WDDTY and Tesco’s corporate irresponsibility

WDDTY and Tesco’s corporate irresponsibility

Reblogged with permission from Dianthus Medical

I’ve written before about the magazine “What Doctors Don’t Tell You”, but just to refresh your memory, it is a dreadful pile of nonsense, carrying dangerously misleading health advice. It includes such gems as suggesting vitamin C can cure AIDS or that homeopathy can cure cancer. If you want to know more about just how outrageously irresponsible the magazine is, you might want to visit http://wwddtydty.com or look at Josephine Jones’s impressive list of links.

Now, perhaps none of this would matter very much if it were a subscription magazine where alternative medicine cranks could get their monthly fix of drivel and the rest of us didn’t have to worry about it too much. But I think it does matter when respectable high street retailers stock the magazine. That makes it look like a respectable source of health advice, rather than the crazy conspiracy theory nonsense that it is. If someone walking into a respectable retailer saw this magazine in their “health” section, then they might think it is something to be taken seriously. The consequences of that could be tragic. Beyond Positive have written eloquently about the dangers of persons living with HIV being exposed to such dangerous advice.

Sainsburys briefly stocked the magazine, but to their credit, they have since withdrawn it from sale after it was pointed out to them just how dangerous the magazine is. Tesco, however, is another matter. They continue to stock the magazine.

Tesco’s response has been something of an eye opener. They have clearly decided on a position on stocking WDDTY, but do not seem able or willing to explain their position. Their position, as set out in the standard template email that their customer service department has been using to respond to anyone contacting them about WDDTY, reads as follows:

Thank you for your email.

I understand you have concerns over the magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and I can appreciate your views on the matter.

We are in the position of offering our customers choice rather than appointing ourselves as censors or moral guardians. The publisher of this magazine prints on page 3 a liability statement advising readers to consult a qualified practitioner before undertaking any treatment.

While we cannot comment on the contents of these magazines, your comments have been duly noted and fed back to our Buying Teams.

One thing to note in passing is that their claim not to act as “censors or moral guardians” is obviously not true. Acting as censors and moral guardians is exactly what they did about “lads’ mags” and a rather offensive Halloween costume. I did try asking them why they sometimes act as censors and moral guardians and sometimes don’t on their Facebook page. They initially replied simply to say that they had removed the Halloween costume from sale (which I already knew) and completely failed to answer my question, which does suggest that the people Tesco put in the position of interacting with the public are not exactly completely engaged in their role. When I pointed out that they hadn’t answered my question, they replied again to promise that they’d get back to me, but of course they never did.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 11:43:47

I also raised my concerns specifically about the magazine on Tesco’s Facebook page, but alas all I got was the same template response that others had got.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 11:49:17

Sound familiar?

Well, I didn’t feel that there was much point pursuing this with Tesco’s customer service team as they were clearly only going to keep parroting the same answer. But I did notice that Tesco claim on their website to have a “Corporate Responsibility” team. So I thought I’d email them and point out the disconnect between selling WDDTY and their corporate responsibility principles, one of which is “Helping and encouraging our colleagues and customers to live healthier lives”. This is what I wrote:

Dear CSR Team

I see that you have a clear policy about helping your customers to make healthy choices. That is admirable, but it seems that one of your purchasing decisions is really not living up to it.

I gather that you sell “What doctors don’t tell you” in your magazine sections. This magazine is dangerous. It consists of much health misinformation (for example, advice to avoid life-saving vaccinations against diseases such as measles or whooping-cough), and if any of your customers were unfortunate enough to believe the articles in it, then their health could be put seriously at risk.

There is a good reason why doctors don’t tell you most of the stuff you read in that magazine, in much the same way that car mechanics don’t tell you to care for your car’s bodywork by regularly driving through salt water.

If you are not familiar with the magazine and would like to read more about just how dangerous it is, there is a useful list of resources here:

https://josephinejones.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/wddty-my-master-list/

I urge you to reconsider your decision to sell the magazine, as it seems to be in clear breach of your CSR policy on helping your customers to live healthy lives.

Kind regards

Adam

PS:

As I’m sure you’re all too aware, CSR policies are often regarded with some cynicism as mere window dressing, not backed up by any meaningful action. This is your chance to prove otherwise!

Tesco’s corporate responsibility team did not respond.

After a decent interval had elapsed, I asked them on their Facebook page when I might expect to get a response. No reply. So a little while later, I asked again. This time, they did reply. They said they couldn’t find my email, and could I forward it to their customer service department. I did so, making it very clear that it was not intended for their customer services department, but for their corporate responsibility department. This was the response I received:

Dear Adam

Thank you for your email.

I understand you have concerns over the magazine, What Doctors Don’t Tell You, and I can appreciate your views on the matter.

We are in the position of offering our customers choice rather than appointing ourselves as censors or moral guardians. The publisher of this magazine prints on page 3 a liability statement advising readers to consult a qualified practitioner before undertaking any treatment.

While we cannot comment on the contents of these magazines, your comments have been duly noted and fed back to our Buying Teams.

Thank you for taking the time to contact us.

Kind regards

Rachel Barnes

Tesco Customer Service

Sound familiar?

