How An Email Destroyed a Clothing Store

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Today more than ever before Social Media such as twitter, Facebook, and youtube has given an incredible amount of power to the average consumer which means your phone, computer, or iPod is no longer just a tool or entertainment but also a weapon to combat injustice.

One of the most interesting stories about Social Media’s ability to reveal an injustice took place in September 2011 when a customer shopping at a popular clothing store named Gasp was offended by the actions of their staff. The customer claims a salesperson was rude, made remarks about her being a size twelve or not being able to find clothes that would fit her, and yelled he knew she was a joke (not being able to afford their clothes) the moment she walked in the store as the customer stormed out.

Later that evening she sent an email to the manager asking for an apology for the way she was treated. Instead the email explained that Gasp was only for the “fashion forward consumer” implying the customer didn’t have an understanding of style and the sales person was a “retail superstar” whose only problem was being “too good at what he does.” The letter ended by respectfully asking that she sidestep their store.

A few years ago this woman would have responded by writing a letter to the companies home office, argued with the staff, or maybe convince some of her friends to no longer buy their clothes at Gasp. Instead after sharing her email and the response with a few friends the communication became viral and was soon trending on twitter with people around Australia reading the managers arrogant response on websites or hearing about it on the nightly news.

Amazingly the staff of Gasp refused to back down calling the customer and her friends bullies who got what they deserved. But their brave response couldn’t cover up the fact that following Septembers incident people stopped buying their clothes. In fact an attitude of hostility was created towards Gasp (and their unwillingness to apologise) with people referring to their clothing as over-priced, out of style, and poorly made which resulted in anyone shopping there no longer buying cool or trendy clothes but items connected a business people hated. There are numerous stories of people during the busy holiday season seeing every store filled with customers, except for Gasp which was almost always empty.

In early December Gasp softened its stance and decided to publicly apologise on television to the customer by name. They claimed this was done because in retrospect she was treated rudely, but today news has broken that the store is facing liquidation over unpaid bills. The company claims this is simply a misunderstanding as they had been overcharged and are refusing to pay the extra amount but it appears as if the problem is much more serious.

What took this store from asking a woman not to shop there in September to facing liquidation in December? One woman shared a few emails with some friends which then was shared with people around the world through twitter. Social Media is a tool that can bring enjoyment, pleasure, and fun into our lives but it is also a weapon that can and must point out when injustice has been done. This of course doesn’t mean we should constantly be looking for someone to attack with our tweets or Facebook posts, but it does point out the power of Social Media for change. Whenever we log onto Facebook or check our tweets we have a weapon in our hands, lets make sure we wield it well.

Published by

John Wilburn

Church planter, teacher, and disciple-maker in Barrouallie St. Vincent

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