Customers are outraged with Kmart Australia after the release of a drinking product which some shoppers believe holds a resemblance to the tools used to smoke methamphetamine.
Fairfax reports that Lina Pugh, a mother of an ex-methamphetamine addict in Bunbury, Western Australia, alerted Kmart to the illicit nature of the product, saying she was “appalled”.
“It is absolutely appalling that they are trying to make money out of something that is destroying lives,” Pugh told Fairfax.
“Thousands and thousands of families in regional WA are being torn apart because of meth use. If it’s just a way to be trendy then it’s completely inappropriate.”
On the now removed web page, Kmart advertised the as a “unique drink jar used to serve drinks, beverages, and more”.
Do you want crackheads Kmart? Because thats how you get crackheads. pic.twitter.com/pXbi9ka1uF
— The Bell Tower Times (@Human_Z0O) November 11, 2016
Kmart Australia responded to complaints posted to its Facebook page, telling consumers they had removed the item from sale.
“Kmart Australia sold the drink jar as a novelty on trend item for the intention only to be used as a drinking glass. We would never encourage the use of this item for anything else other than it being used as recommended and now that this situation has been highlighted to us we have removed the item from sale,” the comment read.
Many were oblivious to the illicit potential of the drinking glass, with one Twitter user stating “I had no idea those Kmart drinking bottles looked like crack smoking implements. I thought they were cute”.
@mashable Just looks like a lightbulb with a straw inside. Maybe I just haven't done enough crack. ?
— Angie Lucas (@Angie7980) November 17, 2016
Some have stuck up for the retailer, giving them the benefit of the doubt, with one comment writer on Facebook saying “it looks like a light globe with a straw in it to me”.
After removing the product, Kmart’s website displayed an unavailability notice, reports the Daily Mail. The report pointed out the perhaps unfortunate choice of words, with the notice claiming that the product was “just too irresistible”.
More market research needed
Crisis communications expert at InsideOut PR Nicole Reaney told SmartCompany that the situation was likely an “oversight of the buyer” who would have likely seen no other connection to the product other than a unique drinking cup. Reaney believes that more market testing could have avoided this incident.
“This is why product and market testing or peer reviews is important, where the perspectives of multiple people are taken into account,” she says.
Reaney praised Kmart for “acting diligently” and warns of the “sensitive issue” of drug use when it comes to communicating with customers in these situations.
“With any crisis situation there is a degree of evaluation and judgement made to the risk presented and how that can affect brand reputation,” Reaney says.
“Drug use is a particularly sensitive issue for some people particularly mothers and communicating directly with the concerned mother here and the broader community is especially important.”
SmartCompany attempted to contact Kmart but did not receive a response prior to publication.