What To Do If A Product Is Offensive To You
How Can Someone Even SELL This, And Who Would Even BUY It?
I was at home working online recently and decided to check email. Yeah, it was one of those "I have writer's block right now, so I'm going to do something else" moments. Anyone who writes for a living has probably had the same experience and knows exactly what I mean. Occupational hazard I guess.
At any rate, I open my email and see this ad for a knife holder. It is not just any knife holder mind you. Oh no, it's in the shape of a PERSON. And you STAB the knives into this holder. I guess it's supposed to make you feel better, especially if you have an "ex" that you are angry with. The company selling this "treasure" is advertising it as a CHRISTMAS present. What in heaven's name are we coming to when people think that this is somehow OK?
OK, so in another moment of writers block, I was reading news. I came across a story of a woman near Chicago who was living with an over the road truck driver. He was gone all the time and this hurt her that he was gone from home so much. So, she decided to hurt him by murdering their seven year old son by stabbing him over 100 times.
She told their son, Justin, to kneel down and pray because he was "going to heaven tonight" and proceeded to stab him as he screamed for his life. Her reason for killing him? To "hurt" the man she was living with, his father, because in her twisted mind, he had hurt her.
Then what did she do next? Killed the little five year old girl she was babysitting at the time, a girl whom everyone had described as the "sweetest little girl on earth" and a joy to have around. Her name was Olivia. The reason for killing her? Because she had watched as seven year old Justin was killed. If that wasn't bad enough, two dogs in the home were also stabbed to death. A veteran police officer of many years described the crime scene as the most horrific crime scene he had witnessed in all his years in law enforcement.
So, I have this overwhelmingly shocking and tragic news story fresh in my mind, and then I go to check email and I see this picture. Coincidence? Maybe. Is a "gift" like this "funny" to give to someone for Christmas? Not only no, but h*ll no. Perhaps it was just the mood I was in after reading such a horrible news story about such a totally senseless tragedy in which two beautiful little children and even innocent animals lost their lives in the most unspeakable act of cruelty one could possibly imagine. Then I see this. Am I supposed to laugh?
So, I started to think, "what can we do if there is a product that is being advertised that we think is really offensive"? This was an ad showing up in my email, so when I went to my "Inbox" it was staring at me. What I did was contact my email provider to let them know that I found this ad offensive. I asked them if there was a way to REMOVE advertising from this company from my email. I don't think that's a request too terribly out of line.
The only response I've gotten so far is that they would like me to send them a "screenshot" of the ad. Then they proceeded to give me a list of about 20 steps I would have to go through to get a screen shot, including using "Microsoft Paint" which I don't even think I have on this computer. If I do have it, I have no idea how to use it. I did attach a picture of this knife holder to a reply email and I'll see if that's enough to get a reply from them. What more do they need besides a picture of this?
Is it too much to ask to not be exposed to this CRAP when we go to do something like read our email? What do you want to bet they try to SELL me something like an email service with no advertising. I'll be sure to report back here when and if I hear any more from them.
Updated on 11/9/2012:
I did hear back from my email provider, and they did seem to at least take my concerns seriously. They can't change my email advertising preferences, but at least I brought it to their attention and they may stop featuring ads from this company. In fact, today I have not seen ANY ads from the company that sells this knife holder. So, whether I made a real difference or whether it was just time to move on to different ads, I don't know. Here is part of the reply I received from my email provider:
"We welcome user feedback regarding advertising!. Your comments help us identify which types of advertisements are well received and which are causing concern."
It's nice to at least be acknowledged. I feel better knowing that they are aware that someone out here feels this way. My advice is to go ahead and email someone or call them if they provide a number if you have a concern about offensive or socially irresponsible advertising or products. It might actually make a difference, especially if they end up getting more than one comment or complaint.
Another Thing To Do...
I also decided that since I had the name of the company that sells this "Christmas" present that I was going to send them an email and let them know how I felt about their little "gag" Christmas gift. I'll also let you know if I hear from the company. I am curious to see IF I get a reply.
Here is the email I sent to them:
To anyone who cares,
I cannot believe you would even consider selling something like the knife holder I saw recently in the shape of a person with knives in their body. I am referring to:
Ex Knife Black
by Raffaele Iannello
Every time I would go to check my email I'd see your ad for this, and I found it so offensive and disgusting that I asked my email provider (not this email provider, another one) to remove your ad from my email.
