Ellen DeGeneres just sent Reese Witherspoon an extra-large gluten-free muffin basket with a note saying, “Thank you SO much.” Because Reese is officially this week’s Blonde Celebrity From Louisiana Who Tried To Lighten The Mood, But Ended Up Pissing Off The Internet Instead. Reese Witherspoon wanted to do something for America’s teachers, who are working extra-harder during the COVID-19 pandemic. Reese announced that her clothing company, Draper James, will give free dresses to teachers. Unfortunately, Reese didn’t think about the logistics, and she was left with a huge mess on her hands.
On April 2nd, Reese revealed Draper James would give away dresses, which retail from $78 to $295. She wanted to say thank you to all the work American teachers are doing from their homes to make sure their students remain educated while in self-isolation.
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Dear Teachers: We want to say thank you. During quarantine, we see you working harder than ever to educate our children. To show our gratitude, Draper James would like to give teachers a free dress. To apply, complete the form at the link in bio before this Sunday, April 5th, 11:59 PM ET. (Offer valid while supplies last – winners will be notified on Tuesday, April 7th.) ✏️📓👗 x The Draper James Team Know a teacher who deserves a pick-me-up? Forward this post or tag your favorite educator in comments. 🍎 #DJLovesTeachers
According to the directions, all a teacher had to do was complete a form on the Draper James website before the contest closed on April 5th. See that little disclaimer that says “Offer valid while supplies last“? What Draper James failed to mention was that there were only 250 dresses up for grabs. According to Education Week, there are 3.2 million public school teachers in the United States. Reese accidentally organized The Hunger Games for modest Easter Sunday dresses. The New York Times says the online application form for the dress contest crashed almost immediately. A few days after the announcement on Instagram, the post had been viewed more than 400,000 times. By the time the contest closed, Draper James had reportedly received almost 1 million applications, which is approximately seven times the amount of dresses Draper James sold in 2019.
It gets worse. Teachers started talking on social media, and they realized that not one dress winner could be found. Instead, there were hundreds of thousands of pissed off teachers comparing notes, and all of them determined they’d been had. One Georgia teacher tweeted that it seemed the only thing Draper James was sending those teachers were discount codes. Because, remember – they all had to sign up for the “giveaway” with a valid email address. Some teachers added that they don’t even make enough money to afford a 30% off Draper James dress.
I got a code too. The dresses are beautiful but I can’t afford $87 (with discount.) I’ll stick with my @OldNavy dresses.
— 𝙹𝚞𝚕𝚒𝚎 𝙳𝚘𝚜𝚜𝚊𝚗𝚝𝚘𝚜 (@TeachMrsDTeach) April 7, 2020
Draper James didn’t need a legal expert like Elle Woods to tell them they’d fucked up big time. Their senior VP for brand marketing released a statement admitting the obvious:
“We felt like we moved too quickly and didn’t anticipate the volume of the response. We were really overwhelmed. It was way more volume than the company had ever seen. We expected the single digit thousands.”
Reese Witherspoon obviously didn’t want what appeared to be a cheap marketing scam on her hands (that’s worse than blood on your hands, in the Southern Lady Apparel Industry). But it’s pretty clear Draper James isn’t going to be able to give away one million dresses either. So Page Six says her solution, or at least the easiest damage control option for the time being, is to throw money at a charity. Reese has made a donation to DonorsChoose, a non-profit organization to help public school classrooms. A spokesperson for DonorsChoose says that Reese’s donation will specifically target three southern cities.
“The donation from Reese and Draper James will support all of our highest-need teachers in New Orleans, Atlanta and Nashville, and many more throughout the country.” The teachers get grants to spend on “resources such as books, notebooks, pencils, art supplies, activity kits and food, all shipped directly to their students’ homes.”
The Draper James Instagram account hasn’t posted anything new in a week, and their last post was a promo for their free dress giveaway. And Reese hasn’t said anything about this mess on social media. Not even a, “This is beyond!” But I think donating money is a good start. To be honest, it’s almost like that’s what Draper James should have done in the first place. I’m all for feeling nice when times are shitty. But what’s the point of getting a fancy new dress if it’s going to be pixelated to hell during a Google Hangout call made over spotty WiFi.