Paperchase marketing man gets shirty with customer

26 August 2010

Screen shot 2010-08-26 at 16.23.10 It’s always refreshing when a company drop the bland corporate-speak when personally interacting with their customers. So with that in mind, it’s hats off to Paperchase.

But it’s not so cool and groovy when they’re rude and patronising to their customers, especially when said customer has raised a valid point about gender stereotyping in their advertising. So it’s hats back on (or whatever the opposite of hats off is) to Paperchase.

Blogger and Paperchase fan Nancy Smallwood took umbrage recently at the window display in their Tottenham Court Road branch in the centre of That London’s fashionable That London. Advertising ‘back to school’ stuff, Paperchase had deployed a ‘pink is for girls’ and ‘blue is for boys’ theme, with pictures of the girls doing bakery and the boys playing with sharks and similar tough stuff and that.

An email of complaint was dashed off by Nancy, including points like...

“More than ever now big companies need to be trying to advocate equality for both sexes, and break down gender stereotypes, and in this day and age I was pretty disappointed to see this ridiculous cop out.”

She ended with “I'm a big fan of your store, as I said, but I'd really hope in future you could try harder to avoid this kind of nonsense.”

Fair points, well made. Well, not according to Robert Warden, the Marketing Director of Paperchase. His reply, dispatched around twenty minutes later was this...

Thank you for your email. However you rather miss the point... we are more than aware of the gender stereotypes and were making an ironic point by using archive mail-order catalogue photos from the 1970s...

When we are trying to sell stationery (please note spelling) there are images that appeal to boys and images that appeal to girls - and we have had a very successful season with the designs that we chose. So presumably the majority of our customers approved of the products.

Yours sincerely
Robert Warden

337224202._V188477732_Presumably he also stuck out his tongue and waggled his fingers from either side of his head as he sent the email. Some nice pedantry regarding the spelling of ‘stationery’ there as well. We like a bit of pedantry round these parts.

There was more to come. Naturally, Nancy was unhappy with Warden’s response and probed him further on the inherent message in the Paperchase marketing merchandising. She sent a further email, pointing out that... “I wasn't looking for you to argue that it sells well as a defence, rather an apology and demonstrate an awareness of the issues that I complained about (and not in the ironic 1970s - or should that be 1950s? - sense.”

A reply duly followed from Robert Warden.

Thank you for your email.

Consumerism is, first and foremost, a choice. Whether our campaign is subtle is not (… it is always reassuring to know that customers assume they can be rude to us but do not like being corrected themselves) is in the eyes of the beholder.

Our customers specifically asked for ‘boys’ stationery – and as we are trying to run a commercial enterprise (one of the reasons being to keep people in employment) – we did our best to provide something we thought 7 year old boys might appreciate either buying or being given. No-one has forced them to buy it.

If 7 year old girls are keen on sharks they can buy it too ! I leave the disagreements between us there – we shall continue to try not to offend all our customers.
Yours sincerely
Robert Warden

Since Nancy wrote about her interaction with Paperchase and Warden, the blogosphere has erupted with condemnation of the attitude the Marketing Director has taken towards a genuine complaint from a customer.

But how bad is it really? Should we be pleased that a ‘suit’ has tried to engage directly with a customer for once and explain why the merchandising looks the way it does, even if his social skills left a little to be desired?

Or is it unacceptable behaviour from Paperchase and should an effigy of Robert Warden be hoisted up on a pole and burned outside the Tottenham Court Road store for crimes against gender equality?

What do YOU LOT reckon? Eh?

