Thursday, January 06, 2005

“Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want rain without thunder and lightning.”
Frederick Douglass

Over the course of the Woolamaloo Gazette I have posted on a wide variety of subjects; sometimes on books, movies or simply the city of Edinburgh; often on topical and troublesome ones. This however is one of the most difficult I have ever had to write. Shortly before Christmas, in the spirit of that season, my manager at Waterstone’s asked me to come into the office. Within a few, short moments I was told that for comments I had posted on this web site I was now subject to an enquiry to determine if I should face a disciplinary hearing for ‘gross misconduct’ because I had ‘brought the company into disrepute’. I was informed (more than once) that this could cause my dismissal. I was suspended on pay and escorted from the premises of the bookstore I had worked in for eleven years.

Because of the holidays the disciplinary hearing was not held until yesterday, Wednesday 5th. I could not really talk about it here while the process was ongoing – I am now free to discuss what happened for the brutally simple reason that Waterstone’s dismissed me from my job yesterday. They took great exception to my mentioning of work on my blog. They said I had violated the rules and brought the company into disrepute. I think by their actions they have brought the UK’s biggest book chain into disrepute.

Anyone who has been a regular reader of the Gazette will know that I do occasionally mention my work life, although it accounts for a fraction of my written output. Like many folk I am not always happy at work (I have good days too, I don’t go in miserable all the time as I’m sure former colleagues would attest if they could) and me being me when I mention bad days or annoying occurrences I do so in my own satirical, sarcastic, comedic style. I often put many things into a basic narrative form, add characters etc. So I would coin terms such as ‘Bastardstone’s’ and have a character called ‘Evil Boss’ (my equivalent to Dilbert’s Pointy Haired Boss – in fact I compared head office directives to being in a Dilbert cartoon). I once referred to a chum and former colleague, Olly, when he found a full time IT job after his graduation as being a successful member of the Escape Committee at work. This was brought up at my hearing yesterday. My protest that this was (to me a bloody obvious) spoof on the Great Escape didn’t seem to cut any ice. This will give you an idea of what I faced.

I pointed out that I had not set out to deliberately ruin the company’s image. In fact I don’t think I have even inadvertently; if I had wished to do that then I would have been running less satirical and far more biting comments on a rather more regular basis, rather than commenting from time to time about a bad day at work, a grumpy manager or the like. You’d think I had run a sustained propaganda campaign of subversion.

I pointed out that I did not let my annoyances get in the way of performing my duties at work (indeed no complaint was made about my work) and that, like many bloggers it was therapeutic to vent steam outside of work. I pointed out that I posted these comments in my OWN time, writing in my OWN home for my OWN blog. It’s not linked to any official Waterstone’s site and does not reflect their opinion but mine. The site clearly says (twice) on the header that it is SATIRICAL and that it is my ‘mumblings and rants’. I expressed my own OPINION in my own time, something I am legally entitled do (the European Convention on Human Rights, part of Scots Law since the devolved parliament was brought in expressly guarantees this right). I told them I felt they were violating my civil rights. I told them I have informed my MSP because of this.

Long before full universal suffrage in this country we still had stinging satire (recall those Punch cartoons among many others) – it is an accepted part of our culture and one of the ways individuals have to remind large organisations, be they companies or governments that we too have a voice and a right to use it. People have used satire, sarcasm and humour to make points for centuries. Today that freedom is enshrined in law.

I pointed out that I had over my eleven years promoted Waterstone’s in many ways, sometimes on my own time. I have organised and hosted more author events with more writers for the enjoyment of more book-buyers than I can recall. I have written for the guide books which Waterstone’s had printed on various genres. I have appeared in print media and broadcast, talking on the BBC in my own time about literature, introduced as an expert bookseller from Waterstone’s in Edinburgh. That’s publicity you can’t buy. I had contributed to the Edinburgh International Book Festival when Waterstone’s still sponsored them. I told them that there were numerous authors who would tell them that I had been an excellent ambassador for the company. I even defended them when the company was attacked in the Scottish press for not supporting independent Scots publishers (oh the irony). None of this seemed to matter to Waterstone’s yesterday.

I asked why, if the company did not like me commenting about work on my blog they did not simply have the branch manager have a quiet word with me? Should that not have been the proper way to deal with this? I told the hearing that if this had been done I probably would have refrained to keep the peace. My union rep also brought up this point. We did not get a proper answer to this question. We asked how the blog (which is not exactly high profile) came to their attention and who lodged the complaint. They didn’t know. Enquiries were made during and adjournment. We asked again afterwards. We were told that they were not at liberty to tell us this. So I do not know who my accuser is, which seems rather unfair to me.

I pointed out once more that I was outraged that a company seemed to think it had the right to tell an employee what opinions they could articulate in their own time. I asked if I repeated some of the articles they found offensive in the blog to a friend in the pub would that not also be defaming the company by the logic they were employing here? I was not answered. I pointed out that this was like the Thought Police and invasive of my rights. I was told that if I discussed anything to do with work then I was representing the company and must conform to their rules. Obviously I dispute this strongly – this is like saying we have a new feudal system where companies are the lords and employees are mere serfs who they own. How can I possibly be considered to be representing the company on my own site in my own time? In fact do not most companies around the world have riders attached to their email saying explicitly that any comments within are not necessarily those of the company? So why do they assume I am talking for the company on my own site in my own time? That makes no sense to me.

I am not a serf; I am not an indentured servant. I am a free man with the right of freedom of expression. The company does not own me, body and soul – conforming to their rules at work is to be expected, but in your own time and space? How can anyone be expected to go through their personal life in fear of saying the wrong thing? No-one should.

This has left me dreadfully upset. That a company I have given so many years to could treat me in such a brutal manner is despicable. That a book company thinks so little of the primacy of freedom of expression is alarming. I pointed out that Waterstone’s has stated publicly several times in the past that as a bookseller they believe in the freedom of expression and not in censorship. In fact a campaign was mounted a few years back which had banners along the lines of ‘what did Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot have in common? They feared the power of the written word. Celebrate Freedom of expression with us.’ Some folks may recall it. I asked if this was actually meant or was it simply cynical marketing? I was not answered.

I have never been fired in my life until now. I have never even been unemployed – I worked my way through college (that’s when I began at Waterstone’s). Now I find myself having to urgently try and find work at short notice, I find myself worried about my financial security, my bills, my mortgage and how to get another job after eleven years of service and where that will be and when. I find myself having to consult with my union over what appeal or action we can now take against this company for their despicable, dishonourable actions.

Fortunately my family, my friends, fellow bloggers, fellow reviewers and writers have been offering me sympathy, advice and support. Times like this, they say, are where you find out who your friends are. Well, I have found out I have a lot of immensely good friends and they have lifted my spirits remarkably. I’m not alone.

And other bloggers and readers, new to this site, you too should pay some attention here because I’m not alone and these shameful actions affect more than just me. These actions have implications for everyone who blogs and works, which, let’s face it, would be thousands of us. If my rights to the freedom of expression can be ignored in this manner then so can the rights of any worker’s. You also have to ask yourself who is listening to you? Who is reading what you write and passing judgement? Is it acceptable for companies to be monitoring what their employees do in their own time? To act as if your employment contract controls every aspect of your personal life outside of work?

The free expression of opinions and thoughts is the most primal of our democratic rights. Our entire culture is based around it. The book trade could not exist without it. The internet would not exist without it. Blogs would not exist without it. Once upon a time a man was executed for translating the Bible into English – considered a dreadful heresy and, more importantly, a threat to the power and control of the authorities of the time. Eras change, but the notion of powerful groups trying to subvert the ability of others to communicate remains constant. That’s why we have laws and rights.

Freedom of speech, freedom of expression. These are not idle words. They are not some dusty old phrases liberals like to mention from time to time. They are as vital to our free, democratic way of life as water and air.

The word is already spreading beyond my family and friends. A lot of people are thinking about this and asking themselves if this is a company they want to deal with. That is not for me to say; it is for them to decide - but you should certainly be made aware of their actions when deciding.

Other friends and bloggers have already spoken out on this and I wish to thank them very, very much for their kind words and generous support. Friends closer to home have dragged me out for food and drink and movies to cheer me up. There’s nothing in this life like knowing you have people who care for you and will always help you. It’s humbling, it’s inspiring – it sustains you when all else seems dark and I thank you all so very much.

There are more than I can properly thank here, but here are some of their writings on the subject already expressed: Ariel; Matthew; Lili; Nil Desperandum. Many more have emailed me. I really can't express my gratitude enough to you.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Could you put your contract online pleae. I agree with you totally, on the condition that your contract has nothing on defamation or representation. If it does, then the company have every right to sack you. Signing a contract in the first place is agreeing to their terms and if you didnt like them they could have been negotiated or you could have found a job in a different bookseller. By signing you are agreeing to any of their 'laws' that are laid down in the contract. I'm sure you wouldnt argue if you were dismissed for a breach of confidentiality against contract clauses

12:37 AM  
Blogger John said...

Just for your information:

This issue is being discussed in the LiveJournal 'edinburgers' community, here: am user 'wibbble' on LiveJournal.)

I won't comment more here, just thought that you might like to see some other discussion of what happened to you.

2:48 AM  
Blogger adrock2xander said...

As the Japanese would say...

"So-des-neh!" (translator: Oh i see!)

I understand now Joe...

The repurcussions of your deeds seem to be more severe than mine...then again i wouldnt know...who knows the police would be waitin for me the day i fly off to Melbourne?


3:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've posted links to this story and Ariel's commentary on it to

My ex partner has been a book seller for a number of years and I am dismayed at the whole industry's poor treatment of staff.

