FEASIBLE & REASONABLE: After trying that approach, a southern Indiana operator couple endures a vengeful thrashing from prospective wedding clients and lose out on some business. How should operators handle damaging customer comments in the age of viral online media?
SELLERSBURG, Ind. -- The operators of a limousine company serving the Louisville, Ky. region are getting a first-ever, firsthand experience in previously prospective clients badmouthing their company wherever possible.
David and Jenny Summit of XTREME TRANSPORTATION, a 22-vehicle company based in Sellersburg, Ind., are trying to counteract the catty correspondence from a couple displeased with the fact that a contract for between them and Xtreme for a June 3 wedding did not work out.
The situation gained wider publicity Wednesday when Carey Fieldhouse, president of the KENTUCKY LIMOUSINE ASSOCIATION, sent out an e-mail from David Summit to the membership detailing the incident and warning other operators not to take business from the New York couple.
[FULL TEXT OF E-MAIL BELOW]
The experience of the Summitts highlights a wider problem for many limousine companies and businesses in the chauffeured transportation sector who at times must contend with damaging and false publicity in the era of social media, smart phones, and instant Internet connectivity.
The Summitts have been MALIGNED ON THE KNOT.COM, a wedding planning website, the Louisville Wedding Network, and at the Better Business Bureau, and sustained a barrage of false accusations ranging from cursing to denying deposits. The angry couple tried multiple times to rewrite a pro-forma two-page contract Xtreme has used for seven years.
As a result, some online respondents to the disgruntled couple's diatribes already have said they would avoid Xtreme Transportation and warn others to do as well. "We’ve lost a few runs or a dozen; there's no way to know for sure," David Summit told LCT. "At least two or three people won’t call us for an opportunity because of the postings."
David Summitt runs a trucking company in Clarksville, Ind. while his wife, Jenny, runs Xtreme Transportation, which she started in 2003. Based just five miles of Louisville, Ky., the full-service luxury transportation provider is a member of the NLA and the Kentucky Limousine Association.
"I have been in business seven years and never had such a complaint," Jenny Summitt told LCT. "She is dragging us through the mud. Whether it's a maintenance problem, or a late chauffeur, I will make anything right that is my fault. That is how I run the business."
David Summitt said he helped his wife counteract the negative publicity by posting responses to the furious wedding couple. "I don’t know how to deal with this other than be honest, share all information you can, and make whomever look at both sides and make their own decision."
Jenny Summitt points out she had to discontinue the contract because of the repeated deceptions from the prospective clients. She said there are plenty of other limousine companies in the region that would have available vehicles for a June 3 wedding.
“Good luck to the person who gets them. If they did it to me, they’ll do it to someone else.”
[COMING NEXT WEEK IN E-NEWS: Tips on how operators should handle negative client publicity].
-- Martin Romjue, LCT editor
FULL TEXT OF KLA E-MAIL BELOW:
I was wondering if you would have all of the email addresses for the members of the KLA. Jenny and I have just had a situation hit us that we have never had before and we wanted to warn everyone of a potential problem couple.
We were talking to a party about a wedding in June 2011. The conversations started back in November 2010. The potential clients were changing vehicles around and asking for different pricing of which we provided. Then we sent them a contract. Our contract is a simple two page contract. The client wanted 15 + changes to our contract, they refused to pay any Gratuity and also did not want to pay a deposit, wanted our newest and largest car for the same price as an older and smaller vehicle. We were very up front with these people and told them that we were not willing to change our terms. A couple of weeks went by and we assumed they were shopping the market and we were o.k. with that as we just could not agree to what they wanted us to do. Then they came back to us and said they wanted to move forward and that they were returning our contracts and deposit checks. Upon receiving the contracts and checks Jenny noticed that they changed the contracts again in two different places. Jenny picked up the phone and told them that we would be returning their checks and terminating their contracts as they had further changed our contacts after we explicitly told them we would not allow for changes. Then the couple decided to then call me of which I backed up Jenny and told them we could not allow for the changes they requested and we had already put them on notice that we had another party wanting the same vehicle in the same day and we had already contacted that party and they signed an agreement.
I thought all was resolved although they were not happy. We learned that they have reach out and contacted the BBB, The Louisville Wedding Network, etc. as well as posted several very negative blogs on various websites and they continue to be set on causing us all of the grief they can.
Jenny and I are pretty easy going people trying to earn a living and be respectful along the way. The bottom line is this soon to be bride says she is very well connected and her fiancé is a New York Attorney. The postings they have been making are not at all true and make Xtreme sound terrible and further they have made a lot of statements of Jenny that are not true. This couple seems like they are on a mission to do everything possible to hurt our credibility. I have told Jenny there are just some people that you cannot make happy even after bending over backwards to accommodate them. I have finally come to the conclusion that we are not able to please this couple and I want to warn everyone of the potential of having this couple contact them in an attempt to provide transportation services for their upcoming wedding on June 3, 2011. Their names are [DELETED BY LCT]. I don’t want to see anyone drug thru the mud like we have been and I have a great concern they are going to do this again to whomever they use.
Summitt Trucking, LLC