Thursday, January 27, 2005


One of my friends phoned me this morning to tell me to check out the Glasgow-published Herald. There was an article expanding upon a join letter attacking Waterstone's over-reaction to my blog sent in by Ken MacLeod, A L Kennedy, Iain Banks and Neil Davidson.

I was unaware of this happening - Ken had hinted that there was some form of joint letter by authors in the works, but this was a (pleasant) surprise. I've had so many folk from around our little, wired planet offering support and it is still incredibly uplifting to see something like this; to know that people will take some of their own time to help someone else. I feel humbled and uplifted at the same time and very, very grateful.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Best of luck with your appeal. I for one shall not be stepping foot into that awful store until I hear that your appeal has had a favourable outcome.

Shame that Waterstones felt the need to take such a heavy handed stance, had they just had a quiet word with you none of this adverse publicity would have been generated.

I must admit that I have taken a dislike to Waterstones since I witnessed a member of staff (central Bristol branch) telling a group of over excited Harry Potter reading (and slightly loud) children to be quiet. Its a book shop not a library you know.

4:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just read the article on the Guardian (,14024,1388466,00.html) about you and wish you the best of luck with your appeal. It's a shame in this day and age when a person can lose their job over free speach and away from work at that.

Best of luck to you, and may Evil Boss rott in bloddy hell!


6:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Glad to see Banksie onboard. May justice prevail.



7:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If the current manager is who I think it is, I never had him down as the petty and vindictive type. I seem to remember him with some regard.

Perhaps he was put up to this, with Head Office not realising how far this was going to go. Or perhaps they did, wanting the manager to take the rap if it goes all smelly for them.

Doesnt seem to be any natural justice for Joe.
I hope someone sees sense and reinstates Joe in the store of his choice, and not Timbuctoo, metaphorically speaking.

10:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think using the word 'evil' was your big mistake. I notice it's not mentioned in the Herald article. Suppose instead of your boss you'd called one of your fellow workers evil? Sorry, but I don't think it was a very smart thing to do.

12:18 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Joe,

your (very) erstwhile colleague david, posting from japan.
I'm kind of pleasantly surprised at all the fuss this has created, given it's a company i was never all that keen on-nothing but bad publicity for them.

Very best of luck to you in getting another job, everyone who worked with you knows that you were a bookseller who knew his work (and especially his sections) very well.

Good luck to you sir,


9:16 AM  
Blogger Lili said...

It really is inspirng to see the support you are getting - next time anyone plans on sending a joint of any kind - let me know! ;-)
She says with forked tongue...

3:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kind words and verbal support is all very fine, but it doesn't pay the bills. Just as you rightly pointed out that your media efforts on behalf of Waterstones provided them with exposure money can't buy, so too, for you, has the coverage of your sacking.
Yet still, you seem to have to go around scrounging for work.
I simply don't understand it.

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"you seem to have to go around scrounging for work.
I simply don't understand it."

Well I wouldn't hire him. He might tell the whole world I'm evil.

4:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's happened again - another blogger in the UK has got in trouble because of his Blog. It's reported in this week's Bookseller magazine, and the offending Blog is here:

2:28 PM  
Blogger dh said...

Somebody should open a bookstore and hire all these blokes. Don't do anything to upset them though.......dh

3:48 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I could be wrong, but I think the Onion blog in the Bookseller is a humorous blog. There is a regular column in the Bookseller which takes a satirical look at life in the book trade each week and I'm sure one of the regular contributors refers to his bolshie unpacker as 'Onion'. Looking at the comments on the Bookseller I think they may be commenting on recent events in their own unique way.

Joe :-)

4:10 PM  
Blogger dh said...

I think you are correct. If the Onion person was (were?) for real he/she would be looking for another job by now. As it is he/she seems hard put to move his/her grievance to the next level. Let's hope he/she doesn't do anything too drastic....dh

8:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well I wouldn't hire him. He might tell the whole world I'm evil."

