COLES has been forced to back-pedal on its “I’m Free” slogan after young female staff reported being sexually harassed by customers.
News.com.au reports, staff were told to stop using the paddles yesterday after a number of complaints about older male customers making suggestive remarks.
The slogan had been billed as a new advertising platform for the supermarket, with chief customer officer Simon McDowell telling news.com.au earlier this week that it seemed “to be really capturing the imagination of our team members and our customers too”.
“A lot staff are getting smut talk from customers [as in], ‘Are you free? Let’s go together’,” one person told news.com.au. “Some of these staff members are young, too.”
“Maybe it’s time to overhaul the advertising think tank crew, clearly they have been holed up in their offices way too long and have lost touch with real world and how uncouth people in the real world can be,” she wrote.
Lisa Bullen pointed out that the “suggestive notion” was actually made in the commercial “by one of the female staff to a male customer”.
“I work on the check-outs and OMG!” wrote Emily Henderson. “The comments have been horrible! We have also removed all signs. We have had it from BOTH male and female, old and young.”
In response, Coles wrote: “We’re disappointed to hear that you felt the ‘I’m Free’ paddles put our team members and other customers in an uncomfortable situation. We have reiterated to our store team members that the paddles can be used at their discretion and where necessary, not to use the paddles. We’re sorry for the disappointment.”
Rebecca Owens hit back: “At their discretion? I’m sorry but some if not a lot of these kids will feel obligated to use this inappropriate advertising. I feel your duty of care for the overall well being of your staff has been grossly overlooked so that you can make a buck.”
Clare Conroy Bagby wrote: “I want to know why Coles thought making poor young people, especially females, hold up ‘I’m Free’ signs this past weekend was a good idea. Surely you expected that they’d have to put up with pretty disgusting comments and would have thought that through first?”
Kim Baker wrote: “I would like to thank the marketing team for their thoughtless and demeaning promotion in the lead-up to Easter. Having employees holding a paddle with the words ‘I’m Free’ in large font (with ‘at Coles’ in tiny font, relative to the sign) and have to smile, laugh and nod at every lewd comment that passes their way, while scanning groceries is not an ideal work environment.
“I’m happy to get involved with most promotions that Coles have going, but this is not one of them. And I will actively encourage my teammates to not participate.”
“Use of the ‘I’m Free’ signs to indicate an open checkout was a fun way of activating the campaign. Unfortunately in response to a small number of customers behaving disrespectfully to team members, we have now removed the signs.
REF: News.com.au 14/04/2017