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Macy’s Pulls Portion-Control Plates After Twitter Users Denounce Them as ‘Toxic’ and ‘Fat Shaming’

July 23, 2019, 12:31 AM UTC

Pourtion, the company behind controversial plates that measure serving sizes on a scale of “skinny jeans” to “mom jeans,” told Fortune that its sales have skyrocketed in the 24-hours after Macy’s publicly apologized and promised to stop selling the dinnerware, which some Twitter users called “toxic,” “harmful,” and “fat-shaming.”

Plategate began Sunday afternoon when podcast host and CBS science correspondent Alie Ward tweeted, “How can I get these plates from @Macys banned in all 50 states,” after seeing them on display in a New York City storefront.

The tweet, which has been liked more than 36,000 times as of publication, quickly went viral and inspired others to criticize what one person described as a “toxic message, promoting even greater women beauty standards and dangerous health habits.”

Other people took to Twitter to talk about the habits of people with eating disorders. “Let’s all talk about how eating only from specific plates or utensils is extremely common ritualistic eating behaviour. Does Macys want to market a line of teacups that portion out the two spoonfuls of lite yoghurt that my friend would spend an hour eating in tiny scrapes?” said @Jomegsallan.

And @LittleMissLizz added: “When I was young & sick we used to mark lines on our plates to denote how much we could eat without getting ‘fat’ but still not dying. 5 of the women who did this with me are dead now.”

Although Ward later clarified that she had initially used “banned” hyperbolically—tweeting, “I just think this logic is flawed, harmful & people shouldn’t make money off of making women feel bad”—she noted that Macy’s must have agreed with the assessment given its decision to pull the plates from stock.

“We apologize to our customers for missing the mark on this product,” a Macy’s spokesperson told Fortune in an emailed statement. “After reviewing the complaint, we quickly removed the plates, which were only in our STORY at Macy’s location in Herald Square.” (Macy’s launched Story, a concept store that changes themes every six to eight weeks, in April.)

Macy’s publicly announced this decision in a Twitter response to Ward (as well as The Good Place actress Jameela Jamil and other online critics) hours after they raised their concerns online.

“Conversation has been the biggest gift we’ve given to the brand-consumer ecosystem,” Amanda Farrell, Twitter’s Director of Retail Partnerships, told Fortune in an email. “Now, the consumer voice has more power because anyone, anywhere can turn to the platform and be heard.”

Twitter is often the go-to platform of choice for consumers who want to draw attention to a problematic product or customer service experience.

“We always encourage our brand partners to listen to their audience,” Farrell said. “Brands that come to the platform to foster meaningful connections with consumers are always listening and learning about their audience and using that feedback to refine or adjust their products or messages.”

While some were pleased with Macy’s quick response, others were angered by the company’s decision to pull the item—voicing their take on the backlash against the product.

“As a small business just starting out, we are startled to say the least,” Pourtion co-founder Mary Cassidy told Fortune via email. “We have gotten personal emails from both sides, but mostly from people who support our message and are telling us to hang in there. As parents of two teens, we realize the power of social media and are surprised to be the center of something like this.”

Cassidy added that the company had “more sales today than any other day.”

The company will continue to sell its “mom jeans” plates on its website, alongside other dinnerware with similar messages including an appetizer plate with “feed me” and “feed bag” portion sizes, a pasta bowl touting “al dente” and “al don’te” servings, and a wine glass delineating “on the lips” versus “on the hips.”

“As the creators of Pourtions, we feel badly if what was meant to be a lighthearted take on the important issue of portion control was hurtful to anyone,” Cassidy said. “Pourtions is intended to support healthy eating and drinking. We know this is serious business. We also believe a touch of humor can, for some, be just the right touch.”

The “mini-festo”on its website, however, takes a somewhat harsher tone. “Walk down any street today and one thing becomes immediately clear: we have really let ourselves go. Waistlines are exploding like the national debt. Arteries are jammed like Grand Central Station at rush hour. And there are plenty of helpings of blame to go around—fast food, slow metabolism, excessive elbow-bending.”

Sounds like an extra helping of judgment, for sure.

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