Etiquette isn’t as complicated as you might think.

A is polite; A is interested in what you have to say; A is responsive. A makes you feel like you’ve contributed something to their day. B ignores everything you tell them; B has never responded to you, even though you’ve responded to something they’ve asked for or tried to help them out. B never ever thanks you for telling them how good their photographs look.

Whom are you more likely to remember and interact with again?

Me too.

Ironically, some of the best people I follow (I’m not including real celebrities like Stephen Fry or Bill Bailey on this list) are people who, despite huge strides and achievements in their fields, still remain really connected to their followers. Niamh Shields, someone whom I adore for her no-nonsense tweets laced with humour and energy, and for her varied foodie successes, started where I am now. She’s amassed more than 19,000 Twitter followers and yet, she is never too busy to respond to you. I am being perfectly serious when I add that she has never ignored anything I’ve ever said to her. With the number of people who are constantly talking to her, you would think she would ignore a response here or there – but she never has. And for this reason I remember details about her life; the things she’s tweeted about. I can remember the name of her cookbook off the top of my head. I remember when she travels, and I remember to ask her how she feels if she’s mentioned she’s been ill.

On the other hand, someone I used to follow asked people to tell her about their experiences with children who have parroted inappropriate things in public places; I sent her a story from my own youth (I once heard my mother say that an expected guest had a large nose, and when he arrived I repeated it to his face verbatim, much to my mother’s horror) to which she never responded. Now, I had taken the time to send her that. I would have been happy with a ‘haha’ in response, but I never got any. She asked more questions about other topics, which I ignored. I didn’t see the need to respond to someone who is unresponsive. Eventually, I just stopped following her.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, people take time out of their lives to send you a response, to retweet something that you said, or to acknowledge you exist. Like any relationship, the relationship between you and someone who follows you _is_ based on give and take. It’s nice to be nice, and it’s niceness that is remembered. When you are rude or unresponsive, people tend to lose interest in you. As I’ve said before, you aren’t King or Queen of the world atop your ivory tower; nobody owes you anything. It’s good to interact with your followers. Give a little, and take a little. Ad infinitum.

And so we come to businesses. I was going to just include a paragraph about how it’s important to ensure that if you are a business, you should always be sure that the right person represents you on the internet. That was until my experience yesterday with Burch & Purchese, a sweet studio located in Melbourne.

I began following them on Twitter a while back, as I’d heard them mentioned by fellow foodies, and on Masterchef Australia. Australia is in my very near future, and I’ve been using social media (especially Twitter) to forge relationships and create new networks for myself in Sydney and Melbourne – two cities I’m going to be spending a lot of time in. One of the things on my list of things to do in Melbourne was to visit their shop.

Yesterday one of my acquaintances (and someday I hope to call her a friend) posted a photograph of their window display, to which I responded. I asked her: Is it true that they’re going to be closing soon? Now, that was an honest question which I was hoping to get an answer for. I read a lot of articles about a lot of food-based businesses every single day – both Australia-based and worldwide. I was confused; I didn’t know something. I asked a question.

My friend reacted with shock and horror; she hoped it wasn’t the case (Burch & Purchese were included on both these tweets). I said I hoped it wasn’t the case as well, and said I hoped they’d tell me I was wrong. A few hours later the response came, and it was like a slap in the face. ‘Not true find something else to do’ said the tweet. I reacted with my usual politeness and said that I was very glad to hear it, and that I was looking forward to visiting. I got a sarcastic ‘can’t wait’ as a response. I blinked.

About ten minutes later my friend asked me to copy and paste the entire conversation to her, so I tried to ‘expand’ the conversation to see it all. It told me I no longer had access to it. Confused, I went to their account profile. I had been blocked!

Blocked for asking an honest question, insulted for a moment of confusion. I was shocked. I had done nothing to warrant the amount of rudeness that had come at me; I had done nothing that warranted my being blocked. I told my friend about it; she went to their profile and she could see it. She took a screenshot of the conversation, and that’s the one I’ve included here:

I have no idea who that was behind that account. An employee? Darren Purchese himself? His partner? I don’t know. It was tweeted from a ‘phone during the wee hours of the morning in Melbourne; that doesn’t have ’employee’ written all over it. However, I could be mistaken. Whoever that was, they’ve just shot themselves in the foot. They’ve lost a customer in me. This is always going to be an example of what they did. My friends have encouraged me to write in to Burch & Purchese and complain about their customer service fail, but I’m not really encouraged to do so. The same person in charge of their Twitter account may be the person who checks their e-mail; I’m pretty sure I’m going to be ignored.

At the end of the day, I know I’m just one person; a relative nobody in comparison to Burch & Purchese, but I have a voice. I didn’t deserve to be treated that way. Nobody does.

So, here’s your lesson to you in black and white; if you choose someone to represent you on Twitter and Facebook, please make sure they know the rules. Customers are important. One angry/unhappy customer can do a lot of damage to your reputation. You’re never so big that you can afford to lose anyone. Don’t ever make the mistake of thinking that the people who buy your products don’t matter. Because we do. Oh, we do.