There’s Free Shipping, Then There’s Stupidity

last-oneFree shipping offers these days are becoming as ubiquitous as pumpkin spice memes, and that’s all well and good. Retailers need whatever competitive edge they can muster in order to attract business by one-upping the competition.

But the move by one retailer to use the 14th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks as a marketing device – after clamoring for media attention by, well, decrying a lack of media attention – is just beyond the pale.

“Melissa and Joey” star Melissa Joan Hart at first ranted on social media this past Friday about how there was inadequate coverage of the anniversary, which struck me as a bit odd as it seemed to be everywhere in broadcast and in print. Hart juxtaposed what she saw as a lack of 9/11 coverage to the media saturation surrounding clan Kardashian 24/7.

Here’s one of her tweets:

Later that day, Hart offered a special “911″ promotional code for free shipping on orders from her clothing website, King of Harts. And that’s when things went south for the former star of “Sabrina the Teenage Witch.” She was immediately castigated for what many saw as a blatant attempt to cash in on a tragedy and date which has become associated with the Dec. 7, 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Hart said on her Facebook page Saturday morning she was not trying to monetize the awful anniversary: “I want to apologize for yesterday’s free shipping post. It was meant to be my small way to give something back. I wanted to cover the shipping charges as a heartfelt gesture, not an exploit of 9/11. I see now how it was interpreted and viewed as being in bad taste. I apologize. It was a mistake. I did not want to draw attention away from what the focus of yesterday should have been. And for that, I am sad.”

Whatever her intent might have been, it was an ill-advised move that tied the anniversary observance to a promotional shipping offer. If she or her team had any ethical misgivings about the wisdom of doing so, they should have trusted their gut and pulled the plug on the terrifically bad idea.

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