Kanye West fans are telling a Melbourne business owner she should “jump off a bridge” after she posted a now viral message to the rapper’s Facebook page, telling him that his The Life of Pablo pop-up store had blocked customers from her business and knocked thousands of dollars off her weekend trade.
Zetta Florence owner Charlotte Knightley came to work at her Brunswick Street store last Friday morning to find eager Kanye fans sleeping in her shop’s doorway, awaiting the weekend opening of the pop-up store next door. This was the first she had heard of the pop up’s existence, and over the next two days the Zetta Florence shop front was blocked by lines of people.
“On a usual Saturday we would take around $3000,” Knightley told SmartCompany.
“On this last Saturday, we had about $200 of sales – basically my doors were completely blocked off and there was no way for anyone to get through.”
Knightley took to Kanye West’s official Facebook page in an open letter that she wrote with the help of women in the “Like Minded B-tches Drinking Wine” Facebook group – a space in which 15,000 local Australian businesswomen discuss strategy and support each other. After canvassing feedback on the problem in the Facebook group, she took to Kanye’s wall to highlight the loss of business.
“Hi Kanye, hope you and the fam are well,” Knightley said.
“Now from one retailer to another our customer bases are quite different so when your customers swear at my little old lady customers who are just trying to come in to buy an album to protect their war time treasures, it’s a bit of a problem.”
The post has now been liked over 4,000 times and Knightley says that while she never expected a response from the Kanye camp, she did it to highlight a ‘David and Goliath’ struggle of the small local retailer facing an international brand without warning.
“One of my customers tried to get through the crowds of people with her walker and someone yelled at her. That’s when I thought, no, that’s it,” says Knightley.
While the attention this morning has been good for business, the experience has highlighted that small business owners often don’t have a lot of power when it comes to this kind of disruption – and threats from Kanye West’s customers have driven home the importance of staying lighthearted.
“Over the weekend as I faced this, I spoke to their security, I spoke to the police, and the one thing they all said was there was absolutely nothing they could do,” Knightley says.
“And until now I didn’t really get trolling online – but since the Facebook message people have been contacting me, telling me to jump off a bridge, getting to a really intense point.
“I now understand how important it is for businesses to play this off with a lighthearted nature.”
West opened 21 temporary stores across the world last weekend. As well as the Melbourne Brunswick Street store, merchandise was sold from Pacific Bondi Beach on Campbell Parade, Sydney.
Melbourne wasn’t the only site to attract die-hard Kanye fans, with New Yorkers reportedly lined for as long as 18 hours over the weekend, pushing and shoving past security and police when the Tribeca store opened on Saturday.
Zetta Florence has asked for a $6000 reimbursement for the weekend’s losses, but “I just did it to draw attention to the frustrations”, says Knightley.