It was a phone call that prompted Christine Parisi, owner of Parisi, to put pen to paper. A customer had written a scathing online review of the longtime Denver pizzeria (it’s been feeding the Highland neighborhood for 23 years) and Christine responded online. “She called the restaurant as a result of the response and starting cussing Gennaro [my GM] out,” she says. “He’s got thick skin, but just to see his face and hear him say, ‘You’re probably going to hear from this person’….[The caller] is one of those people you can tell is probably struggling with a lot right now and is very angry, and it has very little to do with us. It’s such a small portion of our customers but it’s what sticks with you.”
So Christine included the following plea in Parisi’s May 9 newsletter, which made our hearts ache as we read it. (Christine admitted writing it was painful, too.) We’ve reproduced it here.
Though sunny days are ahead, we need your help.
A delicate topic, especially to share with our biggest supporters who are already our biggest champions. You all already helped us survive the wackiest, scariest experience for a small business, but this one won’t cost a thing. It’s about positively infecting the state of mind of your community, because a portion of society is clearly struggling emotionally.
It started a little over a month ago, as people started to head out into the vaccinated world, some for the first time in over a year. Throughout the pandemic, we received such an amazing outpouring of support as we clumsily adapted to each phase, trying to get our feet back under us. And all of a sudden it stopped…and the complaints started rolling in. All while we are trying to dig ourselves out of the pandemic hole that still very much exists. The positive support is apparent in the volume of food we are preparing and the conversations with our core supporters, but the few voices that land in the office now are mostly complaints. A few justifiable and fixable complaints, some unsubstantiated and cruel, and a couple hopeless and heartless. While we have to remind ourselves that a few bad words aren’t majority consensus, it still takes time and wears on the very exhausted efforts put forth by me and my team. I know the issue is much deeper than what it appears to be. After a year of takeout and consumption of mass media, without real world interaction, it is clear that our community is suffering.
I will always fix mistakes. But I can’t take the unkind approach being used presently. I also can’t expect a dwindling workforce to have such thick skin that they don’t mind being publicly verbally abused. We are getting cussed at and berated. Some are more passive aggressive and formulate really scathing, exaggerated reviews. From some folks, it sounds like we are on a downward spiral, and while yes, at times emotionally this experience feels like a free fall, the food, the consistency, the respect, and the effort is quadrupled.
I can feel the anxiety in people just wanting to be heard…wanting to affect something with their words.
So I’m calling on all of you positive Parisi people to soften the edges on those struggling. Reach out to the cashier at the grocery store and continue to prop them up with compliments. If you hear someone being a proverbial “Karen,” let them know that it’s not OK from the casual observer (or wait until they’re gone and give your customer-service person an airhug). Let the road rager in and pass you. Continue to send positive notes of encouragement to your favorite spots. And let them know that you know the pandemic isn’t really over yet. Nothing is as it was…for now.
Thanks for reading.
Much love, Christine
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