COMPANY CULTURE / OCT. 31, 2014
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Walmart Faces Backlash after Employee Uploads Offensive Halloween Costume Description

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This is a good example of why brands and businesses should choose their words carefully. The popular bargain goods store, Walmart has landed itself in trouble this week after the store’s online website was caught selling ‘fat girl costumes’ for Halloween which has mortified the store’s customers and everyone else for that matter.

Walmart has removed the offensive costume description, but not before having to endure the public backlash. Now, Walmart has explained that the costume description on its website was the result of an internal hiccup, translation, the person whose job it is to upload the product descriptions for Walmart’s Halloween costumes made a serious error in judgement. Amidst this humiliating advertising error a spokesperson for Walmart commented:

“This never should have been on our site. It is unacceptable, and we apologize.

We are working to remove it as soon as possible and ensure this never happens again.”

Whilst people continue to vent their anger towards Walmart via social media, here’s the flip side to this unfortunate situation. Anyone who works within the online content sector will tell you that’s it’s not always such an easy job. Mistakes do happen. Ok, they may not happen on this scale, but an online website like Walmart has a lot of content and sure, the judgement of the person who was responsible for this error was wrong. However, whoever this individual is - it appears they had no intention for that product description to be published publicly online.


 

When you are in the business of publishing online content, you have to really think about what you are writing and you have to carefully take into consideration the organisation or the business you are writing for. What this story has really highlighted is perhaps two things; prejudice and the plight of online content writers everywhere.

Walmart’s consumers have a right to be upset regardless if the “fat girl costumes” description was never intended for public publication and the consequences for Walmart are clearly not very positive. Since Halloween was fast approaching the store decided to plug its Halloween costumes on its website as this is a prime marketing opportunity, but Walmart’s reputation has taken a serious blow because one of its internal employees decided to tag these costumes in a very negative way.

If this was all just an error in judgement, then surely Walmart can be forgiven, content writers are paid to write content Walmart cannot be held accountable over something an employee wrote and that’s the bottom line. When you’re talking about online advertising and content it’s very easy to make mistakes and we are not just talking about spelling mistakes and typos here. We are talking about when a writer for large company goes rouge and starts writing things that make the company look bad in the public’s eyes.

Another issue that lies at the heart of this story has nothing to do with what Walmart’s content writer wrote. It has to do with why they wrote it. Everyone should be talking about why this employee thought it was appropriate to label these costumes using the words they did rather than lash out at a company that was simply advertising some products.

This entire thing is neither a trick nor a treat for Walmart and its customers.

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