W.H. Smith is a British bookstore chain that has managed to pull off the worst example of marketing stupidity I’ve seen in a long time. Not since McDonald’s chose “I’d hit that” as its slogan has an advertisement been this stupidly wrong.
If you were to go a W.H. Smith over the past few days, you may have seen a promotion called Top 50 Books For Dad, which also featured the slogan “Dads are Heroes.” And there, on the shelf, among the Dan Browns and Tom Clancys and Clive Cusslers and whatever other “manly” books round out the top 50 was The Crimes Of Josef Fritzl.
Not all dads are heroes. If you don’t know what Fritzl did, look it up. I don’t want to get into it.
I have noticed a bookstore trend in recent years. I’ll be looking for something at one of my city’s two new bookstore, a massive Chapters and a smaller Smithbooks, and it’s clear the staff members aren’t readers. I’ve encountered some who aren’t sure of the distinction between “novel” and “autobiography.” It’s a big reason why I tend to spend more time in my city’s half-dozen excellent used bookstores, which are neighbours on a Victorian downtown street. I’d rather endure dust and tight squeezes to deal with a genuine book expert than be told “Cormac McCarthy, is he, what does he write, sports books?” I wish I’d made that up.
So I guess this could be what happened at W.H. Smith. A spokesperson blames the mistake on one store, saying the decision to promote the Fritzl book as a Father’s Day gift isn’t the chain’s policy. Maybe that’s the case. But someone should have noticed.