Viral TikTok on Cut Coach Handbags and Social Media Activism

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This is an excerpt from Please love me, the BuzzFeed News newsletter on how influencers fight for your attention. You can register here.

Anna Sacks had led educational programs on how to reduce waste in New York City, working closely with various environmental coalitions. But the 30-year-old is now channeling this advocacy work on her social media. Over the weekend, she released a TikTok that not only pierced public awareness, but also inspired real (albeit gradual) policy change.

Sacks filmed an “unboxing” video in which she showed a series of Coach handbags and other goods that were cut. She claimed in her video that it was unwanted merchandise that the company could not get rid of and therefore had been cut by Coach employees so that they could be marked as damaged merchandise for one. tax deduction. Sacks then pointed out the hypocrisy of the company proclaiming it cares about sustainability. The coach even touts a repair program that Sacks said in her TikTok that she would take advantage of by dropping bags that the company apparently destroyed itself. The video garnered so much attention and fervent responses from TikTok users that Coach was compelled to respond. The company has made a commitment to stop destroying “unsaleable” products.

It may sound like an appropriate response from a large corporation, but there are subtleties to the language. Coach announced this week that it has “now stopped destroying returns to stores of damaged, defective, worn and otherwise unsaleable products.” When I spoke to Sacks, she pointed out that there are a host of other reasons companies like Coach can continue to justify damaging their inventory – “If the stitching isn’t up to standard, if a bag in a store is striped, if it’s a style it might not sell, ”she listed as a few examples.

I have contacted Coach representatives to ask them to clarify what exactly constitutes “unsaleable” property and whether they will cease this practice in other circumstances as well. I haven’t heard back from the company yet.

Sacks told me that she was surprised, but overall satisfied, that her TikTok had inspired a “tipping point” for change. She also credits the herds of engaged people widely sharing the post and tagging Coach.

“I actually made a similar video last year that didn’t explode; he didn’t make waves or cause change. He showed footage of Coach destroying merchandise contrasting with what he said on his website and reports, ”she said. “It was a stronger video [this time around] have the goods on hand.

She also said the TikTok may have hit at a time when many more people are “grabbing[ing] the severity ”of climate change by directly feeling the effects.

“Maybe last year we saw more physical effects of the climate crisis. We have experienced Hurricane Ida in New York, the floods, the heat waves, the floods… All these climatic events that people have to admit are unprecedented. These are exceptional. “

Coach posted a very June 2020 statement on Instagram on Tuesday. “We are committed to sustainability,” began her slideshow article.

The company reiterated its commitment to “destroy returns to stores of damaged merchandise” and other “unsaleable products” (again, determine what that entails) before reminding us that it has also “given a product valued at over $ 55 million to support low-income families, those in need.

The TikTok, its galvanizing energy, and the trainer’s response are all a push towards something seemingly good. We have seen time and time again how harnessing social media to express themselves and organize themselves around social causes can be effective. So I applaud Sacks for thinking creatively about how to approach an issue she’s all too familiar with in a way that makes people online care. The coach was forced to respond and minimally corrected his conflicting practices due to all the bad publicity surrounding them.

But, as Sacks mentioned, companies in the social media hot seat are responding strategically. It’s hard to believe that these changes will be … lasting.

“What Coach is going to do is keep a little bit of a low profile,” Sacks said. “And then go on as if nothing had happened. It was because of the severity of the reactions from people, and people wanting to hold them accountable, that they were forced to issue a statement on an aspect of their policy. .

(As much as Coach takes the heat for it, Sacks wants to remind us that a lot a lot big fashion brands have equally controversial policies for their exceptional stocks. You can scroll down to his @thetrashwalker TikTok account for a myriad of other examples of companies throwing huge amounts of their products away as trash.)

Social media can be a subversive tool for campaigning for social causes, but it’s just a starting point.

“It can’t just be social media; it has to be social media combined with emails and calls, ”Sacks advised. “Politicians don’t record comments and shares. It may grab their attention, but they don’t record it like they record the number of calls and emails. It may change for politicians, but you have to do both. “

Sacks is right; Social media “activism” is a tenuous way to engage, as one wonders how active it can be. It’s good to put pressure on big brands when they care about their image the most, but for now it starts and stops there. It’s exciting for me to imagine that lawmakers will one day be able to quantify social media engagement the same way they log petitions, calls, and emails. For now, social media is a springboard and a call to action for more traditional advocacy models. When you’re watching a TikTok or scrolling through an educational Instagram slideshow and you’re compelled to take action, it’s just as important to follow along.

And, I would add, TikTok itself can help push these videos to the top of people’s FYP, instead of, well, maybe conspiracy videos. I contacted TikTok about this idea.

Sacks will continue to publish TikToks as she works with local coalitions in New York City like Save Our Compost and Donate Don’t Dump. They won’t all be hits, but she said she definitely felt invigorated by the success of her latest TikTok. She also hopes that the people who work for these fashion companies can use social media to be more transparent about what is going on internally.

“Someday it could be powerful to see more of the people who work for these companies sharing behind the scenes of what is needed to do their jobs,” she said. “People send me pictures, it’s powerful to see, but it’s also very risky.”

I don’t think I need to reiterate to subscribers of this newsletter how both empowering and insecure social media is to sound the alarm on a company projecting an image or a standard it cannot live up to.

When that alarm goes off, I hope we pay attention.

Till next time,

Tanya



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