It has, by any standards, been a hell of a week. if anyone had told me that one of the leading trends on Twitter this week would be a letter penned by a poet to a coffee company, I’d have laughed. If anyone had told me that poet would be me, I’d have assumed they were ever so slightly deranged.
For those of you who missed the social media whirlwind I found myself at the centre of, here’s a quick resumé of what happened…. Poet reads Caffè Nero made £21.1 million in profit but paid no corporation tax. Poet gets angry. Poet writes letter to Caffè Nero, sends it, posts photo of letter on Facebook and Twitter, and goes to bed thinking if he’s lucky a couple of friends will notice what he’s done. Poet wakes up in the morning and the world and its dog are sharing what has now become THAT LETTER. Poet picks jaw off ground, starts playing catch-up with cyberspace, and for the next few days spends far longer in front of the computer than he should.
That’s the long and the short of it. And I can now tell you that it’s one thing to know that occasionally social media takes a subject and makes it go viral, but knowing that doesn’t in any way prepare you for the surreal and unworldly sensation of waking up and finding that for the best part of a week it’s your letter that is the viral phenomenon.
Through all this, by the way, there was no response from Caffè Nero.
Then the BBC rang. Then The Independent. A radio station in Adelaide covered what was going on because the letter had gone viral in Australia. And suddenly the head of Caffè Nero customer services had written me a letter saying they didn’t take my claims lightly, and would I like to meet one of her colleagues so they could provide a response. Well, what’s a man to say? I mulled it over through the evening, and this morning I emailed her to say yes, that would be wonderful.
I had just one condition. Given the publicity and the media interest the story had generated, I assumed they’d be fine with it being on the record.
Since when, silence. Which is something of a surprise. I mean, I’d have thought that a major coffee company – with nothing to hide and an urgent desire to put this story to bed – would have fired back an email within minutes, saying Sure, no problem, when and where?
But Caffè Nero haven’t. The working day is drawing to a close and there’s been nothing from them. Zip. Nada. If I was a cynical kind of person I might wonder whether a large business was deciding that the fickle world of social media has moved on already, and that the need to meet a poet who wrote them a letter over a week ago has already gone. If I was a really cynical person – and I’m not, dear reader, of course I’m not – I might wonder if the idea that the meeting would be on record is a problem. I can’t honestly see why it would be, because I know there’s nothing they’d say or do in a meeting they’d be concerned about standing by later. So I guess it must be something else entirely. But I’m just a poet, and what it might be escapes me.
So I do what poets do, and write about it all. And then I post it on Facebook and Twitter. Maybe a couple of friends will notice what I’ve done. Maybe it’ll be a few more. Maybe it’ll be none. Maybe someone will share it and wonder what Caffè Nero are up to, and maybe they won’t. Who knows? After all, it’s a funny old world, and you never quite know what’s coming…
Links to news coverage of what went on:
BBC coverage
The Independent
Morning Star piece