The Story So Far...

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Where do you buy your books??

Happy New Year.... is that a command or an express wish? Who can say. Either way, I hope you had a good festive period.

For some, it was not a very festive season. Many thousands lost in the Asiatic region... Today, like many others, I took time at 12pm to pay respects.

Closer to home there was more bad news. In my last posting I alluded to a disturbing situation, which may have implications for bloggers everywhere. Well now I can reveal some of the facts.

An old school friend of mine, whose online alter-ego is Lestat, has been operating a weblog for many, many years now called the Woolamaloo Gazette ( Clearly and legally described as a satirical and personal look at the world around him, he has been busily typing away for years, entertaining many around the globe on his views about life. Occasionally, this has strayed into episodes about his workplace, Waterstones (a large UK bookseller). Much of this has been about such everyday characters (who many of us would agree to having from time to time) such as the alleged "Evil Boss" who, for example, refuses a request for a day off to celebrate a birthday or whatever....

The occasional mentions of the workplace, which I can now reveal as Waterstone's Edinburgh East End Branch, 13-14 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2AN (Tel: 0131 556 3034/5) Email: , are run-of-the-mill rantings about working late shifts, unusual customers and having to work in the first great crime there. Nobody was mentioned by name and the location was largely unknown unless you happened to live in Edinburgh and, even then, there are s number of Waterstone's book shops in the city.

In Lestat's case, alleged and satirically-named "Evil Boss" (-es? Ed.) has taken a dim view of these altogether harmless musings and dismissed him from the employment of Waterstone's as of this afternoon.

He must've been asking for it, you say? Well, pray read the weblog - go back a few years (search for the word Waterstone's in the text to make it easier) and you will see that dismissal on the grounds that he has brought the organisation into disrepute and is a breach of clear employment policies is incredibly petty and wrong. It may interest you to know that (as of this date) Waterstone's do not actually have a written policy that covers 'blogging' (I checked with someone at their HR department who was very helpful). As such Waterstone's have read more into their rules than they should have. This has been pointed out by a number of leading technology law specialists and may very well cost the company dearly. Still, they can afford it...Lestat, like so many of us, has bills to pay in order to keep a roof over his head and is now unemployed. It is somewhat surprising that a book seller whose reputation was built upon supporting freedom of speech has behaved in such a way. Waterstone's have deliberately made someone unemployed for expressing a personal and private point of view. I wonder ehy they couldn't have dealth with this in a more appropriate fashion, e.g. informal discussion, verbal warning, etc, etc? Moving to instant dismissal rather than any level of warning smacks of knee-jerk reaction.

As a regular customer of Waterstone's, I am deeply disturbed by the dismissal of an employee who has given 11 years of loyal service and appeared on radio and in the press on behalf of the company on a number of occasions. He has organised a great many book events, all of which were highly successful. He is also well-regarded by a number of customers and some very famous authors. Perhaps some of these people will have some concerns about this, I wonder?

So, when someone asks me in the future where I buy my books? It certainly won't be Waterstones...


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