There have been a lot of PR blunders in 2021. Here are the top 5, in my opinion, and no particular order.
The Mass Firings at Better.com
On December 1st, three weeks before Christmas. Vishal Garg, the CEO of Better.com, got on a pre-recorded video call with 900 employees and terminated them immediately. Although the mass layoff was bound to get attention, what stirred people was what he said in the recording, which you can see below.
The PR blunder was how he made about it himself—stating that this was the “second time he had to do this and hopes to be stronger this time around.” He stated how he wished the company was thriving, but the reality was different. Better.com had gotten an infusion of USD 750 million, and the company itself was valued at around $7 billion. Not the mention the millions the CEO Vishal is worth himself.
This comes as a surprise to no one who has worked with the CEO. He has been noted as a particularly mean and nasty person. In a Feb 2020 email, he called his employees “a bunch of dumb dolphins.”
The video has since gone viral, and he has issued an apology on how he handled it, but it felt insincere. In the wake of it, five senior employees quit. The future for Better.com doesn’t look better.
The Chanel Advent Calendar
The fashion giant Chanel took a dip into the world of luxury advent calendars for Christmas this year. This year’s advent calendar celebrated the 100 years since the launch of their famous perfume, Chanel N°5. What Chanel didn’t count on was Tik Toker Influencer Elise Harmon. She was excited to open the Calendar, but her mounting disappointment was evident as the boxes were opened, which you can see here.
The Calendar comes in at USD 825, before taxes and shipping. The Calendar was filled with a few samples, but the most disappointing items were the stickers, the dust bag, and a few cheaply made trinkets. The commenters were angry and flabergasted at Elise’s videos, and we’re along for the ride. They lambasted Chanel’s TikTok and other social media. They figured out the Calendar itself was valued to be around $200.
The company itself closed their Tik Tok account and reportedly blocked Elise Harmon. They did issue a response “We are committed to sharing our creations with our followers on all social networks we are active on. Our pages are open to everyone, and our followers are free to express their feelings and opinions, whether they are enthusiastic or critical.”
The $4,400 Tip
Working in the service industry is often a thankless job. Many are often treated as less than human and are often paid less than they deserve. In North America, tips are often the only way many workers make up for being paid a low hourly wage. Some are even paid as little as $2.85.
Twp waitresses in Arkansas were tipped $4,400 this year for her service. It should have been a heartwarming moment, quickly becoming a gut-reaching nightmare. Her boss demanded he shares the tip, with the majority going to management. The waitress pointed out that they had never shared tips before, and it was not restaurant policy. She was fired after three years when she wouldn’t give her rightful tip.
The silver lining was supporters started a GoFunMe and have raised well over $15,000. The restaurant has been bombarded with 1-star reviews and has received extra scrutiny into its labour practice.
Amazon’s Warehouse Exposed
The monolith that is Amazon has been criticized rightfully for their mistreatment of their workers. From unreasonable expectations, workers peeing in bottles, and mass firings of the bottom performers. It’s a capitalist nightmare, but the nightmare got worse this year.
A hurricane hit an Amazon warehouse in Illinois. Sadly, six workers died. The immediate question was how could Amazon let this happen? There were weather warnings in Illinois that day, and they chose to ignore it. Instead, they sent workers in regardless of the danger, choosing productivity over workers’ safety.
Amazon responded to the tragedy by donating to the Edwardsville Community Foundation and providing relief supplies. However, it is not enough. An inquiry has been demanded into the incident.
Giant corporations which exemplify the worst of Capitalism seem to be the theme for this year. This year Kellog failed to give their union a fair deal. The tipping point was the deal would create a two-tier system that would pay new workers less (Truthout, 2021).
Kellog announced that it would hire scab workers to replace 1,400 workers who’ve been striking since October 2021. Once this news hits the internet, people from all walks o life chime in. From politicians to celebrities, everyone shames Kellog for their behaviour.
The subreddit Antiwork took an active approach and sent hundreds of applications to Kellog’s website, causing it to crash. Multiple petitions have sprouted up, and many have signed a petition to boycott their products. There is a clear, united message, treat your workers better.