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Myer fumbles response to social media storm

Paul Smith (via AFR) | May 2, 2013
Myer’s attempts to minimise the social media fallout resulting from chief executive Bernie Brookes’ controversial national disability insurance scheme levy comments fell flat on Thursday.

Myer fumbles response to social media storm

Online outrage about comments made by Myer chief Bernie Brookes continued throughout Thursday Photo: Luis Ascui

 

Department store Myer's attempts to minimise the social media fallout resulting from chief executive Bernie Brookes' controversial national disability insurance scheme levy comments fell flat on Thursday.

Mr Brookes on Wednesday lamented the potential impact of the NDIS levy on store sales, sparking outrage on social media. But two separate attempts by Myer to placate the masses only fuelled the indignation.

Twitter and Facebook lit up overnight on Wednesday after Mr Brookes told a Macquarie Securities conference that the proposed levy would "not [be] good for our customers and not good for the discretionary income world".

His gripe that the $300-odd increase in the Medicare levy would be "$300 [consumers] might have spent with us" served as a red rag to a herd of online bulls.

Hundreds of angry Tweets emerged with the hashtag #BoycottMyer. High-profile Tweeters joined thousands of other online consumers expressing their disbelief at the perceived insensitivity of the comments.

Many said customers with disabilities were being slighted by the comments, pointing out that the beneficiaries of the NDIS would have more money to spend at stores like Myer.

Sensing the online crowds were unhappy, Myer took to its Facebook page early on Thursday to try to hose down the rage.

CALMING THE CROWDS

"Thank you all for your Facebook posts and messages. To clarify comments made yesterday, like everyone we are absolutely supportive of any well constructed support for those with disabilities and that view seems reflected across the community. As a business however, we remain sensitive to imposts on the consumer by the government generally, for whatever purpose, as this adds to negative consumer sentiment and that adversely impacts sales, profit and jobs.

"Ideally we would like any government initiative to be funded within the revenue stream it has, rather than through a new or additional tax take.

"Thank you for the opportunity to give some substance to comments perhaps taken out of context."

But the online criticism continued, so Myer then resorted to an apology.

"We are very sorry to those who have been hurt by our comments," it Tweeted. "And want to make it very clear that we support the introduction on the NDIS."

This was met with a torrent of complaints that the apology was not genuine.

'HALF-ASSED' APOLOGIES NEVER WORK: PAPWORTH

Social media educator Laurel Papworth said she said she had tracked the reaction on Twitter and by late afternoon on Thursday had logged 1.6 million individual references to the Myer controversy, which rose to 2.9 million when retweets were included.

 

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