Letters: M&S

M&S is far from being a 'shambles'

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The Independent Online

Lisa Markwell complains that it’s hard to find what you want in Marks & Spencer because of all the different fashion sections (article, 14 July; letters, 17 July). And yet, exactly the same applies in John Lewis and Debenhams.

Each store displays their own brands in a different area so if, for example, you are looking for a jacket, you have to visit all the areas to see what is available. What’s the problem with having to do that in M&S too?

Mr Bedale-Taylor’s letter seems confused. His first paragraph says the only people you see in M&S are well over pension age; the last says he doesn’t take his mother (who, I assume is over pension age) because there is nothing there for her.

I suggest he takes her to the Classic and M&S Woman sections, both of which have a good selection of the goodquality, flattering clothes he believes she wants. As a pensioner myself, I wouldn’t be seen dead in the Classic section, much preferring the more colourful, interesting clothes another letter-writer describes as “gaudy frippery”.

Why be dull just because you are older? And I think the quality is still generally excellent, far from being all man-made fabric. No, it’s not all perfect but it’s far from the “shambles” described by another of your contributors.

Paula Saunders
St Albans, Hertfordshire

I am slightly disconcerted to see the much-admired M&S urged to go back to the distant past as a way forward.

The rebranding by Stuart Rose created a much-needed buzz, but that lively marketing was not reflected in the shopping experience in the stores whose fashion floors continue to resemble an up-market jumble sale. Why, when a design revolution transformed the exteriors of trucks, shop-fronts, packaging and advertising, wasn’t it possible to work the same magic on the inside of the stores?

Who knows if the high-octane glamour of the former chairman struck the board as frivolous, but it arguably made numbers of women view the merchandise through rose-coloured spectacles. Added to sneaky but perceptible cost-cutting, and a slight but unsettling drift down-market, and you have loyal customers including me who feel mildly uneasy about the future of a shop which has been such a pillar of the high street.

Janet Watson
Bungay, Suffolk

No one has mentioned another big turn-off in M&S stores, the loud piped music. We are told that older women are by far M&S’s biggest customers and yet these ladies are being forced to do their shopping to a background of teenage pop music.

I have written to M&S pointing out most of their customers are pensioners. I have asked how they obtain customer feedback from the over-sixties. I am still awaiting a reply.

M&S pays an external agency to choose their music for them. Apparently, this selection is based on the store’s customer profile. I wonder how much M&S pays to have totally inappropriate music?

Dorothy Lewis

Harwood jury must feel sick knowing record

My heart goes out to the jurors who allowed PC Simon Harwood to walk free (letters, 21 July). That they deliberated for four days indicates a considerable degree of dedication, commitment, and a lot of argument and persuasion among themselves to eventually agree to acquit the officer of manslaughter.

They must now feel sick that yet another violent policeman has got away with an unprovoked attack on a defenceless and innocent man, all because they were not allowed to know of his appalling record and "red mist" rages.

Ten complaints in 12 years beggar belief, and that only one was upheld speaks volumes for a system rotten to the core. Just 12 more people added to those of us left wondering what our police and legal establishments are up to, when blatant miscarriages of justice are pushed through our courts and passed off as fair trials.

But at least Mr Harwood was put on trial, unlike the officers who killed an equally innocent Jean Charles de Menezes in a hail of bullets as he sat in a Tube train.

What faith can we possibly have in the promise of IPCC action to "discipline" PC Harwood? Will he be granted early retirement at 45 on a full pension due to ill-temper?

Stephen Clarke

Every year, staff in the public, voluntary and private sectors resign as a result of workplace bullying.

These victims, who tend to be older employees, can find it difficult to get another job. They may have taken sick leave and will have been labelled by management as incompetent and unreliable, and stories will have been spread among other staff. Some who leave may flourish and retrain or set up a business; for many it will mean downsizing, so the label of not being able to deal with pressure or cope becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Few go to employment tribunals.

Fortunately, PC Simon Harwood was able to escape disciplinary proceedings through going off sick and, indeed, return with no damage to his career. Fortunate indeed to be able to move to other forces without enquiries into past complaints. Unfortunate indeed for the Tomlinson family. One hopes justice will be done, eventually.

Angela M Waller

The Independent is asking questions about PC Simon Harwood's record (report, 20 July). But there is another question nobody seems to have asked.

How come that a peaceful person (albeit slightly intoxicated), walking home from work can be prevented by police officers several times from continuing his peaceful way home.

Colleagues of PC Harwood, acting on someone's orders, forced Ian Tomlinson to be in a place where he did not want to be, a place where he subsequently died.

