No, it's not okay to make jokes about my child's life-threatening illness

Sydney's Downtown Brooklyn restaurant has received backlash over the Reese's promotion.
Sydney's Downtown Brooklyn restaurant has received backlash over the Reese's promotion. 

I'd never heard of Downtown Brooklyn in the Sydney suburb of Penrith before this week. And it'd be safe to say many of you reading this hadn't either.

Let me tell you about the burger shop. When you Google it, you see an image of a non-descript local restaurant situated in an ugly brick building sandwiched between a car park and a computer shop. There's nothing special about it, unless of course you count a "theme restaurant" as special. It's certainly not as cool as anything you'd find in Brooklyn, New York City.

But it's trying to make itself stand out from the crowd and nothing beats a little negative publicity to get media attention.

While promoting one of its latest creations on its Facebook page - Reese's Bowls - they chose to go down the "look at us being controversial" route and poked some 'lighthearted' fun at anaphylaxis, in particular life threatening peanut allergies.

"Get those Epipen's ready, because this is going to be worth it! Churro Bowls are out and Reese's Bowls are in! 

This giant Reese's Piece is sure to get the heart racing! Loaded with Ice Cream and drizzled in Peanut Butter and Chocolate, it sure screams, get me to the hospital ASAP!"

They've taken their social media queues straight from what I like to call the "Wicked Camper School of Offensive Marketing". Many businesses desperate for relevance in a crowded marketplace like to offend people for publicity and then cry "political correctness gone wrong" as defence. And it works for about 24 hours.

They've had a lot of attention and are loving it, but what they don't realise is they'll be yesterday's news soon enough and there will be a heap of people who might have considered popping in to have a burger, who won't now. They've alienated their customer base and I'd assume they need more customers, not less.

Unfortunately, what they're also doing is painting the business as nasty and uncaring, which in itself is okay if that's what they're trying to do, you know be "edgy", which is impossible when you have a replica Brooklyn Bridge in your dining area.

What they've discovered today is there are a lot of people out there with life threatening allergies, and many parents of kids who spend their whole life living in fear their child will die as result. It's a scary prospect and not at all funny.


There are also a lot of kids who are embarrassed, ashamed or always on edge because of their allergy. They feel different to other kids and often have to sit out of certain activities because their body deserted them.

Advertising that pokes fun at allergies just makes these kids feel even more fearful of being teased or having their condition downplayed. When the reality is these kids could be laughing one minute and dead the next, just by eating the wrong thing.

I know this because I have three kids with life threatening nut allergies. I live with this fear everyday. They live with this fear everyday. We don't expect any special treatment, just compassion and understanding. Kindness is everything.

Like us, many consumers are now seeking to put their hard-earned money into kind and ethical businesses. And this company is doing business wrong.

They're weathering the storm of outrage, but mostly it's parents reaching out asking them to be more compassionate, to think about other people when promoting their food, but this business has opted to chastise them and instead have issued this non-apology:

"We're Sorry…

We're sorry that this world is so easily offended by the use of words. We're sorry people no longer know how to take a joke. We're sorry people couldn't see the humour in this post. We're sorry people take our post's so literally. We're sorry that people need to lighten up. We're sorry if you have a Peanut Allergy and can't actually try this! We're sorry our Boss is Anaphylactic. We're sorry her words that stemmed this post was, "…jab me now and call an ambulance cause I want to try that shit!". We're sorry she found it highly amusing. We're sorry we won't ever delete the post."

While they dig their heels in and respond to pleas for compassion from allergy parents and organisations like Allergy and Anaphylaxis Australia with even more vitriol, this burger joint have chosen to promote their business as mean spirited. They could've chosen to be kind, but no, they've chosen to be assholes.

And because of that, I've chosen to never to eat at their burger restaurant. And I implore people with compassionate hearts to also vote with their wallet and bypass this business.

* There is no suggestion the manufacturer of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, The Hershey Company, was in any way involved in the Downtown Brooklyn promotion or Facebook post.