Are you? (-:

I guess not, or you'd find it too difficult to resist the temptation to grasp the chance of one-man-up-man-ship against one of your competitors (Waterstones) by taking him on. Then there would the positive exposure. Just think of all that free advertising and the immense kudos going with it. Then there's more than commercial rivalry to satisfy. Customers need somewhere else to go and taking on Joe would be a beacon pointing them in your direction.
Then there would be the advantage of gaining the advantages his contribution to Waterstones had created. The authors who will attend, the knowledge of what sells well, and why, and how etc, not to mention unpaid interest in his work. No, you just mustn't be 'evil' enough. I guess that means you'd have nothing to worry about.
Though, it looks like Waterstones didn't have much business acumen either with the way they have effectively told the world their dim.
Or maybe;
Instead you would be guided by fear. Maybe that's how you run your own business. Maybe you propagate fear within your own firm as a consequence.
Woops, maybe you are really evil after all.

2:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmmmm. Good points there Anonymous. You've obviously given the matter some thought. Do I detect a touch of evil there? Or maybe you are me talking to myself! Yikes! That would be evil. Maybe I'm so evil that I even hate myself and my own evilness. That's one of the big drawbacks with eats away at the soul and you end up posting evil things on blogs.

4:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Do I detect a touch of evil there?"

I dunno. It might depend on what you mean and what you mean by evil and the means of your detective qualities.
If you found it 'wickedly' funny it may be because you detected a touch of your own reflection. In which case your detection is a reflection that may not be me. As to how to measure the sensory (touch) qualities / grade of such wickedness, I guess I'm just not evil enough to know. Or is my ignorance the evil within, within that last sentence.

12:09 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes evil is difficult to quantify. Perhaps like most things it comes down to degree. Ranging from pure unadulterated evil to the milder forms of 'hobby' evil.
Joe's boss is probably somewhere in the middle, an average evil sort of guy. Even so he didn't like being outed on a public website. I suspect he put up with it for a while then he went to his own evil superiors and said "OK enough of this crap. Either he goes or you can look for another evil boss to run your bookstore." They did exactly what one would expect evil superiors to do in the circumstances.....fired the non-evil employee.

2:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"They did exactly what one would expect evil superiors to do in the circumstances....."

Replace the word "evil" with "dumb" and a much more accurate picture emerges.
Given the level of interest Joe's blog had prior to his sacking, he could have "outed" anyone with much more sucess, had he merely spoken up a bit down at his local.
For the "outed" to grab the public address system to highlight his remarks was hardly bright and hardly Joe's fault.
Am I to presume the absence of work offers is because the rest of Scotland is just as intellectually challenged?

6:18 PM  
Blogger dh said...

Well of course the evil superiors can always argue that they were provoked and obliged to restore some dignity to the evil boss's situation. A pecking order so to speak to counter any perceived whiff of anarchy in the workplace.

What a fascinating thread this is becoming. I tend to agree with the original Anonymous. Exposing evil-doers is a risky business and there is always the chance that it can backfire. For instance now that we no longer have ducking stools and autos-da-fe the denouncer is obliged to provide evidence of evil and furnish actual examples of evil behaviour. Just calling somebody evil isn't enough. Even then lawyers being what they are somebody will surely jump to the evil-doer's defence and demonstrate that he/she (yes women can be evil too) had an unhappy childhood or perhaps just a bad hair day. If I was Joe (and I wanted the job back)I would skip arbitration and just apologize cheers dh

11:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Well of course the evil superiors can always argue that they were provoked and obliged to restore some dignity to the evil boss's situation. A pecking order so to speak to counter any perceived whiff of anarchy in the workplace."

Are they supposed to be running a business or a chicken run? Have they bothered to read Animal Farm? I guess evil being so difficult to quantify means that their gross stupidity in how they handled the situation might be mean it's correct to refer to them as evil rather than just plain dumb.

