Woolworths gets defeated by homeworking mum

Woolworths have big red faces over an entry in their Big Red Book. This is their catalogue shopping service that also features online. The problem is that no-one at Woolies realised that the word “Lolita” had sexual connotations when they started selling a bed with that name. Worse still, the bed was being sold for young girls.

However, well done Woolies, because in just hours after being notified of the appalling mistake, they have withdrawn the product and are taking up the naming of the item with their supplier.

So how did this error come to light? And how come Woolworths reacted so fast? It’s another example of Internet power and the damage to corporate reputations that social networking can bring about. The Lolita bed was first discovered by Catherine Hanly, the editor of Raising Kids, the parenting web site. Catherine raised the issue in the site’s forum and notified Woolies. They must have noticed that dozens of people were commenting about the stupidity of the naming choice and withdrew the product.

Bad publicity can bring a business to its knees quickly; remember the Ratner incident? These days, online interactions in forums, blogs and social networking sites can rapidly cause problems. HSBC bowed to group pressure on Facebook, for example. Businesses need to constantly monitor the Internet for any interactions about their products and services – and then deal with the issues raised. Otherwise their companies will end up with tons of bad publicity and no matter how hard they try, their sales efforts will be taking place in a negative environment. Monitoring your online reputation is essential. Oh – and knowing the implication of the words you use, like “Lolita”, will also help…!

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