Coca-Cola in Hot Water After Consumer Finds Offensive Phrase on Bottle Cap

Blake Loates/Facebook
Sting may have sung about a "Message in a Bottle," but he likely never expected the phrase that Blake Loates found on a bottle of Vitamin Water -- "You Retard."

The words were printed on the inside of the cap on a bottle of Vitamin Water, which Loates bought while dining out in Edmonton, Canada, where she lives. Loates found the phrase particularly offensive because her younger sister, Fiona, has cerebral palsy and autism.

"We immediately thought 'You have got to be kidding me,' " she told Huffington Post Alberta.

The message was part of a promotion by Coca-Cola (KO) in Canada that randomly paired English and French words that together were supposed to make up funny gibberish phrases. But the words were only vetted in French, not English, reports Milwaukee's Journal Sentinel newspaper.

"Retard" in French means late or delayed.

Loates sent a photo of the bottle cap to her father, Doug Loates, who wrote a letter to Coca-Cola to complain about including "retard" as part of the promotion. (See the complete letter below.)

"Not everyone in Canada speaks French -- like my daughter, Blake," Loates wrote to Coca-Cola officials.

"The 'R' word is considered a swear word in our 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! Can you imagine if she had opened this bottle???"

Loates said that he had been drinking Coke since he was 9 and got his first newspaper route, but now calls himself an "ex-Coke drinker."

The soft drink company said it never intended to offend anyone.

"We have learned from this and it was a mistake," David Thomson, vice-president of still beverages for Coca-Cola, told Canada's Metro newspaper. "[We] have cancelled and moved on and have dealt with this as soon as possible," Thomson said, adding that any remaining caps at Coke Plants have been destroyed.

Coke Letter

Increase your money and finance knowledge from home

Building Credit from Scratch

Start building

View Course »

Understanding Credit Scores

Credit scores matter -- learn how to improve your score.

View Course »

Add a Comment

*0 / 3000 Character Maximum


Filter by:

And yet... its a French AND Enlish word GAME, and in french it means Late. Plus apparently the words are chosen randomly? says... \" randomly paired English and French words \" IF this is so, unless one can show Intent .... it\'s just an unfortunate miscommunication. Maybe there\'s another cap whose words translate to ~ Cabbage Head ~ which I am told is a term of endearment.
ANyway, we are each as \"offended\" as we chose to be. The bottle one opens is clearly random. So, maybe just go oppppps, and move along. All in all it sounds like a cute bi-lingual game.

September 21 2013 at 10:17 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

My son is diagonosed with what is called " Global Development Disorder" ( retarded). I don't like the word retarded and seldom use that word.,however I would not be upset by a bottle cap with that word nor do I care if other people use that word. (unless they used that word to be mean) Retarded is NOT the same as the N word and I have better things to be upset by than this kind of thing. This article is retarded but it did make me laugh.

September 21 2013 at 6:13 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

How could Coke be so stupid, so disconnected. They might have said "You N..." and thought that was okay, and not see anything wrong with it. Who was responsible for picking these things, and who wrote that in as a suggested one? This is just terrible.

September 21 2013 at 2:44 AM Report abuse -1 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to madlyfem's comment

Terrible? Maybe Yes, but likely maybe NOT. Where is the INTENT that ANY insult was intended? How would YOU say ~ The train is LATE ~ in French? Many words carry different meanings. For example: The word GAY is a perfectly good word, which has been corrupted into something else. When I was a child to be \"Happy and Gay\" was to be joyful... and guess what? That is still ONE OF \"Gay\'s\" legitimate meanings. So, one NEEDS to know the CONTEXT that any word is used in.
IF it is found that Coke intentionally meant to insult one of their own customers that would be one thing... my common sense tells me they did not.
* An aside: THis could actually work as a positive thing... to bring an awareness as to the power of words and how we should ALL be more mindful as to the words WE all use. ~ Peace ~

September 21 2013 at 10:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You're only offened if you think it is true....

September 21 2013 at 12:49 AM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Seems to me the old" sticks and stones" element should apply here. But it does seem a moronic idea in the first place. One word in English and one word in French, for what beneficial purpose other than political correctness run rampant? They should have stuck to gibberish sets of letters and numbers. But behavior will remain descriptively "retarded" or "moronic" regardless of whetheror not we as a society feel it is unjust to use the terms regarding certain forms of disability for specific individuals or classifications fo people. It is a consequence of the freedom of speech aspect in both theAamerican and Canadian constitutions.

September 21 2013 at 12:08 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to knezrad's comment

Personally that phrase \"sticks and stones\" has always hit me as being quite false, since words clearly DO have the power to hurt us.. IF our egos allow them to.. which is most people, most of the time.
That being said... If it was Coke\'s INTENTION to insult people that would be one thing. Common sense tells me it was not. The game simply takes after a silly children\'s game.. its FUN .. if one allows it to be. IMHO... the biggest trouble with people? Is that they grow up.

September 21 2013 at 10:46 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pearl Nestor

Is it my imagination or is the Human Race so mentally weak now that we are being scarred beyond repair over incidental words we are being exposed to? Did we really come from the same American's who fought at Valley Forge with rags on their feet in the middle of Winter? They would be so ashamed of us all now, no doubt.

September 20 2013 at 11:15 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Pearl Nestor's comment

My thoughts exactly Pearl. Or as someone once said ... ~ A true gentleman never hurts someone\'s feelings... Unintentionally. ~ :P People need to acquire a better sense of
discrimination. It\'s like the whole world is just looking to be OFFENDED these days and of course when you look for something you\'re much more likely to find it.

September 21 2013 at 10:57 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Pearl Nestor

Some people have way too much time on their hands and have to make every little thing a drama. It's not even a personal insult but a word on a bottle cap for pete's sake! Get over it! Why everybody rushes to be a victim is beyond me. Get a big grip because if a real emergency ever happens you will have no coping skills left to deal with it, you will have been spent before doing drama over mere words!

September 20 2013 at 11:06 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
The Canoli King

A retarded report.

September 20 2013 at 9:45 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply

Get over it!! Are you that desperate for 15 seconds of fame?? was obviously a language barrier. If you have the much time on your hands volunteer!!

September 20 2013 at 8:43 PM Report abuse +5 rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to tmg09's comment
Robert Roldan

I agree with you! How does this simple nonsense get reported anyway? Are people that bored with their lives!? Is everything a major issue in society now!?

September 20 2013 at 8:59 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply

Why does everyone get "OUTRAGED" over every little thing nowadays? It was simply a LANGUAGE barrier issue, and a stupid mistake the Coca Cola company made. I understand feeling outraged when someone uses that word to insult your child, but this was a mistake. Not every mistake is worth making into a crusade.

September 20 2013 at 5:35 PM Report abuse +10 rate up rate down Reply
3 replies to jennypenny06's comment