Twitter uproar over Asda 'mental patient fancy dress costume'

Summary:Supermarket Asda, part of the Wal-Mart empire is in hot water today after it was found to be selling a ‘mental patient fancy dress costume’ online.

A wide range of Halloween costumes and fancy dress can be found for sale online and in many supermarkets. However UK supermarket Asda caused a Twitter firestorm yesterday when it offered for sale a ‘mental patient fancy dress costume’.

mental patient 2
Credit: Twitter @milkteef

The item depicted a blood stained shirt and grey unkempt hair. A plastic meat cleaver and gory facemask completed the ensemble. The product details read ‘Everyone will be running away from you in fear in this mental patient fancy dress costume'.

“Nine out of 10 people using mental health services in patient care report stigma and discrimination from a range of sources" ~ Sue Baker, director of Time to Change

Twitter users took to the social media site to voice their disapproval.

@pols80: .@asda is it just "mental patients" you pick on or do you have hallowe'en costumes depicting other health conditions?

Alex Langford: "Everyone will be running away from you in fear in this mental patient fancy dress costume". Awful stigma from ASDA.

Christina Wilmowski: Why do @asda think it's OK to make a Mental Health costume? Would you make a Cancer Patient costume?

Asda clearly has a social listening program and reads Twitter. It responded promptly. “We're deeply sorry one of our fancy dress costumes has upset people. This was an unacceptable error - the product was withdrawn immediately”.

It also offered its “sincere apologies for the offence it's caused and will be making a sizeable donation to @MindCharity”. Asda also said that it had removed the product from its “website this afternoon but unfortunately the page may remain visible for a few more hours”.

Sue Baker, director of Time to Change run by the mental health charity Mind said on the BBC Radio 4 Today program:

“Nine out of 10 people using mental health services in patient care report stigma and discrimination from a range of sources".

"Stigma and discrimination is unfortunately still really damaging in England today and this kind of myth of the dangerousness posed by people, that you should be scared of anyone who has used mental health services, is really damaging”.

Amazon UK has removed the image from the site. However a quick search on Amazon.com shows many items still for sale. Costumes include a Happy hill asylum straightjacket costume, Mens mental patient costume, Spirit psycho ward men's costume and a Child’s psychopath costume.

There is only one negative comment across these items written before yesterday, September 25th and there are comments praising the straightjacket on Amazon.

Have the British lost their sense of humour over the sale of this item? Do customers of Amazon.com differ in their opinions of fancy dress costumes such as this compared to customers of Amazon.co.uk

Has there been an over reaction to a fancy dress costume offered online – or is there a much wider issue about insidious discrimination in online retail?

Or is it simply a response to market demands—and revenue opportunities?

Topics: Social Enterprise

About

Eileen Brown is a social business consultant who has been working with collaborative technologies for 20 years. Eileen creates the social business, energises communities and ignites social commerce and social CRM. She develops social business strategy, customer reach and online branding. Her book, Working The Crowd: Social Media Marketi... Full Bio

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