WH Smith needs to buck up its corporate communications. It has been hit by two mini scandals:
- It is charging up to 50% more for the same goods in its WH Smith hospital shops than on the high street; and
- It is not refunding vat at it airport shops and pocketing about £10 a year of customers’ money.
Faced with dents like these in its reputation it needs strong corporate communications to defend itself. But it has handled both issues poorly.
It says the two businesses, hospital shops and high street shops, are run separately. So they set different prices. So that’s all right, then. Hardly a good reason for price gouging of a captive market in hospitals. WH Smith faces competition on the high street and could not get away with such high prices.
Only comment: “wildly inaccurate”
It also told the Daily Mail that the figure of £10 million was wildly inaccurate but did not comment further.
The rip off means that it can plough the money back into promotions such as the low price of Toblerone bars.
But customers should be able to make their choices on what they want, not be dictated to by WH Smith. It says it is doing quite well in trading and results out in October will be above analysts’ projections.
Four golden rules
But it has broken the four golden rules of corporate communications when faced with such charges. They are:
1 Disclose all of the information rapidly.
3 Rectify and change the policy.
4 Tell the world you’ve changed the policy.