The truth at the end of the story

  1. The Herald spends ten paragraphs on a story that claims purchase cards exclude tampons as a non essential expense. The first 10 paras are:

A financially strapped job seeker says she was told by Auckland Work and Income staff she could not use a supermarket card for tampons or sanitary pads because they were considered luxury items.

The Ministry of Social Development has said the only items that cannot be bought on payment cards are electronics, appliances, alcohol and cigarettes.

The allegation has ignited a storm on social after blogger Tulia Thompson wrote about it and described it as “institutionalised sexism”.

Ms Thompson said the incident happened about six weeks ago at the Queen Street Winz office.

The woman was provided with a supermarket card and told it was for “necessity items only” and she could not use it for various “luxury items” including tampons and pads, she said.

“Supermarket cards are only given out when the beneficiary is in serious financial hardship. Nevertheless, the exclusion of tampons and pads from the list of ‘necessity items’ that beneficiaries can buy when in financial hardship is a fairly extreme example of institutionalised sexism,” she said.

Ms Thompson said another woman tried to use a Winz supermarket card at the check-out at her local supermarket, and the card didn’t work.

“The cashier called Winz to find out why the card wouldn’t work, and found out it was because she had tampons amongst the items she was purchasing. She had to return them.”

Ms Thompson said another woman had contacted her in response to the blog to say the same thing had happened to her at a supermarket and the reason her card was rejected was because her sanitary item had been incorrectly labelled in the supermarket system to “pull-ups”.

Ms Thompson said clearly there needed to be better communication between supermarkets and Winz to ensure women were not embarrassed at the check-out counter.

Only if you make it all the way past 10 paragraphs of allegations, do you get the response:

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Social Development said any claims that female hygiene products could not be purchased using the Work and Income payment card were “totally untrue“.

Individual items are not tagged on payment cards. If someone’s card doesn’t work, it would be for a system reason and not because of what the person bought.

“The only items banned from purchase on the payment cards are electronics, appliances, alcohol and cigarettes.”

So the entire story is based on a false allegation. I would have thought you either then don’t run a story, or you make it very clear at the beginning of the story that it is a false allegation. The mention in paragraph two doesn’t actually refute the story to the degree that paragraph 11 does.

The story headline is:

Tampons a ‘luxury item’ – Work and Income staff

That makes it look like a direct quote from a WINZ staffer, when in fact it is an third hand allegation.

Just for good measure, the story includes half a dozen outraged tweets from people, based on the false allegation.

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