An outsource too far?

John_Lewis_fasciaI was casually scanning the pages of the Guardian newspaper yesterday and came across a link to a story that suggested that John Lewis, the co-operatively-owned department store with a reputation for excellent customer service, has been outsourcing some of this activity to decidedly dubious third parties with potentially disastrous results.

Firms outsource, ultimately, to save money. Listed firms to this to maximise the return to their shareholders. It is the logic of capitalist business. But John Lewis is supposed to be different. Its owners are its employees, though its management is most certainly professionalised (in contrast with the Co-operative group which is now in some financial difficulties after gross mismanagement by amateurs).

So, to which outsourcing companies has John Lewis entrusted its reputation? When I discovered the identities of said firms, I needed a sharp intake of breath. Wait for it…Hermes couriers, who pay between 45 and 55 pence – PENCE – per delivery to self-employed delivery people, and Capita who seem to handle John Lewis’ complaints.

I have already ceased trading with firms that use Hermes. The service is appalling, for sure. But it is the business model that stinks. Whilst it is possible to avoid this by picking up ordered items at John Lewis and Waitrose stores, handing over any money to these charlatans is bad for society. It legitimises them.

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