Sears Canada shuts down Facebook comments amid flood of angry messages

After getting flooded with angry comments about how it’s treating laid-off workers and calls for a boycott, Sears Canada is both removing and no longer allowing public posts on its Facebook site.

Retailer also removes older public comments, switches to private messaging

For the time being, people commenting on Sears Canada via Facebook will have to send the retailer a private message. (Colleen Connors/CBC)

After getting flooded with angry comments about its treatment of laid-off workers, and by calls for a boycott, Sears Canada is no longer allowing public posts on its Facebook site.

The retailer also appears to be in the process of removing all current comments.

When CBC News first checked out Sears' Facebook page on Wednesday afternoon, we could still view posts from early July such as: "Still no severance pay for your employees huh, you know Canadians won't stand for that" and  "Joining the boycott of Sears Canada."

However, a couple of hours later, those posts too disappeared. 

A snapshot of some of the comments on Sears Canada's Facebook site that have now been removed. (Sears Canada/Facebook)

On Sunday, CBC News noted that Sears Canada's Facebook page was riddled with comments from Canadians protesting what was happening to its employees.

The retailer announced last month that, as part of a court-supervised restructuring process, it's closing 59 of its 255 stores and laying off 2,900 workers — none of whom will get severance pay.

Sears has also requested court permission to stop topping up the underfunded retiree pension plan. The retailer recently agreed to postpone that matter until Sept. 30.

Many Canadians have voiced their anger on Sears' Facebook site and said they will no longer shop at its department stores, adding to what one retail analyst called a "PR nightmare."

"I will not spend one red cent in your store… no severance, no sale," one person posted. 

Private messaging

Most of the bitter comments are now gone from the site, but according to Sears Canada, they were not what motivated it to prevent people from making public posts. 

Sears says it has instead decided to focus on communicating with Canadians via Facebook's private messaging option where only the retailer can view and respond to comments.

"In order to listen and hear from our customers most effectively, we're opening Facebook Messaging to our customers and all Canadians with inquires," Sears said on its site.

"We will, for the time being, close comments on our [public] feed to concentrate on responding to messenger inquiries."

The retailer also encouraged people to continue with their comments — using the private messaging format.

"We are focused on making Sears Canada a successful business, and so much of that relies on your feedback," it stated.

'Insult to injury'

But the new messaging policy may only serve to further agitate some Canadians.

"It just adds insult to injury," says Tracy Brown in Stratford, Ont. She informed Sears last week on Facebook she'll no longer shop at the retailer, "in light of your decision to cheat your faithful employees."

On hearing that Sears is removing comments and shutting down public posts, Brown finds herself even more upset.

"Makes me angry if they took my comment down," she says. "It wasn't a rude comment. It was just me stating my opinion."

Sears Canada told CBC News that deep financial troubles left it with no choice but to seek court protection from its creditors while it restructures.

As part of the court proceedings, the company said it's not able to make payments to a number of stakeholders, including laid-off workers owed severance.