We hope you’re not a VW owner – it’s been a hell of a week! Let’s take a look at the latest retail and tech brand disasters…

Trust no one “I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you” said Friedrich Nietzsche, one of the greatest German philosophers of all time. He would not be impressed following his compatriots’ cosmic misjudgement on car pollution measurements. The unlucky owners of Volkswagen cars went overnight from having a car they love to one they hate. Is the company offering exchange or refunds? Not a pip on, while is still spouting nonsense about ‘efficient design’. Wikipedia’s diligent elves have added the only source of info for the heartbroken VW owners. The signs of ethical collapse were there for all to see as the last website redesign by Deutsch LA created a purchasing path that hides the price until the last step, whilst blaming ‘ambient conditions’ and ‘drivers’ style’ for variations behind CO2 emissions. An interactive Periscope session with apologies and Q&As for the owners would have been helpful, but all we got was that the lawyers have moved in. Nietzsche must be turning in his grave.

Et tu, Audi? It’s not just Volkswagen – Audi has also been caught breaking customers’ trust, as 2.2 million of their cars were kitted out with the same ‘cheat’ software that VW has been hiding. Audi’s website is still enthusing that ‘The Legend Continues’ and shows no sign of an emergency phone number, not even a Live Chat for those traumatised about their unintended harmful actions where their only fault was to trust the German brands. Skoda is also involved as the cheat software affects 1.2 million Czech-built cars. The brand is ducking the issue with no sign of customer updates on Instead we got this:

Standard EU Test figures are for comparative purposes and may not reflect real driving results. Depending on your chosen wheel size, different efficiency figures for CO2 emissions and fuel consumption will apply”.

Wheel size?? Who would’ve thought that the Skoda brand could sink lower on the trust scale under capitalism than it was ranked under Communism, when their cars were decidedly lethal but honest about the risks involved?

Forget malware – look at our shiny new toy! It’s quite ironic that in the same week that Apple admitted malware had infiltrated a large chunk of the apps sold in their App Store, the company has shown no embarrassment, choosing instead to launch their new car project, optimistically called Titan. The company is targeting the $2 trillion car market and is pitching it as the ‘iCar’ – an electric car to rival Tesla. If Apple’s cyber security efforts for their phones are anything to go by, set your trust barometer at below zero. Run for the hills when the malware-infested vehicle comes to the streets near you in 2019!

Customer service is going in One Direction – south Been to the pharmacy recently? After the disasters with the painkiller Vioxx, which caused the deaths of over 38,000 people, or anti-depressant Paroxetine, which induced suicidal behaviour, pharmacies like Boots have found themselves on the frontline having to explain the wrongdoings of pharmaceutical companies to anxious customers. The company is tackling the increased number of enquiries by improving customer service but the telephones are only manned 9-5pm on weekdays and it’s practically impossible to get through, email takes 5 days to get any response, we can’t get an appointment via the app and the Twitter is mainly used for One Direction competitions! Selling dubious drugs to gullible customers has been a great business so far, as Boots sales were up 21.6% by April 2015 but in this Age Of Transparency the need to support customers via at least some sort of real-time comms is not just a luxury but a necessity.

Join The Net Set In a week of brand disasters, #FacebookDown has been trending for 3 days, as the company battles with the latest mishap during its system upgrade. It’s lost millions in advertising but has also let down its customers – charities like Help4Heroes or the RSPCA rely on Facebook as their main real-time communication line veterans and animal supporters. The disruption caused by the shutdown showed that we over-rely on free but proprietary cloud-based social networks. Facebook is not too big to fail, the downtime is increasing in frequency and duration, and it’s time for the brands that have a loyal following to stop relying on Mark Zuckerberg’s whims. A better option is to follow Net-A-Porter and have your own brand forum instead.
Win tickets for our upcoming debate ‘Do we still need our high streets?’ at the Battle of Ideas on 19th October 2015 at London’s Barbican with George MacDonald (Retail Week), City AM, our own Eva Pascoe and Tom Ironside (BRC), chaired by Para Mullan.

How to win? Just email us why you think we do/do not need the high street and the best answer wins a pair of tickets for the Sunday debate as well as a bottle of champagne!