Coca-Cola apologized Wednesday to the family of an Alberta woman who was shocked to unscrew a bottle of the company’s Vitaminwater and find the words ‘YOU RETARD’ printed inside the cap.
Edmonton-based photographer Blake Loates said she and her husband discovered the cap while out for dinner on Tuesday night.
“We were both pretty shocked,” she said.
What makes the situation even more upsetting to Loates is that her younger sister Fiona is living with cerebral palsy and autism and was taught that the “R-word” is completely unacceptable.
“The R-word is just something we don’t say in my family,” said Loates. “My dad is quite upset and is on a rampage.”
Her father, Doug Loates, who lives in Tacoma, Wash. with twin, 11-year-old daughters Fiona and Maddi, stayed up all night writing letters to Coca-Cola, looking for an explanation for the offensive cap.
HERE IS THE LETTER DOUG LOATES SENT TO COCA-COLA BOARD MEMBERS:
“I am astonished that a major corporation could allow someone to tarnish their brand,” he said. “Not everyone in Canada speaks French – like my daughter, Blake.”
The caps are part of a promotion run by the company, displaying a random English word, followed by a random French word. “Retard” in French means late or delayed.
Since the issue was brought forward to Coca-Cola, the company has been in touch with the Loates family to offer a sincere apology.
“We did not mean to offend at all,” said Shannon Denny, director of brand communications for Coca-Cola Refreshment Canada. “We are certainly very apologetic for this oversight.”
While Denny said the words were reviewed before going out to store shelves, they were reviewed in their French context, not in both French and English.
“When you look at the same word in English, it takes an offensive connotation,” Denny said.
The process of matching the English and French words is supposed to be completely random, according to Denny, and the chances of those two words being paired together was slim.
David Thomson, vice-president of still beverages for Coca-Cola, said the remaining caps in their facilities have now been destroyed.
“We have learned from this and it was a mistake,” he said. “At no point in time did we intend on offending anyone by any stretch and we have cancelled and moved on and have dealt with this as soon as possible.”
Thomson said he will be drafting a formal apology letter to the Loates family that will also detail the course of action they will take to correct the situation.