Is it legal to secretly record a conversation between two people?
If you live in a “one party consent” jurisdiction, the answer could be yes. While actual legal cases are unique and stand on their specific facts, “one party consent” in Canada (and parts of the United States) generally states that it could be lawful for one person to secretly record a conversation as long as the person recording:
A growing problem
Google “secret recording” and you’ll be inundated with the very latest articles in which powerful, important people are fighting reputational damage, and sometimes legal issues, because their private, unguarded comments somehow went public. The most high profile among them include Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi, Alabama Governor Robert Bentley, LA Laker Nick Young and anesthesiologist Tiffany Ingham.
“People who want to intentionally inflict damage on a company have a faster and more destructive option than posting anonymous reviews to sites like Yelp, Glassdoor or RateMDs."
True, some of these secret recordings were obtained outside of the one party consent law and some of these recordings may themselves be illegal, but that’s beside the point. Whether lawfully or unlawfully obtained, once public, a secret recording of someone’s colourful or offensive words can cause a mountain of damage.
But why should I care, I’m not a celebrity?
Celebrities or politicians aren’t the only ones who must watch their private words – now almost anyone is a fair target for the recorded takedown. I recently worked with a client who was secretly recorded by a disgruntled former employee in an effort to sabotage his business. The lesson he has learned is patently obvious to us– the mic is always on, or to quote my grandmother, mind your Ps and Qs.
Yelp can’t even compare
Remember we live in the age of internet trolls. People who want to intentionally inflict damage on a company have a faster and more destructive option than posting anonymous reviews to sites like Yelp, Glassdoor or RateMDs.com. Cell phones make it incredibly easy to record, upload and share the damning words of a front desk representative, call centre employee or a foot-in-mouth prone CEO.
Seeing or hearing the hurtful comments from the poorly-behaved company representative can be more crippling than a negative review posted to Yelp by someone with the handle Dealhound172. Such sounds and images are gold to a hungry news media.
Small and medium-sized business owners: take action
Want to focus on the bottom line instead of avoiding hitting rock bottom? Savvy business owners should take the time to protect their business. Here are five great ways to get started:
TD Bank is attempting to put a recent media story behind it. It has removed all of its U.S.-based Penny Arcade coin sorting machines from its banks following a report on NBC’s flagship morning program the Today Show.
You’ve likely seen coin sorting machines at banks, in malls and at supermarkets. Instead of counting and tediously rolling the change to take to them bank, one simply dumps the load into the coin sorter in exchange for the equivalent amount in bills. For the convenience, the machines often charge a small percentage, somewhere between 3 and 8%.
NBC consumer affairs reporter Jeff Rossen recently conducted an experiment which highlighted a profound discrepancy with some machines. He and his team counted out piles of change totaling $300.00 each and dumped them into several bags. They then deposited the change in two different brands of coin sorters, Coinstar and Penny Arcade, repeating the experiment at several locations.
Each Coinstar machine passed the test, providing the correct amount each time. Penny Arcade fared worse; some machines were off by only 5 cents, others by a few dollars, but one machine short changed the reporter by a whopping $43.00.
Alerted to the discrepancy, a bank spokesperson struck the right tone, stating “We are disappointed with the experience that The Today Show had with our Penny Arcade coin counting machines." The bank is currently evaluating and re-testing the machines.
TD appears to be doing the right thing in taking action and seems to be striking the right tone in its media responses. But the bank’s initial explanation short changed viewers of the Today Show. It said a coin count could be compromised by bits of lint and dust dropped into the machines as the coins are deposited. Perhaps this may account for a difference of a few cents, but doesn’t explain how something with one millionth the weight of a coin could result in a loss of several dollars.
More troubling however is TD’s claim that the machines are checked twice a day, telling Today “they ‘place a premium’ on their integrity.” If true, TD needs to seriously re-consider its maintenance protocols, since surely the bank would have discovered repeated discrepancies.
But previously published reports paint a more troubling story. The New York Post, for instance, reports TD was alerted to this problem with its Penny Arcade machines at least twice in the past. The Post also says the bank refused to allow state regulators to test them, citing jurisdiction.
Interestingly, The Post concludes its article with a 2008 quote from the bank’s chief marketing officer who said “People collect loose change, so we offer them free (emphasis added) coin counting and piggy banks. That is what makes TD Commerce Bank a love brand.” He did not add, however, that the machines are free to customers. Non-customers must pay an 8 percent fee.
This story holds several lessons for businesses, the obvious one being “a love brand” would never treat customers with such contempt. Nor would it ignore repeated warnings that its operations were flawed.
More subtly, though, small and medium-sized businesses must remember:
Natural disasters are bad for business. Fires and floods don’t care about your business’s sales or other priorities. But here’s the key – your customers won’t care about your sagging sales either when they are inconvenienced by your prolonged closure. If patients can’t get relief from their nagging pain or clients are unable to have important legal documents signed in a timely manner, they’ll go elsewhere. Sometimes for good.
Planning to keep your business running during an emergency is not fun work, but is crucial for survival. Supporting yourself has the added bonus of building trust with your customers too. Here are three quick ways you can generate goodwill while planning for the inevitable.
1. Create your list.
Write down all the possible scenarios that could threaten your operations, and prioritize them based on the likelihood or severity of impact. Consider your natural surroundings, for instance, is your local area dry and forested or perhaps close to a major waterway? How could you keep the doors open in case of forest fire or flood? Build your list of possibilities, but remember to draft response plans as well.
Remember some crises aren’t “natural.” We rely almost entirely on technology, so a failure of infrastructure can result in calamity. Then there’s the human factor. I am currently working with a client whose business is besieged by disgruntled ex-employees keen on hurting his operations. Not only is he upset by the personal affront, dealing with this matter is taking his away providing the best experience for his customers.
2. Build loyalty with rapid communication tools.
In a pinch, could you let all of your customers know your business is closed for the day? Saving customers a wasted trip is a thoughtful step that can build loyalty. But could you retrieve customers’ contact info if prevented from entering your main work location?
Few business owners recognize the other reasons websites and social media exist – to provide important and immediate information in times of crisis. Posting a message to your website, Twitter feed or Facebook page doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be quick.
3. Gain control of your communication vehicles.
Are you or a team member even able to post to your digital properties? Many content marketing firms provide this service for small and medium-sized businesses, which is wonderful in good times, but it’s often difficult – or very costly - to get a hold of your firm to post an emergency message.
If you rely on an outside firm for your digital communication, work with them to ensure someone on your team can post as well. Gaining the knowledge is easy; creating and updating websites is now very easy thanks to the ability to drag and drop items. Plus, you don’t have to be a social media guru to write “We’re closed until Thursday” using 140 characters. Learn the user names and passwords to your digital accounts and, if necessary, write down steps to post a message.
Planning for disasters isn’t fun. But recognizing the power of preparation can go a long way to maintaining sales and keeping customers loyal.
Get On Base
News and real life experiences are the best learning tools. "Get On Base" brings you the best original advice and case studies from the worlds of big and small business, politics and celebrity. Plus, you'll find easy-to-implement action plans to address many of your sales and communications challenges.