Amy’s Baking Company: A Real Life Kitchen NightmareThe Daily Beast, May 14, 2013.

If you’ve spent any time on the Internet over the past day or so, you should be familiar with the case of Amy’s Baking Company, a Scottsdale, AZ restaurant that was featured on Gordon Ramsay’s show “Kitchen Nightmares.” The owners were so abrasive with their customers, employees and Chef Ramsay that he quit, a first for in the history of the FOX show. The owners lashed out at their critics on their Facebook page in all caps.

By all accounts in the media and from viewing the clips that have been circulating online, the owners are unpleasant people. They threatened to arrest a customer who complained of waiting over an hour for the food he ordered, they were accused of pocketing the tips from their employees and have reportedly gone through over 100 different employees over the past year. I can’t imagine that Amy’s Baking Company could possibly stay in business much longer, and that’s probably well-deserved. Should I find myself in Scottsdale anytime soon, I doubt I would be visiting Amy’s Baking Company (though I wouldn’t mind checking out Stand Up Scottsdale, the comedy club featured on the Spike TV reality show “Bar Rescue”).

I do strongly believe that when adults open a business (or put out a piece of art in some form), they are inviting objective criticism, whether they like it or not. Having said that, I still find myself having some sympathy for owners Amy and Samy Bouzagl. There are two reasons I don’t think the online vigilante justice is entirely fair.

First, one way the Internet responded to this was to publish thousands of negative reviews on the Yelp page of Amy’s Baking Company. If anything, this illustrates the uselessness of Yelp. The Bouzagls would hardly be the first to claim that they were misrepresented on a show like “Kitchen Nightmares.” There’s a long line of people with more credibility claiming the shows were staged. As unpleasant as Amy and Samy Bouzagl probably are, it hardly seems fair for thousands of people to overwhelm their Yelp page with reviews of restaurants they never visited. A typical review was like Blake L. of Silverdale, WA, who said (sic), “Well…..I just want to hop on the crazy train! Hopefully this review isn’t to late to the game, and I can get good and “FUC’d” by all of the crazy upvoters!” You don’t have to be entirely sympathetic to the owners to find it unseemly (and horribly unfunny) when Joey M. of Littleton, CO writes, “I found a pube, a gorilla tooth, and what I believe was a fingernail in the cheese. After receiving another dish (less ‘things’ in it), I realized that they had actually heated up a rubber egg toy in the microwave and poured it on some ramen noodles.”

I have no idea whether or not half of the rumors being spread through Reddit about the Bouzagls are true but they are being accused of also being convicted felons. It wouldn’t be the first time the Reddit hivemind was wrong about something.

A thread on Reddit was called, “So Amy’s Baking Company’s Facebook page is having a complete meltdown right now. They are actively commenting and replying to “haters”. The cringe is good.” Buzzfeed called it “the most epic brand meltdown on Facebook ever.” But Amy and Samy Bouzagl aren’t just some brand that people saw on TV once (or more likely saw on a YouTube clip passed around the Internet) but they are very real people and business owners who have their own fragile psyches and they are way overmatched to deal with an Internet mob seeking some form of public justice (most likely lulz).

I suppose I see why people on the Internet would find so much joy in going after the Bouzagl’s (and Michele Shocked before that) and they might be fully functioning adults in complete control of their faculties (though I have my doubts) but that doesn’t mean the next unfortunate person to piss off Reddit will be. Running away from something that will go on your permanent Google record is a fool’s errand, and there are few ways out, once the Internet decides you don’t belong.

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