A fake money cash drop has triggered a backlash, with calls for a boycott of The Safety Warehouse and demands for real cash.
One disgusted attendee has started a Change.org petition demanding people with vouchers be paid real money and planned a police complaint, saying vouchers resembling $5 notes were scattered to the crowd in Auckland's Aotea Square.
More than 1000 people gathered in the square at noon yesterday after the company promoted plans to drop $100,000 from the sky.
But chaos erupted when a crowd surged forward to catch fake money shot out of what looked like a gun.
Outraged members of the public, including Levin's John Murphy, called the event a waste of time, and claimed many attendees were from impoverished backgrounds who felt duped.
The company owner, Andrew Thorn, previously said he really did give away $100,000.
But Murphy said attendees only received coupons designed to look like $5 notes.
"I attended the event expecting it to be the highlight of my short Auckland trip, only for it to be a disaster," Murphy said.
He has since initiated a petition, which has more than 280 signatories, demanding The Safety Warehouse convert vouchers dispensed at the event into real cash.
"I know people from outside Auckland who got stranded. Many of us including myself suffered injuries," Murphy added.
"People pushed, shoved and threw themselves over each other in an attempt to get what looked like real money."
He said one person who appeared to be an organiser shared a laughable suggestion that the $5 vouchers could be redeemed for real money at the bank.
Murphy also said he would ask police to investigate if the vouchers could be declared counterfeit notes.
Thorn has not answered his phone or returned a message on Sunday.
But he previously said the company already gave away real money, with fake money discounts on top, and 40,000 coupons printed.
And he said an employee was hospitalised after the crowd grew angry and an object thrown through a company car's rear window smashed glass into his eyes.
A Massey University marketing professor said the company should apologise, and hire a good public relations company to help salvage its reputation.
Prof Malcolm Wright told Radio New Zealand the stunt had breached customers' trust.
"I don't think they would have been setting out to deceive, of course they wouldn't have been setting out to deceive. Somebody just oversold it and went a bit far."
But some attendees were furious.
"Wasted my petrol, time and money ... I could have spent the day doing something more productive," a Papakura woman wrote on Murphy's petition.
"Time wasted, babies hurt, scammed all of us, made us look like fools," another signatory said.
Cam Hore wrote: "What a bloody disgrace. Every one who attended this event should be compensated and the company should be fined for misleading people."
Jon Duffy, Consumer NZ chief executive, said any company running a promotion had to ensure it could honour terms of the promotion.
"If the company didn't actually give away $100,000 in cash at this event then they could be in breach of the bait advertising provisions of the Fair Trading Act."
The fair trading law banned anybody from advertising goods or services at a specified price if they did not intend to supply those goods.
"Bait advertising is where you advertise something that's a really good offer to get people in the door, but then don't follow through," Duffy said.
"Once you've got them there, you try and upsell them to something else."
"And we understand that people were getting vouchers with the fake money that was being distributed here that gave them a kind of special deal," Duffy added.
"If that's all that was on offer, then this offer could be misleading. I guess we'll just have to see what plays out."
"I haven't seen the actual money [but] it sounds like the event didn't go the way the company hoped it would."
"And clearly, people didn't get what they thought they were getting."
The event was ostensibly held to thank New Zealanders for their support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Thorn said he started the Safety Warehouse business through his Christchurch-based company Greenback Capital, to supply workwear, then moved into masks, hand sanitiser and other equipment when the Covid-19 pandemic started.