Gasp caught astroturfing, has ‘no regrets’ about ‘GaspFail’ social media furore

Gasp Jeans, which found itself in the middle of a social media storm when its outrageous response to a disgruntled customer went viral in September, has courted more controversy after the company was accused of astroturfing around negative comments made about the brand.

A poster appeared on websites of The Punch, Moxie and SEO firm Stew Art Media, defending the response of the brand to the unhappy customer with exactly the same comment left on each site.

Jacqui's comment on The Punch

Stew Art Media later discovered that the IP address of the commenter matched with a poster from Gasp called Eddie, and reported its findings.

Gasp’s retail business manager David McMann told Mumbrella that he had no knowledge of the comments made, and was “disappointed” if an employee had done so – because it went against Gasp’s approach to social media.

McMann said that even with the benefit of hindsight after the social media furore of two months ago, the company would not have behaved any differently.

“A PR agency advised us that we should have distanced ourselves from our employee, apologised, addressed the comments made about us, and entered reputation management mode,” McMann said.

“We ignored their advice.”

“I know this may sound silly – but the whole episode has been very positive for us. Our only regret is that the hysteria didn’t last longer. Ten days after the response of our employee went viral, we had our best week of turnover for the year,” he said.

“Sadly after the hysteria died down, sales returned to normal.”

McMann revealed that Gasp had offered to double the salary of the complainant, Keara, a sales assistant in the retail industry, with a position at head office. But she had declined.

She also declined to participate in an exclusive interview with Today Tonight after the story broke.

“If someone has the ability to create such hysteria around what happens every day in retail in Australia, I want her working for us,” said McMann.

Gasp has increased its retail presence from four to nine stores in 18 months, and has plans to increase its presence to 20 stores by the end of 2012.

“The retail industry is stuffed, no doubt about it,” McMann added. “But our unorthodox approach is what has made us successful. We have done the opposite of what we’ve been told to do by PR firms, and the results have been outstanding.”


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