19 Sep 2013

Selfridges, the EDL and reputation management

It’s interesting what you pick up in a day’s work asking questions.

C4 news went to Selfridges today for the Usain Bolt book launch – and found the shop busy dealing with another tale that just won’t quite go away and die.

How are the two stories linked? They’re not – except to say that a number of C4 news viewers offered their views on what they would like to ask Usain Bolt, if they’d been in the interviewers hot seat today.

Pope Mullah (@KarmaUnc) tweeted “What does @usainbolt think about @Selfridges giving a free lunch to @EDLTrobinson after he abused one of their workers? #EDL”

In fact a mini twitter campaign began this morning urging the self styled legend of track and field to boycott his own book launch.

I did consider asking him what he made of the brouhaha but as fond and familiar as Mr Bolt is of little England, its perhaps a little parochial for the fastest man on the planet.

The story is this.

On Monday, Tommy Robinson, leader of the far-right English Defence League – a man with assault and drug convictions – fond of being filmed with balaclava wearing thugs – posted this video on you tube.

It’s a Selfridges sales assistant refusing to serve Robinson and his friend.

You can put me on the camera all you like, he says – but the EDL chief won’t be served by him.

Channel 4 News understands the employee didn’t in fact swear, as claimed by Robinson – he was just taking a position of conscience.

‘Cos reputations matter.

And it’s what Selfridges did next that’s caused all the fuss.

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These photos were tweeted by Robinson moments later – tucking into a very British steak and chips in one of the department stores restaurants.

BUR9_W-CMAE8QhM.jpg largeGiven to him free after he complained about his experience in menswear.

The manager who made the decision apparently didn’t know Robinson is who he is when he made the gesture.

In fact, the manager was doing what he was meant to – placate an irate customer in the easiest way possible. I’ve been told it was Robinson himself who suggested a meal would suffice by way of recompense.

It’s interesting that then having extracted a relatively lucrative “sorry” – 85 quids worth of meat and veg – Robinson took to the twittersphere to brag about it.

Reputations eh?

The sales assistant – having been initially suspended – has now been reinstated. He has, I’m told, an unblemished record, and is a valued member of the Selfridges team.

But the EDL – they are apparently still to be treated like any other customers. Although staff will be briefed. And Selfridges have shop floor managers meetings every morning.

One wonders though how soon it will be before Robinson and his mate return to try and bag another free helping of steak and chips.

Reputations eh?

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Read more: Was Selfridges right to wine and dine EDL leader?