Hell hath no fury like a social media mob that thinks it has identified a luxury scam.
Or so it seemed this weekend, when a series of viral TikTok videos involving an $825 Chanel Advent calendar and the disappointed customer who bought it went viral, inspiring a multitude of users to call foul on the brand. Or rather, all over its Instagram page.
In one way, this is merely the latest example of the vigilante justice meted out against powerful global brands by individuals willing to point out perceived injustice, including cultural appropriation, copying designs and other forms of misbehavior, and of the shifting balance of power between brands and audience.
But the emotions around this anti-Advent calendar campaign have been particularly high, in part, perhaps, because of the holiday involved, and the idea that rather than representing good will toward customers, this particular gift item suggests they’re being played for suckers.
Here’s what happened: On Dec. 3, Elise Harmon, a Tiktoker in California, posted a video of herself unboxing a Chanel Advent calendar in the shape of the Chanel No. 5 bottle.
“Am I crazy?” she asked. “Absolutely. But I’ve never seen a Chanel Advent calendar, so let’s see if it’s worth the hype.”
(She had never seen a Chanel Advent calendar before because there had never been one. This was a special holiday initiative to celebrate the 100th birthday of Chanel No. 5.)
Ms. Harmon gave the calendar “a 10 out of 10” for packaging, but she was upset to open a box and discover what appeared to be Chanel stickers. A hand cream, on the other hand, she liked.
And so it went with the unboxing over eight more posts, in which Ms. Harmon revealed perfumes (good), key chains (not so much), lipstick and nail polish (mostly good, even if they were also mostly sample size), a mirror (not), a rope bracelet with a CC wax stamp (huh?), a plastic mini snow globe and … a Chanel dustbag, the bags used for shoes or other accessories. It was the dustbag that really set people off.
As of Dec. 6, the series has been viewed more than 50 million times, and each post has thousands of comments, mostly along the “you wuz robbed” or “who do they think they are?” lines. To cap it all off, Ms. Harmon told her followers that she had been “blocked” by Chanel.
Though Chanel has a TikTok page, it is inactive and set to private, with no followers, so it was unclear where Ms. Harmon had been blocked — she did not respond to requests for comment — but that did not stop her audience from descending on Chanel’s Instagram account, which has more than 47 million followers and which has been posting about the Métiers d’Art show to be held in Paris on Dec. 7.
Under each photo of the work of the various specialty ateliers Chanel now sponsors — the flower maker Lemarie, the embroidery atelier Montex, among others — and promotional clips for the collection film, are hundreds of comments: “Don’t ignore the inevitable! We want some answers!” And, “Is the film funded by the advent calendar sales?”