Forever 21 is so sorry for sending diet bars to customers ordering plus-sized clothing

I was happily surprised when Nike began using curvy mannequins at its flagship London store last month. The company joined other retailers and clothing manufacturers who have also started to expand their plus-size offerings, recognizing (the ridiculously obvious facts) that people with bodies of all different shapes and sizes want to find clothes that fit them well and that they feel comfortable and confident in, and that those clothes should be properly displayed in-store, too. I didn’t necessarily think that it was going to usher in an era in which sizeist garbage and body-shaming stopped. But, I certainly didn’t predict that a retailer would do something thoughtless and alienate a portion of its customer base by appearing to comment on the bodies of some of its customers.

But, here we are: Forever 21 has offered an apology for sending Atkins diet bars to customers who ordered plus-size clothing. After being called out on social media, the company responded:

“From time to time, Forever 21 surprises our customers with free test products from third parties in their e-commerce orders. The freebie items in question were included in all online orders, across all sizes and categories, for a limited time and have since been removed . . . . This was an oversight on our part and we sincerely apologize for any offense this may have caused to our customers, as this was not our intention in any way.”

[Via Just Jared]

Here are some tweets from customers who didn’t appreciate the addition to their order:

Here’s one from a customer who wears petite clothing, stating that one of the bars was in their order, too:

I also appreciated this tweet from someone who pointed out that since Forever 21 markets mostly to tweens and teens, partnering with Atkins isn’t a great idea:

I’ve gotten free samples before, but never with a clothing order. Most often it’s a makeup sample to complement what I’ve purchased. I once ordered my favorite snack from Utz because I couldn’t get it locally (Party Mix), and Utz sent me a small bag of chocolate-covered pretzels, which was a nice surprise (and the pretzels were good, too). In that case, the snack gift was logical. A clothing company sending another company’s diet or protein bar with an order doesn’t make sense.

Forever 21 needed to remember that intention and impact are two distinct things. They claim to have included the Atkins bar with all online orders, as one of the tweets above suggests. It seems that Forever 21 has (or had) a partnership with Atkins and so thought it would be innocent enough to send everyone the protein bar. Nobody involved with the promotion seemed to have thought about the fact that receiving the bar would impact different customers in different ways, not all of them good. Some people would say, “Great, free food!” Some people would toss it. Because the bar is from a company that is focused on particular dietary habits, others would assume that the company’s message was, “You should lose weight” or “You should change your eating patterns.” It doesn’t matter what Forever 21 intended” Someone in the marketing department should have anticipated this. Hopefully, Forever 21 will be smarter with its partnerships going forward.

photos are screenshots from this Forever21 video

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43 Responses to “Forever 21 is so sorry for sending diet bars to customers ordering plus-sized clothing”

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  1. TheHufflepuffLizLemon says:

    I am not the intended Forever21 demo (I’m old), but I’ve considered a few of their items over the years. It’s just never been enough of an appeal to commit, and this isn’t giving me any reason to start. My nieces loved it when they were younger, and I would have been furious if they had received an Atkins bar.

    I was stoked when Nike started actively promoting their larger sizes. I started working out a few years ago but my thighs and bust still keep me out of traditional sizes in many things, shorts especially. Their workout shorts are fantastic and made for people who are really active.

    • Kimberly says:

      even when I was their demo i never shopped there, because I felt their products were BullSht. Their tri hard as hell clothes were not for me.

  2. KittenHeels says:

    This seems like exactly the sort of poorly-thought out cross-promotion I’d expect a women’s clothing brand and an unhealthy food bar to do.

    • Megan says:

      How greedy is Forever 21 that they would engage in an obviously inappropriate partnership? I guess they got all the free publicity they were after.

      • Viv says:

        Very… They’re well known for stealing designs from small clothing brands or Etsy shops who can’t afford the costs of stopping them. Why not add on shady cross promotion!

  3. My3cents says:

    My teenage daughter shops there and I certainly wouldn’t want her to get a diet bar with her order. Bad move.

  4. moningjacket says:

    I have a yoga clothing subscription and get snack bar samples on the reg, but they aren’t explicitly “diet” bars, more like plant-based/whole food/organic bars for the granola set. I also shop occasionally at Fabletics (those power hold leggings are the sh*t) and get snack samples as well, but again, NOT diet bars. Sometimes it’s straight up chocolate. Somewhere at Forever 21 there is someone(s) who is responsible to think about brand messaging and corporate collaborations, and they failed. Like this is a huge fail on a basic level of their own brand, not to mention the message it sends to the people who spend their hard earned dollars shopping the brand.