How on earth can you possibly find something like this "funny"? Seeing stories on the news every day of people who are senselessly murdered I guess has colored my world in a different way and items like this promoting senseless violence are beyond my realm of belief. And you are selling this as a "CHRISTMAS" present? I find it even more bizarre that someone would actually buy something this horrible and offensive. Tell me, is this "gag gift" supposed to be funny? And just what part of senseless murder do you find "funny?" I'm just curious.
I think your marketing people should take a look at this and be more careful in your choices of what you offer to sell. I for one will never buy anything from you just because of this, and I bet I am not alone.
Now, I purposely did NOT name the company here and I blotted it out in the picture because I wasn't sure of the "rules" for this type of thing. I don't want to start some campaign against this company. I simply want them to THINK about the things that they sell before they offer them for sale.
There probably are people out there buying stuff like this for someone for Christmas thinking it is humorous. In fact, there are over 300 "likes" for this (supposedly) on Facebook. That also was shocking to me. In addition to that, this thing costs $69. They will never see a dime from me, I can assure you. If I were to send $69 anywhere it would be to an organization that helps victims of violent crime and domestic violence.
Update: November 10, 2012
I did get an answer from the company, here is what they sent me:
I truly appreciate you taking the time to share feedback on this. It's never our intention to offend with any of the products we have up for sale.
We believe that every facet of good design should have a place on the site. We strive to offer as many design products as possible, to appeal to many different tastes.
That said, I can understand your feelings on this, and I can assure you that I will share it with our team to consider for the future. If there's anything else I can do for you, just let me know!
Even though it's kind of a standard reply, I hope that it makes them think. I can't totally blame this company, the guy who designed this product did so in very poor taste. The company selling it really should be more responsible, though. I'm glad I at least let them know that there are people out here who don't appreciate this kind of thing.
Other Bad Product Ideas....
Other Offensive Items Have Been Discontinued Because of Public Complaints..
In the past, there have been other consumer products marketed that were removed, and later companies even apologized to anyone offended by them.
One of these in recent memory was a pair of sneakers that featured an orange ankle cuff to simulate a prison orange ankle cuff. They were marketed by Adidas and were called Adidas JS Roundhouse Mid Sneaks. They were originally scheduled to be released in August of 2012, but due to the uproar of outrage that followed the pending release announcement, they were pulled and never released. They tried to explain it as an "edgy" product created by an artist who was trying to be edgy.
The unintended result of this was outrage by many black leaders who referred to them as "slave shoes". Supposedly, the real purpose of them were to glorify a lifestyle that seems to be popular in some types of music, mainly rap, that endorses crime. They appeared to celebrate a lifestyle that often leads a person only to prison.
In another huge product blunder, one company released a version of Monopoly that was extremely offensive. Many versions of monopoly are created, such as Harry Potter and others that have popular themes. This version, however, was not created or endorsed by Hasbro, the company that marketed the original Monopoly game. In fact, Hasbro even sued the inventor of this offensive game.
What could be so offensive? How about "Ghettopoly." Meant to be a parody, there were so many off color racial tones, even racial slurs in this game that it created an uproar when it first appeared. Instead of railroads, there were liquor stores, along with things like peep shows and pawn shops. Add to that such features as 40 oz. bottles of malt liquor, carjackings and pimps and you have a very polarizing consumer item that was eventually removed from the market.
It is instances like these that lead a person to ask "what WERE they thinking?" I realize that creativity and originality are huge parts of successful entrepreneurship. There are things that cross a line, though, that shouldn't be crossed.
In other examples of offensive products, how about thong underwear that is marketed for little girls with sexually suggestive phrases on them? These were introduced and then pulled from shelves at Abercrombie and Fitch. What in the world were they thinking, and WHO could have possibly thought this was "OK?"
Or how about an Oreo Barbie? Yep, she showed up on shelves back in the early 1990's. Oreo is a very popular Nabisco cookie, and even one of my favorite cookies. It was meant to be in fun, but there is another not so nice use of the word "Oreo" referring to some black people that made this a polarizing product which was eventually removed from shelves.
J.C. Penney even sold an offensive t-shirt for a while then discontinued it. It was marketed to little girls with the slogan "Too pretty to do homework so I got my brother to do it for me." Women who were highly educated were offended by this insinuation that a female cannot do the work required to get an education, and assured the makers of this t-shirt that females can indeed complete the work and get degrees.
People are always trying to think of new ways to make a buck, and creators of products along with advertisers are no different. There are just some things, however, that are so blatantly "bad ideas" that they probably should have never even seen the light of day. This was how I felt about a knife holder in the shape of a person meant for people to "stab" if they were angry at an ex. It might just be me, but I honestly felt that this item crossed that same line of being offensive, so I tried to do something about it. We'll see if it works.