Australian department store Harvey Norman has abruptly closed down its Twitter account after blocking critics and facing backlash for what were described as "revolting" responses to social media users.
Harvey Norman copped heated backlash over the weekend for dismissive and rude tweets, including to a person who claimed working at one of the company's stores for six months drove them to suicidal ideation.
In response, the official store account replied to them with a facepalm emoji and a waving hand.
"Shame on you ... How dare you treat mental illness in this contempt. Absolutely disgusting behaviour." wrote Corey Tutt, young Australian of the year 2020 for NSW.
In another, the company simply replied to a critic of its blocking spree with an emoji face blowing a kiss.
Before these tweeted responses the same Harvey Norman Twitter handle had posted on May 27: “Twitter is no longer a customer service channel and is unmanned.”
Harvey Norman has not responded to media inquiries seeking an explanation for the tweeted emoji responses.
Twitter uses supporting wage rises blocked by Harvey Norman
Since the weekend, Twitter users have been sharing screenshots of them being blocked by the official Harvey Norman account, some saying they had never tweeted directly about the company.
Many of those blocked had been publicly supportive of wage increases as workers push for a 3.5 per cent pay rise.
The unusual behaviour from the corporate account prompted many to call for a boycott of the department store. The hashtag #BoycottHarveyNorman trended on Twitter on Monday as hundreds vowed never to shop there again.
Among the critics were Greens leader Adam Bandt, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, Sally McManus, and popular comedian Celeste Barber.
It appears the company has now deleted its Twitter account.
The company has faced growing scrutiny in recent months after its billionaire founder Gerry Harvey revealed it would not return $22 million in taxpayer-paid JobKeeper funds despite company profits increasing by 116 per cent during the pandemic.
Mr Harvey – one of the country's richest men – has also strongly opposed raises to the minimum wage as unions and workers protested against the company's stance last week.
Harvey Norman's PR goes dark
Requests by Yahoo News Australia to gain comment from Harvey Norman's retail arm have repeatedly gone unanswered since the weekend.
Staff operating the company's switchboard have apparently been instructed to hand out the email address of Sharon Middlehurst, who a worker told Yahoo News Australia works as an assistant to executive chairman Gerry Harvey.
She was unresponsive to enquiries on Tuesday.
A LinkedIn page for someone of the same name purporting to work at Harvey Norman is curiously bare.
"Don't need one – Shaz at Harvey Norman is not insecure", is all it reads.
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