Kicked out of Harrods because of Starbucks – an Open Letter fighting for common sense in retail

Subject: Kicked out of Harrods because of Starbucks – an Open Letter fighting for common sense in retail
From: Simon Belofski
Date: 29 Nov 2012
Harrods London

I was refused entry to Harrods today. Not because I was causing trouble. Not because I was dressed inappropriately. Not because I probably didn't have enough money to shop there with a clear conscious. I was refused entry to Harrods because of Starbucks. Yes my American friends, your delicious dark roast topped with cream and served with an Italian accent is not welcome in this fortress of British twattery. I was asked to finish my coffee outside despite the subzero temperatures. I cannot believe it.

At this point I thought it was some sort of form of bad taste. A slightly late April Fool's joke. A misplaced comment perhaps aimed at someone else. Or I simply imagined in my head. Yet no, it was real: I heard a voice coming over my right shoulder "Excuse me! Oi! Did you finish your drink?". The battle call “Oi” in Knightsbridge? I did not expect it. It wasn't the posh English accent I am typically used to hearing at Harrods. It was a form of broken English of a foreign security guard who was, judging from his permanently bitter expression, clearly unhappy to be there. Looking mildly confused at the guard I replied with a negative statement since I only bought my "drink". I wanted to enhance my shopping experience after a long day at work. Coffee tends to make the process go much more smoothly when I don't have to battle my severe exhaustion after looking at a computer screen all day. It is merely a human privilege to seek refreshments during an intensely physical activity of pre-Christmas shopping. "You can finish outside" I was oh-so-very-kindly advised by the Harrods security guard. "Excuse me?" I raised my brow slightly. "No drinks inside" I heard. "Is this some sort of store policy?" I look even more puzzled. "It says outside" the guard replied.

It says outside? This is not a pub Croydon. I don't expect to be forced outside with my latte to read a sign. This is Harrods. I expect your staff member to kindly explain your policy to me and justify it with a gentle smile welcoming me back for future visits. I had a warmer welcome in Drumchapel. Quite frankly this is the most bizarre rule I have ever encountered during my years of shopping. To refuse your customer refreshments inside of a retail outlet? I haven't encountered that in the UK, Spain, Germany or the USA. And the Italians even bought me a cappuccino on the house once. Even the Christian church in the USA licenses their premises to Starbucks to attract their followers to spend time within the church. And what if someone spills something on your shit? The associated costs are part of running a business. If not, I'll pay for it.

Now, dear Harrods…
I strongly believe that having such a long history of excellence you cannot afford to employ such brash staff members, security or not. I understand that those are most likely provided to you from an external agency and you might have limited influence over the quality of your security, however as a store known to provide the finest goods and unparalleled service to your customers I believe you can pull out the finger and revise your recruitment strategy. On many occasions I have been welcomed to the store by your security staff encouraging me to exchange my money for your goods. I have come to Harrods with the intention buying shoes for my partner. Something special, something not accessible to most of the population, something exclusive. That's why I come to Harrods, because you can provide such items and most importantly you can guide me through the choice. I come to you because I want to be pampered. I want to be educated about your wares and I want you to reinforce my choice.

On this occasion I spent £2.25. In Paperchase, which is a concession within your store. I believe that the 20% profit that you make on concession purchases was all you deserved. I could not justify spending more money after such treatment. I will happily use Selfridges on this occasion. And perhaps on the next occasion too.