Red-faced Progressive Enterprises, owner of the Foodtown, Woolworths and Countdown supermarket chains, has urgently withdrawn a stationery product whose packaging includes what they acknowledge is an offensive homophobic poem.
It's a beautiful day
And it's good to play
Then I met a gay
Suddenly the clouds turn grey.
Progressive says the pouches, marketed under the Artrite brand, and packaging are ordered through its Hong Kong office and produced in China. "We do not condone the offensive wording used on the front of the pack and do not wish to be associated with such language," says spokesperson Bill Moore.
The company has ordered an immediate nationwide withdrawal of the product which should be complete by this afternoon and has blocked the item code from its cash registers "so it cannot be scanned by cashiers and the bar codes cannot be entered manually." Warehoused stock in Progressive's distribution centres has likewise been blocked from further distribution to stores.
Moore says the Hong Kong office staff will be warned that the use of the verse is "a serious matter" and they have been instructed "to ensure that it does not happen again." He offered no explanation for how the verse came to appear on the packaging but says Progressive plans to have the laminating pouches either repackaged, "or for the existing packaging to have the offensive wording securely covered by non-removable stickers."
Although the packaging gives the source of the product as "Made in China" and the address given is Progressive's Mangere, Auckland, head office, Moore says Artrite is not a Progressive house brand and he doesn't know how widely the product may have been distributed outside the Progressive chains.
GABA's Hyde says the distribution of any homophobic material is regrettable and this example "doesn't help the image of their business." He wonders what Progressive's glbt staff throughout the country will make of it.