A picture of two Paul Walker-themed tip jars at an L.A.-area Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf has set off a public backlash suggesting exploitation of the actor’s recent accidental death. Actor Jason Biggs (“American Pie,” “Saving Silverman”) first tweeted the picture, featuring the names of two of Walker’s biggest films (“The Fast and the Furious” and “Varsity Blues”), yesterday afternoon:
— Jason Biggs (@JasonBiggs) December 3, 2013
Following hundreds of retweets, Facebook posts and other online criticisms, a representative from Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf responded later yesterday afternoon with the following statement: “This is completely inconsistent with our brand values and the jars have since been removed. Our thoughts and condolences remain with the many friends and family of Paul Walker during this difficult time. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf would like to thank Jason Biggs for bringing this matter to our attention.”
For all we know, the local team at the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf may have been raising funds for Walker’s charitable organization, Reach Out Worldwide, or it may have merely been a misguided attempt at humor — but it goes to show quickly one small decision in a public retail environment can escalate through social media.