Woolies counters new allegations

Having apparently survived the ridiculous Justin Harrison’s ridiculous calls for a boycott against it, Woolworths in South Africa now finds itself having to counter allegations regarding the contents of its pre-prepared fruit salads.

Some unnamed individuals have suggested that the list of ingredients as “fruit” is vague and requires clarification. Perhaps mindful of their tardy addressing of the previous issues, Woolies has this time been quick to respond:

Yes, in a fruit salad related revelation probably only equal to that of their previous fruit salad revelation, it seems that Woolworths’ Seasonal Berry Mix includes Berries. (Probably seasonal ones.)

Who knew?

Leningrad

Every time I hear Soviet Russia mentioned, I think of this song. Probably the most under-rated Billy Joel track, I think, as many from his 1989 Storm Front album were – We Didn’t Start The Fire being the obvious exception.

Extensive piano work, sweeping strings, some slightly dodgy lyrics, but most of all a wonderful triumph of humanity over politics. 23 years on, and I guess we can expect much the same when Danny K brings out his song over the recent Woolworths saga.

Woolies contacts me to tell me that they know I don’t want to be contacted…

But…

Here’s the relevant bits of a letter I received from Woolworths’ WRewards Team earlier this week:

Dear Mr Thousand,

If you’re wondering [why we haven’t contacted you] you’re on the Direct Marketing Association’s “Don’t contact me” register, and as a member of the DMA, we respected your wishes not to receive any marketing material from us.

However… we’ve decided that from from now everyone with a MySchool card will automatically receive all the benefits for their tier level as well as important Woolworths information.

If you would still prefer NOT to receive any communication from us, all you need to do is call [telephone number] or email [email address] to opt out, and we won’t contact you.

Kind regards,

The WRewards Team

Yes, I’m on the DMA’s “Don’t contact me” register and you can argue the alleged benefits of that service all you like – especially after that much publicised data leak last May. However, for the record, I get very little junk mail, very few junk SMSs and I seem to have been completely unaffected by last year’s oopsie. Look, the service works for me.

That said, it only works when DMA members respect my wishes. And I’m using the present tense there, unlike Woolworths’ “respected” in the letter above. I’ve yet to discover why they feel that they can disregard the rules of the DMA to inform me that they are disregarding the rules of the DMA.

Still, as they tell me, at least I have the option of not receiving any further communication by opting out via the methods given above. The thing that annoys me is that I was under the impression (as they were too) that I had already opted out of receiving any  communication from them in the first place.

And anyway, how far does this go? Once I have opted out (again) will they then contact me (again) against my wishes to tell me that they are contacting me (again) against my wishes to ask me (again) if I want them to not contact me?

I’ll be contacting Woolies and the DMA about this and I’ll contact you again soon to tell you what they say.

UPDATE (27th July):

Email from Woolies:

Recently, many of our customers who are on the DMA list have been complaining that they were not receiving their WRewards guaranteed benefits. By participating in WRewards they are entitled to receive their guaranteed benefits, but because they are registered with the DMA, we respected their wishes to not be contacted by us. This recent influx of requests from customers wanting to receive their benefits irrespective of their DMA status is the reason why you received the email you mention in your blog post.

The business took a view to communicate to all our customers on the DMA as a one-off intervention, to confirm that they do not want to receive further communication from Woolworths. We apologise for the situation and trust that this last piece of communication will resolve the issue.

If you would kindly confirm your opt out status you will receive no further communication from us, including WRewards benefits. You can do so by clicking on the opt out link in the original email or by calling 0861 50 20 50.

Hmm… ok. Three things here.

1. I can sort of understand now why they felt they should get in touch with me.
2. I still don’t think that they should have got in touch with me. That action blatantly disregards the rules of the DMA (whose code of conduct they signed up to) and also clearly ignores my wishes as someone who doesn’t want contacting, as they stated in the original letter.
3. That I have to opt out specifically from their ongoing communications is wrong. Having made the (incorrect) decision to make this “one-off intervention”, I should have to opt in if I want to hear from them, not be forced to opt out again.

I remain unimpressed.

Credibility issues

As Sarah Britten penned an article documenting Helen Zille’s slow but steady meltdown on Twitter and with political commentator Eusebius McKaiser even suggesting:

For its own sake, the DA might need a new leader.

suddenly the rug has been smartly pulled from beneath DA supporters’ feet, as their previously solid and reliable leader seems almost to be suffering some sort of breakdown, resulting in her, her party’s and her supporters’ credibility being eroded; the sage advice of arguing only with logic and not emotion seemingly forgotten.

But while the own goals of opposition politicians are important in our democracy, there are bigger problems involving credibility facing our country. Hot Cross Buns.

Yep – Woolworths (and as we’ve said before, this isn’t the same Woolworths as went bust in the UK, this is the SA equivalent of M&S) are out and about offending christians again. But after their previous capitulation on the decision to remove loss making christian magazines from their shelves back in 2010 (a decision which resulted, incidentally, in a loss of credibility for the store), “surprisingly” this time it’s the christians who have lost the plot. This just a couple of weeks after their “Jesus is alive/Jesus is dead” car crash of an argument over the Red Bull ad.

Because today, christian people (not all christian people, it should be said, but some very vocal christian people) are ever so upset about there being a Halaal marking on Woolworths’ Hot Cross Buns.

And yes, they’re really annoyed:

I hate woolworths… How can you do that to the Christians, I hope that God will have mercy on you. And dnt be surprised if your shops run bankrupt.. I will pray to my living God and you will see what he is capable of!

Let’s pop back and review that threat in a few weeks, months or years, shall we? Because while your bloke upstairs is allegedly both omnipresent and omnipotent, Woolies do sell awfully nice chocolate brownies, very decent fresh fruit and veg, and have a huge selection of quality clothing as well. With their latest results indicating a turnover up 11.4%, profits up 26.8% (despite not selling very many christian magazines) and total assets of R9,218,000,000, it seems unlikely that they’ll go under any time soon.

But with several people up in arms over some seasonal bakery products, who knows what the future may hold?

Even the SA Catholic Bishops’ Conference spokesperson Chris Townsend said “people were overreacting and needed to be more understanding”:

Hot cross buns are only a symbol, and not a central tenet of Christianity. There are a lot more weighty issues to deal with in SA than a few ‘hot cross Christians’

However, for me, it’s just another nail in the coffin as far as christian credibility is concerned. And to be honest, we’re running out of space on the lid now. When members of a religion (or any other group) display such stupid, irrational (shock) and intolerant behaviour, there comes a point when society will simply stop listening.

And if they want their reasonable and sensible suggestions to be considered in the future, just like dear Helen, someone needs to tell them to pipe down before that moment comes.

UPDATE: Here’s some opinion from Georgina Guedes. You may recall that I also agreed with her thoughts here back in 2007.

UPDATE 2: Oh dear – there’s precedent! Tesco in the UK has lost market share, profit and has been infested by mice (twice) – all “since supporting Gay Pride“.

UPDATE 3: Hayibo’s response is brilliant.

UPDATE 4: This is also worth a read for a different perspective on this.