as I was writing the above sentence, Tweetdeck beeped to signal a new interaction. Its source? The Secret Plumber himself.
Decision time…should I continue to advocate a defence of the man currently raging at me (and the rest of the world)? Or should I hit the reply button and use the term ‘fuck nugget’ to devastating effect?
Feel the butthurt
While the hole that our plumber keeps digging is undoubtedly hilarious, there is a serious issue at stake here. As the meltdown unfolds in real time, we’re about to witness a theory put to the test:
Does what happens on the internet stay on the internet, or does it cross over into real life?
The Secret Plumber drama began in real life with some (allegedly) shoddy driving. The remainder of the action has been contained to the internet however. Throughout the heated exchanges, the plumber has asserted that the vitriol directed at him will have no effect on business, boasting that he’s fully booked up until Xmas.
This may well be true; it’s hard to imagine little old ladies in Morningside phoning up to cancel their new bathroom on account of a few tweets. (“Fit’s a tweet anyway?”)
Post-Xmas, however, things could get more interesting. I dunno about you guys, but in this day and age if I need to find a local business, I don’t use Yellow Pages (lol) or some other business directory. I use Google.
At present, a Google search for The Secret Plumber throws up the following:
In the marketing profession, we have a special phrase for that. It’s called fuck all. Fertile ground, then, for a blogger to write an article entitled The Secret Plumber – Edinburgh’s Worst Tradesman or Just a Very Naughty Boy? The sort of article that one would expect to be appearing near the top of an organic Google search near you very soon.
I’ve got form for this by the way. During the summer, a Fringe theatre company censored some mildly critical reviews I wrote. What happened next can be found here. (That article, just like this one, has since featured in the Guardian without any prior knowledge on my part.) It’s a long but hopefully entertaining read – one that culminated in their Google search history being hogged by yours truly.
In true South Park style, it only seems right to end this tale with a little moralising. What have we learned today? We, the people, haven’t learned much that we didn’t already know: raging at people on the internet is retarded. Corporations failing at social media is hilarious. Small businesses failing at social media is also hilarious.
TIL: There’s no such thing as a secret plumber
On a serious note, our not-so-secret plumber would do well to heed that unlikely source of internet etiquette – The Hives. On Thursday night, they had an IRL fail while playing a gig in Boston. As you may recall, Boston was in the news for tragic reasons earlier this year. The track that The Hives elected to dedicate to the city?
Tick Tick Boom.
The mistake was genuine, as was the apology that followed.
There’s still time for The Secret Plumber to tweet out an unconditional apology, disable his Twitter app and get on with his life. Alternatively, he could keep dragging his heels while the first page of Google – and every subsequent page – fills up with vituperative blogs and gleeful articles about his beleaguered company.
Moreover, The Secret Plumber employs real people. People who don’t deserve to be beeped at in traffic and called names in the street just because their boss is a tool. Why should they suffer for his intransigence?
The internet and real life aren’t two separate domains: the spheres inevitably overlap.
Are a plumber’s internet words going to cost him real life money? We’re about to find out.
As this story develops, I’ll update this blog. Check back here or consult the Twitter timeline below, which will be added to over the weekend.
As for our Secret Plumber – or should I say James Hogg – I leave this advice:
UPDATE (8/12/13): Since this article went live, a Google search for The Secret Plumber now throws up the following:
The top four results on Google Images also lead back to this site. Should the BuzzFeeds of this world decide to weigh in with inferior copies of this article, The Secret Plumber is going to need the mother of all rebranding exercises, starting with a new name and a new improved attitude.
2ND UPDATE: Our plumber’s Twitter account has now been suspended. Rumour has it he’s hiding out here until the furore dies down:
UPDATE 9/12/13: The Secret Plumber has now emerged on Facebook claiming that he was hacked.
This was predicted here all of two days ago. Amusingly, in the midst of the
plumber’s hacker’s Twitter meltdown, he was swift to dismiss the hacking notion:
To which there can only be one appropriate response: