Teachers have gotten litigious against Reese Witherspoon’s clothing line Draper James after its teacher appreciation “giveaway” allegedly turned out to be mostly a marketing stunt.
The class-action lawsuit addresses a Draper James promotion back in April, during the early weeks of nationwide covid-19 stay-at-home orders, that stated the company would be giving away free dresses to teachers. Media outlets like Good Morning America, desperate for some feel-good content amid bleak pandemic news, jumped on the story and soon one million teachers had given up their personal information, including email addresses and photos of their school IDs, not fully understanding they were entering a lottery for just 250 dresses. What most teachers got was a bunch of Draper James promotional emails and a coupon, which was, of course, not what they were hoping for.
The Draper James employees who conceived of the dress lottery say it was an honest mistake born of good intentions and that the company had no way of know so many teachers would be interested in a free dress. But the teachers suing the company say that the promotion only stated dresses were available “while supplies last” and had no idea there were so few to be given away. Additionally, the suit alleges that the company spent just $12,500 (the cost of the dresses it gave away) for the personal data of one million people, which could then be used for further marketing communication or even hypothetically sold for profit. The lawsuit claims that the company fraudulently obtained teacher’s data “in ways that saved them hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in marketing costs.”
In addition to the shady data grab, there’s something unconscionably tacky about a company with a glamourous movie star worth millions as a founder dangling a free dress in front of notoriously underpaid teachers and then snatching it away when it turned out too many teachers wanted a nice dress. Reese Witherspoon’s Draper James clothing line is very much like Witherspoon herself, an amalgam of exaggerated clichés I like to call “aspirational Southern.” A quick look at the company’s website features Witherspoon in a $135 gingham dress that would look just as nice for a church picnic as it would a country club brunch accessorized with a $150 straw handbag. While the company’s s high-end basics are out of the price range for a casual dress for many American teachers, who are paid on average $55,000 a year, the products they sell would most likely be great wardrobe staples for teachers in need of functional, versatile clothing for the classroom. So Draper James essentially got access to a huge group of potential customers, while teachers got nothing but an invitation to spend money in return. When the giveaway was revealed to actually be a raffle, many teachers felt rightfully angry and embarrassed to have been duped into adding their personal information to Draper James’s marketing database at an already stressful and uncertain time.
But in a statement to Law360, attorneys for Draper James say that the company is both looking forward to winning the lawsuit and continuing to help teachers: “Draper James looks forward to defending this case, to continuing its efforts to acknowledge the extraordinary contributions made by teachers during this time of need, and to being vindicated in court.”
Can’t wait to see what new highly publicized schemes Draper James can come up with to acknowledge and appreciate teachers when it’s finished dunking on them in court!