Thursday, October 22, 2015

Why We Won't Be Getting Any More BarkBoxes

I have truly enjoyed our monthly surprises, but is likely to be our last BarkBox for a while. I follow BarkBox's Facebook page, and last week they made not one, but two different posts in extremely poor taste. The first was of a baby pinching and slapping a barely-tolerant pug, with caption about it being adorable. By the time I saw it there were approximately 250 negative comments about how this was dangerous for the baby and unfair for the dog, and one positive comment.

There was also a post about breeds that first-time dog owners may not realize are challenging, with the caption "These aren't the puppies you wanna pop your dog owner cherry with (so to speak)." Apparently BarkBox let a teenage boy take over their social media for a day or something because that's just not professional language. This post also had many comments about how the BarkBox Facebook page had suddenly ceased to be family-friendly, and lamenting that fans would not be able to share this post with their friends due to the vulgar caption.

Myself and at least a dozen other people made visitor posts to the BarkBox page alerting them to the inappropriate nature of these posts. By the next morning, the baby-abusing-dog video had been removed from the page, along with all the comments every single visitor post mentioning it, with zero apology or explanation. I made a second visitor post stating my disbelief that they would handle the issue by erasing everything and pretending it didn't happen. The other post remained on their page, obscene caption and all, until a while later when I received a private message from BarkBox. I was told that they had personally responded to every comment about the baby post, even though this was demonstrably false as mine had been deleted with no explanation. Others also commented that theirs had been simply deleted with no explanation.

The gross caption and accompanying post did not come down until I sent them a screenshot. Again, there was no "Hey, sorry, our bad" or any acknowledgement publicly. The messages from BarkBox were much more to the tune of "sorry you were offended" than "whoops, we made a mistake". The implication is that myself and the other unhappy BarkBox fans were simply being overly sensitive about witnessing a dangerous and abusive situation for a dog and reading a crass and overtly sexual caption about a story.

This is not the kind of integrity I've come to expect from BarkBox as a company. What I expected was the video to come down with some sort of public acknowledgment. How about "Whoops, that video was actually a bad idea, here's an informative post/blog/video about healthy and safe dog/baby interactions" to help mitigate some of the damage caused by passing off the original video as cute rather than dangerous. Even posting something about healthy dog/kid interaction while making everything else disappear would have been preferable.

I understand that we're all human here (except for the dogs, of course). Letting one of your minions post idiotic stuff to social media can happen. What really matters is how you handle it. Acknowledging the inappropriateness of the material either publicly or privately, and taking steps to correct the mistake makes your company look responsible and professional. Deleting everything and pretending it never happened saves face with the general public, but loses a lot of integrity points with customers who witnessed the mistake. Also, there are better and worse ways to phrase an apology. "I'm sorry I posted that thing, it was a mistake" is taking responsibility. "I'm sorry you were offended by that thing I posted" says I don't think that thing I posted was offensive and the issue is entirely on the side of the person taking offense. Taking that stance after trying to pretend it didn't happen is just too much. I expected more from BarkBox, and though it may seem like a small thing, it's enough to make me cancel my subscription despite getting a really stellar box this month.


  1. Ugh, I hate when things like this happen with seemingly otherwise-trustworthy companies. I think you did the right thing canceling the subscription,even though it's a shame to lose such a great service.

    1. Yeah, it was a tough choice but it felt like the right thing to do. I really hope they fire someone in their social media department.

  2. I cancelled also for the same reasons. It was hard because they have a great box. I've tried pawpalswithannie and will try pupjoy next.