by Pete Mazzaccaro
It started off as a normal workday for Night Kitchen owner Amy Edelman. But then she got an email from a customer warning her a post on the social network Nextdoor had taken a swipe at the bakery and that she might want to respond.
The post, made on the morning of Tuesday, June 23, was a photo of some cookies decorated to read “Trump. For President.”
Under the photo, the poster wrote: “I googled best carrot cake in the area and this came up. Boycott if you find that repulsive”
By Wednesday morning, July 24, the post had 106 replies, many of which defended Night Kitchen. Edelman is well known for progressive views. For example, she founded Green in Chestnut Hill, which drove local business efforts to support sustainable business practices in the neighborhood.
Respondents pointed this out to the original poster, who declined to accept their rebuttals and doubled down on her call for a boycott. She also resisted those who pointed out that businesses have no control over what images appear in google searches of their business.
While most admonished the original poster, a few respondents took the original poster’s suggestion.
One such poster wrote: “This is the same as thinking it’s totally fine to feature a dessert with the name Hitler on it. Thanks for posting this. I am repulsed and boycotting.”
Nextdoor is a social networking platform that launched in 2011. Its distinctive feature is that all users register under their address, which restricts their membership to their own neighborhood and those next to it. A resident of Doylestown who belongs to Nextdoor would not be able to also join Chestnut Hill under the same email address, for example.
The original post to boycott the Night Kitchen was deleted this week, wither by the original poster, or more likely by Nextdoor, which has a set of community guidelines, the most significant of which is that all posts need to “Be helpful, not hurtful.” Reported posts that fail to meet a rather lengthy series of guidelines can be deleted by Nextdoor staff.
Edelman explained that the cookies in the photo were part of a batch she did in 2016 for the primary election. She has been doing the same thing since 2007 and calls it a cookie straw poll. The names that sell are the most popular in the area. It should surprise few that Trump cookies did not sell well in Chestnut Hill. Hillary Clinton cookies, however, did not remain in stock.
“I’m quite offended to be called a Trump supporter,” Edelman said.
But, she said, it wasn’t the first time. The same photo had emerged in a post criticizing the bakery on Facebook last year.
Edelman said she was a bit hysterical after the Facebook post but was able to keep her cool after seeing the one on Nextdoor. She was also gratified that a vast majority of responses were supportive of the bakery.
She is, however, worried about the state of social media and the general climate of debate.
“This is something that is new,” she said of having to monitor and be aware of social media posts as a business owner. “I know a lot of people really hate [online restaurant review site] Yelp for this reason. It’s a forum for people to complain without giving the business owner an opportunity to respond. If someone didn’t like one of our products, I’d always say sorry and offer a credit or refund. Now you have to worry about how many people will have negative reactions to your business based on something someone put out on social media.”
Edelman said she’s not surprised by the call to boycott her business given how tense political debate has been.
“There’s this crazy, fever pitch in political conversations that are out of this stratosphere,” she said. “Everyone is turned up to 11 before they even get any facts. They’re just not using common sense or critical thinking.”
Edelman wasn’t sure whether she would continue the cookie straw poll.
“I have not decided whether or not to continue this straw poll going forward as his existence is so polarizing,” she wrote in response to the Nextdoor post. “I can assure you that we will have Warren, Bernie, Harris and Biden cookies (and whoever else is on the ballot) during the Democratic process.”
Pete Mazzaccaro can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-248-8802.