People are outraged after a Target store charged $72 for 24 bottles of water in a cyclone-hit Queensland town

Source: Facebook

This is the image that’s given Target Australia a major social media headache right now. It’s why the retailer is Facebook’s top trending issue right now.

Natalie Maher had been out shopping at Woolies in Bowen, one of the north Queensland coastal towns hit hard by ex-cyclone Debbie last week, when she swung by Target Country and saw a slab of 24 x 600ml bottles of Cool Ridge water priced at $72. She thought there’d been a terrible mistake and double-checked with a staff member.

Maher posted the picture on Facebook, explaining what had happened, and added her own thoughts.

“Talk about price gouging us while we are in need. Disgusting mongrels,” she wrote.

“I had only just left the disaster recovery people with Lifeline there who gave me 12 bottles of water to bring home so we have clean drinking water and Target are pulling this stunt.”

“Please share this post and shame them,” Maher wrote. She got her wish – the now locked post went viral and Target Australia’s Facebook page is being bombarded by hundreds of people venting their anger.

Maher’s post has subsequently vanished.

The problem appeared to be a misunderstanding by staff in the Bowen store. Target is better known for cheap children’s clothing and toys, rather than bulk water supplies. It tends to sell water as an impulse purchase from fridges by the checkout, and it appears someone calculated the slab price based on the retail cost of an individual.

The Cool Ridge brand is produced by Schweppes. The wholesale price for a slab is around $37, so it’s already a nice little earner for Japanese brewery giant Asahi, which owns the Schweppes brand.

Meanwhile, Target is doing its best to make amends, selling the bottles for $1 each.

And the company’s social media team is being kept busy on Facebook with the following reply to every outraged post:

At Target we sell our Cool Ridge water for $3 per 600ml bottle however due to the water shortage situation at Bowen we reduced that price to $1 per bottle.

We again apologise for any misunderstanding and the team at our Bowen store will continue to support the local community during these difficult times in anyway they can.

However, it’s a reminder to all businesses to be especially vigilant in the wake of a major disaster because even the smallest mistakes can soon escalate into national scandals in the internet era.

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