28 April 2016
PO Box 1024
Brisbane, Queensland 4151
You might have noticed some media coverage over here on this side of the Tasman regarding how people feel about the slogans on some of your camper vans and, in particular, what Z as a Kiwi company should or shouldn’t do about it.
In response to some feedback from our customers – particularly those with young children - we asked our customers and the people who follow Z on Facebook what they expect us to stand for on this issue. It was a simple and open question, but we’ve never had so much feedback on a single issue which in turn generated a lot of media coverage.
As Kiwis we like to think we’ve got a fairly robust and flexible sense of humour but the point I’ve made internally is that if Z staff were to turn up to the office with some of these slogans on tee shirts, I’d be obliged to require them to be removed. Our retail service stations are another place of work, albeit the issue becomes more complicated in that they are places where we serve members of the public.
It’s fair to say that the full range of views have been expressed on what Z should do on this – from refusing to serve your camper vans on our sites, to doing nothing – but there is a feedback weighting towards taking some kind of a stand. This has been further reinforced by the decision made today by the Chief Censor.
We’re not prepared to penalise tourists in New Zealand who might inadvertently hire one of your vans and we’re not prepared to compromise their safety by refusing access to an essential service. We can’t put our front line staff in the position of making daily judgement calls around what is and what is not offensive as that’s entirely subjective and not limited solely to your vans. Additionally, I’m not prepared to self-impose Z as the judge and jury of taste or freedom of speech.
But in an increasingly diverse country with a global reputation for tolerance – and freedom of speech - it’s clear that many of our customers don’t find the numerous references on your vans, particularly those with violent, misogynistic and sexual themes, acceptable or something they or their kids want to see as a customer of Z’s.
As a leader of a Kiwi company serving 60 million customers per annum, the business from your camper vans is business I’m prepared to go without. We’re not going to refuse to serve your vans and I appreciate your right to run your business as you see fit, but may I request that you make it clear to your customers that we would prefer them to fill your vans elsewhere?
This request in itself might not cause you to change anything, and indeed you may well ignore it, but it’s a small stand which I hope provides food for thought for those considering hiring your vans and for other Kiwi companies whose customers are giving them feedback similar to that given to Z.
In response to the feedback that has been shared with Z, I’m posting this letter on Z’s Facebook page.
Thanks for taking the time to consider this letter.