Thursday, 2 May 2013

Humanity Fail

A regular, everyday public relations disaster happened in Australia.
(This is nothing to do with publishing or writing per-se, but I do love how people operate and how they make life worse for themselves. I'm so morbidly curious that way.)

The CEO of a major department store company (who earns $1.8 million a year) thought a household levy of $350 per year (that would go to people with disabilities) would be a bad thing for his company. Why? Because the people paying that levy (higher earners) were their customers, which would be $350 less they would spend in his stores.

Quick backstory: the NDIS is a National Disability Insurance Scheme that, as the name suggests, will go towards supporting people with disabilities.)
Quick disclosure: My son was diagnosed with autism aged 4. He's now 9. For the past 5 years he's received a small disability payment each fortnight that some of the way towards his paediatric, psychology, speech therapy and occupational therapy fees. He also loves getting money for his birthday and spending it at department stores . . .

Here's the news article about Myer's foot-in-mouth-itis in all its proper context.

Retailer Myer has warned the proposed increase to the Medicare levy will hurt sales at its stores, since it will affect its direct customer base.
The federal government confirmed today it planned to increase the Medicare levy by half a percentage point, which will cost the average household at least $350 a year. The levy is to part-fund the proposed national disability insurance scheme (NDIS).
The estimated $350 for the Medicare levy increase ‘‘is something they would have spent with us’’, Myer chief executive Bernie Brookes told a Macquarie Investment seminar earlier today.
The proposed levy ‘‘is not good for our customers and may have an impact’’, Mr Brookes said.
(My emphasis in bold. I've also corrected the spelling of his surname to put the e back in. E is emportant.)

My first reaction (after deleting all the swears) was 'oh, you out-of-touch FOOL!'

  • The NDIS will directly support people with disabilities. Everything from acquired injuries from road trauma or workplace injuries, to people born with cognitive, physical or mental impairments. 
  • People don't mind paying levies and taxes when they know where it's going and what it's doing. And also, hey, score one for humanity, we kind of LIKE helping people out who THROUGH NO FAULT OF THIER OWN aren't exactly winners in life's genetic lottery. People like, oooh, I dunno, my son, who has autism.
  • Gee whizz, Bernie Brooks is so out of touch he doesn't get that people with disabilities are human beings, with consumer needs and desires too.
  • Brookes's attitude seems to be the $350 per annum will disappear into some kind of black hole, when in fact all it's doing it taking a circuitous route through the government and then back into the community.
  • Brookes thinks Myer's customer base is well-off and don't have any disabilities of any kind. Or have any relatives with disabilities. Or know anybody with disabilities.
The backlash on social media was swift and clever. Their are calls for boycotts of Myer, so what he said yesterday turns out to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

and this one:

But I wanted to know how Myer would respond. Because often you can issue a fabulous apology and acknowledge your error of judgement and try to make things better.

Um..... no.
All the 'nopology' did was pour petrol on the heat. Confirming that the CEO didn't just speak off the cuff in a brain-fart of stupidity. That they really think this is some kind of "money being taken out of our entitled cash registers to disappear into the ether" kind of thing.

And so the storm rages on.

Via facebook, and apparently on twitter but only between 9-5 Monday to Friday.

At the time of posting this, it's nearly 10am on Thursday. The poor, poor staffers who monitor the tweetstream for Myer are probably locked in the toilets and saying all the swears.

Oh no, it's one of those "sorry if" apologies. And then he goes back to try and create wriggle room and reiterate his original sentiment, before another apology 'to those who have taken offence'. Hey, I'm one of them. I think. But it's so nebulous it could be anyone or no-one.

I apologise to those who may have been offended or hurt by the comments I made.As a business, we are sensitive to imposts on the consumer by the government as this adds to negative consumer sentiment and that adversely impacts sales, profit and jobs. Ideally we would like any government initiative to be funded within the revenue stream it has, rather than through a new or additional tax take.
However, I do apologise to those who have taken offence to my comments about an increase in taxes.

You know what? "Those who may have been offended" means the speaker didn't really mean it, and if you're offended, that's your problem. 


The tweet stream was short and to the point. Nearly there.

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