TOPICS:   Advertising


  • The B.
    I thought he did rather well, she sounds like a right patronising, holier than thou, woolly liberal type who runs around screaming "won't somebody please think of the children", I especially liked the fact that she hadn't even bothered to proof read it. Unfortunately this'll probably bite him on the arse so he should have passed it off to a minion to deal with.
  • ATennerPoorer
    I think it's fair enough, like he said - if the girl wants sharks - let her have 'em. If Nancy whats her face isn't happy with getting a girl sharks - well whose got the problem with gender inequality?
  • Duds
    Yeah, the spelling correction is misjudged but the rest is spot on in his first reply. He should probably have deleted the 2nd one. Stupid person makes stupid complaint gets shown to be stupid.
  • Dan
    While his email is curt and to the point I fail to see where he is being rude. I get the impression that no matter what he said he couldn't have won. The aim of Paperchase should be to market their products in a way that produces the most sales. Not to attempt to correct social stereo types.
  • nicholson101
    She seems to be a meddlesome type whose complaint was wafer-thin but i am disappointed at his 2nd reply...kinda ruined his cred a little. They should just have a fight in a pub car park to settle this
  • yak
  • Joe
    His reply is fair enough. She states outright she wanted them to roll over and give her an apology (when she's actually reading quite a bit too far into everything), and was quite shocked when they quite rightly tried to defend themselves. Well done to the man for having the balls to speak frankly and not just give in.
  • Mark H.
    His replies are unprofessional. Something along the lines of 'sorry but we were trying to achieve blah. Your points are duly noted.' would have been more appropriate. His replies are far too condescending to send to a customer.
  • Tarquin W.
    He should have tried just to slag her off in the office and not on email. Having said that she is a one sad fuck with too much time on her hands. Like us.
  • Alex
    What a sad little life she must lead to feel the need to email a stationers about gender issues. I'm surprised the guy could even be bothered to entertain her pointless diatribe but at least he shot her down by pointing out she's failed to see the irony or the fact that the rest of the world really doesn't give a shit what she thinks
  • DP
    She should just put her pinny on and get back in the kitchen.
  • IfYouPostACommentBelowYouAreGay
    TBH I'd have just deleted her pointless email without getting past the first line. This world is getting confusing. Girls growing up wanting to be boys, boys growing up wanting to be girls, some not knowing who they are, animals refusing to let me put my cock inside them, for gods sake nothing makes sense anymore.
  • IfYouPostedACommentDirectlyAboveYouAreGayer
    Who's doing the ironing whilst she's writing emails?
  • Angry S.
    She comes over as a pompous opinionated twat who expected the company to roll over and apologies to her petty complaint. Good for Bob for talking some sense. I suggests she devotes her spare time to something more productive, such as shagging; then she might eventually find out how different boys and girls really are.
  • David
    Agreed, we all know what she needs. She's clearly been stationary too long.
  • Brad
    I see nothing wrong with any of his reply's, I see more sexism in news papers and on tv every day but im sure she isnt sending letters to all them. Got what she deserved really, some people are too over sensitive at times, but spelling nazis do need a good kick to the face.
  • Maureen B.
    I was expecting to read some kind of cringeworthy letter from Paperchase, but instead found their approach quite refreshing especially the "it is always reassuring to know that customers assume they can be rude to us but do not like being corrected themselves" part. I used to think Paperchase were copyright thieving swines, now I want to buy some pads and shit with sharks on. Sharks are cooool!
  • darkspark88
    That was a perfect response from paperchase. It was polite, got it's point across effectively and highlighted the womans own stereotypical views that women can do everything men can do. You don't see female tennis players playing the same number of sets in big tournaments as men, so why are they necessarily paid the same now? perhaps the woman should complain about that injustice...
  • melikesharks
    The world needs less people telling us we all need to politically correct. Get a life! Bring on the blue shark shaped sticky notes and stationery!
  • Angry B.
    I've been on the receiving end of some fantasticly similar letters from sad individuals worrying about the 'morality' and 'corruption' of our society on a Friday afternoon. FRIDAY afternoon. Sod it - only three hours to go - send condescending reply before of to the pub we go! In all seriousness, the spelling pointer was probably uncalled for, but his reply is frank and honest - instead of the 'We are sorry that you found xyz unfavourable in our store today'. GOOD ON HIM.
  • Bazinga
    I don't get the problem. They don't have to change their marketing because she doesn't like it. He's not asking her to change her haircut because it's old fashioned.
  • lou
    So was she actually a customer or just somone with her bee in her bonnet...he dealt with it perfectly, i love paperchase and have spoke to their cust service in the past and they went out of their way to rather they were helpful dealing with genuine issues and dismissing bloody winging do gooders.
  • Ronald
    She sounds like a right twat, annoying little whiny cow, his response was brilliant. If it was me I would have only written a two word response- FUCK OFF!
  • NellieIrrelevant
