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Good and Bad PR: Waitrose wins, but water week for Thames Water!

Good PR

Waitrose free-for-all?

Posh supermarket chain Waitrose has changed its “free tea or coffee” policy for loyalty card members and, whilst some people may have expected to see this in the “bad PR” slot because of the amount of pick-up the story has had, there are a few reasons why I’m seeing this as good PR for the brand.

The scheme, which allowed any customers with a loyalty card to claim a free cup of tea or coffee in-store, is no longer going to be available in the way shoppers have become so used to. Now, they will have to purchase something in-store first before they can get their cup of tea or coffee.

And whilst there have been a handful of people genuinely disappointed about the change, most of the dismay expressed on Twitter is very tongue-in-cheek.

Here are a few examples of the mock outrage on Twitter:

"A collective gasp from middle England as @waitrose announces you now have to *buy something* before indulging in free teas and coffees."

"We will speak of this day for years to come. Social historians will trace the #Islington #Coffee #Riots to this act of betrayal!"

Others thought the changes for myWaitrose members were ultimately a good thing, tweeting:

“Finally! Waitrose removes the coffee freeloaders clogging up stores...”

“Finally no more free coffee in Waitrose. The amount of freeloaders desperate for a coffee was hilarious.”

Here’s the thing; I didn’t know Waitrose offered free tea and coffee to its loyalty card members at all. Even if I’m in the minority there, I certainly know about it now. I also don’t think that having to buy something, anything, before getting the freebie is the worst thing in the world. There doesn’t seem to be a minimum spend for the qualifying purchase, so it’s really no biggie.

The coverage of this change on the likes of the BBC, Guardian, Telegraph, Indy and others is far from scathing, so I think this “refinement” to the scheme (as Waitrose is calling it) will actually lead to a few more people signing up to myWaitrose; ergo… good PR!

Bad PR

Primark recall

Primark is making bad headlines again after the budget clothing retailer issued a recall for a pair of children’s leggings. Recalls are always a headache for any brand, but when the product in question is aimed at children, it’s even worse.

The Novelty Cat Leggings, sold between November and February, have a feline face on the knees with a piece of pink ribbon used in the design as a head bow. Primark said that there was a chance the bow could become detached and it’d then be a choking hazard for little ones.

Primark has said it will offer a full refund to customers who return the leggings, but the news is already up on the Metro, The Sun, Express, Mirror, Huffington Post, Mail and more. Parents are likely to be a bit more dubious about the kids clothes they pick up from the store now, so this isn’t great for the brand’s reputation; which, let’s face it, hasn’t been all that great historically.

Water week

In other news, Thames Water has been hit with a not insignificant £20m fine after the utility provider polluted the River Thames with 1.4billion litres of raw sewage which entered waterways in Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire between 2013 and 2014.

The pollution made people and farm livestock ill and killed fish and animals living in the river, which put fishermen and anglers out of business. The fine is set to break records and is predicted to amount to multi-millions.

Written by Shannon Peerless, 10 Yetis @ShazzaYeti on Twitter

Seen any good or bad PR lately? You know what to do @10Yetis on Twitter or on email

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