Candace Behrens was out purchasing together with her mother on Mother’s Day, doing what she likes to do – help native, small companies – when a black Coach bag in a girls’s vintage store caught her eye.
A collector of Coach purses, she bought the bag on a whim from The Fox Club, a swimsuit, lingerie, clothes and niknaks store in Humboldt Park, earlier than speeding to satisfy household at her dwelling for a Mother’s Day celebration.
It wasn’t till after everybody had left that the Milwaukee native opened her purchasing bag and realised what she had truly bought.
“I looked at the purse and in two seconds I knew it was fake,” Behrens mentioned.
What occurred subsequent on that May eighth day has change into a viral sensation on TikTok, resulting in numerous demise threats in opposition to the store owners, and even their canine. The Fox Club shuttered its doorways, and locked down its social media accounts.
“People have been reaching out on our cellphones, our work landline voicemail, personal emails, my business email, every Instagram account we’ve ever had – threatening us, saying that they’re going to come burn the store down,” mentioned designer Lizzie Cook, a co-founder of The Fox Club. “It’s traumatising. Death threats to kill our dogs, threats that if they ever see our faces, there’s going to be consequences, that Humboldt Park doesn’t want us there. Thousands of these messages.”
In the rapid-fire world of social media, the energy of a cellphone recording can have a profound ripple impact on manufacturers, tradition and the human psyche, say specialists on social media.
“There’s always going to be this back and forth – is it the customer who went too far by recording it, was it the business owner that went too far by maybe not embracing customer service the way they should have. It’s hard to say,” mentioned Scott Kleinberg, Pittsburgh-based social media professional and former Chicago Tribune social media editor. “It’s just this giant domino effect… that one video that lasts two minutes leads to all this stuff happening later.”
It began when Behrens and her husband returned to the store on Mother’s Day, with Behrens’ husband recording the interplay on a cellphone.
“Hi. I understand you don’t have a return policy. We’re recording this for my social media,” Behrens says as she approaches a store affiliate seated behind the counter. “I have a large following.”
As Behrens begins to clarify why she is there, the store’s different co-founder, Chanel Marshall, strikes into the body and interrupts Behrens.
“I wish you would have asked me before purchasing, I would have told you that it’s not real Coach,” Marshall says in the video. “We would have priced it way higher if it was.”
“But this is like a vintage store,” Behrens says earlier than Marshall cuts her off once more.
“We’re a vintage store, not a thrift store,” Marshall says.
Behrens factors out that the purse was “priced accordingly” to the worth of an actual Coach purse.
“I’m super sorry that you’re unstoked about the Poshmark prices, but we do a lot of research on our pricing,” Marshall says.
Behrens then says she’s going to offer the purse again as a result of it’s “fake” and “not worth anything”, to which Marshall laughs.
“I was just supporting a local neighbourhood store,” Behrens says.
“And I appreciate it,” Marshall replies earlier than repeating that she wished Behrens had requested if the purse was actual.
Behrens posted the one minute and 44 second unedited video to her @candyland44chi TikTok channel the identical day, and it snowballed into tons of of 1000’s of views and 1000’s of feedback on-line.
“It was very condescending,” Behrens mentioned of the interplay at the store. “When I saw that, that was very antagonising to me. I posted on TikTok to tell people this was my experience. I had no idea that video would go viral. But I think it went viral because people of colour, they have empathy for what I went through and they understand what it’s like shopping when your money is good, but the owner of the store or the workers at the store, they don’t necessarily want your business and so you get treated poorly.”
Meanwhile, Cook and Marshall say they tried to apologise to Behrens personally, and have refunded her the cash for the purse and different purchases she made that day.
Marshall admits she didn’t deal with the scenario nicely, saying that being recorded “caught her off guard”.
“I didn’t handle the customer very kindly,” Marshall mentioned. “I was very frustrated with her as you can see in the video. I think the camera just caught me off guard and my employee who was there.”
Cook mentioned the pair are so shaken they don’t know what to do with regards to reopening their store, which they opened in 2019.
“I just really want people to know that we love what we do,” Cook mentioned. “I think this was not a prime example of our customer service. But I do think people have bad days. And aren’t always at their best. And in this case, didn’t have anything to do with race, just had to do with a bad day, bad timing and a camera in the face.”
“It’s been a very scary time for us,” Marshall mentioned about the backlash. “It’s not something that is great for our mental health to continue to see nor our potential physical health.”
Marshall mentioned the incident “wasn’t an act of racism”, however “an act of burnout”.
“It was very bad customer service and we are working toward figuring out how we can reposition our roles as a shop to where it’s a lot less stressful for us and in turn much better on the customer.”
While Behrens says there are not any excuses, she additionally mentioned the demise threats in opposition to The Fox Club owners go too far.
“That’s absolutely horrible,” Behrens mentioned. “No one should be threatened over a fake purse. That’s not what I wanted from the video. I just wanted them to be exposed as people who are selling counterfeit bags.”
The expertise didn’t prove all dangerous for Behrens. The Coach model reached out to to her and despatched a present of an actual Coach purse after the incident. Behrens posted the opening of the new purse on her TikTok channel, too.
“At Coach, it’s always our goal to bring joy to people and, in the best cases, make them smile,” Coach mentioned in a press release. “Our teams saw an opportunity to brighten someone’s day and made it happen. For us, that’s the best of what our brand can be: an opportunity for connection.”
Cook and Marshall mentioned they’re not sure of their subsequent steps.
Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago & Northern Illinois, mentioned the organisation is investigating The Fox Club after receiving 4 complaints since Behrens posted the video.
Ashlee Humphreys, an affiliate professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism who specialises in social media and shopper behaviour, mentioned there are methods for the store to rebound.
“If I were going to advise the brand, I would say anything they can do to make up with the public would be money well spent,” she mentioned. “Restitution needs to be made socially, as a social gift… when you’re dealing with a social thing like this, the restitution is more often given to a broader ambiguous set of people and not necessarily directly. Some brands that have done this donate to charities, or set up other kinds of things.”
Kleinberg mentioned typically all it takes is time.
“Most things on the Internet tend to blow over because other things replace it,” he mentioned. “I think that any business owner that goes through something like this can certainly learn a valuable lesson, however they choose to learn it. I’m not saying in this case that one side is right, one side is wrong, but a business owner can very easily look and say: ‘Could I have done this differently to make it so this doesn’t happen?’”
Behrens mentioned she would really like The Fox Club to place their apology on their web site and their social media.
“If you can’t treat the people who shop at your store with respect and not be condescending – and you can’t blame it on having a bad day – then you probably don’t need to be at that store and running the store,” Behrens mentioned. “It’s not my job to teach you how to respect me. It is on you to seek that knowledge.” – Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service