A young woman in Alberta, Canada got a little more than tasty refreshment when she opened a Vitamin Water bottle this week. Instead of seeing a fun or upbeat message inside the cap of the bottle, Blake Loates was greeted by “YOU RETARD”, a phrase she certainly wasn’t expecting to see.
“We immediately thought ‘You have got to be kidding me, we thought it might have been a disgruntled employee or someone in a (bottling) plant playing a joke.”
Loates told the Huffington Post Alberta that she and her father were especially offended by the message, as her younger sister Fiona has cerebral palsy and autism. Blake’s father Doug stayed up all night that night working on a letter to the company:
Coke got back to Blake quickly, explaining that this cap is part of a contest where the company randomly prints one English word and one French word on the inside of their caps. Random is right. They managed to offend quite a few people with this random phrase. Perhaps next time, they’ll have a list of words to exclude from projects like these? They went on to assure the family that they did not mean to offend, and apologized for their oversight.
Shannon Denny, director of brand communications for Coca-Cola Refreshment Canada, went on to explain that “When you look at the same word in English, it takes an offensive connotation,” but in French, the word just means “late” or “delayed”.
The Loates family is still confused as to how the word got put on the list in the first place, as they were assured that the list had been reviewed in both languages. Coke is now working to make things right. The company has assured Blake that they’re suspending the promotion and that all of the remaining caps have been destroyed.
Blake continues to share her story, stating that the family feels like the “Little Engine That Could.” She’s gotten hundreds of messages of support via Facebook, and continues to share her story. “We’re just really glad we’re getting a chance to let people know how hurtful the ‘r-word’ is.”
What are your thoughts on Coke’s major mess-up? Recoverable? I think so, but they’ve got some major apologizing to do.