Groupon Drops the “N-Word” to Sell Moccasins


Earlier this week Groupon posted an offer in which it described a pair of women’s moccasins as being available in “Nigger-Brown” (see the screenshot above). According to “the slur was used to describe not just one pair of boots, but several sold by ‘Groupon stores’ Kojwa and Margines among others. It featured on listings for ‘Women’s and Men’s Suede Leather Fur Boots’ and ‘Women’s Fringed Suede Moccasin Boots,’ for example — boots both being sold at a 46% discount but, you know, still with 100% racism.” The response on Twitter was swift. One user tweeted, “@Groupon what type of color is ‘nigger-brown?'”

Groupon responded, in part, by asserting that Kojwa and Margines are separate (independent of Groupon) Chinese-based companies and that a translation error may be at fault. “This is a known issue in the e-commerce space,” they continued. “We’re determining why the deal slipped past the controls we have in place (we flag literally hundreds of terms and various permutations) and will make the necessary improvements.” According to fact-checking site,  this is something that has happened with some frequency and may be the result of outdated Chinese-language translation software.

In a statement a Groupon spokesman said “We are appalled that this language was displayed on our site. This product description was provided by a third-party seller via our self-service platform. Regardless, this is completely unacceptable and violates our policies — to say nothing of our values. When made aware of the issue, we immediately removed the deal — as well as the third-party seller — from our marketplace. Language like this has no place on Groupon, and we’re further strengthening our self-service controls to ensure it doesn’t happen again.” If that’s true, and if the term was the product of translation software, then shouldn’t companies that do business with Chinese firms put in place manual or automated controls to prevent such unfortunate incidents? If they “flag literally hundreds of terms and various permutations,” how did this one slip by? What do you think? Many thanks to #jmcawesome alum Maria Watson for the tip.


Is Abuse Black and Blue or White and Gold?

[Editor’s Note: Despite the byline this post was written by Creighton University Department of Journalism, Media & Computing student Madison Gilbert.]

The Salvation Army caused a buzz after beginning a campaign against domestic violence that featured references to the internet sensation “The Dress.” Two different ads that play off each other were released, both depicting a woman with visible signs of physical abuse. One ad featured a woman wearing The Dress, while the other used a play on words to reference the viral piece of clothing.

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The Dress became a hot topic on the internet in early 2015 after a photo was posted on Tumblr of a dress that appeared to be blue and black to some viewers and white and gold to others. The photo went viral as the color of the dress was heavily debated, sparking the creation of often-referenced memes and leading to the sounding of sighs at the mention of “that one dress.”


In the midsts of the debate’s popularity, these ads were released  by the Salvation Army in South Africa via a popular newspaper and the South African branch of the Salvation Army’s Twitter. Each ad was accompanied by the caption “Why is it so hard to see black & blue?” and the hashtag #StopAbuseAgainstWomen.

According to Philanthropy Magazine, Carin Holmes, the public-relations secretary for the Salvation Army in South Africa, said the ads were created to bring awareness to the problem of  domestic violence, “a topic we address on a regular basis.” The ads tie the viral optical illusion to the illusion of covering up or ignoring domestic abuse.

Most responses to these ads have been positive, applauding the Salvation Army for using a popular reference to raise awareness for a widespread issue. Many people see the campaign as transforming a silly topic of discussion into a serious one.

However, some have criticized the ads for jumping on the bandwagon of the overnight internet sensation to target victims of abuse. Some people think that the ads’ focus on visual signs of abuse diminish the ability to legitimize abuse that does not leave physical marks. Others see these ads as sensationalizing The Dress more than the topic of abuse by piggybacking on popularity that will quickly die out. Yet others believe the lighthearted meme cheapens the seriousness of the issue.

Is highlighting one aspect of a campaign helpful or harmful to the campaign’s cause? Is it wrong to use a short-lived viral post to advertise a long-term societal problem? Is it unethical to diminish a person’s experience to a relatable meme?