“Immediately post this and make sure all personnel have read its contents…”
So says the closing paragraph of the latest All Shops Memo (larger copy below) from the desk of his excellency, Mr Philip Brewer, and it’s my pleasure to comply, although I confess to being a little late: the memo is dated August 16, 2008. Sorry about that, Philip: if you’d like to get the next one to me a little more promptly I’ll be happy to assist.
If it hadn’t been confirmed by two independent sources, I’d be inclined to view it as a spoof, it’s that surreal: but from my own experience of Brewer style communiqués, I’d say there’s little room for doubt about its authenticity — and this memo takes us beyond the realms of Basil Fawlty into the murkier world of Reginald Perrin. Do you remember Reginald throwing off his clothes and swimming away into the sea? I do hope you and Mark will follow that example soon, Philip… preferably one way: I’m sure the good people of Houston, Texas, will give you the welcome home you so richly deserve.
Once again Philip has treated us to a splendid example from the Brewer School of How Not to Manage Your Staff, entirely in keeping with the memo Ruth Gledhill kindly shared with us in May last year: the essential message to branch managers seems to be, I Do Not Trust You To Manage Your Shop So Do Exactly As I Say Or Else. Very encouraging if you do have the misfortune to be on Brewer’s management team, I’m sure. Sorry, not on the team: in his line of sight for target practice, perhaps? But it’s not just Mr Brewer’s attitude towards his staff that’s problematical; it’s the things he’s telling his staff to do.
Let’s look at some excerpts:
4. On all purchases of 10 GBP or more, offer a 2 GBP discount if a donation of 1 GBP or more is made. They must also fill out a gift aid form.
Interesting fundraising method… offer a discount in exchange for a donation and insist on a gift aid form. That’s not a request: “They must also fill out a gift aid form.” Does HMRC know that’s how you’re doing your fundraising, Philip? Is coercing gift aid from your customers in exchange for a discount an approved technique? Have you cleared it with the Charity Commissioners? I presume you have heard of the Charity Commissioners? Don’t worry if not: copy of your memo’s going in the post to them.
Then there’s the question of cashing up at the end of the week:
11. Be sure to keep the collection box on the counter by the till for those persons who wish to make a donation with their spare change. This should be emptied and counted Saturday evenings and added to the take for the day.
Most shops I know tend to collect change for other charitable causes, not to add them to their own takings… really can’t help wondering how this works for those shops such as Durham and Chichester which are officially not part of the St Stephen the Great group… come to think of it, that’s all the shops now, isn’t it, being run by the Everyone’s Nightmare Continues Management Company? It is St Stephen the Great you’re collecting for, isn’t it? That is what the little note at the end of the memo implies, isn’t it? But didn’t SSG file for bankruptcy? What name are you banking your takings under, Philip? Fascinating…
Since the points in the memo don’t seem to follow a logical sequence, we now jump back to:
5. Be sure that in all inquiries for books that you do not have in the shop, that you offer to order the item for the customer and have it delivered to their home. To accomplish this, log on to our site, http://www.thirdspacebooks.com, and process their order. To set up their password, use the last four of their phone number and their initials. Example would be 8524pwb. When completed, please tell the person that we have hired Amazon to ship their order and that if there are any problems, there will be a return label for them to deal with it. Also tell them that they can continue to order from thirdspacebooks for all book needs, not just religious, and that it supports charity.
So you’ve “hired Amazon” have you, Philip? That, sir, is not being economical with the truth: it’s a blatant lie, made all the worse by instructing your staff to mislead your customers by propagating it. What you have done is sign up as an Amazon affiliate then frame your affiliate storefront within a thirdspacebooks.com page; and lest there should be any doubt, here’s the Third Space Books Amazon Storefront URL for anyone who’d like to check: http://astore.amazon.co.uk/sb08-21 … and no, I’m not providing a link: the last thing I’d want to do is encourage anyone to make a purchase through it.
But it’s not just the fact that you’re instructing your staff to lie to your customers that’s disturbing — it’s the sequence in which you’re setting them up: “process their order,” you say. In other words, take their name, address, credit/debit card details and use those details to set up an account on a third party website using a simple password formula that even a child could crack. Then, when complete, having comprehensively breached every possible protocol of customer confidentiality and trust — not to mention the Data Protection Act — spin them the lie about hiring Amazon.
Is this standard Brewer and Pritchard approved practice, Philip? Or did you dream it up yourself?
Finally, we turn to the memo’s opening paragraph: a ban on any flyers or leaflets that have not been specifically permitted by Philip Brewer himself. Not sure how best to help you with that one, Philip, but perhaps I can encourage visitors to the shops to print out copies of the Durham petition and place them in strategic locations around the shops when staff aren’t looking? Put them in places where staff won’t spot them and therefore can’t be held accountable (tucking them discreetly away inside the covers of the books, for instance) … on reflection, though, I guess that’s unlikely to work: with so few books on the shelves these days it’s probably only a five minute job to whizz through them all at the end of the day…
As for policing the shop, maybe it’s time to call in the Police for a formal investigation…
- More discussions about Third Space Books at asingleblog and bengallagher.com — both well worth a visit.