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Ritual apologizes for sending insensitive email regarding coronavirus

With its freshly-declared status as a global pandemic and increasing ability to halt our daily lives as we know them, the 2019 novel coronavirus is all that anyone seems to be talking about right now.

It is not, however, a "trend" that can be exploited by marketers — not without a significant amount of backlash.

The Toronto-based mobile food ordering app Ritual is hearing this from its customers in spades as of Thursday morning after sending out a promotional email recommending the use of it services as a way to combat COVID-19.

"Make the smarter choice by ordering with Ritual," reads the subject line of an email sent to all Ritual users just before 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday.

The body of the email outlines "a few reasons Ritual is the smarter choice to get your lunch during the COVID-19 situation," pointing to such order-ahead benefits as the avoidance of busy lines, freedom from the worry of delivery people touching food orders, and not needing to handle "cash that’s been who knows where?"

Customers weren't impressed by the idea. In fact, they were incensed to think that any company would try to capitalize on a deadly outbreak that has so far killed more than 4,000 people worldwide.

Realizing that their COVID-19 marketing push wasn't going over well, the people behind Ritual sent out a subsequent email shortly after 8:30 p.m. last night.

"We wanted to send a follow up on the email you received earlier from Ritual," it reads.

"We're all about supporting small and local businesses and that was our goal — it was not our intent to make light of a serious situation, but rather offer some reassurance on ways people can keep supporting local restaurants during this time of uncertainty."

Signed "with love" by "The Ritual Team," the email thanks users for their feedback and promises that Ritual "can and will do better."

Many who received the apology email appear to have been annoyed by its tone and its suggestion that its goal was simply to "support small and local businesses."

"Dear [Ritual]," wrote one Twitter user in response to the email. "The issue is not that you’re making light of a serious situation, it's that you're trying to profit from a pandemic."

"Again, [Ritual], stop taking advantage of a situation for gains and engagements," wrote another. "Not even an apology in this email, but instead you give an excuse. Admit your faults, correct the mistake, and move forward. Take steps towards bettering public health, not your coffers."

As of March 11, the World Health Organization is reporting a total of 118,322 positive COVID-19 cases globally.

Nearly 4,300 people have now died as a result of contracting the virus with 1,130 deaths confirmed across 113 countries outside of China to date. 

Lead photo by

Tanya Mok


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