Vodafone CEO Jason Paris’ three-word takedown of customer who complains about use of te reo Māori

Vodafone chief executive Jason Paris has delivered a laconic farewell to a customer who complained about the company’s use of te reo Māori in its communications.

The customer, a woman named Catherine Beuning, wrote to the Herald to draw attention to what she referred to as the “flippant reply” from Vodafone boss.

In her correspondence with the Herald, Beuning shared the full letter she sent to Paris.

In it, she takes particular exception to Vodafone’s use of “Aotearoa” in its communications with customers.

“I’d like to point out that we live in New Zealand, NOT Aotearoa, and will remain so until there’s a referendum to change that name,” Beuning says.

“We also speak English, NOT Maori. Remember that English is the language of the World today NOT Maori [sic]”.

She then went on to share some irrelevant details about her extended family.

“And before you think that I’m a redneck Pakeha, my daughter in-law is Maori and their three daughters therefore are part Maori. They too tell me that this WOKENESS has gone too far even for them [sic].”

Beuning then makes it clear that she would be leaving Vodafone to join Spark, but not before launching one last barb at Paris.

“Mr Paris, I heard on the radio that about two hundred staff at Vodafone are losing their jobs, is this because Vodafone are losing customers due the WOKENESS that you and your company are foisting upon the customers and the rest of NEW ZEALAND. [sic]”

Rather than attempt to engage with the customer, Paris issued a simple three-word response:

“Haere rā Catherine.”

Or as they say in “the language of the World”, “goodbye Catherine”.

Asked about the response from the CEO, a Vodafone spokesman said Paris valued good debate but did not believe further engagement would drive the discussion forward in this case.

“Jason regularly receives correspondence from our customers on a wide range of matters, including correspondence about our commitment to te ao Māori,” the spokesman said.

“He frequently engages in good discussion or debate with customers, either via email or on social media, however in this particular instance, given the aggressive nature and tone of the correspondence, felt it would be counter-productive to engage any further.”

The willingness of Vodafone to bid farewell to a customer with these views comes shortly after the company pulled its advertising from the Magic Talk radio station due to racist comments made by stand-in presenter John Banks.

Following that decision, Vodafone also introduced an ethical advertising policy, which focuses on celebrating Aotearoa and fostering inclusiveness.

In explaining the decision to update its advertising policy, Vodafone marketing boss Delina Shields spoke about the company’s role in honouring the principles of Te Tīriti o Waitangi.

“For us this means developing meaningful, enduring and mutually beneficial relationships with Māori as tangata whenua, as well as celebrating and using one of our beautiful national languages, te reo Māori, wherever we can,” Shields said.

“We don’t condone racism in any way, and instead aim to work with organisations and support initiatives that celebrate diversity and foster inclusion.”

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