Around 3 pm yesterday I saw my first “El Furniture Warehouse posted a transphobic, distasteful Caitlyn Jenner post” on my social feed. By that point, Warehouse Group had taken down the original post, but I quickly found the screen shot taken by @chefgrantsoto, in question.
Even for a dive bar that has an established a “DGAF” image, whose social feeds mostly contain staff selfies and frat-boy humour, the Caitlyn Jenner post crossed a line. But, what really put the nail in the coffin in this unfortunate situation was the response of the anonymous poster behind the Warehouse Group account to Instagramers who called out the post for being inappropriate.
The El Furniture Warehouse Owners did react by deleting the post, but the cons of having built up a large social following is that when you do something really, really stupid, you can’t hide it. When you do something as stupid as post a “joke” to “take advantage” of a pop cultural event to show you are “with it”, it is going to go viral .. as you intended.
Why Are Torontonians Upset?
I think the response of the LGBT community is obvious and its members can do a better job than I of communicating their thoughts on this, but, for those who are not from Toronto I wanted to share some context.
Toronto is a socially liberal city and we pride ourselves on our acceptance of people of all walks of life. The downtown core, where El Furniture Warehouse has two location, is the heartland of Toronto’s socially progressive culture. In this community acceptance of the LGBT is not questioned, it is a given.
The behaviour displayed by the person behind the person behind the El Furniture Warehouse post and the gaffs in the apologies (referring to Caitlyn by her male name) are major faux paus. As it is socially unacceptable to display behaviour that is homophobic or transphobic.
In short, The Warehouse Group has gone against the social norms of the very community they reside in.
Once Buzzfeed got wind of the post, El Furniture Warehouse attempted to undo the damage by issuing an apology.
Which proved to be their second mistake.
I assume the apology was written by someone without a real understanding of how to manage damage control on social media, as it didn’t have the intended outcome that El Furniture Warehouse hoped for. I also understand the intent behind sharing the supportive comment left by a LGBT employee, but I admit I cringed when I saw it.
Naturally, people were still upset as they questioned the sincerity of the apology. Pointed to other posts from El Furniture Warehouse which were also of questionable taste. And generally didn’t buy the “We are LGBT supporters” line. Even, Pride Toronto issued a formal response to distance themselves from El Furniture Warehouse.
The rules of damage control are simple:
- Take accountability
- Then shut up
The less you say the better and do not try to defend yourself. You may not have posted the content or even approved it, but you entrusted someone to do so on your behalf and thus it is your fault.
Lesson to be Learned
The Warehouse Group is trying to undo the damage of a stupid decision, hiring a bunch of morons to run their social media without supervision. But, it does not look like it will be an easy road for them. Their reputation has been damaged in this city. They won’t lose business this summer, as the “dude-bros” who thought the Caitlyn post was funny and other homophobes will continue to flock to the bar. But, is this the clientele the Warehouse Group really wants to attract? I doubt it. (Or I hope.)
Building a brand on social media is not something you leave to 19 year olds who are “good at social media,” you use professionals who have experiences in brand building and who will guide you in the process. Professionals who would have advise El Furniture Warehouse that as a bar it is in their best interest to not post off-the-cuff jokes which are insulting to groups of people and they should stick to staff selfies, food shoots and humour that is related to having fun at a bar.