I didn't write my usual blog post last week. This is because I was sat in my caravan, in the pouring rain, pretending to enjoy myself. Those of a Top Gear persuasion may be of the opinion that such an activity offers about as much fun as bathing in a sheep dip, but I feel this is unfair. I like my caravan. I like putting up the awning, and lashing it down tight so that it doesn't blow away like the last one I had. I especially love the "walk of shame" across the campsite to empty the cassette toilet. Or perhaps not.
But, caravan holidays are cheap and this appeals to my inner miser. We've had an entire week for the family on a nice park with all the facilities for a shade over £100. Admittedly, there was the significant outlay for the van in the first place. And, then there is the not insubstantial cost of running the big thirsty vehicle that is needed to tow it. Not to mention the extra fuel required whilst towing. And the storage charges. And the insurance. And the servicing. And all the accessories we had to buy. And it may well be true that we could have had several decent holidays abroad for all that money. But, come on! £100 for a week!
There is however, a slightly disconcerting issue with campsite shower and toilet blocks. Last week, I strolled across the field, in the rain (obviously), to take a shower. Unfortunately however, this wasn't immediately possible due to the fact that the shower was full of mud. This I don't understand. I walked over the same wet field as the previous occupant without picking up enough dirt on my shoes to start a smallholding. Even if I had, I might have taken off the dirty shoes outside the shower cubicle. Failing this, I might have at least thought to clean my shoes (and the shower cubicle) afterwards to leave it nice and clean for the next happy campist.
Having cleaned the shower myself, and completed my ablutions, I then opened a toilet cubicle door and stared aghast at the horrors within. Despite the toilet brush placed, somewhat optimistically, by the bowl, the toilet looked like it had been through an extended war with a sewer pipe and lost. Badly. Next my glance was drawn to the walls, and the floor, and the ceiling. Seriously, what sort of incontinent contortionist had used the facilities before me? Frankly, it defied the laws of physics, let alone good manners.
You could be forgiven for thinking that this is simply a sad indictment of the cleaning regime at the campsite in question, but since I saw the staff regularly (and bravely) heading in to the blocks to clean, I know that this is not the case. You might think then that this odd behaviour was a one-off. Perhaps an angry baboon, escaped from the nearby zoo, threw mud everywhere and then emptied its bowels thoroughly on every clean surface? But no, baboons have much better personal hygiene than that, and sadly this scenario is repeated at campsites, festival grounds and public facilities everywhere. This got me to thinking: 'do they behave this way at home?'
Of course not. And herein lies an insight into human nature. When we are outside of our normal surroundings we sometimes find it easy to behave very differently to the way we might normally. Sometimes we let our standards drop.
This is especially true when it comes to behaviour on the Internet. It's very easy to "shout" abuse at some user called FluffyBunny47 on a YouTube comment thread, but I guarantee that most wouldn't dream of saying the same thing in person. Particularly if FluffyBunny47 turned out to be a 6'9" hairy biker with the word "hate" tattooed across his face.
We think that we're safe and anonymous online, when really we are anything but. Our online interactions can become public all too easily, and worse still, they are archived for eternity. You might be able to convince FluffyBunny47 to his face that he misheard you, but online the evidence is there in black & white.
This lesson should be heeded also by businesses that are generating content online, whether it be their own website, a blog, or on a social media platform. When you expose your business via these channels, you are inviting customers to engage with you, and engage they very well might. And they may say something that is very negative, something perhaps that they wouldn't say to you in person or via the telephone. How will you respond, bearing in mind that the whole exchange will be available for the public to see?
Here's my tip: remember the campsite toilet. Some people will lob dirt everywhere when they think they can get away with it. The best reaction is to just clean it up quickly and with good humour. Don't react in the heat of the moment! Instead, think through a solution and play it out. Trust that the rest of the viewing public will be able to judge for themselves whether what has been said is reasonable or not...
...unless the viewing public are caravaners, in which case they will be too busy emptying cassette toilets and pretending to enjoy themselves to care.