Alex McLintock

10:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does your Union rep not recommend taking this to tribunal?
This cannot be right.
Have you seen this

Morrisons will be sacking half of the workforce!

6:32 PM  
Blogger Olly said...

I'm just baffled and amazed at the stupidity of Waterstones and its management at times. This seems the biggest over-reaction and quite possibly the totally wrong thing to do.

Manager thought process:

1. Hrm, employee not always happy at work. He vents onto the internet VERY INFREQUENTLY.

tick, tick, tick

2. I know! Lets sack him!

I really hope you fight this tooth and nail Joe, not to get your job back but just to show what a mindless, bunch of narrow-minded morons they really are. You have mu support and thoughts.

Fight the power!

11:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is quite shocking. I am amazed that Waterstone's have behaved in such a fashion. I will certainly advise that our organisation take our purchasing elsewhere. Good fortune to you, Lestat!

A major healthcare organisation.

7:26 PM  
Blogger said...

Is that Waterstone's in Princess Street? I go there on Saturdays, browse through the books, read the paper with cup of coffee upstairs... But after reading your story, I'll probably find a better place - one that treats its employees with more respect than Waterstone's.

Good luck to you!

12:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about all this. I used to work for Barnes and Noble in the U.S. and it was a constant source of blog fodder. I guess I was lucky. Hang in there!


12:55 AM  
Blogger envy said...

best of luck to you.

hopefully this will turn into one of those incidents where later one thinks "that was the best thing that ever happened to me". obviously waterstone operates from fear - fear others will find the company is not so magnanamous as they believe. you, on the other hand, sound like you operate out of love of literature. in my life experience, love triumphs over fear every time.

warm regards

1:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel your pain. I got fired from Made For Idiots for... well... refering to them using that name on a website of mine. Instant dismissal for 'Gross Misconduct'. I'd been desperately unhappy there for a few years. I was glad to be rid of them. Thankfully, I went on to find a much better job, paying a heck of a lot more.
One door slams shut in your face... another opens.

3:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These days, it is best to keep your offline identity a secret. I've heard that HR people are now Googling people to see what they have posted online before hiring or moving forward with them. Another example - if you don't hide your real identity and you have any intention to run for a political office in the future, don't be surprised when something you said in a huff or that was meant to be taken humorously, is twisted against you.

Sad state of the world, but that's the way it is. Better safe (and anonymous) than sorry down the line...

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi. You have hit big time - cory @ boingboing has just featured you IMO/from what I have read, if Waterstone's do not have an internal employee policy on information disclosure and/or blogging then they don't have a leg to stand on. Make sure you contest this - the days of closed companies are over, and those that try to cling onto the past are dead.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was pointed towards your blog by BoingBoing. Is there anything specific that we** can do to help? A swarm of emails pointing out the irony/hypocracy in Waterstones' behaviour ... ?

** by 'we' i guess i mean the loose gaggle of peoples who enjoy weblogs, value greatly our freedoms to express/dissent, seek to recognise and reverse injustices and blah blah blah.....

best wishes, peter.
Perth, Western Australia

10:12 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

I agree with the above poster.Some kind of campaign or something 'we the people' can do would be cool.
To be able to show Waterstones how stupid and wrong they were in making this decision.
I work in retail too and often post about bad days at work,bad choices made by the staff.
You have my support.

10:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

IMHO Waterstones have harmed their business much more by sacking you than you ever did by the comments in your blog.

11:13 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second those posters that say this is the push that the universe has been trying to give you for a while; the tunnel you find yourself in is scary, and I appreciate that the emotions of anger, betrayal and injustice are very real, as well as the fear and insecurity of income. But trust where this is taking you. The light at the end of the tunnel isn't a train, I promise.

I've been there, and was lucky enough to have insight into myself that these were the nudgings and shovings to put me on a path of my own making. Strap on to the roller coaster, it's gonna be scary, but FUN.

For sure you're getting loads of unsolicited advice, so excuse this piece: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has written loads about this, around the topic of "flow", so it might be helpful to borrow his lens for a while.

And channel your energy into creating a positive future for yourself, rather than channeling it against your ex-employer; karma will run over their dogma soon enough :)

simon in cape town

1:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Feed their words back to them. Make a sign:
‘What did Waterstone, Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot have in common?' and spend an afternoon with it in front of every store you can find. You'll get press coverage and maybe embarass your former employer enough to hire you back.

Bill from the other side of the pond.

2:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"IMHO Waterstones have harmed their business much more by sacking you than you ever did by the comments in your blog."

I agree.

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Badmouthing your employers on your own web site is the same as writing a letter to your boss telling him you think the company you work for is shit. You might moan to your peers in the pub about what happened with your boss that day but you wouldn't do it to his face. No sane person would do that yet you seem to think that what you did was different because it was on a publicly viewable blog! I hate to bring you back to reality but what you did was frankly daft. Learn from your mistake rather than trying to justify it.

2:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about slipping a note with a link to this posting into every copy of every book about blogging that Waterstones sells?

Just a thought...

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very saddened to hear what happened, and also very shocked that a huge, respected company would be so stupid in dealing with a few personal comments. It is saddening to see such a brutal and unnesserary kneejerk reaction; like you said, if they were -really- concerned with you expressing your thoughts, they could have had the branch manager have a talk with you. Instead, they have done themselves more damage than if you had spent 11 years deliberately slamming the company. I hope that things work out well for you.

4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe: Check out This gal was fired from her job for the very same reason: comments made on her own personal website. It must be because blogs are powerful.

5:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absurd over-reaction. You don't sack people for that(and certainly not long-term employees) - you have a quiet word in their ear. Sorry for your troubles.

Be of good cheer Master Ridley

Good luck and bad cess to them.

6:55 PM  
Blogger Robert D. said...

I worked for four and a half years as a bookseller at Barnes & Noble (probably the US equivalent of Waterstone's) and was repeatedly chastised for what I had written in my blog ( It took a great deal of effort on my part--as well as having a manager who understood freedom of expression--to keep me out of trouble. Barnes & Noble, incidentally, does not have a union; if you get called on the carpet, it's All of Them vs. You.

I was always the rogue spirit at the store, but I was also one of the best workers. I was consistently their first- or second-best seller of their customer discount card (where for $25, you get 10% off your purchases for a year). However, when the old manager left and they went through one manager in less than a year, they promoted one of the assistant managers to the position.

Suddenly, she totally changed.

B&N has a three-write-ups-and-you're-fired policy (which I think is silly, given that there's no statute of limitations on write-ups). Before this third manager, I had one write-up: I had overslept one day by two hours. Not intentional, but certainly worthy of a write-up. However, this new manager wrote me up because I carried a Swiss Army knife (which I've had since I was a Boy Scout), calling it "a weapon". Bah! Very well; I stopped carrying it. She harped on me every chance she got, perhaps singling me out because I didn't follow the Company's idea of an employee, grateful and subservient and without any opinions except those that the Company allowed.

Ultimately, I was fired. Whilst helping *three people at once*, a lady came up to me and asked agitatedly, "Can someone help me?" To which I responded jocularly, "Oh no, we don't help people any more, ma'am; it's not cost effective!" Everyone laughed. Then I said, "Just kidding, ma'am! Let me call someone." I picked up the phone and paged help up front. The manager thought this was a major problem and claimed a complaint had been lodged. However, I'm 90% sure the lady laughed with the others, so I think the manager was looking for a reason to fire me.

Don't worry about losing your job there. What I realized after losing mine was that places like Barnes & Noble and Waterstone don't appreciate their employees at all; to them, you're just an animal with a name-badge on.

Go get a job with their competitor, or better yet, start your own bookstore. If you need an extra employee, track me down via my current weblog ( and maybe I'll move to the UK and help you.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Subject: Your (former) employee Joe @ Woolamaoo Gazette

I've been very saddened to hear about your sacking of a dedicated employee over humorous & satirical comments he posted in his personal weblog regarding Waterstones. I prefer to shop at companies that have a sense of humor (and humanity) and as such will no longer be shopping at Waterstones.

Very disappointing.


7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The following was posted on Brad DeLong's site:It almost makes one wish there were laws governing employment in the United States.

Well, there are some. They just do not work as a rule, and when people try to get them to do so often end up with the former employee now the current unemployable.

If people aren't free to criticize an employer off the job, Dennis, hasn't the employer in effect pre-empted their right to speak?

Where does it stop? Does having a Kerry bumpersticker amount to a firing offense? It did in one case we know of. Did you know that some companies refuse to employ people who aren't fundamentalists? Losing one's enthusiasm for Christianity can be a firing offense.

The Unites States' employment policy is completely insane.

Charles Utwater II

The Guardian had a good article Sunday about the erosion of employment security at the bottom end of the scale in the UK. That's how it started in the US, with agricultural and domestic employees denied basic rights; some states also had anti-union rules. The erosion was slow but one-directional. Beware, and defend the poorer before you become them.

8:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd be surprised if a company of Waterstone's size didn't have an internal appeal procedure, which you don't mention- you should use it if it does. Assuming though that it doesn't so that the dismissal decision is final, you have statutory rights. See the ACAS advice at and the DTI advice at for an introduction. Thus you have the right to a written statement of the reasons for your dismissal and also, of course, to complain of unfair dismissal. You need legal or similar specialist advice. As you are in Edinburgh you have a good choice of specialist solicitors, or the CAB which has access to the Faculty of Advocates Free Representation Unit, although as you are a union member that is probably your best starting point- ask them if they offer free representation, most will.

Bear in mind that if the remedy you are seeking from the Employment Tribunal is reinstatement, you may be prejudicing your chances of this if you run a press/online campaign as it may be said that this would make reinstatement impractical, restricting you to financial claims. Suggestions like the "swarm of emails" are very dangerous! Take legal advice before you go that way.

