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Waitrose, a symbol of middle England, has come a cropper.

Whereas their Facebook landing page welcomes you to their School of Christmas Magic; beyond this lies a furore of angry shoppers, all outraged at an incident which occurred in the Northampton branch of the store.

It seems that two shoppers had a confrontation in which one called the other’s disabled child an animal. She was then given a cup of coffee by Waitrose staff to help her calm down.  The original post read:

“I find it very sad that the management of Waitrose Northampton are incapable of apologising to a friend of mine as she was verbally abused on Friday 4th Nov because her disabled child was making a bit of a noise. The lady called her son an “animal” and her “Scum” but the management told her to leave if she wanted to call the police and then gave this dispicable woman a free coffee for her inconvenience. It is illegal to verblly abuse anyone and especially a disabled person. I am discussed and will never set foot in one of your stores until a public apology has been made to my friend and her son.”

After the account was posted on the Facebook page, the situation escalated almost instantaneously, with cries of hate crime and promises to boycott the store. A link to the page was quickly doing the rounds on Twitter, putting the spotlight not on the problems in store, but Waitrose’s poor handling of the situation online.

The main problem it transpired was that they appeared to be keeping quiet on the issue while still responding to inane comments – about the lack of eggs in store for example. And although a Waitrose spokesman claimed that they had responded to the original post, as the wall settings were set to view posts by everyone, it easily would have been buried.

Furthermore, as the page is moderated only between the hours of 9 and 5:30, obscene comments lay on the page and it was not until 1pm that they reissued a statement saying:

“Thank you for all your feedback on the incident between two customers at our Kingsthorpe branch. We work hard to ensure that everyone who shops with us has an enjoyable experience and is treated with courtesy and kindness. Obviously, in this case, there has been an incident that we are taking seriously and treating as a private matter with the families involved. We’re focusing now on investigating and resolving this as soon as possible. Thanks again.”

It’s a hard lesson to learn social media management is not a 9 to 5 job and if Waitrose can’t look after it, maybe it’s time to bring in an agency like us!


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