Cheeky spruiker mocks Harvey Norman as backlash intensifies

Embattled retailer Harvey Norman has been targeted by a prankster who stationed himself outside one of its stores on Tuesday, mocking the company over unflattering revelations that have recently emerged.

Australian prank group The Chaser shared footage of one of their members outside a Harvey Norman store, believed to be in Sydney's Broadway shopping centre, to TikTok on Tuesday.

"Alright shoppers come on down to Harvey Norman where it's absolute JobKeeper madness. We're on a total Twitter blocking bonanza," the man said enthusiastically through a microphone, pretending to be a shopping centre spruiker.

The statement was made sarcastically as the company faces growing scrutiny over its handling of JobKeeper handouts.

Billionaire founder Gerry Harvey revealed it would not return $22 million in taxpayer-paid JobKeeper funds despite company profits increasing by 116 per cent during the pandemic.

Cheeky spruiker mocks Harvey Norman as backlash intensifies
Cheeky spruiker mocks Harvey Norman as backlash intensifies

Mr Harvey – one of the Australia's richest men – has also strongly opposed raises to the minimum wage as unions and workers protested against the company's stance last week.

The department store also copped heated backlash over the weekend for dismissive and rude tweets, including a response to a person who claimed working for Harvey Norman for six months drove them to suicidal ideation.

In response, the official store account replied to them with a facepalm emoji and a waving hand. In another, the company simply replied to a critic of its blocking spree with an emoji face blowing a kiss.

On Tuesday, the retailer abruptly closed down its Twitter account.

In the Chaser's TikTok video, which attracted more than 70,000 views within hours of being uploaded, the man also boasted about fake discounts on fridges, fireplaces and "on our workers".

"We've gone absolutely crazy on Twitter, blocking anyone. We'll block workers, we'll block union members, hell, we'll even block ourselves," he said.

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"With pay rates like these, you literally can not afford to leave the store. No folks, we've gone absolutely insane. Just make sure you don't mention the union, or you'll be sent walking out the door."

Since the weekend, Twitter users have been sharing screenshots of them being blocked by the official Harvey Norman account, some even saying they had never tweeted directly about the company.

Calls for retailer to be boycotted

Many of those blocked had been publicly supportive of wage increases as workers push for a 3.5 per cent pay rise.

The unusual behaviour from the corporate account prompted many to call for a boycott of the department store. The hashtag #BoycottHarveyNorman trended on Twitter on Monday as hundreds vowed never to shop there again.

Before the rude tweeted responses, the same Harvey Norman Twitter handle posted on May 27: “Twitter is no longer a customer service channel and is unmanned.”

Harvey Norman has not responded to media inquiries seeking an explanation for the tweeted emoji responses.

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