Tag Archives: thirdspacebooks.com

Third Space Books: A Visual History of Time

Phil Groom writes:

Like so many of the Brewers’ bizarre business dealings, Third Space Books were first brought to our attention by Dave Walker: Third Space Books – the new name for SSG?

I’ve been visiting the site every so often taking screenshots. Here they are in date order. Ignore any dates in the screenshots: the dates I’ve given are the dates on which the shots were taken — even as I write the date displayed on the welcome page is Wednesday, 30 January 2008 and the welcome message is “Wishing you a Blessed Lent and Easter”. Enough said: a picture paints a thousand words and it’s time to let them speak…

June 2008 – Spell check, anyone?

Leichester, 16/06/2008

Leichester, 16/06/2008

November 2008 – Any new messages?

Gmail Login, 21/11/2008

Gmail Login Page, 21/11/2008

December 2008 – Another spell check, anyone?

Worchester, 07/12/2008

Worchester, 07/12/2008

February 2009 – Let’s pretend. Not a screenshot this time, just our heroes faking it in Durham:

As advertised in the Middlesborough Diocesan Year Book 2009

As advertised in the Middlesborough Diocesan Year Book 2009

Looks like someone popped in for a tidy up but had problems with the calendar:

Shop Locations as at 10/02/2009

Shop Locations claimed as at 10/02/2009

August 2009 – the FAQ department seems to sum things up rather well, methinks:

There are no items to display - 08/08/2009

There are no items to display - 08/08/2009

OK, maybe two items. Backwards in time too. Have a blessed Lent and Easter, y’all!

And then there were two...

And then there were two. 09/08/2009 (h/t asingleblog)

Hmmm. Is that blending of the Stars and Stripes with the Union Jack allowed under international law? I guess it must be, knowing the Brewer’s legal team…

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Philip Brewer says, “Immediately post this…”

August 16 2008. From the desk of Philip Brewer, p.1
August 16 2008. From the desk of Philip Brewer, p.2

All Shops Memo: August 16 2008. From the desk of Philip Brewer

“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…

August 16 2008. From the desk of Philip Brewer, p.1
August 16 2008. From the desk of Philip Brewer, p.2

All Shops Memo: August 16 2008. From the desk of Philip Brewer

spckonline.com will NOT damage your computer!

The now reclaimed spckonline.com

The now reclaimed spckonline.com

Congratulations to SPCK’s Simon Kingston on at last wresting control of spckonline.com from the Brewer brothers: screenshot right.

Under the Brewer’s dire management the site had been allowed to become a haven for… well, whatever it was that caused Google to post warnings and refuse to provide direct links to the site: the message was simple — don’t go there: Google Warns Visitors: Beware spckonline.com

Simon has generously provided a link to thirdspacebooks.com, the Brewers’ current online enterprise. I’m not going to provide a link here though: to say the least, Third Space Books looks as disreputable as everything else we’ve become used to seeing from Phil and Mark Brewer. Visit Ben Gallagher’s Who Owns What? for more info…

My thanks to asingleblog and Stephen for their recent comments (1, 2) drawing my attention to this small but significant step in the right direction by SPCK; and again, congratulations to Simon: keep up the good work!