September 19, 2013 1:14 am
Updated: September 20, 2013 10:52 am

Edmonton woman receives apology from Coca-Cola for offensive wording on bottle lid


EDMONTON – An Edmonton woman has received a formal written letter of apology from Coca-Cola after finding the words “You Retard” printed on the lid of one of the company’s vitaminwater bottles earlier this week.

“My husband and I were just completely shocked,” 32-year-old Blake Loates said Wednesday. “We couldn’t believe it, really.

“We started wondering if it was a disgruntled employee who did that. And then, how did it get out of Coke’s factory? We were just really confused.”

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The words were printed on the cap of a bottle the pair bought while out for dinner Tuesday night. Loates says the words really hit home for her and her family because she has a younger sister, Fiona, who lives with cerebral palsy and autism.

“The word really hit home and I just couldn’t imagine someone saying that to my sister.”

After seeing the cap, Loates contacted her father, who lives in Tacoma, Washington with his wife and twin daughters, Fiona and Maddi. Doug Loates was so offended by the words, he immediately wrote a letter to Coca-Cola to address the issue.

The letter, which Loates shared on her Facebook page, reads as follows:

Dear Sirs and Madams,

I am the father of two beautiful, 11 year old girls. They are the remainder of triplets that were born 3 1/2 months early – we lost Michaela when she was two days old.

Maddi is so smart. She is visually impaired but gets along just fine. She is in the top 5% of her peer group and she has a bigger heart than you can imagine. She loves all living things – especially her sister, Fiona.

Fiona has had a tougher time of it. She has had 22 surgeries. She has Cerebral Palsy and still gets fed with a feeding tube. She is cognitively delayed. Fifty years ago they might have called her retarded. But we know better now, don’t we?

Fiona is a fighter. She smiles and laughs and talks a blue streak. She still loves Blues Clues even though her friends say it’s not cool. She makes me so happy! These girls have made me a better person. I know how to care more deeply. I know how to give more freely. I know how to enjoy the small miracles that we are given every day.

I have two older daughters from my first marriage. Both so accomplished and gifted. Smart, talented, feisty. We talk nearly every day even though they are half a world away.

Imagine my surprise when I got this photo from my oldest daughter, Blake, who lives in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada. You see, the “R” word is considered a swear word in out family. We don’t use it. We don’t tolerate others using it around us. We ARE over-sensitive but you would be too if you had Fiona for a daughter!

I know you will likely blame this on some rogue employee at some distant bottling plant. Probably not even one of your employees. But you have invested billions in promoting your brand. (Heck, I’ve been drinking Coke products since I was nine and got my first paper route!) And this single action, this small word printed on the bottom of a Vitamin Water lid, discovered by my daughter in Canada, has inspired me to tell you just how much the “R” word hurts. How destructive it is. How caustic. How uninformed. How isolating. Like the “N” word.

What would YOU do if you opened up your bottle of Vitamin Water and on the bottom of the lid it read “YOU RETARD”? Think about it. I bet you’d be pissed if you had a Fiona in your life!

Doug Loates – An ex-Coke drinker.

P.S. Here is Fiona. Can you imagine if SHE had opened this bottle???

According to a Coca-Cola spokesperson, the words printed on the cap were part of a potential consumer promotion for vitaminwater.

“We started printing random English and French words under the caps of glacéau vitaminwater. The top word English, bottom word French. In this case, a French word, despite an innocent meaning in French, made the production list of words,” Shannon Denny, director of Brand Communications with Coca-Cola Canada, said in a written statement Wednesday.

The word ‘retard’ in French means ‘late’ or ‘delay’ in English.

“We sincerely apologize for having inadvertently offending anyone. We take every consumer concern very seriously. This is a genuine oversight in the review process. The mistake has been corrected and the words removed from all future production.

We recognize now this word should be removed due to the English connotations and have taken immediate action to thoroughly investigate this matter. Again, this was a genuine oversight in the review process,” the statement read.

Coca-Cola says it has cancelled the promotion will destroy all of the caps with words printed on them.

Loates’ Facebook post had been shared nearly 800 times by Wednesday night.

“Honestly, this has been a bit of an eye opener for me because I didn’t know that it offended so many people, but a lot of people are really offended by what happened.”

While Loates has received an emailed apology from the company, she says she and her father would still like a formal written letter of apology.

“My dad and I are both very interested in having that letter.”

On Thursday afternoon Loates’ father received a letter of apology from Coca-Cola’s Vice President of Still Beverages David Thomson offering his sincerest apologies to the Loates family.

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