E Svoboda

G4S paying staff only £6 an hour

The early stages of football are being hosted at City of Coventry Stadium, and my local bobby told me that G4S staff are being paid only £6 per hour. Assuming six weeks' work, plus NI and £200 for each uniform, this works out at just under £2,000 per minder.

If we divide the fat-cat fee that G4S has demanded, this is less than one-tenth of the cost per employee that the contractor has quoted.

We have six soccer squads in hotels being guarded by the police. So who is really paying for this? The rate-payers of Coventry and Warwickshire? I assume that both chief constables will be claiming this money back from G4S, but the two police authorities have already privately conceded that if they see G4S's cheques by Christmas they will be doing well.

Chris Youett

Mau Mau horror of Hola Camp

Reports of atrocities in Kenya were published in 1959. I remember reading a newspaper report of the murder of Mau Mau prisoners in Hola Camp, so horrific that the name stuck in my mind. Some prisoners had refused to work and the guards had beaten 11 men to death and crippled dozens of others. A witness said he pleaded with the camp commander to restore order because "men were dying like flies".

I thought then that this was a terrible but exceptional case; it seems now such horrors were widespread.

Gwenda Sanders
Folkestone, Kent

Lawson belongs to the old fogeys

Dominic Lawson (Opinion, 17 July) has exposed a previously unrecognised (by me) old-fogey faction of your readers (letters, 19 July), one of whom regards Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney as exemplars of ephemeral pop tripe.

Given the longevity of their careers, I wouldn't have thought that "ephemeral" would be the most apposite adjective. But, then, old fogeys are never restrained by a lack of knowledge of the facts.

And Mr Lawson's conclusion that the Queen refused a knighthood for Mick Jagger, because he produced deafening sounds of ineffable banality, may be seriously flawed. Given the profusion of awards handed out to musicians, is it not more likely the Queen might have disapproved for other reasons?

She wouldn't be the only person to consider Jagger a poor choice for a knighthood. Even Keith Richards would agree. He's a guitarist in a pop combo, Dominic. It's quaint to hear Mr Lawson complain about massive electronic amplification. Any suggestions on how else you can broadcast music to 80,000 people?

We can't all pop round to one's box at the Albert Hall to listen to Strauss and savour the state-subsidised acoustics. At least Springsteen's gig was funded by consenting fans and made a profit for the local council.

Peter Connolly
Newcastle upon Tyne

Dominic Lawson's inability to appreciate wider tastes in music reminds me of another Duke Ellington story. When asked by a lady, "What is swing?", Duke is reputed to have replied, "Lady, if you've gotta ask, you ain't got it". Clearly, Dominic ain't got it.

Jeremy Axten
Addlestone, Surrey

Taliban threat to antiquities

That Britain has helped to return stolen antiquities to Afghanistan is welcome news (report, 18 July), but when Nato forces have left and the Taliban regain power, I fear many of these precious items will be destroyed. The Taliban have an ugly history of destroying anything they consider un-Islamic.

Jackie Bartram
Shoreham-by-Sea, West Sussex

Comic opera

Our Parliament reminds me of a verse from Gilbert and Sullivan's Iolanthe, written in 1882: "When in that House MPs divide,/If they've a brain and cerebellum, too,/they've got to leave that brain outside,/And vote just as their leaders tell 'em to." That was 130 years ago and nothing seems to have changed. I thought we lived in a multi-party democracy with freedom of speech for all; or am I suffering from a delusion?

James Maberly
Dennington, Suffolk

No Co-op for me

I would not advise Peter Crossley (letters, 20 July) to consider banking with the Co-op. I shopped and banked with them regularly until they started to sell Total petrol. Total is involved in Burma, supporting the undemocratically elected government. When I tackled the Co-op about this, they said didn't participate in boycotts. So much for ethical trading, Well, I believe in boycotts, so I have boycotted the Co-op ever since.

Richard Bracknall
Margrove Park, North Yorkshire

What's the diff?

What is the difference between banks "manipulating" the Libor rate and governments, for many years, distorting our exchange rate and calling it the "responsible management" of our economy?

GD Morris
Port Talbot

Oh no, minister

If I find myself strap-hanging on the Jubilee Line, squeezed up against a cabinet minister next week (report, 20 July), I will take great pleasure in reminding him/her: "We're all in this together."

Chris Payne
London NW1

Bags of cheek

I am intrigued to know why the re-jailed Naked Rambler (report, 20 July) needs such a large rucksack.

Michael Hart
Weymouth, Dorset