Like your blog- but please, grey/green on grey/green isn't easy for all of us to read!

Good luck and best wishes.

8:16 PM  
Blogger Firebear said...

Wow, I always knew this was possible. I wish you the best of luck and if you don't mind am posting a link from my blog.

8:22 PM  
Blogger Ella said...

I'm really sorry that this has happened to you and I hope you find something good out of it eventually. As an avid reader I have spent good money at Waterstone's in the past. You can be sure I won't anymore.

10:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

to R.D. above - I'm not sure what you mean by Barnes and Noble 'doesn't have a union'. Unions are organisations of employees, not employers. I'm sure there's one (or several) unions that would cover the book trade, which you could have joined. Or do you mean that B&N have some kind of company policy, or contract stipulation, against union membership? In that case, I'd refuse to work for them - union membership ought to be a basic right of employment (and one you should certainly exercise in any job).

11:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

For the record, you'll probably getting even more visitors on here now that Neil Gaiman has linked to this on his blog.

The whole situation is ridiculous. I don't want to be the one who flies off the handle and starts screaming about 1984, but I can't help thinking- why is it ANY of their business what you do in your own time?

Anyway. My condolences; I've always thought that Waterstones were a pretty good book chain, and I've definitely liked the Edinburgh ones when I've visited them. Which makes it even more bizarre that this could have happened to you.

11:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

FYI, this post is now also listed in Neil Gaiman's journal:

You could post the address of the store and/or Waterstone's HQ so sympathizers can send in their support for your case.

Best of luck.

Toronto, Canada

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hiya. Your story's spreading - I found you via Neil Gaiman's blog...

I doubt Waterstones are in the right over this, but I also doubt they'll back down without making life even worse for you. FWIW, I'll make sure I ask for you by name whenever I'm in an Edinburgh branch; if it's yours, it'll make 'em kick themselves. If not, I lose nothing :)

Best of luck,
Jenny (puddingcat on LJ)

11:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reall sorry to hear that Waterstone's have treated you so unfairly. I hope a rival book company sees this and realises what an asset you would be to them and hires you on the spot! also as others have mentioned Neil Gaiman said lovely things about you in his blog! Silver Lining? Hope everything works out okay for you, :)

11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was pointed this way from Neil Gaiman's journal. I am terribly sorry for you losing your job for something you did on your own free time. One would think that if everything we did off the clock reflected back on the company one would be paid for our time, wouldn't you?

I'm not from the UK, but I certainly won't be buying any books from them if I get the chance.

11:54 PM  
Blogger Khieri said...

This state of affairs is ludicrous, to say the least. Neil Gaiman's blog pointed me this way, and what you write makes my jaw drop. I don't understand how any company could treat their employess that way. You have my deepest sympathies (for what they're worth). You also have my assurance, for what it's worth, that I will never buy anything at Waterstone's ever again.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Mae said...

I'm appalled at the way Waterstones has treated you, and will now be doing my book purchasing elsewhere! Best wishes, and I hope your dark days brighten soon.

12:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How ridiculous. I wonder if they considered how much worse a story like this spreading on the net would be for their reputation - world-wide, I might add - than a few funny comments in a blog?

Good luck to you.


12:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You've made the big time, as I was directed here by Neil Gaiman.

Good luck to you!

12:59 AM  
Blogger Thomás Levy said...

I writing from Brasil.
Well, one thing is certain... if they though you were destroying the comapy's name, than they should have thought about what fiering a good employee would do to them. I never heard Of them down here in south america, and the first thing i know about them is that they feel entitled to monitor those who work for them outside the work-time. Despite what the contract may say, I'm am sure they know "1984". I know that next time i go there i won't think twice: I'm not one to be their customer.

1:22 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So, looks like a bunch of folks are writing to/ no longer reading books from a big ol' book company.


By the way, don't go and work for them again. You are a smart guy and obviously have a lot of repect. They, on the other hand, don't know a good thing when it's sitting in their lap.

(sherbetsaucers on LJ)

1:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I suppose that's "business." But that doesn't make it any less outrageous or disheartening.

For what it's worth, if you wanted to tackle this the "American" way, you should take your story to the media. (From reading some of the previous comments, it seems like that may happen regardless.) If Waterstone were worried about being brought into disrepute, just wait until the media gets a hold of it.

In any case, I truly wish you the best. And I will be keeping any eye on your blog.

Nolan in Michigan
(also a bookstore employee)

2:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey get the union movement involved in your campaign for freedom of thought.

This is a classic struggle for working people to maintain their independence and integrity.

In our own time we do what we want - not what the boss wants.

A good organised unionised workplace would ne'er allow this to happen - again.

2:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, that seems to be the way of things when working for large corporations. Walmart is one of the worst for it. My fiance works there, in the pharmacy, and has been called on the carpet twice for expressing a need for more help. (They lost a pharmacist more than six months ago and haven't yet replaced him, despite the fact that the volume of prescriptions is far too much for two pharmacists to handle alone.) In both cases, he was complaining or agreeing with the complaints of his fellow staff, not in front of customers.

I, myself, have worked at Barnes and Noble, and noticed much the same thing. Any attempt at individuality or expression is immediately stifled.

4:29 AM  
Blogger Miss Bliss said...

Well I too came over here from Neil Gaimans site. It sounded like YOU were just about the only reason he did any readings or signings at that store. I would imagine that Neil is a pretty big draw. I guess they won't have to be bothered with all those people in their store wanting to buy books from them so much. So sorry to hear about this, it's an ongoing problem here in the States too. Large companies completely missing the point and simply making their problems worse by being so heavy handed about it all. I wish you the best because you sound like the exact sort of person I HOPE to find in a bookstore.

5:05 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll be boycotting Waterstone's in Edinburgh from now on. No real reason to shop there. I can always sit in the Starbucks and read.

~evil grin~

No, honestly, this is a tragedy.

perceval on LJ

5:45 AM  
Blogger Chenanceou said...

Another one of Mr. Gaiman's blog readers.
I know you're not alone - other people have been fired for their blogs, Dooce is one Then you have the story of a fellow LJ user who had the secret service knocking on her door (USA) because one of the readers of her obviously sarcastic post, decided she seriously wanted to kill the President. No, I'm not making it up.

Your case is even more on the twisted. You worked at a bookstore. I used to have this idiotic romantic notion that it would be an enviroment that would nurture and not squash creative output.

I hope things work out for you - could be the best thing that ever happened to you. I'll keep my fingers crossed.

5:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

woah, that is outrageous. I really hope you are getting a job with a company that can stand employees writing about them in their blogs. What a bunch of... *censored*

I agree with others, take it to the press. This is too strange and weird not to.

It must do you good that you have such a great writer as Neil Gaiman supporting you. I hope thanks to his blog post more writers stand up for you.

7:41 AM  
Blogger Giacomo said...

Another Gaiman reader here (link to his post). What's happening to you is, unfortunately, a common issue in today's BigCo-ruled world. You should call your union and sue them, UK is still Europe after all (don't laugh, it's true, in the "US way of life" you wouldn't stand a chance), and you might end up with a decent sum, judges are (strangely) quite leftist these days. We don't have to accept this sorry state of things, in Europe there are rules and laws, and every time we choose not to use them, they end up being forgotten a little bit more.

8:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, that's harsh. Waterstones ought to be ashamed of themselves. I, for one, will no longer darken one of their shops. (Got here via Neil Gaiman's blog.)


8:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got here via Gaiman also, although I've read your blog in the past. Being Edinburgh-based myself, I'll be popping along to the store sometime over the next few days and asking to have a quiet word with the manager, just to point out that reading your blog has actually encouraged me to shop @WS in the past. I agree with some of the previous posters, though - don't got back to work for these idiots. Just sue 'em, and get another job. Hang in there, it'll happen.

9:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Like so many others i was sent here via Neil. I think what happened to you is truly horrible. I am a nurse in the states and have found on several occasions that what you do in your private life is often "reflective of the company" I worked at one clinic that did not like the staff to gather at a bar after work wearing our scrubs, for fear some patient would think we were all raging alcholics.

Medicine is a cynical sarcastic group of people....well except its managers. Dont feel bad, I was once fired being "sarcastic". I tried to explain that I just wasnt a slapstick kind of girl. Leaving there was the best thing that ever happened to me. I found while I missed my coworkers, I did not miss the "management" of BIG BROTHERS. It is amazing sometimes how stress can build silently over time.

I have a better job now that dosent impose silly rules and fully understands the healing power of sarcasm.

I wish you the best, and I must admit, I wish Waterstones was attached to a US bookseller that i could Ban. There is a reason the FIRST admendment is FIRST.

With prayers,

9:27 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got here via neil gaimans blog. Just posting to say that you have my sympathies, I can't see how this is anything other that a violation of your human rights to free expression. I suggest that you talk to a solicitor of scottish law (VASTLY cheeper than English law handily) about a possible case for unfair dismissal, I know naf all about scottish law sadly but it can't hurt. I'd also suggest that you go to a paper with the story, It's solid human interest, as the webs reaction has shown (go to the solicitor first though).

Matt (lowkeyknight on lj)

9:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also here via Neil Gaiman.

Sorry to hear that you've been treated in this underhand, shoddy way. I'm Glasgow based, but have often been through to Edinburgh for signings in Waterstones. I won't be making the trip again and I'll be boycotting Waterstones in Glasgow as well.

I agree with the commenters who suggest that you seek legal advice before you seek any other form of action (involving the press, etc). Your union should be able to point you in the right direction and quite possibly have a fund for this kind of thing. Best of luck to you - I'll be following your story.

