By - CTL
April 18, 2017

By Dorothy Thompson.

Coles hit the pre Easter airwaves with a hilarious, back to the future campaign, entitled ‘I’m Free’. It is reminiscent of the great British sitcom from the 70’s “Are You Being Served” in which a Captain Peacock, the floor walker manager of the fictitious Grace Bros Department Store called out to a staff member “Are you free?” anytime a new customer arrived. The reply was always, “Yes I’m free (to provide service) Captain Peacock”. Cole’s Supermarkets seem to be channeling the very essence of this famous line in their commercials.

The offending ad.


The campaign “I’m Free, I’m Free” was obviously created to assure Cole’s customers that there would be somebody there to help them with their checkout needs, in a fast and efficient manner, during some of the busiest shopping days of the years.

What could possibly go wrong?

The supermarket giant released a statement to the media on the Thursday night before Easter saying they were forced to ditch the hand-held signs after reports it led to customers making inappropriate comments to staff.

Are they serious!

“Unfortunately in response to a small number of customers behaving disrespectfully to team members, we have now removed the hand-held signs,” a Coles spokeswoman said. I wonder how many incidents were reported?

“A small number of employees have complained that the campaign has sexual undertones and puts staff at risk”.

Coles employee Emily Henderson wrote on Facebook that she was horrified by comments customers had made in response to the signs.

“The comments have been horrible … we have had it from BOTH (sic) male and female, old and young.”

Kim Baker, another Coles employee wrote on the company’s Facebook page.

“I would like to thank the Marketing Team for their thoughtless and demeaning promotion in the lead-up to Easter.

Having employees holding a paddle with the words “I’m Free” in large font (with “at Coles” in tiny font, relative to the sign) and have to smile, laugh and nod at every lewd comment that passes their way, while scanning groceries is not an ideal work environment.

Thankfully, that was not my experience during my entire shift this weekend past, however it happened enough times for me to feel uncomfortable in my workplace.

How about “How Can I Help” or “Can I Help You”? Same message, no sexual innuendo.

I’m happy to get involved with most promotions that Coles have going, but this is not one of them. And I will actively encourage my teammates to not participate.

I would appreciate it if Coles changed this catchphrase.


Wait…what? “Thankfully, that was not my experience during my entire shift this weekend past”. Well that pretty well says it all; another keyboard warrior screaming from a minority position swaying a terrified middle management into being “politically correct”. What next?

Coles has over 110,000 employees in its work force. I wonder if they had done a secret ballot, what the real picture would have been, but I suppose we’ll never know.

I’m not for a moment condoning the creative, it was pretty lame, but I would however put it to you that it was a genuine attempt by Coles to inform their customer base of the added service they were providing to help serve the large number of customers stocking up for the Easter break.

This alone vindicates why they did it. The only mistake that I can see is that at the first whiff of the PC brigade getting their knickers in a twist, they folded their tent and ran for cover.

Shame on you Coles for not sticking by your guns. There will always be a couple of whingers in everything we do or say. The greatest problem with our society today is we give them far too much oxygen to ventilate their minority causes


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