Harvey Norman slammed for ‘disgraceful’ coronavirus sign

By Nick Hall | 10 Feb 2020 View comments

The operators of a Harvey Norman store in regional New South Wales have faced a barrage of backlash for a “racist” sign displayed outside its Albury outlet.

The image of the handwritten sign, which claimed the store’s mattresses are free from the coronavirus because they are Australian-made was shared thousands of times on Twitter, sparking controversy nationwide.

Users labelled the sign as misinformation, suggesting they would “rather buy a Chinese mattress than a racist one”, slamming both the company and operator.

On Saturday, hours after the post was first shared, Harvey Norman replied to a tweet from The Provenance Beechworth owner Michael Ryan asking which store was involved, before later confirming that the franchisee had removed the sign.

However, while swift with its action, Harvey Norman is facing a similar slate of backlash for its lacklustre apology.

Harvey Norman responds

In a statement posted exclusively to its Twitter page, Harvey Norman explained that situation was an isolated incident.

“Albury franchisee acted in isolation without any consultation or communication beyond their store,” the statement read.

“As soon as the company was made aware, the sign was immediately removed and the franchisee told this was unacceptable. Our apologies.”

Critics online however, say the apology does not go far enough. Twitter users have slammed Harvey Norman for not releasing a detailed explanation of the situation, or issuing a larger-scale apology, with many calling for a boycott of the iconic Australian retailer.

“Disgraceful racism/xenophobia and flippant ‘apology’”, one user wrote.

While Harvey Norman is the latest business to fall victim to bad-taste tactics, it comes amid a spate of recent racism-fuelled social media attacks, spurred by the developing coronavirus outbreak.

Chinese-Australians have reported a significant increase in hostility, racism and xenophobia since news of the outbreak first emerged. Many have taken to social media to voice their concerns, however, incidents such as Harvey Norman Albury’s latest slip-up suggest Australia still has a way to go in curbing xenophobic cultural attitudes.

At present, there are 15 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Australia, with over 37,000 confirmed worldwide and 813 reported deaths. The Australian Government has issued a health alert as a precaution, based on the latest and best medical advice.