Safety Warehouse boss denies fakes money claims as backlash grows

A Palmerston North man who travelled to Auckland hoping to get money for his ill son at a $100,000 money drop was overwhelmed when a stranger came forward with real money.

Wayne Lynch was one of more than 1000 people who gathered in Auckland’s Aotea Square yesterday after Safety Warehouse promoted plans to drop $100,000 from the sky.

But chaos erupted when a crowd surged forward to catch what has since been described by many as ‘fake money’ that was shot out of what looked like a gun. Very few people have reported receiving real money and those who have only received small denominations.

Lynch said he was hoping for a windfall for his son’s after care from eye surgery after driving to the city yesterday with his partner.

However, after gathering a handful of $5 discount vouchers made to look like $5 notes, Lynch wasn’t sure if he could even afford to get back to Palmerston North.

“We were stressing about that and the whole stress of the surgery as well,” he told Newshub.

Fortunately for Lynch, David Letele heard of his bad luck and stepped in with $1200, food and accommodation, saying “it’s not a hand out, it’s a hand up brother”.

Lynch said he wanted the organisers of what he calls a fake cash drop to be held accountable.

But, Safety Warehouse is defending the giveaway, saying it has been unfairly characterised as an event with fake money.

“In truth, real funds were given away as anticipated. The vouchers that were also presented at the event were in addition to the cash that was given away. We never could have expected the inclusion of the vouchers would have created such hostility and a
misunderstood narrative.

Despite some people saying they had to pay for tickets to The Drop, company owner Andrew Thorn said it was a free event to say thank you to the people of New Zealand.

“The actions of a few individuals and various onlookers was not characteristic of the
overall mood of the event,” he said. “A select few ruined the tone of the day for everyone, but they were by no means the norm – just a few people who did not obtain as much value as they had hoped, for whatever reason.

One disgusted attendee has started a petition demanding people with vouchers be paid real money and planned a police complaint, saying vouchers resembling $5 notes were scattered to the crowd in Auckland’s Aotea Square.

Outraged members of the public, including Levin’s John Murphy, called the event a waste of time, and claimed many attendees were from impoverished backgrounds who felt duped.

Thorn said yesterday he did give away $100,000, with fake money discounts on top, and 40,000 coupons printed.

But Murphy said attendees only received coupons designed to look like $5 notes.

“I attended the event expecting it to be the highlight of my short Auckland trip, only for it to be a disaster,” Murphy said.

He has since initiated a petition, which has more than 280 signatories, demanding The Safety Warehouse convert vouchers dispensed at the event into real cash.

“I know people from outside Auckland who got stranded. Many of us including myself suffered injuries,” Murphy added.

“People pushed, shoved and threw themselves over each other in an attempt to get what looked like real money.”

He said one person who appeared to be an organiser shared a laughable suggestion that the $5 vouchers could be redeemed for real money at the bank.

Murphy also said he would ask police to investigate if the vouchers could be declared counterfeit notes.

And he said an employee was hospitalised after the crowd grew angry and an object thrown through a company car’s rear window smashed glass into his eyes.

'Oversold' gimmick

A Massey University marketing professor said the company should apologise, and hire a good public relations company to help salvage its reputation.

Prof Malcolm Wright told Radio New Zealand the stunt had breached customers’ trust.

“I don’t think they would have been setting out to deceive, of course they wouldn’t have been setting out to deceive. Somebody just oversold it and went a bit far.”

But some attendees were furious.

“Wasted my petrol, time and money … I could have spent the day doing something more productive,” a Papakura woman wrote on Murphy’s petition.

“Time wasted, babies hurt, scammed all of us, made us look like fools,” another signatory said.

Cam Hore wrote: “What a bloody disgrace. Every one who attended this event should be compensated and the company should be fined for misleading people.”

Jon Duffy, Consumer NZ chief executive, said any company running a promotion had to ensure it could honour terms of the promotion.

“If the company didn’t actually give away $100,000 in cash at this event then they could be in breach of the bait advertising provisions of the Fair Trading Act.”

The fair trading law banned anybody from advertising goods or services at a specified price if they did not intend to supply those goods.

“Bait advertising is where you advertise something that’s a really good offer to get people in the door, but then don’t follow through,” Duffy said.

“Once you’ve got them there, you try and upsell them to something else.”

“And we understand that people were getting vouchers with the fake money that was being distributed here that gave them a kind of special deal,” Duffy added.

“If that’s all that was on offer, then this offer could be misleading. I guess we’ll just have to see what plays out.”

“I haven’t seen the actual money [but] it sounds like the event didn’t go the way the company hoped it would.”

“And clearly, people didn’t get what they thought they were getting.”

The event was ostensibly held to thank New Zealanders for their support during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Thorn said he started the Safety Warehouse business through his Christchurch-based company Greenback Capital, to supply workwear, then moved into masks, hand sanitiser and other equipment when the Covid-19 pandemic started.

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