Thing we missed in Woolies outrage
Millions of Australians collectively lost their minds this week when Woolworths announced its hugely popular Ooshies promotion was ending early.
Social media pages melted down, check-out operators were abused by furious customers and there were calls for a boycott of the supermarket giant, all because it ran out of plastic toys.
Days earlier, an actual gobsmacking scandal involving a major Australian retailer that directly affected vulnerable and needy children went virtually unnoticed.
If you've bought glasses from an Oscar Wylee optometrist, the brand promised to give a someone in need a pair of specs for free - a Cambodian child, for example.
That admirable focus on charity matched the company's urban cool look, with stores that are schmick and industrial; metal lamps hang from the ceiling, wooden trestle tables rise from the floor and there's distressed concrete on the walls.
But it was a lie. Or at least it was 99 per cent a lie. Oscar Wylee donated just one pair per 100 frames sold.
The now humiliated Oscar Wylee is not the first and won't be the last brand to lie to customers. It's just the latest one to be found out. It's likely many get away with it.
It's the dog act of big brands, and it happens all the time.
Outright lying, misleading statements, dodgy discounts, or outrageously overstating their generosity and benevolence to customers in a cynical effort to woo your wallet.
And it works.
We're talking co-ordinated levels of wool-pulling by companies designed to rip off customers by respectable names that should know better including Volkswagen, Kogan, STA and Freedom Furniture.
SHOCKING RAP SHEET
The shocking rap sheet is right there on the website of the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission (ACCC).
Page after page lists the firms it has brought prosecutions against, or is in the process of pursuing.
Take Sumo energy.
The ACCC is currently taking this firm to court after it offered a 12 month "pay on time" discount of up to 43 per cent. Sweet deal.
Yet, for some customers, the month after they signed up, the ACCC alleges Sumo yanked rates up by as much as 46 per cent using the excuse of "climate change" or the closure of "cheap coal fired power stations".
Unsurprisingly, many customers weren't able to pay on time and even those that did saw their discount vanish.
More than that, the ACCC alleges Sumo staff cold called customers posing as an independent comparison service - but the only plans they were selling were their own.
DISCOUNTS THAT DON'T EXIST
Freedom Furniture coughed up $25,000 for falsely telling customers items couldn't be returned "except at Freedom's absolute discretion".
That may have led some people to believe they couldn't complain even if their sofa or bed fell to bits the day after they bought it.
Then there's online retailer Kogan that sent 10 million customers a tax time deal offering to take 10 per cent off their bill.
But they failed to mention the prices of 600 items had been increased by 10 per cent just before the promotion began and were reduced by 10 per cent after it finished.
Kogan tried to wriggle out of the case by stating it never used the word "discount", to which the abridged response from the Federal Court was along the lines of "yeah, nah".
Then there's the now defunct STA, the travel agent that was waylaid by the pandemic.
Before anyone knew what COVID-19 even was, STA was merrily selling passes to travellers that let them change flights for no fee. But there was a fee, one from STA, that was often far higher than the airline fee they were spared from.
Shockingly, all of these examples are from just the last six months.
There's more. Last year, Volkswagen was fined $125 million in Australia alone for fudging emissions data to make its cars seem environmentally friendly.
The German giant went to impressively nefarious ends to ensure that its vehicles appeared to pass local emission standards.
They promised consumers, and the government, their cars were green. They weren't.
Then there's all the countless charity tie-ins with big brands.
If you buy this fizzy drink or water, says the label, brand X will donate money to this well deserving cause. The more you buy, it suggests, the more they'll get.
It was found that some products that had links to breast cancer charities gave just two per cent of the sales to the organisation. Others gave a flat or predetermined lump sum no matter how many products you diligently bought.
Perhaps these were all big mistakes. Perhaps Oscar Wylee got confused; maybe it thought it had indeed donated one pair of specs for every one it sold.
But it's hard to think someone wouldn't have noticed 324,000 pair of glasses that should have been in Cambodia instead cluttering up the office.
DESERVE TO BE SHAMED
We all know companies accentuate the positive, hype discounts and over egg their altruism.
But most don't get caught out for false and misleading statements.
When they do, they deserve all the opprobrium the courts, the regulators and customers can bring to bear.
We should be thankful a body like the ACCC exists to at least try and bring some of these companies to account.
When you choose one brand over another because it said it would give a pair of frames to a child, and yet it miserably failed to do so, it should tarred and feathered.
These are the misdeeds that deserve our outage far more than the premature conclusion of a supermarket promotion involving little bits of plastic junk.
Oscar Wylee has been fined $3.5 million by the federal court and yet, a week after that fine was announced, they have still failed to apologise on their website or any of their social media accounts, one of which has 200,000 potentially oblivious followers.
Instead, the retailer has been deleting posts filled with negative comments.
The depths to which some brands will stoop knows no bounds. To some, false and misleading statements are all just business.
So next time you stumble across a hip new retailer, with cool young staff and an attitude that seems to match your own - tread carefully.
It could just be a fresh low act to suck you in and extract your cash while dazzling you with false promises that will never come to pass.
Originally published as Thing we missed in Woolies outrage