Forget the US Department of Homeland Security, we British have the Department of Home Furnishings Security, a branch of the Department of Department Stores Security.  Go figure.




Dear John Lewis,

As I was invited to write to you after making a complaint on Twitter yesterday, here’s my much-awaited missive.  I’ll entitle it:-

An Email as Part of an Occasional Series on The Erosion of Civil Liberties in Modern Britain:-


Yesterday I paid a visit to my local John Lewis store to try to buy something I subsequently discovered they didn’t stock on the premises; on my travels around the store, however, (the first 10 miles are the worst, but fun being directed to 16 different locations by 16 different members of staff) I noticed the perfect collapsible laundry basket. I paid cash for it (£15), and was told it would be ready for collection in 30 minutes time.

OK, I didn’t mind waiting, it gave me a chance to buy a paper and have a coffee. What I did object to, however, was being asked for my postcode and house number by the person on the till, without which information the order would not go through.

I asked where customer services was so I could register a complaint. Only there is no customer services facility in the store. Would I like to fill out a form? Yes please. Another 10 minutes passed before I was told they didn’t have any. Would I like a compliment slip with an address on it so I could write a snail mail letter? No, I replied, I’ll complain online. But I can’t apparently do that either.

I made the same point at the Click and Collect desk, and was told somebody would contact me, and sure enough, Smurf* from Customer Services called me a couple of hours later.

Smurf was, to put it bluntly, in a somewhat opaque way (I’m a journalist, I like words, and much more than I appreciate Smurf), ‘a piece of work’.  He defended to a metaphorical death the right John Lewis has to demand my home address before accepting 15 quid in cash from me for a linen basket, and told me this was to ensure a letter can be sent out in the post if goods for collection are forgotten by the purchaser. I asked him why I wasn’t asked for my email address, or phone number, but according to Smurf – who lost no time in informing me he’s a teacher – a high proportion of their customers don’t have an email address, or indeed, possess a phone.  I resisted the temptation to ask what percentage of them don’t have homes either, which I thought was pretty nice of me in the circumstances.

Anyway, Teacher Smurf – who compared this non-negotiable demand for my personal details with his obligation to be CRB checked (no, me neither) – went on to tell me this regime was “convenient for the customer”.  Well, it wasn’t convenient for me, and I would have appreciated being given the choice of what, if any, information I was prepared to declare to a store in making a trivial purchase, a store who was already in receipt of £15 (cash) of my money.
I asked Smurf if, as a teacher (primary school), he didn’t have the faintest qualms about the children he was responsible for being prepared for a world in which the demand for personal information would be the norm merely for handing over 15 quid for an item which they could carry away with them.  The implication of this question was lost on Smurf (not sure if his failure to understand was intentional or not), who somewhat defensively told me the reason he’d shared with me the information about being a teacher was to highlight the contrast between my having to tell a department store where I lived, and his legal responsibility to provide personal information to the government for the CRB checking process to ensure he was of suitable probity to be in the company of children.  Ah.  Right.
John Lewis, this linen basket was not even for my second home, and whilst I do write about politics, I am not an MP spending public money.  OK, so I have a hitherto undeclared fancy for collapsible linen baskets -especially those with black, canvas tubes on shiny silver chrome frames  <DROOLS>  – but I can’t think of one good reason for refusing to sell said item to me unless I furnish you with the exact details of where I live.
I shall add John Lewis to the list of organisations who are continuously engaged in amassing the (admittedly highly interesting) details of my life, including HMRC, MI5, MI6, CIA, FBI, MFI, KFC and, obviously, B&Q.
I await your response.
Yours (but not for much longer),
Diane Messias
PHONE NUMBER SUPPLIED  (I believe you already have my address)
* Not his real name

About notniceetoile

I'm a freelance comedy writer, now living in Brighton after a few years in London, having relocated back to the UK in 2011 after a couple of years of adventures on the Cote D'Azur. Check out my blog about life in Nice:- and my political satire blog:- Available for weddings (3 to date) and barmitzvahs (0 - I'm a girl, duh).

Posted on October 27, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Dear Mr Messiah,

    I am writing to thank you twice: firstly for gracing our listening station branch with your presence and secondly for taking the time to share your distressing experience with the imbecile Smurf.

    Please rest assured. Smurf has been sent for a very thorough course in customer care. We find that survivors graduates of this course have a very different attitude to their targets customers.
    Meanwhile, I can only apologize for Smurfs shocking behavior.

    Perhaps you might care to join a select few of our favorite marks friends at a little soirée tomorrow night at eight? We could discuss this over drinks. Don’t worry: All the glasses are thoroughly DNA swabbed cleaned.

    Yours sincerely,

    Julian Sprout,

    Principal Officer Customer Experience Manager

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