Hopefully your story will have a happier outcome than a lot of the US-based bloggers who've been dooced, our employment rights (mostly thanks to Europe) are better protected in the UK.


9:35 AM  
Blogger 1031 said...

I won't bother mentioning that I'm here via Neil's website.

That's truly horrid, what this company did to you. Though, to be honest, I'm kind of surprised it didn't happen to someone in America first, given the state of my country.

But I digress.

All the best in the world, mate. Sounds like you've got a helluva support system around you, not to mention the good wishes from many, many people whom you've never met. What more could one ask for?

Er...other than a new job, that is.

I'm pretty sure that with your level of experience, you'll have something new lined up in no time.

Take care.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

another random message of support from another person who found out about this by reading the livejournal RSS feed of mr. gaiman's blog.

it's pretty much all been said, so i'll just quote those cards that amnesty international likes to have people sign, then mails oodles of to political prisoners:

we know you are there. do not give up hope.

d_e_l_i_r_i_u_m of livejournal

9:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to work at Wateryshite's head office and I can confirm that they are a paranoid time serving bunch of servile obsequious non literary arse lickers with no more interested in running a chain of book stores than they have in protecting liberty and free speech.

10:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

F R E E T H E W A T E R S T O N E ' S O N E ! ! !

10:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comment posted at 8.12pm last night is the way to go if you want to get your job back.

Your union should back you if you are in the right. Don't go over the top right now. Be reasonable - although sadly the fact you've written about this in your blog may have - ironically - compounded the problem. Sorry............

Good luck.

10:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i got here from Neil Gaiman's site too.
i too will boycott them.
it seems to be adding up.

10:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have my sympathy and support. I too will be avoiding Waterstones like the plague. More visits to Transreal in the Grassmarket, I feel.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have emailed my local store to inform them of my decision to boycott and the reasons for it. As a former bookshop employee (I got out to get a properly paid job) I know the amount of work which goes into it and as a result doubt you will have much trouble finding work elsewhere.

Good luck

11:29 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

good luck, Waterstones seem totally out of order to me. Take your ten + years of experience elsewhere, sure you'll be able to get another job soon.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

have emailed this link to, they have said they will be covering the story shortly.

I got here origonally via a friends livejournal btw

12:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again, I came here via Neil's Journal.

I for one will be boycotting Waterstones from now on. As the manager of a bookshop if a member of staff wanted to take the Michael online, I would not mind provided I had the right to reply.

Best wishes,

Gordon Munden.
Some scientists claim that hydrogen, because it is so plentiful, is the basic building block of the universe. I dispute that. I say there is more stupidity than hydrogen, and that is the basic building block of the universe.
- Frank Zappa

12:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another Gaimanite here (we are legion, as I'm sure you well know). Just wanted to say best of luck in either suing Waterstone's pants off or getting a new, better job with a new, better employer. I will be travelling to the UK later this year, and while it may not be much, I won't be satiating my book-habit with your fomer employer, either. Take care! ~Nikki (

12:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another who is linking through Neil. I'm shocked and disgusted. I will be boycotting Waterstones. I hope you get to go to a tribunal (most of which get settled out of court by the way). - Viv.

1:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to let you know your story has made it to the BBC's website, it's on h2g2. It really sucks whats happened and you have my full sympathy. I'm just hoping my workplace never reads anything I post on the internet about them
All the best

1:26 PM  
Blogger mickeyporkpies said...

I was disgusted to hear the news about the over-reaction of Waterstones. I can only offer my support in your appeal and vote with my wallet and cease to purchase from Waterstones Shops. There seems to be little room for "people" in our new corporate world.

1:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Absolutely pathetic behaviour by Waterstones. Sadly I thought that Waterstones was one of the better chains (certainly a lot better than WH Smith), who were passionate about books and the exchange of intellect, evidently some of the managers are just in the business to make money, and treat those who really are customer-facing (i.e. you), like a sack of dreck.

Shameful, shameful. I don't know if I'll provide Waterstones with my hard-earned dosh anymore.

1:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another who followed the link in Neil Gaiman's blog. I am absolutely stunned at the behaviour of Waterstones.

To those few commenters who basically said 'you should know better than to badmouth your employer' - I doubt that the blog entries in question amounted to anything particularly vile, if he's put in eleven years of dedicated work & service to the company and most importantly to the bookbuying public. Letting off steam for little frustrations is not a sackable matter!

Waterstones have totally shot themselves in the foot. Once the wider media gets on to this, it will have an impact - a sizeable majority of customers must care about freedom of expression. I can't physically boycott them because I work in an indie bookshop and so haven't purchased anything in Waterstones for many years - but I will nevertheless be writing to them as a former customer to express concern.

Good luck with your appeal & taking them down for unfair dismissal.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a thunderous load of horse crap. The notion that you deserve to be fired for spoofing your company in your blog. Good luck to you, and I hope you land on your feet. It sounds like you've got a lot of folks on your side.

Steve Vernon
Nova Scotia
(outspoken at the best of times)

2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One final comment, before I adjourn to my own side of the ocean. If folks are truly pissed off over Waterstone's outrageous behaviour, they ought to show their disapproval with some sort of mass demonstration. Boycots are fine, but are hard to notice. I recommend that you folks organize a mass demonstration. Show up one morning enmasse, each protestor armed with a small hardcover diary, in which they have previously written their thoughts on the matter, or perhaps they can take some time as part of the demonstration to write some more thoughts on the case. The media would definitely have to be invited and you'd want to make sure you timed it to occur on a morning the authority figure in question was on the premises. Dump the books at his feet, voice your protest, pass out informative flyers to unknowing customers, show those rotten dogs what freedom of speech really sounds like, and leave them wishing for the days of whispering blogs, and snide comments.

That's my two bits.


Yours in horror,

Steve Vernon

2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read an article about your situation on The Register today and was compelled to read on.

I have forwarded your story on to BBC News in the hope that they can add further publicity to your plight.

Good luck!

2:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a shame that these things happen. With your experience, you should be able to create your own employment soon.

It seems that you meant no harm and there was a misunderstanding somewhere.

However, we are not all Ghandi and civil rights does not extend to saying anything you want whenever you want. Freedom of expression also requires we keep an eye on responsibility.

Too often many people today feel that free expression is whatever they say of feel at the moment without consequence. (I'm not saying you feel this way -- you obviously have a conscience.)

Ironically, many of the free expression people are the ones banning thought via hate crime legislation, etc. Free expression to many is a tirade of feelings without the consequence. It doesn't work that way. A company owns their image, etc. and they do have a right to what they expect.

I went through a similar thing and had it with companies so I created my own businesses so I could say what I want -- do what I want. Of course, I am also now having to watch the image of my own and my clients. So there is always responsibility with free speech and not "anything goes."

Be careful with and responsible and you will find it works out.

Good luck to you!

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think you should find a publisher and write a book... THAT would be the ultimate irony when they have to stock it!

2:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Piss poor management skills, and the work of cowards. I do hope you find something where they value integrity and honesty. Good luck in the job hunt.

Needless to say, I'm taking my business elsewhere.

Paula x

3:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to be a book dept manager (for John Menzies) and although I've been in IT for the past 10 years, I often miss it. Working in a literary environment can be a lot of fun.

I remember when Waterstones was an independent book store, now it seems to be run by 'suits'. I have to echo the suggestions already made: Get compensation; get another job. I wouldn't crawl back to a company that sacks staff without any warning. Especially a company that claims to be in favour of freedom of speech and expression.

That said, there is a cautionary tale here: be careful what you say online. Big Brother is watching. And you may well have been a little too free 'n' easy with the written word when it is your employer you are taking the pish out of. :-(

I for one won't be buying from Waterstones again. (I'm anal like that.)

All the best for the future. I'll be keeping an eye on your blog ...

3:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just heard about this from Willie Meikle on alt.books.ghost-fiction - I've been a regular browser in the Princes street Waterson's since it opened, and I'll certainly be taking my business elsewhere unless and until this situation is rectified.

As should be becoming painfully obvious to Watersons by now, sacking you without a warning has brought their business a worse rep with more people than your blog ever could have.

Doug, Edinburgh

4:09 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Like many people who have left comments here i have come from the Neil Gaiman site, which is slightly ironic because i bought my first Sandman graphic novel (signed by the way) from the Edinburgh Waterston’s. Buying that book probably got me into Neil Gaiman's writing so i felt it only proper to leave a comment here as you where probably the person who set up the signing. I'm glad that writers like Neil are putting a spotlight on this situation, because with out the writer's where would Waterston’s be?

I am a frequent visitor to Waterston’s and if i'm in a city that has one i pay them a visit, and more often than not spend a small fortune while i'm there. Every Waterston’s i've been to have some of the friendliest and knowledgeable staff i've known for a big name chain store and to think that they treat them (their biggest asset) this way is sickening. They have just lost a customer.

I hope everything sorts itself out for you soon and good luck with finding a new job.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The following email sent to the CEO of the HMV Group Plc. :

Dear Sir/Madam,

This is to let you know that as a long time customer of Waterstones, I shall be making every effort in the future to buy my books elsewhere. My reason for withdrawing my custom is your recent decision to sack your employee Joe Gordon who worked in the Princess Street, Edinburgh branch of Waterstones. I have absolutely no connection with Mr Gordon.

Mr Gordon's only crime seems to have been his maintenance of a 'blog' on the internet in his own time, which was, on occasion, mildly critical of his employers. He seems to have been given no warning of his dismissal.

Booksellers, of all organsiations, should be aware of the importance of the right to free speech. While there is probably no law in this country preventing you form taking this action, neither is there a law preventing your customers from withdrawing their custom. I hope that many will follow my example.



