A "tongue in cheek" sign at an Auckland burger joint has been removed after a customer complained it triggered a childhood memory of being photographed by a paedophile.

The image of a male figure peering into a toilet cubicle in use by a female was in Velvet Burger's Fort St branch in the CBD. The sign apparently indicated three self-contained toilets were unisex.

Zandri Clarke-Spies, who dined there on September 28, said seeing the sign instantly dredged up traumatic memories of being photographed by a man while she was naked in a changing room aged 10.

"The first thing I did after I got back from the bathroom was tell my husband about it. It was really weird, you wouldn't expect something so small to trigger such an old memory," the 25-year-old said.


The incident she recalled was in a Warehouse changing room.

"I was trying on some jeans and a shirt so I wasn't wearing anything. As I was getting dressed I saw this flash of something dark in the corner of the changing room."

A man was charged and Clarke-Spies gave evidence in court but CCTV footage was inconclusive. Years later he was convicted after being caught with hundreds of images and footage of child pornography at his home.

With her personal history fresh in her mind, when she got home Clarke-Spies took to Facebook to relay her anger.

"In light of everything that's going on, I found it a little unfortunate that the following sign is hanging on the door of a 'forward thinking' brand that caters to a woke millennial market," she wrote on the restaurant's page.

Zandri Clarke-Spies says the sign triggered flashbacks to a traumatic childhood incident. Photo / Supplied
Zandri Clarke-Spies says the sign triggered flashbacks to a traumatic childhood incident. Photo / Supplied

"Remove it please, for the sake of f***ing decency - so that I or anyone else who has had this happen to them don't have to have flashbacks of being 10 and scared out of their f***ing minds about someone shoving a camera under the door while my pants are down."

The public post resulted in a handful of complaints to Velvet Burger's Facebook page and message inbox, which described the sign as "vile", "awful", "disgusting" and "disgraceful".

Velvet Burger general manager James Arnott said the sign was removed immediately they received the complaints. It was a remnant of branding replaced more than two years ago.

"Absolutely, we'd identified that that wasn't in line with our values. It's just one of those little pieces of branding that at one stage was tongue in cheek but probably not appropriate.

"That's not up to our standards. It is old signage that we've kind of overlooked. So it's good that she's pointed it out."

He called one of the people who made an online complaint and apologised. That wasn't Clarke-Spies, who says she has not been contacted by the company, which has five stores in Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin.

It's not the first time the chain has apologised over jokes at women's expense.

In 2012, Velvet Burger advertised a "smashing good deal" on two-for-one burgers with an accompanying logo saying "Beatings by Chris Brown".

The American R&B star pleaded guilty in 2009 to assaulting his pop star former girlfriend, Rihanna.

While acknowledging her past ordeal had a big influence on her reaction to the toilet sign, Clarke-Spies believes it was a strange choice of business branding regardless.

"Whatever marketing person received that, and I would know, I work in the industry, would have had to say 'yes, this goes exactly with our brand morals' and then print it alongside their logo."