  5. Lala11_7 says:

    I’m a BBW…have always been one…WILL always be one…

    This is some of the freebies my favorite online store sends me with my MANY orders….

    - Milk Duds
    - M&M (Almond ones…YUM)
    - Twix (Dark Choc)

    You see where I’m going with this….

  6. cannibell says:

    Were Kardashians at the meeting where this decision was made? #Kimono #Pepsi

  7. Elle says:

    Do tweens dress like those women in the ad?!!! Where are they supposed to be going? It’s gymwear/underwear/paint-the-house wear. I am getting so old.

  8. OriginalLala says:

    Way to push diet culture on teens Forever21!

    • Esmom says:

      Yeah, wow, how gross.

    • MaryContrary says:

      This. Totally disgusting.

    • Alexis says:

      Yes, I think it was gross to send it to straight sized women as well (which they did). Teens and younger women feel incredible pressure to diet no matter what their size. It wouldn’t have been appropriate to send it to anyone and I think that’s kind of getting lost in the plus sized narrative…

  9. SamC says:

    I’m a BBW and honestly, with all the other crap in the world to get upset over, wouldn’t have given this much thought beyond “what an odd partnership.” Also, “yuck” as I think Atkins bars are kind of gross. The people, or possibly robots, doing the packing are focused on getting the task done and meeting their per piece quotas so the bars probably did go into every package, whatever the sizing. And isn’t Atkins trying to rebrand as a lifestyle option vs diet these days?

  10. Eliza says:

    In fairness the Atkins bars would have been put in all packages regardless of size as they’re all done at the same warehouse. But sending diet bars to any young (their key demographic) woman is horrible messaging.

  11. Jb says:

    They sent to all online order XS to XXXL so yes to bad promotional idea but no to fat shaming. I would have been so happy for free protein bar as I’m a snack queen!! To each their own but we got bigger (no pun intended) things to worry about these days

    • OriginalLala says:

      In our messed-up world, women of many sizes get fat-shamed though – so many tiny actresses get called fat and told to lose weight. You don’t have to be actually fat to be fat-shamed. Hell it’s happened to me and I’m not overweight :(

    • TheHeat says:

      A girl with body image issues can be a size 0 and still feel fat-shamed by this.

      I find it absolutely disgusting.

  12. Veronica S. says:

    Considering the age of their customer base, yeah, that’s horrifying. I was going through a period of borderline ED with my weight anxiety at that age. Something like that may have pushed me straight into disorder territory.

  13. CharliePenn says:

    I’ve had forever21 send me candy in a plus size order. I didn’t think there were any implications behind that, and I don’t think this was meant to imply anything. Just careless money grabbing.
    I’m 36 and I’m not easy to offend so to me this isn’t offensive. But I can also see the concern about younger women and teenage girls who order plus size from F21 and get these bars. But what do you expect from this trashy cheap company?

    Trashy and cheap and yet I order from them… to be honest this company tends to cut their plus size items in a way that really fits my body (size 18, had two kids, lots of loose belly and broad shoulders, that’s me!). So I do go there for fun summery clothing, basics. Most of their clothing is terrible to me, as far as fashion, but I keep an eye out for their more boho and classic pieces, and order during a sale once I a while.
    I already knew this company was careless. This is a careless move.

  14. Who ARE these people? says:

    I also worry about any chocolate melting onto the clothes.

  15. Seraphina says:

    I get free samples with my orders from some companies. I am by no means close to 21, far from it. But sending Adkins bars to young women is very poor judgement. Young, impressionable girls. Some of which are batting image issues. Just not smart.

  16. Atreyu says:

    Does anyone really believe this wasn’t intentional, a cheap PR grab? As they say can even bad news is news, no way did F21 plan this without knowing the headlines it would generate. The bonus is they get to setup a nice “we’re always learning” arc and come out looking new and shiny.

    • Carol says:

      Well, I’m all for F21 sending an “apology” gift card worth at least $50 to every person who received an Atkins bar along with some sort of “women of all sizes are beautiful and style has nothing to do with weight” kind of note (although F21 has nothing to do with style either but that’s beside the point). I think that would make F21′s apology seem more adequate.