(Full name and address provided)

4:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you do a search in Google for Waterstone's the BoingBoing article about your situation comes second on the list. I love the interweb.

4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear of your troubles with Waterstones, but I hope you're taking heart from the groundswell of support that now exists for you.

Needless to say I won't be shopping with Waterstone's Edinburgh (or anywhere) again and will be emailing them in a mo' to inform them of this.


4:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

—"there can be no doubt that behind all the actions of this court of justice, that is to say in my case, behind my arrest and today's interrogation, there is a great organization at work. An organization which not only employs corrupt warders, oafish Inspectors, and Examining Magistrates of whom the best that can be said is that they recognize their own limitations, but also has at its disposal a judicial hierarchy of high, indeed of the highest rank, with an indispensable and numerous retinue of servants, clerks, police, and other assistants, perhaps even hangmen, I do not shrink from that word. And the significance of this great organization, gentlemen? It consists in this, that innocent persons are accused of guilt, and senseless proceedings are put in motion against them..." Franz Kafka, The Trial

5:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got an actual response from the CEO of HMV Group Plc. (company who owns Waterstones)to my email posted above as follows:

Dear Mr {name withheld)

Thank you for your e-mail to our corporate website.

Unfortunately I cannot comment on this matter at this time as it is confidential between the company and Mr Gordon.

Yours sincerely

Alan Giles

5:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked for WS myself a few years ago. They have had some negative publicity over staff issues before - remember the saga of the Manchester Deansgate manager (Robert Topping)? Might be worth contacting the Guardian, who ran a lot of stories on this back then.

5:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've come from Neil's post. I'm really sorry for what happened to you and would recommend legal advice over your contract's wording. Please keep us posted and until this gets resolved Waterstones are off my bookshop list.

6:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another one who found this through Neil's blog. I'm disgusted with Waterstones. I've been buying books there since I was in school - never again. I've drafted a letter to send to them, though I don't expect any more of a response than the poster above was given.


7:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a fellow W'stoner and I was stunned. I'm going to have to go back through my blog and censor the hell out of it.

People, don't email your complaints. Emails get discounted. Send letters to:

Waterstone's Booksellers Ltd
Capital Court
Capital Interchange Way

This company is a bit old-fashioned. Paper and ink will make a much greater impression than emails, which can simply be deleted, or phone calls, which rarely go to the right person.

And please spell check. Thanks!

Sincerely on your side,

Another 'stoner drone

7:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Just wanted to let you know i work for JobcentrePlus and wanted to give you some advice, first off please don't stick your contract online as that would give them grounds to dismiss you. Unless you signed the official secrets act in your job and your comments do not mention names at work or customers names then they are on very dodgy ground and as long as you have been in the job for a year or longer you can take them to court for unfair dismisal. I would highly recommend you do this as you have a good case

I hope the following article helps you. Good luck.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As many here have pointed out, it really is flabbergasting how blindly most large companies treat situations of this kind. By taking an extreme action to stop a little of what they perceive to be "bad publicity", they cause a great more of the same. One would think a bookselling concern, that deals with words and writers and the power they have, would be familiar enough with blogs to realize that firing you would only make the "situation" far, far worse.

It reminds me of those religious groups that form loud picket lines at the openings of movies they don't like, thus guaranteeing free publicity and massive viewership for those very same films. Does no one have any common sense anymore?

I agree that you ought to look into starting your own bookstore. With all the readership and good contacts you seem to have, though, perhaps an online bookstore would be even better.

Got here via Gaiman's blog, by the way.


7:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, just to tell you that your story got to Belgium also :)
Waterstone did a bad job, if you asked me *grin*

Good luck!

9:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From what I could tell, you were always hiding in the romace novel section, snigerring away your afternoons. More power to you, but some people would be glad to be unemployed so that they could get on the dole and start a rock supergroup. Maybe you could be the new singer for Queen?

10:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm amazed that companies still feel that they can get away with things like this nowadays.

Ring the head office and ask who their data protection officer is.

Contact them and ask how to send them a subject data access request.

You can find out about them from this link

These requests cost a maximum of £10 to cover admin charges but some companies do not charge at all.

Be very explicit in what you ask for in the request, specifically name all the members of the disciplinary board, all your management and colleagues that might possibly have brought your blog to their attention and finish with any other employee or contractor employed by Waterstones PLC.

Request any and all documentation held by them in both electronic and paper records, on network and stand alone computer systems and removable media having anything to do with you and in particular anything relating to your disciplinary procedure.

They have 40 days to supply this information and in theory they should contact you within 20 to inform you of their action.

They will censor certain information IE other peoples names etc if they wish but you will at least have a copy of the document and can see the censoring.

This should at least get you the story behind the scenes and your union rep and or solicitor if it goes to tribunal will then be able to request uncensored copies of the documents and they cannot then deny having them which should aid your case.



10:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Joe if you want free advice re employment contact your local CAB theres one in Dundas St. They will call my friend who is their legal expert in employment matters in their central office.

Email me if you would like to contact her directly creativevoyage AT

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if your December 11th blog might have something to do with Waterstones sudden action. Good luck anyway and Waterstones have now lost my money...


12:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The question I have to ask is does disrepute still exist in this day and age?

DEF: A loss or lack of credit or repute

And repute

DEF: to be as specified or public estimation, reputation

So causing the comapny a loss or lack of reputation.

Personally having a boss who is apparently less than user friendly doesn't make me want to use the company that employs him less so in that respect his comments do not bring any disrepute on that company from me.

However sacking an employee of 11 years for making comments about a person who is unnamed working for a company who's name is never specifically mentioned in my opinion does bring this company into disrepute.

Personally I'm tempted to do all my book shopping there next time I'm in town.

I'm going to go get arm loads of books from all over the store, especially the hard to reach places.

Take them to the till and after they've been rung in simlply call over the manager and inform them that I do not think their company is reputable for sacking a member of staff from their Edinborough branch.

I'll also be asking them to sent the till receipt to the head office to show just how much cash that decision has just cost the company.

Seeing the cash they could have had will affect them far more than any letter of complaint.


12:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whilst I agree that firing for 'gross misconduct' for blogging is not particularly fair, I do think people should perhaps wait until after the union has appealed for 'unfair dismissal' before sending off Disgusted of the Blogsphere emails to all and sundry. If the dismissal was unfair, the union will fight it and win (I have had a friend reinstated after a similar case, complete with compensation).

12:58 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good luck, Joe. We here in America (home of the world's largest-- and often most arrogant-- corporations) are rooting for you. Business often has to be told when to mind their *own* business.

4:00 AM  
Blogger sheridan said...

Someone else mentioned this was on the BBC website - it's also in the Guardian:,12597,1388289,00.html?gusrc=rss
I would hope that you could get a job with any other bookshop in the city, due to the publicity this has all generated. Good luck!

5:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just want to chip in with my support.

That these things happen is ludicrous, but then again one cannot expect logic from corporations. (See Sony vs Fiona Apple!) It's not something that ought to happen, and certainly not in this modern age.

Hoping things work out for you: perhaps some sensible reader of your blog will realise that you're exactly the sort of employee he wants in HIS bookstore and offers you a job :)

PS: I too came via the Neil Gaiman's blog. Hopefully you don't get slashdotted anytime in the near future!

5:32 AM  
Blogger Dr Zen said...

Nothing witty or exciting to add. Just wanted to express support. It's a pity that a good man, who has given so much to his company, has been treated with so little respect. Very sad that this is their view of free expression -- a company that makes its money on the back of it!

6:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Looks like I'll have to go somewhere else to buy my textbooks. Can't trust a company like that.

6:14 AM  
Blogger Peter Wright said...

There's nothing much I can say other than this is utterly despicable and outrageous.

Unlike you, I have been fired from a job before. It's never a nice experience, though your firing sounds quite a bit nastier than mine. It helps when you can be confident that you didn't do anything wrong, and the only reason you were fired is that someone left the clueless numbnut fuckwit morons in charge.

...which certainly seems to be the case here. :-)

I know I found it very satisfying when the directors of the company that fired me (a classic mismanaged dot-bomb) only just managed to weasel their way out of criminal charges - when the company finally collapsed it was found out they hadn't been paying the legally-required employee superannuation contributions - since well before I was hired. So I even ended up as one of their creditors. Heh.

Good luck, I hope things work out well for you. I agree with several of the other commenters that you can only do better somewhere else... that company will (hopefully) have to start laying off staff soon, preferably with the idiots that fired you first on the list.

7:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Read the article on The Register ( and after reading this post, felt that I should express that I support your cause fully, and that I don't think that Waterstones have acted in a constructive or fair manner, especially to someone who has served them for so long...

Needless to say I will be shopping for my books elsewhere from now on, either online at Amazon or at the relatively new Ottakers which I have not even had to look into yet. This is not the sort of company I wish to support.

Keep us posted on any progress.


8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Perhaps the real revenge will come someday soon when Waterstone finds itself in some tempest in a teapot over a book that it has sold. Why should people who know that they are not free to say what they think of their employer make an effort to support a bookstore that is at odds with the state? Freedom of speech, fair trials, decency, mercy, compassion, these are mantras of the tired and the dead. Our time is over, let us have our rest. To this brave new world we shall leave itself, its endless lies, permissions, omissions, commentators with secret commissions, spies on missions. They will have their brains enhanced with wondrous devices that allow them pay-per-memory insight into the world, provided that those brains agree always with their masters; to their endless torment, let us refrain from committing any that we might love.

8:41 AM  
Blogger Kuzzzzer said...

Your story has touched me. Next time you're in London, let me buy you dinner! It's the very least you deserve.


9:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i believe in freedom of speach but i also think your being a little niave in not seeing the contradiction in 'satarising' a company who you CHOSE to work for. it's like people who go on anti-capitalist marches and work for starbucks.... what exactly did you expect them to think of it? i guess you just thought they'd never see it.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI - I am appalled though not surprised. As an ex- Waterstone's employee (Who left through choice 5 years ago) I have long been suspicious about the methods Waterstone's will use to get rid of, or push out, long serving staff who cost the company more in wages (Admittedly not a huge amount!) and who excercise more 'free' styles of bookselling (Those who remember Waterstone's before centralised buying will know what I mean).

In this cas I would say they have no leg to stand on - if they were unable to have a quiet word with you beforehand, gave no other warnings and they have no problem with your work then they cannot expect to win if you take them to a tribunal!

11:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joe.
Just wanted to add another voice of support to the many other ones - I sympathise with you wholeheartedly, it's diabolical the way Waterstones have treated you over this.

Frankly, it's yet another shining example of the [mis]management of staff by 'managers' who have no idea of the *ideal* way to deal with people, preferring instead the 'hammer-and-tongs' approach.

I sometimes wonder if people in a managerial position actually enjoy going completely over the top with issues that, in all honesty, could be dealt with in a much more subdued and maybe 'informal' way (such as the branch manager having a quiet word and politely asking you to remove the offending statement) which would then have a greater chance of achieving the required outcome. Maybe they enjoy the feeling of supremacy they have over you - I don't know. All I know is that they handled this situation so very wrongly.

Waterstones have now shot themselves in the foot over all this; a fact which I hope they realise sooner rather than later and act upon appropriately.

Very best of luck in your hunt for a new job and for the future, I hope you find a company where the staff know how to treat their staff and where you skills and knowledge will be appreciated.


11:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I worked for Watershites for just under a year, and I was there long enough to learn that the image they project to punters is very, very different to the one they promote internally. You seemed to be exactly the sort of committed bookseller that they like to showcase - the sort of bookseller that kept me faithful to Waterstones as a customer (before I worked there). Money can't buy your sort of committment, or experience, or enthusiasm for what they sell. It's a sad indictment on the company that they couldn't recognise this. Unfortunately for them, your blog's now a lot more high-profile, and there's sod-all they can do about it!

Good luck with the future.

Ellie, from Oxfordshire

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

YOU haven't brought their company into disrepute, pal. THEY have.

Fortunately Waterstones in Glasgow is a short walk from a large Ottakars and a similar distance from a huge Borders, so for me the remedy is easy.

I'll be writing to your ex-employers as soon as I find an email address.

Chin up!

1:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some petty, thick Idiotstones middle-manager has made a gross error of judgement over this. The way you've been treated (and its reporting) will give them more negative publicity than your blog ever did.

I read your comments about your employers (in your blog) as general comments on the employer and this did not affect my opinion of them in terms of the service and goods they provide. But because of the way they've treated you, I'll not buy from them again.

1:59 PM  
Blogger Lord Bargain said...


Seldom have I read something that has made me as dumbstruck as this tale of small-minded nonsense. Perhaps Interpol should just obtain the details of every blogger on the Net and have us all sacked. Madness.

I am now going to take back three books I have just bought from Waterstones and go and buy them somewhere else, before never frequenting them again.

Needless to say any (and lots) of right-minded people back you on this. I hope you can take them to the cleaners, for everyones sake.

Lord Bargain

3:23 PM  
Blogger Dave Harris said...


I was a bit staggered when I read about what had happened to you in the Graun.

Good luck with whatever course of action you choose to take.

4:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

stop whining like a little bitch. --kko

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

congratulations your story is featured on bbc ceefax from which i was able to find your site

in scanning for woolamaloo gazette on google i saw "don't buy books from waterstones" (it isn't within the page referenced anymore) Could this be the reason why they've sacked you?

4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more bookseller and Gaimanite here, just writing in to add my support. The way things are now, anyone who bothers to stand up for free private speech is okay by me.

4:56 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

<--Know what that is? Stunned silence!! This is a blatant violation of civil right and I feel so sorry you have been subjected to this Joe. I frequent the Princess St. on a regular basis but needless to say I won't be any more. Just want to add my support to your ever growing list. Best of luck with whatever course of action you take.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to drop a comment and let you know that my friends and I in Toronto, Canada are spreading the word and supporting you, despite the fact that the company in question has no offices here. This awful bookstore now has a reputation literally world-wide for its mistreatment of loyal, hardworking employees.

Keep fighting the good fight!
-Alexis et al, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

5:41 PM  
Blogger Toph said...

Outrageous! On online petition or giving your old boss all these comments to read might be a good start. That and pointing out one of the first words you see when entering the blog - "satirical".


6:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Only posting anonymously because of my position. I am appalled at what happened to you and they sure as hell better reinstate you toute suite. I am already planning a campaign, involving my colleagues and the customers at my place of work, which may or may not be a big bookstore.
Honestly, I've been lead to beleive this is more the kind of thing Borders would do! Who will be next?
We will be watching your experiences WITH GREAT INTEREST.
Good luck, and you can count on us for support.

Someone with a terrific mangager who in no way resembles that guy in the Dilbert cartoons. And she knows it.

6:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

PS- It the folks at Head Office had spy cameras and bugs in our staffroom, they would no doubt be sacking the lot of us on a regular basis. All the time. Every day. And who would sell the precious books?

6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am very pleased with your choice of a Frederick Douglass quote.

6:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

With 23 years of experience in the public sector I have learnt that saying what you think about anything the organization you work for does, unless it conforms to the organization's view of itself(or those people's view above you)is not appreciated and only brings you trouble. I sincerely believe that most people who get to positions of power only want stepford wives working for them. But people/employees have a lot of rights nowadays and yours have definately been infringed.
IF you want your job back I hope you get it.

7:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been a regular customer of Waterstone's since I was about five years old, when my mum would buy me a book to keep me quiet while she went shopping in town. I have always gone there in preference to any other bookshop.

I spent over 200 pounds at Waterstone's in September/October 2004 for my first year of uni. It's not working out, so I'm moving to Edinburgh next year to start again on a different course with (you guessed it) different textbooks. My first instinct would have been to buy them at a Waterstone's, probably the shop that fired you.

Not any more. I am very disappointed in them. They will not have any of my money until this is sorted out.

8:58 PM  
Blogger cormaggio said...

from one Celtic (no, not the football team) ass to another..

Joe, I just can't believe this happened. Not just because of what you've done (which is what exactly?) but also of who you are. You seem like someone who really gives a damn and who has put huge work into Waterstones in the past. Shame on them.
But, practically speaking, I can't see this holding up in court if it were to go that far. As you said, freedom of speech is enshrined in our basic rights, not just something we mention every now and again, and what you do and say in your own time outside work has absolutely nothing to do with what they tell you you should do. So, I'd fight this one (and get another job in the meantime). Surely minor-celebrity status won't disimprove your prospects with some worthwhile employers? ;) Got here via the Guardian, by the way..

9:27 PM  
Blogger jambop said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your firing and Waterstone's rank hypocrisy. It really sucks to find supposedly progressive employers (a bookstore ferchrisakes!) acting like self-righteous prigs.

May you find another gig soon.

Jim Ospenson

9:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not sure what good it will do, but I emailed the bastards to let them know they won't be seeing any more of my business. Stay strong,


11:06 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Just dropped in after reading the article in the times. What a sad calamity has befallen you. I have taken the decision to boycott "that bookstore" for another along princes st.
Appeal all the way, and show them that free speech must prevail.

11:16 PM  
Blogger twinki said...

The story is down under in Austraila- I got here from "dock of the bay' blog.

All this international indignation is fine but if the 'suits' as the have been referred to, are blissfully unaware, then it's all to naught.

Withdrawing custom probably won't be noticed. Even if there's a long term downturn, the other employees will be the ones made redundant as there are cutbacks in a now, 'unprofitable' branch.

The letter above is a great idea. I would love an email address to express my outrage directly. But I suppose there would be a problem posting it on this site as it could be seen as an attack. Get some good legal advice. Since you are a union member, they should be able to help.

But although you are caught up in your righteous indignation please remember the old saying:

"Revenge is a dish best served cold"

11:23 PM  
Blogger Ivor Beard said...

The cynical may say that you should have known better but surely we must live in hope that people will not live up to our very worst expectations? I'm disappointed that a comfortable old friend such as Waterstones should have its reputation sullied by the incompetence of some management oik. Many are the chapters of Mr Gaiman's books I've whiled away in its bosom. Companies are made up of people. Someone, somewhere took the decision - 'made the call' (someone with considerably less than eleven year's experience with Waterstones?). Why not name and shame these scrooges? As some people seem to be fond of saying these days - 'If you have nothing to hide...'.

12:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WOW. I am speechless. God bless you & yours.

Just can only say I want you to know I found this link to here via Neil Gaiman's blog.

3:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there. All the best for the future, mate. Read about your plight in the Sydney Morning Herald (refer HERE).

I'm a mobile blogger ( and have deliberately not mentioned or directly identified my employer. I mean - they're a great mob to work for.... but you never know.... (as you well understand now).

Cheers from Sydney, NSW, Australia


6:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

just found your site via Geeksgirl.

whatever happened to democracy, freedom of speech and quite frankly human decency and etiquette...

If we had a Watermans here, I think I'd stop buying.

eM, Cape Town, South Africa

7:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've read an article about you on a dutch site ''. The link to your website was on it and I started to read your story, and it's absurd what they've done. Indeed; where's the democracy?

It's sad that companies still think that what somebody's says will destroy them. I think by dismissing you, they showed that you were/are stroger than they are.

