Blake Loates probably selected her VitaminWater drink very carefully, knowing full well that each flavor has its own specific attributes, be it extra energy or a calming effect. As soon as she snapped the safety seal and unscrewed the cap to take the first refreshing gulp of her newly purchased beverage, she turned the cap around for a split second and found two words staring back at her that hit straight to her core: “You Retard.”
Blake’s sister struggles with both cerebral palsy and autism, and as the Alberta native told Metro Canada, “The R-word is just something we don’t say in my family. My dad is quite upset and is on a rampage.”
Doug Loates stayed up all night writing letters to Coca-Cola, the company that owns the VitaminWater brand, demanding an explanation. He gave a brief history of his family and their relationship with the R-word, expecting only a simple excuse from the corporation about a disgruntled employee or a would-be jokester on the production line. Instead, Coca-Cola had a completely different explanation, which they accepted full responsibility for, as well as contacted the Loates family to apologize.
It turns out that the misstep was actually part of a promotion for VitaminWater Canada for which a single random English word and a single random French word were printed in tandem on each cap. The word “retard” in French means to gradually slow down, but in English, it has a derogatory connotation.
“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.”
The company continues to explain how each word was reviewed prior to being printed, but they were reviewed in their respective languages, not taking into account the meaning they may have in the other. Similarly, there was a slim chance that these words would be paired together on a cap.
A formal apology letter has been drafted and the Coca-Cola is deciding what course of action is best to remedy the situation.