Paperchase marketing man gets shirty with customer
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.
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.
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?