Dubbing somebody as evilboss, even in a comic way was plenty enough to get fired, because there existed a starkling ignorance (and sence of humour) on how to deal with it.
My question was how come Joe is still job searching. Jobs are hard to find, but the manner of his sacking has extended a level of advertisment that money can't really buy, to highligh the required qualities he has to offer.
"If I was Joe (and I wanted the job back)I would skip arbitration and just apologize cheers dh"
ha ha ha! You really think that woulda worked? lol

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Yes evil is difficult to quantify"

Hold on a sec.
Does that mean that someone has being fired over the use of a word, the meaning of which is difficult to quantify?
Or, to put it another way, has someone sacked an underling for using a word which the aformentioned superior had not really understood?
Like 'I'm not sure what that means, but you're fired for saying it anyway'
Man, someone's looking dumber and dumber by the minute.

3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Does that mean that someone has being fired over the use of a word, the meaning of which is difficult to quantify?"

No, it means there are degrees of evil and we don't know how evil the evil boss really was since it's only Joe's judgment anyway. In spite of all the efforts to make this a free speech issue it looks more like a simple question of bad manners.

3:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“In spite of all the efforts to make this a free speech issue it looks more like a simple question of bad manners.”

There is a kernel of truth to that, because like evil, manners can sometimes be hard to evaluate. At one time, drawing a simple caricature of those amongst the high and mighty would have being genuinely felt by those superiors as being despicable bad manners and proof of the caricaturist’s inferior social level. (Ironically irrespective of any uncomfortable truths depicted by the plebeian’s satire)
Equally, alas, with respect, one might be tempted to feel it is awfully bad manners old chap, to dismiss the aspect of the free speech issue concerned.
Albeit, as Joe has himself highlighted, there are those who face much heavier free speech issues and have received much harsher treatment.
To that extent, reducing the grade of free speech element may be correct, though it would depend on by how much.
Reducing the grade of the free speech issue also permits a change in grade for other aspects of this debacle.
It may come to look more like a simple question of crassness both in terms of business and relationship handling on the part of Waterstones, or a simple example of work place despotism therein.
One might also draw the conclusion from what has occurred that if there were a competition to see who had displayed the worst manners, then Waterstones have so far being winning that one, and by quite a stretch. Cheers

12:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"One might also draw the conclusion from what has occurred that if there were a competition to see who had displayed the worst manners, then Waterstones have so far being winning that one, and by quite a stretch."

One might but one would be wrong I think. Waterstones did not insult Joe publicly to my knowledge. They simply fired him. Nothing to do with manners.

Describing somebody as 'evil' in an Austin Powers context can be seen as amusing I suppose. In a George Bush context it can be taken seriously and is at the very least rude.

In any case only Joe knows what actually transpired between him and the evil boss. Perhaps more details will emerge at the hearing.

4:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I guess we shall have to agree to differ on the point of manners and to its importance, or irrelevance on the matter.
To me, with all that Joe had done for Waterstones he deserved better than how they handled the situation. What if he had just had a wee moan one day, or two down at his local? Waterstones demonstrated considerable disregard for him by not even bothering to have a quite word first. That was rude and unnecessarily insulting and in my book, rudeness (and such like disregard) is not that far away from bad manners. It is a moot point as to how public a firing can be when evidence of that sacking becomes obvious.
For example if you deliberately make an example of someone by firing them, albeit that the actual firing may have being done privately, then saying it was a private matter wouldn’t really hold water.
In this case a company who supposedly champions the rights of free speech has displayed enormous hypocrisy, and hypocrisy within such circumstances becomes a very public matter indeed.

I must admit to being a bit lost over your George Bush reference.
I take it you meant President George Bush. I think he’d be more likely to think it rude, or bad manners if you like, if fellow politicians disregard his presidential title, than some nobody out on the street screaming that he’s evil.
Besides, using the President by way of comparison to Joe’s manger is comic. Don’t you think it elevates that manager’s importance just a wee little bit too much?
Apart from which, if someone had referred to an equally relatively unknown individual as say, Evilshrub, or even EvilGrevillea (Grevillea being a sort of shrub… bush… geddit?), then the comparison you give would be more accurate.

But as you say, we shall have to await the outcome of the hearing.

