A man was taken to hospital after an angry crowd smashed a car window when fake money was handed out in an advertised $100,000 "cash drop" that turned sour.
More than 1000 people had gathered in Auckland's Aotea Square at midday yesterday after the Safety Warehouse advertised on social media that it planned to drop $100,000 from the sky to thank New Zealanders for their support during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The owner of the workwear and safety product company, Andrew Thorn, said he really did give away $100,000, but many people said they only received "fake money" - coupons designed to look like $5 notes, which Thorn said all offered discounts on the company's products online.
Northland woman Nadia Puru posted on Facebook: "The Safety Warehouse said there was going to be a $100k drop on live but they done it with fake money and this is why all of the people are going wild."
Manurewa grandmother Haki Ani TePaea, 46, said her daughter suffered a strained shoulder and her son got knocked as the crowd surged forward to catch fake money that was shot out of what looked like a gun.
"It was unreal seeing it pop, seeing the money come out of that gun. I actually saw people getting seriously hurt," she said in a video posted on Facebook.
In another post, TePaea said: "I can definitely hear the anger in everyone's kōrero, The Safety Warehouse. A lot of whānau came with great intentions to crack them some cash but actually!"
Her video showed angry crowds knocking over a security fence and surrounding the Safety Warehouse car, throwing the fake money and liquid on the front windscreen and throwing something at the back window.
Thorn said an employee in the car had to be taken to hospital after the object thrown through the back window smashed glass into his eyes.
"Some individual felt they had to throw a rock or a piece of concrete through the back window and hit our staff member in the head," he said.
"I think he got glass in his eyes. The hospital is reviewing it. He might have glass permanently in his eyes, he might not be able to see, who knows? Or he comes right and they wash the glass out."
TePaea said her 9-year old grand-daughter picked up a real $5 bill but everyone else around her got only fake $5 notes with a discount code for Safety Warehouse products.
"There was one man who came up from Palmerston North. He was in hopes of getting himself a whole lot of money," she said.
"A lot of people came and they were literally on empty. They were there because Christmas and New Year are coming and they had those high hopes and dreams.
"They just had expectations of hoping to take away some money so that life could be a little bit easier."
She said she could understand people's anger when they ended up with only the fake money.
A West Auckland nurse, who asked not to be named, said she picked up $15 and her husband got $20 in the mad scramble after the gun was fired.
"It was very crazy, I just feel for that company, it's horrible," she said.
"It could be a recipe for bedlam. It could also be that people could contain themselves and be a little bit more aware.
"We almost got bowled over - and we were being safe, I'm disappointed in everybody else."
Thorn said the company gave away $100,000 as well as the "fake money" coupons offering discounts on products such as hand sanitiser and face masks.
"It was $100,000 in real money, and the fake money discounts on top - I think that was 40,000 notes [coupons] that were printed," he said.
Thorn said he started the Safety Warehouse business before Covid-19, through his Christchurch-based company Greenback Capital, to supply workwear in Australia and New Zealand, but then moved into masks, hand sanitiser and other personal protective equipment when the pandemic started.
"We did really well through the Covid period supplying the Australia and NZ market and we simply felt like, why don't we have an event and have a giveaway?" he said.
He said all the "fake money" notes offered discounts for products that people could buy on the Safety Warehouse website.
"Some goods were free - enter a code and it was 100 per cent off. There was a range of things," he said.
Auckland Central Police Area Commander Inspector Gary Davey said police attended for safety reasons.
"There were a number of reports of disorder in the Aotea Square area. Additional units were called to the scene to help ensure the safety of all those involved," he said.
Inquiries are ongoing, he said.