Dear Mohamed Al Fayed: A customer complains about Harrods' apparent policy of being beastly to harmless members of the spending public

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Indy Lifestyle Online
I don't know how you manage it, but scarcely a week goes by without your hitting the headlines one way or another. If you're not showing Richard Gere or some other visiting celeb around the corner store, you are selling off House of Fraser. And now you've hit the headlines again with the departure of your managing director, Peter Bolliger. A certain Sarah McWatters also knows what it's like to make a sudden exit from the top people's store. This young professional woman was recently thrown out of your shop. Her crime was to be wearing jeans with rips at the knees. Designer rips, mind you, and she was also wearing a Georges Rech jacket and frankly looked a million. But one look at those rips and your minions gave her the bum's rush. I, too, have experienced the heavy hand of Harrods orthodoxy. Take the photography incident. One of the delights of tourists and others used to be photographing the interior of Harrods, especially the Food Hall with those huge saucissons hanging overhead. When I tried to photograph a visiting friend in the store recently, I was told in no uncertain terms that photography was not allowed. And when I made the mistake of producing a camera in the Egyptian Room, near-apoplexy struck the staff. Talk about guardians of the holy shrine] Odd, too, for I can photograph priceless Egyptian antiquities in the British Museum without any problem. Then, on a recent Saturday evening at four minutes to six, I was refused service at the delicatessen counter. When I asked why, here was the head butt of a response I received: Because we've got homes to go to. That wasn't all. Trying to get change for the parking meter outside in Hans Road, I was refused by one cashier after another. When I protested to the manageress, she said it was company policy. Even that wasn't the end of it. Leaving the shop, I found the side entrance barred and, with dozens of other foot-weary shoppers, was told to make the long trek back through the store to an exit on Brompton Road. Mumbled protests ensued until one brave woman piped up and told the world what she thought of Harrods' treatment of its customers. It didn't do any good but it made me feel better. Mohamed wants to run it all himself, Harrods managing director Peter Bolliger said after his departure. And this is how you do it: you curtail our activities, and spell out how we are to behave and what we are to wear. A few miles down the road from you, another department store explains its policy: The customer is always right, whatever they are wearing. Thus speaks Fortnum and Mason, a far older and more distinguished department store than Harrods. Please, Mr Fayed, don't ever think of buying the pride of Piccadilly.

(Photograph omitted)

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