Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day Faux Pas

Happy Father's Day everyone! As a dad and a reader, I completely understand books as a way to reward Dad for another year as provider, car-repair-advisor, and master barbecuer (if you don't mind a little stereotyping). Better than another tie or humorous t-shirt anyway. A book I wouldn't recommend is, well, anything to do with Josef Fritzl, the psycho parent who kept his daughter in his basement for 24 years and enjoyed …"intimate"… time with her. That's just my recommendations, however — over in the U.K., however, retail giant Tesco apparently didn't have a problem with daughters buying The Crimes of Josef Fritzl for this Father's Day, until it was brought to their attention and an apology was drafted. From first-hand accounts over at Fark, the book was on a specific Father's Day display in the stores — much to the dismay of sharp-eyed shoppers, but what about those shelf-stockers who put the books out? This didn't happen just at Tesco, but also at W.H. Smith, a large bookselling chain in the U.K. I can understand big-box retailer drones not watching what they're tossing on the shelves, but I'd expect more from a retailer who prides themselves on being a leading example of the book retail industry.

The Daily Mail shows the book on the display, bearing the same "half price" sticker as the rest of the books on the promotional displays, so it wasn't a case of "oops, wrong book on the shelves." Special displays are often paid spots, akin to advertising, where a publisher ensures their big promotions are on the endcap or the table at the entryway where they're likely to get more attention. I dug around to see if Smith's was the one in charge of Tesco's book section, like the K-Mart/Waldenbooks arrangement, but everything I found called the two retailers competitors. Now, I'd hope Harper Collins would be smart enough not to specifically recommend this book for Father's Day, but I find it very suspicious that two different retailers, without shared corporate control, would place the same inappropriate book in the Father's Day display. Somebody — publisher, distributor, retailer — got in their head that they needed a recent, hot-button, True Crime title in their dad's display, because dad's like true crime books, you see, so what have we got? Aw, the book is even about a dad, that works great!

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