JD Sports has come into criticism this week after one of its employees allegedly referred to a gay couple in its Eltham branch in South East London as ‘a pair of batty’s innit’ and then laughed at them with his colleague.
Understandably the couple were upset by this homophobic comment, and left the store immediately before going on to report the incident to the customer service department. Expecting a robust reaction, they were left unimpressed by the generic response from customer care that said:
‘I am sincerely sorry to hear what had happened when you were entering the Eltham branch. I have not come across this sort of behaviour previously. I will certainly get this matter looked into for you with the store in question.’
And that was it. Not even a phone call.
Now we’re not talking about a pair of scuffed trainers fresh out of the box. Homophobic abuse is unacceptable on any level. If one of your staff members has shown that level of disrespect to a customer (let alone the homophobic nature of the disrespect in this incident) then the procedures you have in place should be swift and resolute.
The sports retailer has since got in touch with the couple (thanks no doubt to the negative publicity) and conveniently blamed the lapse on a member of agency staff working on a trial basis who failed to escalate it to more senior management. They’ve also suspended two employees from the Eltham store pending the outcome of its disciplinary processes. No doubt they’ll be fired, and rightly so. But this is an example of clear PR fire fighting from JD Sports. If the couple in question had left it at that without alerting the press then in all likelihood they’d have heard no more about it, which is certainly worrying – and certainly bad PR.
The whole incident doesn’t reflect well on JD Sports and has generated unwelcome negative publicity across a number of national media outlets. Bad PR to you, JD, bad PR to you.