Not Glad: Chicago Restaurant “Dupes” Diners

gladWhen it comes to interacting with the public, companies and organizations are expected to be transparent. But how transparent is transparent? That was one important issue raised by a case involving a Chicago restaurant that “duped” social media influencers who were invited to attend a special dinner. The owners of Giant, an upscale restaurant in downtown Chicago, invited a number of journalists and social media influencers to a special seating for the debut of its new menu, “Three Moons.” So far, so good.

However, during the last course of the first seating (there were two), servers brought out plates wrapped in Glad Press ’n Seal and set them on diner’s tables. They then explained that the dinner they had just enjoyed was prepared three days earlier and kept fresh with the aid of the plastic wrap. Hidden cameras were reportedly placed in table centerpieces to record the surprised reactions.

They certainly were surprised. Some attendees reportedly got up and left. Some of those invited to the second seating heard the news and opted out. A few of the social media influencers who attended took to social media. Adam Sokolowski, one of the attendees, posted Giant’s invitation on Instagram (see below). The new menu, according to the invite, was to “continue [Giant’s] theme of honest, unpretentious and delicious food” using “interesting preservation techniques.”

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Later it was reported that what took place was a marketing stunt. Glad had reportedly rented the restaurant for the evening (said to cost $10,000) and intended to use the videos from the centerpieces as part of a promotional campaign for Press ’n Seal.

That this seems patently unethical begs the question: Did not someone at Giant or Glad realize that it is bad to invite participants to an event under false pretenses? Did they really think that using the phrase “interesting preservation techniques” was sufficient disclosure? To me, this seems to be a clear case of ill-formed intent: Those involved knew what they were doing and knowingly hid the truth from participants. In other words they were knowingly not transparent. What do you think?

Thanks to Emily Belden for the tip!


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.