The Sechelt Animal Hospital found itself warding off angry calls and emails from as far as California last week, when a misunderstanding took root on Facebook, implicating them in an illegal dump.
“They weren’t very polite,” clinic administrator Meghan Graves said. “There were hostile messages, hostile phone calls.”
A photograph of an illegal garbage dump, discovered by a resident near Trout Lake Road, went viral last week. By the time the original thread was removed from Facebook, it had received more than 8,000 comments and was viewed more than 219,000 times.
Those following the thread begged poster Becky Wayte to reveal a customer’s name listed upon a receipt found amongst the trash. She refused.
But Wayte happened to mention that the receipt had come from the Sechelt Animal Hospital. One misunder-standing led to another and things got out of hand.
“It was like people started reading the comments and stopped reading the original post,” Graves said. According to her, Wayte’s comment “didn’t implicate us at all,” but the misunderstanding took root nonetheless.
Phone calls, emails and harsh comments targeted the business early in the week, leading Graves to request the thread be deleted.
“I think it was fairly easily rectified. People didn’t apologize necessarily, but they realized they had misread the post and stopped,” she said. “It’s a little scary that people will react so, well, so quickly to information that they’ve misunderstood.”
She admitted it could have been worse. Had the comment actually made the assertion that the business was involved, Graves said, “I don’t think they would have believed us.”
While the original thread has since been deleted, Wayte said she tried to dispel the false assumption to no avail.
“The whole social media thing is fascinating, to say the least. Also kind of scary,” she said. “No matter how often I said that the Sechelt Animal Hospital didn’t dump the garbage, the message just wasn’t getting out. I would say my original post travelled thousands of times faster than any correction I made.”
The receipt had personal and possibly identifying information on it and has since been turned over to the proper authorities, Wayte said, adding her feeling that it may yet serve as a clue.
“Lesson learned on my part,” she said. “Never put any identifying information in a post — good or bad — unless someone specifically wants it there.”