Walmart’s Crisis Management for “Fat Girl Costumes”

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Retailer runs into yet another easily preventable crisis

Last Halloween we wrote about Walmart running into reputation issues due to some seriously questionable decision making, and it looks like history is repeating itself in 2014. contributor Anna Merlan broke the news of Walmart’s latest faux paux, and if your first impression is that this is so ridiculous that it must be a spoof, you’re not alone:

Retail giant Walmart is reaching out to the plus size market in an ill-advised way this Halloween: by offering online shoppers a section of “Fat Girl Costumes.”

This tip comes to us from a reader, who was hunting high and low for a Halloween costume when she turned to Walmart, because sometimes desperation makes us do strange things. That’s when she noticed that the retail giant was helpfully directing her towards the section for “fat girl costumes.”

While we’d guess this was someone’s version of a joke that actually made it through to the live version of the page, the fact that it did hit the public eye means it’s now Walmart’s problem. What brilliant crisis management strategy would the retail behemoth trot out?

How about the ever-effective (NOT!) robotic response?

A couple hours later costumes began to mysteriously vanish from the “Fat Girl Costumes” section, although the edits were done in a shockingly sloppy manner considering the offending category was left live and searchable the whole time.

After several hours, the category was finally removed altogether, and the @Walmart Twitter account has been apologizing to angry stakeholders for the past 5 hours and counting.

This response is incredibly weak, especially given that Walmart has had many reminders to get a crisis management plan in place for website blunders at this point, and serves to further push the company’s reputation into the mire.

Walmart is dominant for now, but it doesn’t mean it’s impervious to crisis. What we truly believe is that a continued lack of care, and what appears to be a company culture that breeds reputation threats left and right, is eventually going to lead to serious losses, and it’s likely that then, and only then, will Walmart’s leadership wake up.

The BCM Blogging Team

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