Like many of you, I’ve long had a love/hate relationship with Forever 21. Sure, they have cute clothes at suspiciously low prices, but the stores are a nightmare, and everything falls apart the second time you wash it. I usually go a few times a year out of desperation, which almost inevitably leads to a panic attack while waiting in the checkout line. It’s super fun. But it turns out that the floor isn’t the only thing that’s messy about Forever 21. They’re now facing controversy over behavior that’s seen as fat-shaming toward their plus-sized customers.
For retailers, it’s not super uncommon to send free samples of products along with online orders. These are usually sponsored samples, so it makes sense that they’re targeted based on the typical people ordering the products. For example, when I rented my textbooks in college, they almost always came with a free can of Redbull. I appreciated it. But when you’re targeting people with products, you have to be mindful that you’re not being offensive. This is where Forever 21 made a big mistake.
Last week, people started posting photos on Twitter of their Forever 21 orders, which had come with Atkins Diet bars. I wouldn’t eat these in the first place, but to make matters worse, all of the customers who shared their photos had ordered from Forever 21’s plus-size collection. Yikes. Customers were surprised by the samples, and offended at the idea that they may have been targeted with diet products because of their size.
— Katya (@wisekatya) July 22, 2019
In a statement to Glamour, Forever 21 provided the following explanation for the samples:
“From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time and have since been removed. This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way.”
Okay, so if we take this at face value, maybe Forever 21 really did send the diet bar samples to all customers, not just the plus-size ones. At least then they’re not discriminating, but it’s still pretty messed up to be pushing weight loss products on people who haven’t asked for them. We have enough problems with body image and disordered eating in our society, so no one needs a crappy clothing brand shoving weight loss products in their face.
I went from a size 24 to 18, still a plus size girl, so I ordered jeans from @Forever21 Opened the package, when I looked inside I see this Atkins bar. What are you trying to Tell me Forever 21, I’m FAT, LOSE WEIGHT? do you give these to NON-PLUS SIZE WOMEN as well? pic.twitter.com/ds8kUTs7T7
— MissGG🏳️🌈 (@MissGirlGames) July 19, 2019
And that’s not even considering that the Atkins diet itself is fairly controversial, with some reports claiming that it can increase your risk for heart disease. It’s pretty troubling if Forever 21 is shilling for Atkins to their customers, plus-size or not.
It’s good to know that Forever 21 has removed the diet bars from all orders, but that’s not to say they won’t do something similar again in the future. Brands tend to have short-term memory loss when it comes to things like this (hi, Urban Outfitters), so if another problematic company offers them money to include samples, they might just go for it. Just let me buy my crappy clothes in peace, and figure out my diet issues separately—is that too much to ask?
Images: Shutterstock; wisekatya, missgirlgames / Twitter