The idea? Play off Canada's bilingualism by jumbling English and French words on bottle caps of Vitaminwater. The result? The phrase "You Retard" appeared on the lid of a young woman's drink. Even worse (if that's possible), the girl has a half-sister with cerebral palsy.
The snafu came to light this week after Edmonton photographer Blake Loates found the message on her Vitaminwater lid while eating at a restaurant. She sent a photo to her father, Doug Loates, who fired off a lengthy (and tremendously poignant) letter to Coca-Cola demanding an explanation. He described how "the R-word is considered a swear word in our family," primarily because it's a slur that some might use against his 11-year-old daughter, Fiona, whose cerebral palsy has caused cognitive delays and requires that she use a feeding tube.
"What would YOU do if you opened up your bottle of Vitamin Water and on the bottom of the lid it read, 'YOU RETARD?' " he wrote to Coke's board of directors. "I bet you'd be pissed if you had a Fiona in your life!"
Coca-Cola Canada spokeswoman Shannon Denny tells the Metro newspaper that the words used in the promotion were reviewed only from the perspective of French speakers, for whom "retard" means "late." "We did not mean to offend at all. We are certainly very apologetic for this oversight," she says. The remaining lids were reportedly destroyed, and as of Thursday, Coke was drafting a formal apology to the Loates family.
Read Doug Loates's full letter letter to Coke below.