Good luck, Greg Visser from the Netherlands

7:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have my deepest sympathy. As someone who has been on the raw end of disciplinary action which could have been resolved by a quiet word beforehand, I entirely understand how you feel.

Unfortunately, by the time it gets to this stage one tends to find that the employer has already burned their bridges, making it very hard for the employee.

10:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


No matter which company you work for you have a duty not to bring them into disrepute. Discussing this with friends or family is not an issue but to PUBLISH disparaging comments is another matter. We may have free speech (no one is stopping you from saying what you wish) but you have to live with the consequences of your actions.
I do think it is harsh but I would be surprised if this is the only reason you were fired. I expect there is more to this tale than you are letting on...

4:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm... well, let it not be said that free speech isn't allowed on here but I'm really disappointed with the previous post.

How arrogant and naive... Perhaps the previous poster could read more of the blog before coming to altogether suprising conclusion.

The facts of the matter are clear - it was 'cos if his blog he got fired, nothing more. You can't do that to people and shouldn't get away with it.

For god sakes, man. He's lost his job and all you can winge on about is "no smoke without fire?". You don't work for Bastardstone's do you?

8:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A couple of years ago a friend of mine was asked to resign over comments she made about her employer on her blog. She'd only been working there a few months.

When I found out I went through all my blog entries and made the more incriminating ones friends only, and now I don't post publicly at all because of that.

At the time I'd just got a job with an American owned company and I was still in training. The manager who was training me was a terrible bully, but she was popular with her superiors (her shop rakes in the money, and it's mostly down to her). So, of course, I was less than complimentary!

Good luck with the tribunal, and good luck with finding a better job, with better employers.

Maybe you should write a book about it, I wonder if Waterstones would stock it? :-)

8:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You can also seek free employment law advice from ACAS. I know, every thinks they only do arbitration, but their bread and butter is employment law in general.

There advice is free and independent.

... and oh! What's wrong with British Management? Promoting brainless, half witt, brown nosed droids above their level of capability.

Good luck with your employment tribunal. I suspect you will have a strong case and could win considerable damages. You should dig up other blogs out on the blogs sphere that shows similar employees doing the same to their own companies. It is even better if you can show people who work for Bastardstones or work in the same industry. This shows that this is an accepted practice in the industry and/or the public domain space in general. The effect of any contractual gray areas are weakened by showing these types of things.

Hopefully a top employment lawyer will come forward with an offer of free legal advice for you. These corporations need to be taught a lesson.

I'd stop buying from Waterstones but I've not bought anything there for quite some time. Definitely won't be purchasing anything in the near future until this matter is resolved.

Good luck.

11:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Since I too am an employee at Waterstone's I'm posting anonymously. (Whilst looking over my shoulder to check for the Secret Police wearing W badges) You've got my support.

Funny how all managers at Waterstone's seem to be raving lunatics, must be W-managerschool's courses in alienating staff. Good luck and hang in there.

10:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After reading your story I can only admit that Waterstone's made the stupid mistake in their entire history. I think they didn't expect the snowball effect of sacking you. Now you see how powerfull the internet has become, because within days you're not local but worldwide news.
I became aware of this through the newssite. By sacking you Waterstone's became to me a bookstore I won't be visiting for awhile. I'm a regular visitor to the UK, but from now on Waterstone's won't count on me anymore.

Keep up the fight and I'm sure and convinced that you will find a new job soon. Someone with experience and expertise on the literature front should be wanted by lots of companies.

10:23 AM  
Blogger Strangebrew said...

This is simply outrageous, what the h*** do they think they are...? They sell books for "crisakes"...
I wish you all the best and I am sure you will find someone who will employ instead of sack you because of the practical joke. On my next visit to the UK I will not buy at Bastardstones untill this is resolved or rectified!
Take care!

5:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a US bookstore manager I want to express my outrage at what happened to you. I would walk out before ever agreeing to fire one of my hardworking/dedicated/underpaid employees over ANY opinion they had reguarding me or the company that we work for. Good luck to you.

5:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to let you know...I will no longer be buying ANY books from Waterstones, and neither will various members of my family. I had an order for just under £300 of books which I have just phoned through to cancel. When I was asked why, I told the chap on the end of the phone that I could not bring myself to buy anything from a company with such an appalling attitude towards its staff.

It's not much, but over the course of the year, that's at least a couple of thousand that will NOT be seen by Waterstones. I wish you all the best and will be keeping an eye on the happenings...Let's hope they see sense.

11:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ugly, monolithic stupidity is not at all shocking from Waterstone's. Its employees see it every day. Its managers complain to themselves and each other about it. Waterstone's is as crass a corporate entity as any other high street chain. Because it sells books, people tend to think otherwise. They manage to get themselves in to the media with some HR disaster every few years. No other bookshop can claim to do that. Fucking idiots.
James Reich
Secession Books

2:00 PM  
Blogger John Herbert said...

I seems pretty clear to me, readers should spend their money elsewhere. I guess the Waterstones will be attacking the press for reporting the issue.

Sue the bastards I say!

3:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

“THOUGH” Anonymous banged out, adding no less than 4 exclamation marks and then using up a further 2 empty lines before resuming. But why? Was that empty space intended to be the Text equivalent of an explosion’s mushroom cloud further heralding a direct hit, & /or detectable emissions of the author’s relish.
Again: Why?
May I assume that if you were driving right on the speed limit within a built up residential zone and happen to see the police nabbing a driver who had overtaken you, you would not necessarily savour the moment. Even if that driver’s rule-breaking speed was merely one symptom of an overall picture of someone who should not be allowed on the road, what you might experience is a sense of relief rather than pleasure.
However, had the police nabbed someone who had being attempting to harass you to drive faster, or more selfishly, then you might well indeed enjoy the moment.
Trouble with that is that I cannot see how your scribblings compare in the sense that other blogists (bloggerists?) might have felt bullied by you.
Is it likely that s/he has at some time felt intimidated into being careless in order to increase their scope of interest in order to match attention-grabbing skilfulness of your prose?
There are those whose feelings will go according to their perception of the game at hand. In this case, you’ve let in a goal and so should loose the point, even if it means loosing the game.
Personally I find that really silly thinking. Yes, you’ve being a tad naive, but not because you put your thoughts in print, because let’s face it, yours was a minor blog and as such what you said was akin to being no more naive than had you moaned within a small group in the pub. Attempts to deny you such a freedom must be fought against.That is quite a different thing to bringing the firm into ill repute.
Perhaps in this instance, given the limited audience, print was better, on account of how your words, their inference, or intonation cannot be misrepresented.
You’ve also rightly pointed out that a word in your ear would have sufficed, but you wrote about Evilboss, and many will wonder why you had also failed to have a quite word another’s more influential ear… though we all know that in reality such things are just not on.
It is just such questions that interest me more at present. Pretty much everything else has being expressed and it is perhaps through such thoughts that you may be able to predict the true value of all the wonderfully supportive platitudes you have received.
People can be so fickle and two-faced can they not! No doubt some will swear allegiance to boycott Waterstones but then, like car-wreck rubber-neckers find they’re unable to resist a quick visit to savour the new atmosphere of infamy. And what might they find? Tempting Bargains? Attractively placed books aim at a certain type of… urm…mind?
Might I suggest to you that the action taken against you was entirely pre-meditated, and that it’s source came from above those who have so cruelly dealt you this blow?
For that reason, apparently wholly accurate accusations of mismanagement, being directed at your immediate superiors, may well be misplaced if, like braying Nazi sergeants, they are merely following orders.
But why would anyone want to do such a thing?
No, there is no shadowy single anti-Christ like evil figure lurking in the darkness, wallowing in power. Such conspiracy theories are foolishness. Methinks that yet again the answer lies within weakness and it is a weakness that partly oils the wheels of many big business.
Too many think that their position in life and that of others is deserved.
But in reality we are all relatively equal compared with the grossly vile discrepancy between what is earned and how it is rewarded.
Too many people at top need to have their sense of greater value constantly confirmed. It is in the interest of big business to pander to such weaknesses. You, with you blog, your wit, your position-related unrecognised abilities etc, you stepped ahead of your station. That may have threatened someone’s self image, but I'm guessing it helped to line you up for target practice to assist in a global attempt to curtail any erosion of the very frail weakness-based hieratical insecurities that business panders too far too often Tut! Tut! Naughty boy!
Yes I know there are those who will respond to your story with “Well…Duh! What were you expecting?” But that does not make their attitude right, for if to be right and righteous you have to have broken the law, making it your victim. It would mean you have become a criminal, as opposed to having merely crossed a perceived social taboo. It would also mean that nothing could ever change.
I wish good things for you.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As another ex Waterstone's employee I just wanted to offer my sympathies. While I worked there I was treated appallingly by management and had to quit before they fired me. I was close to shooting my mouth off at them for the terrible treatment of their staff. Since then, I've shopped elsewhere.

8:42 PM  
Blogger laurenbove said...

The reputation of Waterhouse was impugned by their statements and actions not by yours, Joe.

I never heard of the company one way or the other and now they are infamous even in the USA.

Badly done, Waterhouse!
Cheers Joe! Change is good.

11:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brilliant move on the part of Waterstone's

Giving you the axe for speaking out about the company
in a satrical manner,while you were employed by them,and under some influence of their control.

Had they pulled you asside quietly and asked you to
suspend your blogging about the company, you've
indicated you would to keep the peace.

But now you are beyond their control, Free to spout
your head off to whomever will listen about what a
piss poor company these idiots are running. You can
name, names. Comment on policy. Openly discuss wages.
Anything and Everything short of out right slander,
that their contract with you could have prevented.