  17. Risa says:

    I have received all kinds of freebies in online orders. And it was stated that ALL orders received this.. lastly, its not a diet bar as much as it is a protein bar I’d say. Its not promoting diet… its promoting a healthier snack I’d say. STILL not necessarily appropriate for teens.

    I run races all over the country and a lot of vendors are out in force pushing protein bars, healthier alternative snacks, fitness drinks, etc. Its never about diet.. its marketed as fueling an active lifestyle. So to me, this is not in bad taste, its just trying to jump on a bandwagon that failed.

  18. SJR says:

    Well, this store can piss off. Not one cent of business from me.

  19. Aang says:

    Their clothes are very cheaply made and meant to be tossed after not much wear. I hate that business model. Food samples in a mail order seems weird and a possible melting issue. On the other end of the spectrum my daughter is 5’1 and 100lbs and has an extremely hard time finding clothes that fit, at any store. I have a friend from Taiwan in the same boat. So it’s great they are expanding to plus size but how about extra petite people too?

  20. lucy2 says:

    This is so inappropriate to send to ANYONE, and you know they knew that. They just want the free publicity and think pieces written about them.

    A little freebie is nice to send to customers, but not food. Don’t send food with my clothes.

  21. ME says:

    Well to be fair they said they sent those bars to ALL sizes and to ANYONE who ordered on-line. I just think they probably shouldn’t have sent those bars to anyone as it could be triggering to ANYONE of ANY SIZE.

  22. Hoopjumper says:

    My cousin used to work for F21. Says it’s a horribly run company, worse than other large retail chains. That seems to check out.

  23. lauren says:

    I just ordered from them before this situation and I received a razor. I love it!

  24. MeghanNotMarkle says:

    I’m only a little over my “ideal” weight (5 pounds) and I still get fat shamed. This is horrible thinking on the part of Forever 21.

  25. HeyThere! says:

    To the Instagram human who said they are ‘petite’ and still got one and people need to chill……when will people quit mistaking petite for weight when it’s height!!! You can be size 20 and be petite. It’s height! Ugh. Okay. Second point…skinny people can be unhealthy so sending a diet bar in a skinny persons order is awful. Sending a diet bar in a plus size order is ridiculous and horrible. It’s all horrible. What was Forever21 thinking?! They clearly weren’t. Maybe don’t push diet food on people ever…let alone when they are ordering clothing. Talk about triggering .

    • BeanieBean says:

      It’s not height so much as proportion.

      • PleaseAndThankYou says:

        Okay, except it definitely is height, lol. Proportioned smaller for smaller humans (I.e., shorter humans). Based on height. But as stated above, it has nothing to do with actual size. I happen to be a smaller size right now, but when/if I gain weight, I will be a larger size, but still a petite. Since I’m short.

        - A Petite Woman

  26. Liz version 700 says:

    This is breathtakingly gross. So insensitive. The free sample thing is so strange when it comes from someone besides a make up company. I ordered pillows from a big chain and they sent me a sample of Winterfresh gum?!? It wasn’t offensive but I was so confused?

  27. Green Desert says:

    This is super gross. I believe that like a Kardashian, they knew EXACTLY what they were doing and that it would get people talking about them. Does anyone know if they still put Bible verses on the bottom of their bags? No disrespect to real Christians, but if you’re a giant company who has gotten into trouble for sweatshops and you’re sending diet bars to people who order plus-sized clothing (and really, what other bad things are happening within this company), I side-eye the hell out of your “Christianity.”

  28. MangoAngelesque says:

    The only food samples I get is when I order from Goulet Pens (which is, like, all the freaking time because I’m addicted to fountain pens and inks), and they send a mini tootsie roll lollipop with every order :)

    I really can’t complain about that one…

  29. Lela says:

    Once, ModCloth sent me a weird shawl months after ordering some dresses. It was nice. But forever 21 has been trash forever. I’m definitely more bothered by the fact that their market is definitely a good portion teenagers. They don’t need to get diet bars, come the fuck on.

  30. Dina says:

    This is in such poor taste, so gross. Ugh

  31. enike says:

    I am not sure why to be offended for a free gift? I mean, 90 % of plus-size people would like to lose weight, I guess
    If I ordered a good push-up bra and they would send me a sample of a product I can use to at least a bit firmer my breasts, I would be happy, not offended

    I dont understand this mentality to get offended for a good intention
    if you are happy with your size, you dont get offended and munch on the bar, imho