    He is the twat. He is the marketing manager, and this is the worst piece of marketing since MacDonalds sued those two penniless hippies who accused them of all sorts of crimes against humanity and the planet. They didn't get a penny of their costs back and by the time the court case was over about a million more people had heard the accusations. You don't ignore emails from cranky customers, especially ones who know how to string a sentence together (even with typos) and will happily forward your idiocies to the Guardian or indeed the Daily Mail - in the silly season they'll all want to blow it up. What you do is reply saying, I'm very sorry for your any distress - it was meant to be ironic - 1970s references - our products come i many colours, not just pink and blue - here's a £20 voucher to spend in our store. You don't have to mean it. Honestly, it's not fucking rocket science. Matey might feel better but he's just fucked his career, the arrogant cnut.
  • Skymarshall
    I like this man. I feel I should hire him for my PR team. Honestly, he's a legend. The only way he could have bettered his response would have been "Does your husband know you're using the computer?" Genius.
  • Fiyero
    Why should Paperchase bend over and send out a £20 voucher for a groundless complaint. Girls like pink things, boys like blue things.Paperchase can't change that. There is nothing stopping a girl buying a shark pencil case, I'm sure many do. I'm sick of companies apologising when they have done nothing wrong. I would have left the complainer's spelling alone but agree with everything else.
  • PokeHerPete
    @NellieIrrelevant You have a point, but why should the stupid cow get free vouchers to spend at their store just because shes made some absurd complaint? She is a very small pathetic woman with nothing better to do or some scab trying to get free vouchers by making such a ridiculous complaint. She claims that the point of her post was to bring attention to how 'rude' Robert was, but to be honest the pathetic woman deserves a patronizing and 'rude' response from what she originally complained about. I applaud Robert for not rolling over and apologizing. However I do feel a little sorry for him and that he should have just deleted her email as now he may have jepoardized his career because of some unknown bitch who thinks shes right wants to kick up a fuss. I too like Paperchase, and thanks to Robert Warden, I like them even more.
  • justsomewoman
    So she's a patronising, holier than thou, woolly liberal,a stupid person, a meddlesome, sad fuck, with a sad little life, a pompous opinionated twat, a winging do gooder with an old fashioned haircut,a right twat, an annoying little whiny cow, and an unknown bitch who got what she deserved. Wow, you have some lovely commenters here - real charmers.
  • K d.
    We aim to please. Are you a fox?
  • Steve J.
    Fuck off justsomewoman. Learn your place and get back to the kitchen.
  • MattWPBS
    He's spot on to be honest. They're making stuff that sells, she expected to get an apology from them for making commercial decisions. Bit daft really. Think it makes Paperchase come across as a company who don't just go "oh yes, you're right, have a letter and some vouchers" to everything, but will actually come back with a reply justifying their position.
  • Jimmy
    I think Mr.Warner was correct in everything he said in reply to her comment. Their advertising sells product, it's simple, girls DO in fact like pink stuff (and baking for that matter), and boys DO in fact like things with sharks on them. Why should paperchase change their entire advertising strategy just to please some woman with nothing better to do than send off petty complaints for no reason. Good on Mr.Warner for pointing out the womans pettiness, it was about time someone did.
  • discodaz
    epic. flipping heck, i work in retail and the amount of boot licking i have to do to, to be honest, stupid people is astonishing. its long overdue that the attitude of the country changed from bending over backwards to accomodate every whiny miserable shithouse who has nothing better to do than complain about something that is completely irrelevant to them. dont like soming in the shop madam? fuck off and shop somewhere else then. does our corporate logo offend you sir? dont fucking look at it then you cunt! honestly, some people just look for the slightest thing to moan at. why not do something practical when something minor like this offends you to the point of complaining to someone? something like setting yourself on fucking fire.
  • myrtle
    what a predictable load of old sexist crap you lot have provided for comments. Mostly men as usual, I see. The Marketing Director's job isn't to voice his own personal opinion, or to teach a customer a lesson. Regardless of what his supersized ego might tell him, his job is actually to preserve the company reputation and sell stuff. Clearly he's made a monumental mess of it. Oh, and he seems like an angry, miserable git to boot.
  • Internets!
    There are no women on the internets (except on porn sites)!
  • ozskins
    I for one, will now look to shop at paperchase. the customer is not always right and its so refreshing to read an honest reply. customers usually get what they pay for and perhaps we need a rogue customers program.
  • Duds
    " his job is actually to preserve the company reputation and sell stuff. Clearly he’s made a monumental mess of it." Yes, and the vast majority of people here seem to thing he's done Paperchase no harm at all. And assuming we can believe him, the range sold very well, so victory there too.
  • Blinx5
    Ahhhhhhh The musings of a woman wearing conmfotable shoes
  • Gary G.
    Hey justsomewoman, are you fit? Let me know sugartits. G.
  • A f.
    personally i want his email address so i can send him congratulatory words!! the man is a legend!
  • The B.
    God, I see the wimmin are out in force having a good old whinge, the sort that demand "equal opportunites for women" but still want to retire 5 years before men despite having a longer average lifespan, you know what girls, your definition of "equal" isn't anything like it.
  • Euan
    Her original letter mentions "More than ever now big companies need to be trying to advocate equality for both sexes, and break down gender stereotypes" Since when was it the role of big companies to engage in her preferred social engineering? Last I knew, what big companies needed to do was cater to their customers so that they sell stuff and stay in business...
