As one of the world’s most renowned supply chain managers most people would not question that Walmart has ‘perfected’ their product management, as they have products made in over 70 countries and manage an average inventory of $32 billion. However, during this Halloween season Walmart seems to have dropped the ball when listing a Halloween costume from supplier, Totally Costumes. This highly controversial costume is named, Razor Blade Suicide Scar Wound Latex Costume, it is a stick on latex scar that looks like a fresh wound from the blade of a razor. The wound is designed to be worn on wrists to look as though the individual has attempted to take their own life.
Bloggers, Nicole Lyons & Stephanie Bennett-Henry, recently caught eye of this costume while it was posted on Walmart’s online store and responded to the item on, thelithiumchronicles.org, in a letter titled, “Dear Walmart”. In the letter the two go on to explain how if the company would like to do this costume justice they could go on to make an entire line-up of costumes “to make a buck off of one of the most devastating things that could ever befall a family”. They suggest to go along with the latex scars the individual could wear a sash that says, “I finally did something right”, and even have blood that shoots out of the veins after the razor finally cuts through the right vein. They suggest adding a straightjacket and a pail of meds for the individuals who do not “get the job right” and have to live knowing they could not succeed at that either. They also added the idea of a speaker that repeats a permanent goodbye to haunt those they are leaving behind. The idea of a Grieving Mother Costume was even brought forward to add some cash to the corporations pocket that would include, “ a lifetime of guilt, stigma, and shame … some latex wrinkles for the torment of unanswered questions about what they could have done differently, and why couldn’t they see the signs”. The letter goes on to add a Suicide Survivor Costume saying, “You’d add one of those tacky letters you carry, like an “F” for Failure or “D” for Didn’t do it right, or “W” for Walmart is a disgusting corporation who makes money off of the backs of people who battle every … day with their own tortured minds, we can brainstorm it out”.
Walmart removed the item and responded to the issues on themighty.com by stating, “This costume is appalling and it was unacceptable for a third-party seller to list it on our marketplace. It clearly violated our prohibited items policy and we removed it when it was brought to our attention”, sending the blame to their supplier, Totally Costumes. Totally Costumes then responded by saying, “Upon inspection we see that Walmart has listed the item incorrectly, making it highly offensive; but rest assured, the product is not listed this way on our direct site, or any other channel we use. We have put in a ticket with the Walmart Catalog team to have the item name and description of the listing modified right away. We are not sure why Walmart has it titled the way they do”, again sending the blame back to Walmart with a terrible excuse. The name Totally Costumes has given to the item is, “Slashed Wrists Prosthetic Appliance,” and its description says, “Give your costume a look so realistic that it seems suicidal”, which is obviously not any better than the product name from Walmart.
With an inventory of $32 billion, this $6.45 latex wound may not have caught the attention of any of Walmart’s supply chain managers. It is a shame that Walmart added this item to their inventory without realizing all of the people they are mocking who actually live with mental health illnesses daily. However, from a social media marketing perspective this story shows the importance data monitoring has to supply chain management. Although, common sense could have resolved this issue before it became an issue, Walmart recognized the problem and responded quickly. Through social media data monitoring the company was given warning of the social impact that this product was having on consumers. Customers are significant stakeholders to Walmart, so having the product rotating through social media without a resolution could have been devastating.
Walmart is not the first company to release a product that has a backlash from social media regarding suicide. In August 2016, Urban Decay, a make-up supply chain, released their new eyeliner line called Razor Sharp. They shared an advertisement for the line via Twitter showing all of the different colours in separate lines on a woman’s wrist. After posting this the ad received a tremendously negative response and was taken off by the company. They later responded to the ad by stating, “We swatch on the inner arm to show texture & shades. We didn’t intend to reference self-harm as the product is named Razor Sharp Eyeliner”. Since the advertisement was removed and the response was posted there have been no issues with the company since. Likewise to the situation with Urban Decay, Walmart’s current issue will help to advance the company’s product development in the future. Hopefully, for Halloween’s to come Walmart will carefully go over their products to have ensure customer satisfaction.
Lessons for Others
Other supply chain managers will be able to look at this incident as a learning opportunity. Walmart listed a controversial product that created a large response via social media. Through data monitoring they were able the catch the issue and resolve it. Without monitoring social media the company would not have caught the issue as quickly, which could have resulted in a more significant loss.
Name of Organization Contact: C. Douglas Mcmillon
Authored by: Laura Girdler
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