After being granted a temporary court injunction by the superior court this weekend, the Attorney General saw the doors of Trinity Bible Chapel in Woolwich locked for allegedly breaking COVID-19 restrictions on a repeated basis. Contracted to secure the building by the Ministry of the Attorney General, G&A Lock and Security in Waterloo quickly found itself the target of a number of irritated community members, taking aim at their online Google reviews as an avenue for expressing their frustration over the situation. After an initial shock which tanked the businesses’ online rating, an outpouring of community support boosted the company to a near five-star review – with individuals leaving their own stories of the work they’d had completed over the past years.
Speaking to the tumultuous weekend online was Robert Dippell, President & General Manager of William Knell & Company Ltd, the parent company of G&A Lock and Security. Reflecting on the first flood of negativity, Dippell said his company has often been involved in similar situations with regards to “securing a premises” – generally stuck between two parties that “disagree on something.” In its 50 plus years of providing service to the community – Dippell said it’s not unusual to be in a situation where there’s a severe degree of tension, though he added that he’s never been involved in a job that garners so much publicity; and that he’s never seen something move so quickly.
“Negative reviews started so quickly in the morning,” said Dippell. “We didn’t expect it. I’ve never seen it before. Our Google review page going into this had a little over 100 reviews since the beginning of time – and all of the sudden we were getting several dozen negative reviews, and a smattering of positive ones.”
“Then, the tide sort of shifted and the positive reviews seemed to accelerate. Now we’ve received hundreds – I’ve lost track. I believe we’re at over 500 plus reviews when we started this Saturday morning at (…) a hundred and twenty-five perhaps.”
Some of the new one-star reviews expressed disappointment in G&A for choosing to “be a part of” the effort to close the church, while other respondents were more severe - accusing the company of being “hired by tyrants” and putting money over their integrity. Dippell said he fully acknowledges that there are individuals who have been negatively impacted by the company’s involvement in the issue, though he adds that they were “following a lawful order” rather than passing judgement by their actions.
“Tensions are high in this situation – higher than most, and we were just an easy target for the ire of the church members,” said Dippell. “I have no animosity toward them because I understand – everyone’s felt a build up of anxiety and tension from the pandemic – and it’s even more so in this case. They were just looking for a target and we were there – conveniently.”
Before the positive reviews began on the weekend, Dippell said his initial shock was “soon supplanted by fear”, as he worried that the company’s long developed reputation would be diminished – though he added that he was glad to see that those same community members that have been served over the past 50 years came forward to support the company. At time of writing, the business’ reviews are largely positive, with hundreds of new posts praising previous work done by the company, which others praise G&A for helping to protect the health of the community. While Dippell said he’s certain there’s “some way” of getting a review expunged from the company’s page, he said that’s not something they’re interested in doing.
“We’ve received hundreds of reviews,” said Dippell. “I think the shock of the pace at which it happens is probably the biggest learning that I had. It’s amazing how fast social media was able to mobilize – both on the positive side and the negative side.”
When asked what it was like to see the community stepping up to support G&A Lock and Security’s reputation, Dippell said it was nice to be recognized, adding that the locksmith has been providing an important service to the community for many years while still operating as a “fairly low key, below the radar” business. Dippell admitted that the work they do is not necessarily “high profile”, meaning that they may not be top of mind for individuals to be giving positive feedback on the service provided.
“I understand the pressure they’ve been under, and I understand the good things the Church does … and I’m not trying to interfere with that – but it’s our responsibility to follow the lawful order.” said Dippell. “I would hope that we can all understand that G&A had a role to do and we’ve done it, and it’s not about putting dollars over Church, it’s about following our role in the community.”