Clothing stores, let Target be your cautionary whale: do NOT, under any circumstances, name the plus-side version of one of your dresses after a large underwater mammal. That's exactly the unfortunate circumstance Target found themselves in when a sharp-eyed shopper happened to notice that the retailer offered a standard size dress style in "Dark Heather Gray" while the plus-size version was labeled as "Manatee Gray."
It sounds like this was a legitimate mistake on Target's part, and if you ask me, the company did a hell of a job heading off what could have been a public relations disaster.
The controversy started when shopper Susan Clemens spotted the unflattering "Manatee" color description, and tweeted her discovery:
The retweets had already started rolling in by the dozens when Target responded directly to Susan, apologizing for the "unintentional oversight."
Target didn't stop there, though -- company spokesperson Joshua Thomas also responded to Forbes, explaining that Manatee Gray is a seasonal color at Target, and it's found on many products across a range of categories on the Target website.
It turns out the color appears on women’s regular and petite sizes, and men's T-shirts in sizes ranging up to XX Large. There are even towels, placemats, bath rugs and pillows in the shade. Who knew the manatee had such an alluring tint to its pillowy sea-flesh?
According to Thomas, the dress discrepancy happened when different buyers didn't synch up over the assigned color. There are apparently two different teams responsible for the “missy” and plus-size product lines, and the teams didn’t coordinate when they chose the color names for the website.
We apologize for any discomfort this might have caused and are working to update the name of the dress to reflect Dark Heather Gray. This was an unfortunate oversight and we’ll take it into consideration moving forward.
The fix is in on the Target website, where the dress is now simply described as "gray."
In retrospect, it seems like a tempest in a teapot, when a quick search of "Manatee Gray" on the Target.com would have assured the shopper that it wasn't a made-up color specific to that dress -- but I can definitely see how it looked to the her at the time.
Personally, I think Target handled this as well as they possibly could. They provided a quick, personal response; addressed the issue publicly; and not only fixed the problem but probably added internal policies to make sure it never happens again. In fact, I'm going to guess that potentially offensive animals are never associated with a clothing style again. (Nothing against the majectic mostly herbivorous manatee, of course.)
It's a good example for other retaiers to take into consideration. Not that this exact problem is likely to happen again, but companies find themselves in PR blunders all the time. The best response is a fast, sincere one -- and in today's world, it's important to take social media very, very seriously.
Had you heard about Target's "manatee" dress label issue? What do you think about how they dealt with it?
Image via Target