You know the guts of the company, the inner workings.
You were instrumental in arranging book signings with
authors, from the sounds of it. I say contact said
authors and let them know what happened.

In short, do _exactly_ what they say they fired you
for. Bring the company into disrepute, because of
their own actions.

I mean seriously, at this point what's to stop you?

5:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry to read your experience of learning that you were always, quite simply, an employee, in spite of your stated loyalty for 11 years.
Perhaps this forced and unexpected change of direction will allow you an insight into the true power of your creative writing, hopefully leading you onto another, more personally satisfying life path.
Best wishes for your future choices, Frederick.
Peter Bryenton

6:25 PM  
Blogger myrmyr said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:49 PM  
Blogger myrmyr said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:01 PM  
Blogger myrmyr said...

This post has been removed by a blog administrator.

4:18 PM  
Blogger myrmyr said...

i am an ex-employee of the Basingstoke branch of waterstones.
while i was working at the brach i beacme a father. the level of compassion and understanding i received from the brach was less than zero. the manager was constantly berrating me for what he called my 'poor' performance. i had to try bloody hard to keep my job, to pay my rent and my bills and to not totally lose it altogether.

i asked the manager and assistant manager to take into consideration that i was about to become a father, and all they could say was that i had a job to do and that i should not let my personal life interferewith the 'smooth running' of the branch.

leaving that environment has been one of the best changes of career i have ever had.

the company is the most ignorant, right-wing hive of retards i have ever worked for. i honestly think that further than the company's lack of creativity, originality and business sense, the management seems entirely geared towards attracting and manufacturing bland and offensive little hitlers whose grasp of basic human rights is as shakey as their knowledge of decent literature.

i cannot effectively express the anger and resentment i feel towards waterstones. they didn't give a shit about me, and they don't give a shit about the artistic integrity of the authors whose works they sell.

fuck waterstones


4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

well i stumbled across this site purely by accident when trying to find research on waterstones in preparation for an interview. And i must say that all the comments really surprise me. I'v finished the (mock) interview now and found the manager of the Exeter branch an extremely friendly, kind, and understanding person. I still thik the bookshop is very good and has an excellent range.
No business is perfect, however.

12:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I feel sorry for your manager, really. It must be terrible to be owned body & soul by his employer 24-7.

If he has a bad day he probably goes home to his wife who says: How was work today dear? Okay dear he replies without a flicker of a life.

Think yourself lucky you are not this little man, capable of your own thoughts and feelings, do not let him belittle you.

I hope you find employment somewhere better and if it isn't better that you feel free enough to say so.

What happened to you is wrong, wrong, wrong.

Simple as that.


6:55 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

After being fired from my job of five years with a major publishing house, I just came across your blog and wanted to offer my sympathies and also thank you for providing me with some comfort in the fact that there are so many other unfortunate situation such as the one I just went through. Like you, I've had infinite support from my family and friends after everything that happened and I do think it is an extremely unfair and overly extreme way of dealing with employees and their blogs. It seems more like a hush deal - shut them up and get them out before anyone finds out what kind of corporate enviornment these big companies are really working under. I'm far from a communist, but the way my former employer rushed me out the door was the equivalent of a Gestapo raid... Better things to come, and lesson learned. Unfortunately, this is something that is becoming very popular in the corporate culture, and I suppose all we can do is just spread the word of warning to others.

3:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This probably makes no difference to you, but after reading this, I will not spend another penny at Waterstones or any other comapny in their group... Now to just find out all the other companies in their group :)

10:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I go to Waterstone's, Edinburgh about twice a month, and must have spent well over £700 last year. No more.....

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just did a search for Waterstones on Google to find the price of harry potter. I found your page instead.

3:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found you when I was searching for Waterstones online. I have emailed your link to everyone I know. Waterstones have done their reputation more harm through firing you than you ever would have through your blog. I hope it all works out for you. Keep smiling.

Rachael, Nottingham

2:07 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I used to work for Waterstone's, for 18 months, and frankly I feel that many members of the public who do not or have not worked in retail have absolutely no idea of what it's like. You are literally a piece of meat with a pre-programmed set of responses to give customers. The pay is appalling, considering the huge amount of work and worth that employees contribute, and the size of the company. It really doesn't matter how hard you work, you are rarely rewarded financially or in kind. Promotion means very little in any case - a few pence an hour more. I was actually performing duties listed in the guidelines for someone several grades higher than myself. Even though I put in the effort and did very well at these tasks, when my review finally came around I was not promoted, for a silly reason like the books in an area I was responsible for were not sitting there like an artefact surrounded by rope with 'Please do not touch the exhibit' signs around it, at the time that the manager bothered to have a look. Maybe that was because some customers had just been actually looking at the books, and I hadn't had time to instantly dash over to perfect them before he turned up. Luckily I now have a much better job and it feels like a vindication - despite my many academic qualifications, intelligence and previous retail experience, I was treated like a fool from day one at Waterstone's, while now I'm treated with respect and am doing someting I really enjoy.

I am disgusted at the current aim of the company to outbuy a rival, much smaller and friendlier chain. They are ruining bookselling. Waterstone's might as well be a supermarket - bookselling has come down to that level. It's all about sales and business, not at all about people who actually once had a love of books before they became a member of staff. Just draft in a load of money-grabbing flash guys with MBAs and all is well. Yeah right. The heart and soul has been ripped out and I have no intention of shopping there again.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I stumbled across your site when doing a search against Waterstones. I sympathise greatly with your position but am not altogether surprised about the approach taken by Waterstones. I have some experience of Scots employment law. In Scots law it is a term implied in every employment contract that a duty of trust and confidence is owed by the employer to the employee and by the employee to the employer. Regardless of what your employment contract actually says it is a clear breach of this implied term (which if serious enough can justify summary dismissal) for you to be using expressions such as "bastardstones" to describe your employer on a public website. In the same way had a member of Waterstones management made a derogatory public comment about you, you may well have the right to claim constructive and consequently unfair dismissal against Waterstones. Its not really a question of the right to free speech its about a breach of the implied duty of trust in the employer/employee relationship. That being said your immediate dismissal without warning was heavy handed particularly given your lengthy employment history and I hope you succeed in any tribunal action which you seek to take.

12:01 PM  
Blogger ian said...

My son used to work in a Mobile Phone shop,and has his own phone account with Vodafone which is on contract.He has two numbers active with the latter,one I am using.He has had a disagreement with the company he worked for.On one day I cannot remember which ,I had a call from his employers asking his where abouts ,,after a lengthy conversation I asked where did they get my number from. "they replied from his contract paper work and then said I had text the shop manager ,,I did text him but from an old number as I had my number changed about four days prior to recieving the call from them.I asked my son about this and he said there was no paper work in the shop about his phone account at all.My son now thinks that they managed to get into his vodafone account.Is there grounds to take legal action on the subject of the Data Protection Law.Your advice would be gratefully recieved.Regards Ian Matthews

1:27 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

Hi, Ian,

I'm afraid that is way out of my area of expertise, although from what I recall from my college days any company misusing personnel data can get themselves into trouble under the data protection act. That has been beefed up since I was at college, so my advice is to either seek out the Data Protection Act ombudsman (should be on Google) or talk to your nearest Citizen's Advice Beaureau who should be able to help you there. Misuse of personal data is very serious, so please try talking to one of these folks and let us know how you get on.


7:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey,just to say im going through a similar thing at the moment so I know how u feel. just when did everything get so serious and so work related? I gotta agree with Rouseau here "man is born free yet every where he is in chains" just when did signing a contract to work mean that you sign you basic human rights away?

2:07 AM  
Blogger Ugly American Tourist said...

Everyone here seems to agree in freedom of speech/expression, but very few are making the point that freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom of consequences. Frankly, I think Waterson's termination of Joe was an overreaction, but when an employee has sentiments of disloyalty to his/her employer, boss, or colleagues he or she would be naive to think the consequences that follow as unfair. When you dive into shark infested waters, you should be prepared to get bitten at least a little.

10:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Joe,

I currently work at Waterstones under a certain manager and think that the term 'Evil Boss' is far to flattering. You may be Interested to know that a former employee from the West End branch is taking Waterstones to tribunal over the behaviour of the same manager.In the immortal words of Rolf Harris "Can you guess who it is yet?" YES! Its that man again! Ian Webster.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any news on the tribunal that never was????

1:05 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

I haven't heard anymore on this new tribunal, although several different people have told me independently about how the staff at his new branch were not exactly inspired or motivated by his introduction speech when he moved there.

9:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was so sorry to read about this, and I can't believe it hasn't been more widely discussed. I worked for Ottakars, but I left just before the Waterstones takeover, and thank goodness, as everyone I know there is so unhappy with the way things have been changed. You've been treated awfully, and I really hope that you get some justice over this.

9:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have also worked for Waterstones for 11 years. I have enjoyed my job, am friends with my manager and find him supportive of other staff. I would not work in an environment I found restrictive and have resigned from other jobs when I have felt unappreciated. Myself and my collegues often complain about customers etc, but in private and amongst ourselves. You must surely realise that public comments can offend and personal opinions can mislead and only represent part of the story. I can only comment on my experience with the company, and I'm sorry if yours has been less than satisfactory. However, Waterstone's experience with you has been less than satisfactory too, and they have a reputation to uphold too. The mere fact that you still haven't learned to tone down the comments suggests to me that you would never have given up blogging just for the sake of keeping you job, so maybe Waterstone's did the right thing after all...

7:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is outrageous behaviour on the part of Waterstone's... What hypocrisy... i have just recently applied to their Gower street branch for part time work... looks like i will be applying to Border's instead.

12:22 PM  

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