If you wanted to encapsulate the strange new power of social media in one bizarre news story, the tale of JC Penney and an oddly-shaped teakettle would be the one to tell. Have you heard about this?
This year has already been a rough one for JC Penney; earlier this month, the retailer issued an apology to consumers for its recent changes, such as the decision to stop offering discounts and sales. This week one of their billboards depicting a teakettle was spotted by a Reddit user, who snapped a photo and commented on the kettle's eerie resemblance to Adolf Hitler. The story spread like wildfire over social media.
JC Penney responded by frantically tweeting versions of this message to anyone posting about it on Twitter:
Certainly unintended. If we'd designed the kettle to look like something, we would've gone w/ a snowman.
The company also removed the billboard. But the publicity didn't seem to hurt business: the teakettle sold out online within a matter of hours. It has since been removed from JC Penney's website, but at least one "JCPENNY MICHAEL GRAVES HITLER TEA KETTLE" has sold for $199.99 on eBay.
If nothing else, it will be an expensive reminder of an era when social media brought out the strangest collective urges in people. Me? I'll just stick with my Snuggie.