  • IfYouCopyMyNameYouAreGayIsGay
    Indeed. You want equality, but you don't give equality. You want equality where it suits you, but fuckit where it doesn't. EG you're more than happy to have insurance companies that ONLY cover women, because you seem to misguidedly believe you're 'better drivers' (BS) but we're not allowed men only golfing clubs despite us being better golfers? Facts. Double standards. But we're not allowed to say that as it's sexist.
  • IfYouCopyMyNameYouAreGayIsGay
    And if she wants to bring her daughter up to be a transsexual minge monkey, fine, her choice. But she shouldn't assume everybody else in the world wants to. I want my daughter to grow up being a girl. And my lad to be a lad.
  • smashingnicey
    I work in the greetings industry - pretty new to it in fact and I've learnt from some well-meaning mistakes that despite the public saying that gender stereotypes should be broken down they're the very same public that won't accept a 'baby' card could be for both sexes - you have to do one for a girl, one for a boy and that the vast majority of all cards need to be divided into those for females and those for males. So, go figure. I don't really like what the Paperchase bod was saying, but he is 100% correct and it's all down to the way we bring up our kids, what we buy for ourselves and how we consciously and subconsciously reinforce those stereotypes. Think on that the next time you buy your Dad a crap card with a racing car or a set of golf clubs on the front even when he's got no interest in either! Your fault. I'm off to find a fox.
  • Jonny S.
    @ myrtle Truth be told the comments on here are (for the most part) a piss take! Get over your bra burning sexual equality-ism and realise that this woman is being attacked not because she is a woman but because she is blatantly making something out of nothing in the name of sexual equality, more precisely using sexual equality, a subject which in modern society is still a bit of a taboo in the respect that when it's said people usually back down and bow to pressure. She's manipulating the company and unfortunately (for her) it's backfired as Robert Warden hasn't taken to it. I say well done to him in a world where the woman has become so powerful, he has stood up! Men now are demonised and de-valued to the point where it believed that they are deemed not neccessary! I know you won't actually take any valid points of my arguement on board (as you're clearly too much of your own mind) so I'll simply sign off by saying...get back in the bloody kitchen and cook something!
  • iamkeir
    Going by 'the book', he messed up - you can't be that blunt and direct to your customers without it causing some uproar. BUT Britain is too damn polite, political correctness has gone insane, and it's about the most refreshing response I've heard from a company in a long time - it's about time someone was offended and someone else said "so what? be offended, it won't kill you!". I completely support him. And half the companies out there wouldn't have replied at all. He is confident enough to fight his corner. Paperchase 1, whining customer 0.
  • IfYouCopyMyNameYouAreGayIsGay
    To be honest, I'd never heard of Paperchase before this. But now, just for Robert whatisnames great response, I'm going to go and buy some frickin shark post its from them or something.
  • greg
    "EG you’re more than happy to have insurance companies that ONLY cover women, because you seem to misguidedly believe you’re ‘better drivers’ (BS) but we’re not allowed men only golfing clubs despite us being better golfers? Facts." True. It's like people in wheelchairs: they wanna be treated like everyone else, but they don't wanna queue to get on Nemesis
  • Jonny S.
    Point, set and match greg!
  • Fusty’s f.
    [...] themes, this is a classic piece of 70′s kitsch with cash register sounds possibly inspired by Pink Floyd (or was it the other way [...]
  • PU
    I work with just one such meddlesome complaining old woman - who will ring and complain about the slightest issue whenever she possibly can, all in the hope of a freebie of somekind. And it's only ever done on works time using works phone.
  • Modewator
    i wd hve spok 2 im in txt nd clled him a cnt
  • myrtle
    @Jonny Spandex For your information, I already was in the kitchen! I love cooking, but that's not because I'm a woman, it's because I love to eat. ps: wtf, is dis real?
  • Yellow
    It's so refreshing to read guys' comments! I am always in favour of giving somebody 'one' that will sort all the complaints in the world...and keep people of any gender (female, male and the confused) quiet. And very original, too! However, try to buy a congratulation card for a new born that is not pink or blue and you are in for a surprise (or not). What about yellow or green or else (that my friends wanted, for example)... Ironic or not (and we are very fond of Robert), but it would be nice to be a bit different and give us a choice, Paperchase, my lovely... x
  • petrol
    well said!
  • mein c.
    the man's right like always
  • PokeHerPete
    @myrtle Assuming that most of the comments here are by men, aren't you being a bit sexist? I bet by your totally non sexist views that women should have usernames like PrettyFlowers
  • Yellow
    "Yellow" is actually she...and pleased to note that my sarcasm and I are right to the point as always...
  • Wednesday
    Ha, ha, ha! We like it
  • Chef R.
    I'm on his side. Women like pink and men don't. Pink is a woman only colour. That's why you can buy pink laptops, pink tool kits, pink this and that. They wouldn't do that if there was no market for it. Men who wear pink are a source of ridicule and should be banned from doing manly persuits.
  • Tina
    I dislike pink very much, however, I do like my husband's light pink shirts. It is difficult to stick to stereotypes... and there is plenty of more important things to worry about than to conform.
  • Will N.
    Go Robert! (he's my uncle) thats the only reason i'm here.
  • Gem
    What a total legend! I LOVE this guy! Self important cow is the one stereotyping!

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