There followed much frustrating to-and-fro, both by email and on Facebook, while I asked them if I could have a reply from their corporate responsibility department. Mostly, they simply didn’t understand the question. Eventually, however, we seemed to make progress.

On Facebook, I was told that the corporate responsibility team would not reply to me directly, but would simply send the standard response from customer services that everyone else sent, because they like to ensure that their replies are consistent.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 12:16:04

On the same day, I received the following email from someone else in their customer services department:

Dear Adam

Thank you for your reply.

I would like to advise that in order for you to contact our Corporate responsibility team you would have to put it in writing to our Head Office in Cheshunt and the address is as follows.

New Tesco House
Delamare Road
Cheshunt
Herts
EN8 9SL

Once again thank you for your reply.

Kind regards

Stephen Horn

Tesco Customer Service

So much for consistent replies.

Well, I did indeed do as Stephen suggested and I wrote an old-fashioned letter on a real piece of paper and put it in the post. That was getting on for 4 weeks ago, and I haven’t had a reply. I don’t honestly expect to get one.

Now, I dare say that Tesco’s corporate responsibility team have other things to worry about. Trying to make sure that not too many of the people who make their clothes in sweatshops in Bangladesh get killed in unsafe working conditions probably keeps them quite busy. They probably also need to spend a certain amount of time figuring out what kind of farm animals are in their ready meals and just how dishonestly to respond when they’re caught selling the wrong kind.

But still, it’s now about 2 months since I first contacted them. Is it really too much to expect a brief reply? Perhaps Tesco don’t see this as a corporate responsibility issue. Well, that’s their prerogative, but I don’t see why someone in their corporate responsibility department couldn’t at least have taken the trouble to spend 5 minutes writing an email to say so. Can we really take Tesco’s commitments to corporate responsibility seriously if their corporate responsibility department so completely fails to engage with members of the public? I do wonder whether their corporate responsibility department even exists. On Twitter, Tesco assured me that it did, but I have yet to see any evidence of that. Certainly never got the promised reply.

Screenshot from 2013-11-22 14:36:06

To my mind, this is absolutely a corporate responsibility issue. By selling WDDTY, Tesco are giving it a stamp of respectability. This is not about “free speech” or whether anyone is trying to “ban” WDDTY, despite some folks’ attempts to paint it that way (those arguments have been dealt with comprehensively by Matthew Lamand Andy Lewis). It’s about whether it’s responsible for retailers such as Tesco to give WDDTY an implicit stamp of approval. Anyone taken in by that false impression of credibility could be harmed, and I don’t think that’s a responsible way for Tesco to act.

 

3 thoughts on “WDDTY and Tesco’s corporate irresponsibility”

  1. Mozilla Compatible Mozilla Compatible iPhone iOS 7.0.4 iPhone iOS 7.0.4
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    Not just them – Morrisons

    I am sorry to learn of your disappointment with us selling this magazine.

    We have carefully noted your comments and having investigated this matter for you, I would like to take this opportunity to offer the following comments. I can assure you that we are very strict as to what magazines we sell and, as a company, You can be certain that we will only sell what we believe to be acceptable literature and this magazine falls into this category. However, as I am sure you will appreciate, we have no jurisdiction over the magazines that we sell and I am sorry if you have felt in any way offended on this occasion.

    Thank you for taking the time and trouble to bring this matter to our attention. I hope that my explanations have helped to reassure you in this regard and we look forward to seeing you again soon in our store, where we assure you of our best attention at all times.

    Kindest regards

    Dawn
    Morrisons Supermarkets PLC

    And whsmith
    Thank you for your email, expressing your concerns about What Doctors Don’t Tell You’ magazine.

    We aim to provide a wide variety of material in our stores to cater for our customers’ varied preferences and we do not wish to exclude items from our range that many of our customers wish to
    As one of the UK’s leading retailers of books, magazines and newspapers and entertainment products, we aim to offer our customers a wide choice of products, whilst also respecting customer views.

    I’d like to assure you, however, that we closely monitor all the feedback we receive and I’m grateful to you for taking the time to share your specific concerns with us.
    I realise you will be disappointed with my reply which falls short of telling you that we will be removing this magazine. Although this is something I regret, I hope you may be able to appreciate our position.

    If I can help you further, please let me know.

    Kind Regards
    Andrea Wheatley
    Customer Service Co-ordinator

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    Perhaps a different tack should be tried. Ask Tesco, etc, when they will start selling Playboy. There is a market for it and in this day and age surely it is hardly offensive.

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    That’s interesting what you say about Morrisons’ reply, Vicky.

    What’s specifically interesting is their claim that they think it is “acceptable literature”. That’s a bit different to Tesco: they have never claimed it’s acceptable. Tesco simply frame it as offering unfettered customer choice and that it’s not Tesco’s role to decide what’s acceptable and what isn’t (though that’s bollocks of course, as they took a completely different stance on Lads’ mags and Halloween costumes).

    I’m not sure which is worse, really. Having a policy of selling any old crap no matter how dangerous it is, or having a policy of not selling unacceptable literature, but somehow thinking WDDTY doesn’t fall into that category.

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