How Walmart web gaffe spawned unhappy Halloween for customers
31 October 2014 -
Retail giant’s choice of language on website’s costume section elicits scary response from public and media
Walmart – the US retailer with 11,000 stores in 27 countries – showed this week that no business, however big or established, is safe from a crisis in the media.
On Monday, one shopper found that Walmart’s website was selling fancy-dress outfits under a Halloween section entitled “fat girl costumes”. The togs – which also included vampire and saloon girl getup – seemed to be encouraging plus-size females to dress in various guises, although the section’s title was hardly endearing.
A rush of angry tweets flooded from members of the public, and before long the story was picked up by the likes of Time, CNN, the Daily Mail and BuzzFeed – ensuring that you’d know about the gaffe, even if you’d never set foot in a Walmart store.
Company spokesman Ravi Jariwala told BuzzFeed: “We first heard about it this morning – our teams immediately engaged, we’re working to remove it as soon as possible and make sure it never happens again.”
The webpage was deleted soon after and the following message was posted on Walmart’s Twitter feed: “This never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable and we apologize”. The company responded to many of the angry tweets, but some people felt it was insincere: many of the messages just seemed to have been copied and pasted from the original tweet.
Walmart did act reasonably fast, and apologised – but overall the response was considered a little robotic, and there’s still been no explanation for how the mistake actually happened. Thing like this could happen to any big retailer, but surely Walmart could employ a proofreader to double check content before it’s uploaded?
Will Edwards is managing director of media training consultancy Bluewood Training.
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