One Walmart store in Panama City Beach, Florida, tried to remember the victims of the September 11 terror attack on U.S. soil with a creative Coca-Cola can display fashioned to look like Ground Zero, including the message “We Will Never Forget” – but the attempt fell flat.
Shoppers and social media posters alike expressed outrage at what they characterized as a tasteless disregard for the somber occasion, which took place 15 years ago.
“We stopped and stared at it like, ‘Oh my God,'” said Shawn Richard, who tweeted a photo of the offending display before speaking to BuzzFeed News. “Nobody seemed to be noticing it. It wasn’t very crowded and I got the feeling that it had just been assembled. So we took some pics and went on our way.”
Before long, though, social media was buzzing.
BuzzFeed tweeted: “People are not happy about Walmart’s 9/11-themed soda display.”
Marina Fang, associate politics editor for the Huffington Post, tweeted: “If you are thinking of promoting a product by referencing 9/11, don’t. Please.”
Comedian Cyrus McQueen wrote: “People are outraged by several companies having 9/11 themed sales … No one should be profiting off 9/11. Not #Walmart. Not Halliburton.”
A Twitter poster named Steve Adams wrote: “Wow…Nothing quite says honour those who died on 9/11 like Coke on sale at Walmart.”
Another Twitter user, Chaos, wrote: “Hey @Walmart, pretty sure you can move your product without having to use 9/11 as the push … C’mon.”
And this, from the New York Post, beginning with the headline.”Wal-Mart’s terrible 9/11 anniversary display,” and then stating: “As another anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks approaches, some tone-deaf companies can’t resist using the memory to sell products. … And it’s certainly not the first time a brand has failed at ‘commemorating’ the anniversary.” In 2014, a Birmingham-based tie company tweeted a photograph of the burning Twin Towers, asking their followers to get them 2,296 retweets – in ‘memory’ of the 2,296 people who lost their lives that day. The same year, a Florida juice company offered 15 percent off in ‘honor of patriots,’ and a California coffee shop also offered 15 percent off for their ‘Vanilla Blasts.'”
Fox 32 in Denver reported the photograph was retweeted more than 2,600 times within a span of two days – and that most comments were critical.
Walmart, feeling the heat, tore down the display.
In a statement reported by Fox News, the company said: “We hold this moment in our country’s history in the highest regard, and there was nothing disrespectful intended by the display.”
Walmart officials also said the original design for the Coca-Cola display came by way of the supplier, but was approved by the store management.
Meanwhile, the bottler for the area said the display was intended as an honor for the community’s firefighters, who were holding a commemorative event of their own in the coming days.