What I’ve being trying to find are his notes on how to train his cat for anti-terrorism.
There’s a big black one looking at me right now. Big yellow eyes too. (this would be a cat and not....)I guess he plans to leap unto my lap, but he’s way too big. Ordinarily he takes up 2 of the seats I’m using. Yep, he’s up. Head butting my hands. Typing… well more like pressing on the keys. Refuses to accept attention from just one hand and will soon consider sharper tactic to monopolise me.

3:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes we definitely disagree. You seem to suggest on the one hand that Joe's 'quiet word at the local' is a private matter but Waterstone's reaction made it public. How can a blog not be public?

I think it is rude to insult some specific person on a website or blog. Describing somebody as evil fits my definition of rude. It is not the same as calling somebody a silly twit for instance.

It happens all the time of course but if that person is your boss it also defies common sense. I'm surprised you can't see that. Of course Joe is (and should be) free to say whatever he wants on his blog but not without consequence.

The George Bush reference applied to the use of the word 'evil'. It may sound a little quaint to secular ears but he (Bush) seems to like throwing it around a lot and obviously some people take it very seriously indeed. The US army just destroyed Fallujah because they'd been told it was evil.

8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find that you’re mixing up the math a bit. It would be more accurate to highlight the suggestion ,defining the level of Joe’s blog’s readership as having being so small that had he occasioned to have a *Loud* word at his local it would have being more public.
It was Waterstones who failed in the 'quiet word' department.

Joe's blog clearly underlines its nature. What he did not do was identify his workplace directly by name, nor that of his manager. In so far as any signpost might have indicated any real identity, such a signpost was only definable to very few and was very well buried too. For that reason applying the term “outed” is questionable.

I can off course see the point about common sense, though, yet again, it seems that how I approach that view depends on how I do the maths.
I see your views as the consequence of attempting to apply more than one equation to a single exercise.

Taking the subtotal (figuratively speaking) relating to Consequence, your maths doesn’t quite add up. In figure 1: Defies common sense, apart from the awful implication that you find it agreeable that any underling should pay so dearly for failing to wholly submit to subjugation, your maths seems to be missing a column, or more accurately, attempts to employ a separate equation without the full relevant figures.
In your formula, the actions or inaction by Joe’s superiors, (figure 2: Boss) prior to Joe’s blog entries, which gave rise to his (Joe’s) grievances, have zero consequences.
That is incorrect. Clearly consequences did arise.
That means if you wish to apply the rule of Consequences, then you must first ensure you’ve levelled the playing field and in this case you haven’t.

Bizarrely, in addition, you seem to be attempting to apply the equation of President George Bush, as if G.W. (in person, position et al) equates without any exaggeration to any of the people involved in this particular debacle. He does not. That column isn’t even necessary. But having done so, you’ve arrived at a figure that is grossly distorted.

4:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well math was never my strong suit. I'm more interested in language and semantics. Your efforts to show that private actually means public and vice versa are laudable but I doubt if they will impress the tribunal.

You seem to be suggesting that it is OK to insult people in public as long as it is done discretely. Perhaps you are right. At least we agree that Joe's words were insulting. Whether they constitute just cause for dismissal remains to be seen.

5:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't recall having ever agreed that Joe had insulted anyone.

If a bunch of party goers are at a pub and one returns from the bar announcing that the barman has said they're not allowed to have free beers all night, he / she may well add the word "bastard" and then spoof a childish pout.
Technically, the word bastard is insulting, but the barman would hardly take it that way.
The question over the right to insult someone is not therefore really comparable in such circumstances. So it is not right to conclude any such right has been established, nor that it can independandly be so.
In Joe's case Evilboss was not as directly identifiable as the barman, and I read those comments in the same way as the party goer might have said it.
Waterstones mismanaged all this. That's what it is all about when the free speech element is reduced in grade.
But you're right about one thing, neither of our comments are likely to influence the tribunal. Because I doubt they're bothering to read all this, even with Joe's 15 minutes having being so well covered.

10:57 AM  

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