Ohm have replied criticising our latest article about them. It seems there has been a customer reaction to our article to spurn them into some kind of damage limitation. If we consider Ohm’s reply and the wider picture it looks like they are happy to accept positive publicity but want to control publicity they don’t like.
In summary what seems likely to have happened is this:-
- On 21st March Shan Cheung at Ohm gave us her position on their policy going forward
- That policy was stated by Shan as being the Ohm shop section in future may stock non-veg*an items
- We published that article on this blog to publicise Ohm’s position since that is different from the all-vegan policy they have previously marketed Ohm on
- There has been some sort of a customer reaction to that article
- This has caused Ohm management to feel some pressure from which they have responded
- Their on-going position isn’t entirely clear. They have also suggested there may have been a misunderstanding. We are prepared to accept a misunderstanding was possible if it helps us on the road to obtaining a clear definition of Ohm’s way forward
In that conversation we had with Shan at Ohm on 21st March we asked specific questions. Shan replied that Ohm intended to continue with a vegan kitchen policy. When asked if that vegan-only policy would apply to the shop section, she made it very clear that it did not. This is the crucial, key point of this entire subject. Hence why we asked the follow up question; if you allow a non-vegan policy for your shop section going forward, does that mean some of the items for your shop section may even be non-vegetarian? Shan confirmed it to be correct that that shop in future may contain non-vegetarian produce on offer. Two of us were in there to discuss this with Shan and we both agree what Shan said couldn’t have seemed clearer.
In Ohm’s reply of 25th March there’s pretty clear info about eating vegan food. Other than that the offending wool items have been de-stocked, the on going policy for their shop section is less clear.
The term “vegan” was first coined by Donald Watson and the group of people who formed the vegan society in 1944. Their definition of vegan is here (in full around half way down the page). However that definition is easier to interpret if we break the sentences down into this:-
a) seeks to exclude as far as is possible and practicable all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty for food, clothing or any other purpose
b) promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment
In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
That definition makes it clear diet is an important sub-component of veganism. It clearly states though it’s more than just diet – “food, clothing or any other purpose“.
If we look at that reply from Ohm they state in three separate places about eating vegan food (see circled comments):
They say they have de-stocked the wool brush that sparked this issue and that de-stocking is welcomed. As mentioned above though they clearly stated to us verbally that they may stock non-vegan shop items in future. Their 25th March facebook post seems unclear on that position and worth following up.
Check out at 18 mins 35 seconds on this podcast of the RTHK Radio 3 talk show on which I recently guested. The watchdog part of HK Veg is brought into that discussion by Danny Gittings hosting the show. I make a clear comment in that radio show that if a person running a veg*an marketed business makes an honest mistake that they rectify quickly, there’s more important things for me to worry about. Consider that in the context of Ohm.
We went into Ohm on 14th March (with the objective of arranging a vegan beverage tasting event for up to 30 people to try to give them some extra publicity). That was when one of us spotted the product on the shelf for sale labelled as containing wool. We raised that with the two people there who seemed to be in the management team. It seemed that the two of them weren’t fully joined up in there views. Shan was behind the counter and seemed the more vegan motivated of the two at that particular moment. The lady who at that time had dyed blond hair and glasses seemed to have a greater concern with fair trade. Shan thus said she would like to discuss the wool issue with the other partners before advising us of their decision. We agreed that was reasonable and visited them again a week later. As per on that radio podcast if Shan had then said, “It was a mistake, we de-stocked the offending item and it won’t happen again,” as far as we are concerned no one else would have needed to know about that. The reason we went public is because of the answers Shan gave when we asked about their stock policy for the future. As mentioned above Shan’s reply seemed very clear that the policy for the shop section would not be all vegan. People thus have a right to know about that and so we published an article.
Running a vegan marketed business isn’t management committee whims that change from one moment to the next on whether or not to have non-vegan products in stock. It should be a 24 by 7 commitment. Customers should be able to trust the management team to be rigorous gatekeepers to ensure non-vegan products do not get offered by that business.
Previously (as we know from experience), if you went to tag Ohm in facebook they were configured as “Ohm Vegan Lab” (see below):
After we visited on that 21st March evening, the next morning they had reconfigured their details on facebook from “Ohm Vegan Lab” to be just “Ohm” (with a little electrical “Ω” character as per below):
With “vegan” removed from their facebook configuration, their retreat from veganism seemed to be very much in progress. That is entirely up to them if they are open and honest about it. Then though there seems to have been a customer backlash following our article published about Ohm’s shop policy (if you are one of the people who made your dissatisfaction known, well done). That backlash seems to have motivated Ohm into action.
In their 25th March facebook announcement, Ohm make it very clear they don’t like the information about them that we published. Ohm’s response though to try to restrict media reporting about them seems in the style of Donald Trump. The publicity this keyboard has given them in the past includes among others):-
- An article on this blog titled, Ohm – new all vegan cafe at Hollywood Road
- As mentioned in that article they were added to our guide to all vegan eateries in Hong Kong. That guide gets referenced each time we do an individual article on an establishment being either added or de-listed from that guide. Thus it is free additional potential spin off advertising for any place already listed on that guide
- We had an article published by the Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) titled Healthy diet pays off: Vegan restaurants open across Hong Kong. Ohm get a solid mention in there
- The feedback we had from the Free Press after publication was very positive. Publication was on the Sunday evening. Less than 20 hours later HKFP fed back, “Your piece did really well over the weekend – reaching almost 30,000 people on Facebook with 46 shares, 183 “reactions”.” That was just from those first 19 hours or so
I don’t recall Ohm complaining about all that free positive publicity. There is also the stuff we didn’t publish about them. After Ohm opened in August 2016 I gathered feedback from a small sample of people. There were some serious criticisms in the feedback. Rather than publish that info we fed it back discretely for them to fix post launch issues. Ohm thanked us for that.
Ohm in their 25th March broadcast say there has possibly been a misunderstanding. Of course that is possible. Both of us at this end agree what Shan said couldn’t have sounded clearer. Let’s be realistic though. Misunderstandings are easy. With my still abysmal Cantonese vocabulary of barely one hundred words, I fully appreciate the challenges of speaking in non-native tongue. Thus lets offer the benefit of some doubt here that it is just a misunderstanding (I’d hope for benefit of doubt if I was on the other side of the counter in this situation). We will follow this up with Ohm to request a clarified position for publication.
There’s a lot of other comments in the Ohm posting that we could respond to. In the grand scheme of things those are relatively trivial so we will cut this article here to try to make things relatively brief.