WH Smith and Tesco “do a Bernard” in their book aisles

28 Dec

Books can make a great gift and with an ocean of literature available, we could do with a little nudge in the right direction: Andy McNab for Dad? PD James for Mum? Gap Yah Planner for your mate? But never take these store recommendations as gospel.

Back in 2009, WH Smith’s Father’s Day promotional stand featured the the not so family friendly:  “The Crimes of Josef Fritzl”; thus highlighting a rather crude irony in comparison to their display heading “Fathers are heroes”. If those 24 years were heroic then I shudder to think what Marvel are writing about these days.

Surprisingly, Tesco also promoted the book as an ideal gift for Dad. It’s the kind of rash decision one could only see a literary man like Bernard from Black Books enforcing, during a drunken tirade about society and ill tasting wine.

As you can imagine it wasn’t long before the national media got hold of this and they wanted answers. WH Smith swiftly apologised and cited a ‘mistake by one store’. A more competent move than Britain’s biggest supermarket whose initial statement was: ‘It would be touching on censorship if we removed it. Where would we draw the line?’, perhaps not understanding the subtle difference between actively promoting the book as a Father’s Day gift and removing it from their stores entirely. Luckily for their sake, this subtlety was eventually recognised and the book removed from the display.

However, the book industry’s “inner Bernard” struck again this year. Waterstone’s decided “Mein Kampf” was the “perfect present” this Christmas, not just for fathers, but for everyone! Now the book may well be an “essential read” for a greater understanding of the most infamous political movement of the 20th century, but as a present? I can’t imagine many people would beam up at the gift giver after receiving some callous autocratic literature (and watch out for the ones that do). This was soon realised by Waterstone’s who apologised and subsequently took “Mein Kampf” off promotion.

Now I can understand that book stores might get a bit tired of promoting the same old authors doing the same old genres but please, before you place that book at Point of Sale, just stop and think to yourself: “Is this what Bernard would do?”


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