Supermarket beats sick elderly gent. Then patronises the hell out of him

SPAR1A case study in how not to manage an issue, enhance your reputation or communicate effectively in a crisis unfolded in Harare, Zimbabwe, this week.

Details have gone viral and the story is sparking interest around the world thanks largely to the wholly inadequate and rather more than slightly sleazy response by the organisation involved.

Dave Emberton, a well-known and much-loved local television personality, now suffering from mild but debilitating dementia, wandered into his local SPAR supermarket yesterday and, it is alleged, helped himself to a packet of bacon and attempted to leave without paying for it.

By all accounts, the security contractor employed by the supermarket chain then took it upon himself to strike Dave, who was then handcuffed and forced to sit on the floor. To add insult to injury, some gentle soul then took a photo of Dave, bewildered and unkempt, and chose deliberately to make it available on the interwebs for the entire world to see.

It would be helpful to show you that photograph here. But I’m not going to compound the original sin by doing so myself. Suffice to say that it shows a well-dressed, elderly man on his knees on a tiled floor, unkempt and confused, staring beseechingly up at the photographer.

Appalling as this incident was it is, sadly, just another in a series of personal and human rights abuses that take place on a daily basis in the wonderful, benighted, amazing and shattered little country that I used to call home. And, on occasion, still do.

So that is not news. It’s not unusual. But what is, is the way SPAR chose to deal with the situation.

I don’t know who or what is calling the shots at SPAR Zimbabwe around its communication. But whoever or whatever it is needs to be taken into a quiet room and spoken to sternly.

I don’t know who or what is calling the shots at SPAR Zimbabwe around its communication. But whoever or whatever it is needs to be taken into a quiet room and spoken to sternly (I did originally pen a more drastic suggestion, involving bricks and baseball bats, but this being the interwebs I decided not to risk some idiot taking me seriously).

Just take a look at this beautiful thing. Go on! I dare you.

What a patronising, self-serving piece of rubbish, isn’t it?

“Our buddy Dave – who we didn’t give a rat’s arse about until we beat him up yesterday and plastered his bewilderment all over the interwebs. We gotta help him escape Zim. Bad embassy people for not giving him a visa. All you people out there should put money for this neglected-looking man into this here unsupervised bank account in the name of his glamorous young wife.”

Wow, Just wow. If Spar had done that here in New Zealand, on top of the original crime, they’d have been absolutely crucified. Talk about frying pans and fires. Yuck!

Angry? Yes I am. Let’s count the ways in which this patronising, self-serving, transparently diversionary and totally unacceptable piece of muck breaks every rule in the PR Guidebook to Pouring Oil on Troubled Waters. Over to you. Three, two, one, GO!


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2 Responses to Supermarket beats sick elderly gent. Then patronises the hell out of him

  1. Shannon says:

    Rather than preaching about issues from the diaspora, it might be suggested that you actually live here before getting on your soap box about Zimbabwean issues. As for Spar and the way they handled things, I really feel that you should get your facts straight before laying blame. In fact, from what I understand, Dave Emberton was released from custody quickly at which point Spar did all they could to assist him. If he, himself, had asked for money to be donated and an appeal made to the embassy, how is it patronising for Spar to do as he asked, over a lunch to apologise for the incident?

    It is only those who don’t live our daily struggles that make such a fuss over these small things. The man is fine. The rest of the country isn’t. Maybe choose your platform a little more wisely in the future.

  2. Peter Heath says:

    Sorry, Shannon – I don’t buy into your thesis that somehow only Zimbabweans who live within Zimbabwe are entitled to comment on things that happen in Zimbabwe. This is my soapbox. I’m entitled to talk about what I like here, regardless of where in the world it is happening. That’s Point #1.

    Point #2 – The video was incredibly ill-advised (and has since been taken off Spar’s Facebook page). The appeal was incredibly ill-advised (and has since been modified). And Spar Zimbabwe should absolutely have known that the best way to deal with the situation was to make a proper public apology and put the processes in place to ensure that its contractors know better than to treat members of the public (even potentially deviant ones) with a little more respect than a Zimbabwe Republic Policeman.

    Point #3 – that chip on your shoulder about those of us who have chosen for reasons you may never understand to leave the land of our birth? It’s visible. Just sayin’.

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