AutoZone Faces Social Media Backlash Over “Fake Beard Bandit” Incident

The “Fake Beard Bandit” has robbed over 30 business locations in the Hampton Roads area. He was about to do it again, when he walked through the front of an AutoZone in York County, VA a few weeks ago. That is…until he met clerk Devin McClean.

While the robber waved his weapon at the front desk, demanding money from the store manager, McClean (an Airforce veteran) ran out the back door to his car and retrieved his personal handgun.

When McClean ran back in with the gun, the Fake Beard Bandit dropped the bag of money and fled the premises with his hands in the air.

While the local community and even his own manager said they were happy for his actions, McClean was fired two days later. AutoZone has a zero tolerance policy against employees who bring weapons into the store.

Social Media Uproar

Since McClean’s termination, consumers nationwide have used social media to scorn AutoZone for its actions.

Facebook pages like Boycott AutoZone in Support of Devin McClean, which has almost 14,000 likes, have been set up to boycott the chain. Many are even using AutoZone’s own facebook page to express their anger.

What’s AutoZone response? So far, the company has ignored the tremendous amount of complaints, and posted a $500 Gift Card Sweepstakes on their Facebook wall.

Judging by the comments, the sweepstakes didn’t distract the public from the Devin McClean story. Some commenters are even using the sweepstakes as a platform to tell others how to complain via telephone.

Embracing Social Media for Your Business

Many businesses are hesitant to open social media accounts, because they worry they’re giving disgruntled customers a platform to publicly complain. But in the age of technology, your consumers have several platforms to express their feelings. The advantage of Facebook and other social media sites is your ability to publicly respond.

And that’s an advantage you should use.

At The Primm Company, we advise social media clients to address complaints as soon as possible. Apologize for any possible error on your part, then take the conversation offline, encouraging the person to call you personally.

In extreme cases like this, we would recommend AutoZone make a public statement about their policy and actions. Even if they stick by their original decision to fire Devin McClean, an open letter explaining their actions is necessary. Ignoring complaints only makes the company look worse.  As does trying to avoid the topic by offering a gift card giveaway.

If you’d like help managing your social media accounts or even getting things set up, give The Primm Company a call at 757-623-6234.