The SW11 de-militarised zone, personified by Jack Dee and Vivienne Westwood

The whole Asda argument made the Evening Standard today.

I’m reluctant to call it an argument or a row because, actually, it’s nothing like that. It’s only people like Asda getting it wrong, being told they’re wrong, then given evidence that they are wrong, then shown that just a few years before they were getting it right, and that their website still gets it right, but being too embarrassed to admit they were wrong.

But the Evening Standard produced a useful map, highlighting Battersea, Clapham, and the “disputed area”.

I rather like that, it gives it an air of mystique. It’s got the behind-enemy-lines sort of sound that belongs to a Bond movie.

80 years ago, on people don't know where Battersea is, and the trains aren't any faster

Last time there was a coalition between the Liberals and the Conservatives was 1922. It didn’t end well, at least it didn’t end well for Lloyd-George. But some things were better.

Imagine you were at Victoria and needed to get to Clapham as quickly as possible. You’ve heard trains go from here to Clapham Junction, so you pull out your trusty copy of Bradshaw’s Railway Guide and look up the times…

Still probably too close to Clapham for some

Hold, what’s that, there’s a little indicator next to Clapham Junction. Better check what that refers too. Hold, it says here that Clapham Junction is actually “Mid. Battersea, 1ΒΌ miles from Clapham.”

Phew, were it not for the accuracy of Bradshaw you’d have found yourself in the middle of Battersea.

And it wasn’t just Bradshaw’s Railway Guide.

Even in 1947 SW11 was in Battersea

Imagine it’s 1947, for whatever reason you find yourself away from home, perhaps working and staying in a guest house, you’re curious exactly where you are. You know the address is London SW11, so you grab an RAC guide you always have in your battered leather suitcase…

Ooo, that’s interesting, SW11 is Battersea it says here, SW4 is Clapham. Now you know where you are you might pop to the wonderful Battersea Park you’ve heard so much about, and you’re so glad you haven’t ended staying in that horrible SW4.

Asda Clapham Junction, in Battersea. Not Clapham

Of course, in this wonderful modern world in which we live you could probably just pull out your phone and look it up on the internet. There are plenty of sites that can do it, like this one for Asda that correctly says it’s Battersea.

If only their store manager had made the effort to check.

I have to offer huge thanks to Ian Freeman for sending me the scans. It’s perhaps worth mentioning that, although not a Battersea resident, he’s on the side of right in this battle, and won the SW11 Literary Festival Slogan for Battersea competition with “Battersea: It’s the dog’s”

If you want to download the full size scans feel free:

I apologise. I know that I’m banging on about this, but I’ve just had a response to my latest attempt at communicating with them. What’s getting to me now is not so much their insistence that they are in Clapham, but the fact that they don’t really know where they are and are having huge difficulties in communicating on the subject.

Back on the 1 October they told me that they were in Clapham.

I replied:

Thank-you very much for your reply. Unfortunately I’m not sure that you have fully covered my points.

I’m loathe to suggest this, but might the general store manager be wrong in this instance?

I’ve only lived here for 13 years, so it might be I’m wrong (I’ve no idea how connected he is with the area). However, I suspect that he probably isn’t quite as connected as one of my near neighbours who has lived within a few hundred yards of the store (even when it was a railway yard) for the best part of 80 years, she is adamant that the area is Battersea.

Plenty of others are making a similar mistake. Wandsworth council, which covers the area, seemed to think that SW11 is Battersea when they passed a motion on the subject in 2008 (link opens a PDF of the motion).

And Asda itself isn’t perfect. Back in 2008 you changed your name to reflect the area it is actually located (link). Even today your website still seems to think it’s the Clapham Junction store in Battersea (link).

It seems that there are an awful lot of people that need correcting on this issue!

I know a few people have had responses from one of your colleagues acknowledging a mistake has been made. But I also had an offer from one of your PR people to write a blog post about it on Your Asda and see what sort of response it got; although if we’re letting blog posts rather than geographical fact decide the outcome I think I might see about running a campaign to get it rebranded as Narnia, or possibly Hoth.

Might you be able to double check on the issue?

Today I got a response:

Dear Mr Cousins,

Thanks for your further email sent to my colleague Will Hayton. I’m replying to you on his behalf.

I am very sorry if you find the advert misleading as this was never our intention regarding the location of our Clapham Junction store.

The store is called the Clapham Junction store because it is just next to the Clapham Junction stop on the rail network. However, I have passed on your comments in this matter to the marketing team. They will be able to bear this in mind when planning any future adverts showing the store name.

Thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to our attention. If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind Regards

Kelvin Edet
ASDA Service Team

And where do you go from there? Not only are they failing to acknowledge the facts, they now seem to think their store is called ‘Clapham Junction’ (and it wouldn’t be a problem if it was). Possibly the tactic is to keep the incompetence going until I give up or die, whichever happens sooner.

They should never underestimate the determination of a pedantic man. (Which probably means they’ll keep it going until I die.)

Over a week has gone since I had my response from Asda explaining I didn’t know where I live, but they seem to have ignored my further email (despite Will telling me that I shouldn’t hesitate to contact them if I require any further assistance). Obviously I’ll continue chasing up on the subject.

It also seems that no-one else has had any response, with the sole exception of the Clapham Junction Town Centre Manager who has had a call from them.

Apparently the message was: “We are very sorry you are unhappy about the name. We have no intention of changing it, because it would be confusing.” When asked about the naming in 2008, or on the website, Asda just apologised (apparently not knowing the area or the history).

[I’ll add that I’m fully aware of how places change over the years. I just think that (a) Battersea is worth defending and (b) Asda have an atrocious attitude on this, which is basically just to tell anyone and everyone they are wrong – without even checking their own history. Then again, it is Asda so I’m not sure why I expected better.]

I had a response from Asda following my complaint about them branding their Lavender Hill store ‘Clapham’.

Hello James.

Thank you for contacting ASDA about the name we have given to our ASDA Clapham store.

I’m sorry to learn of your disappointment at ASDA naming the store Clapham instead of Battersea. I can assure you ASDA welcome all customers, whatever there background. We certainly don’t want to offend anyone with the name of the store.

Having spoke to the General Store Manager, he confirmed the store is in Clapham, this is the reasoning for the name of the store. Also if we were to change the name of the store it would lose it’s identity in the local area.

Again, I’m sorry to hear of your disappointment, I hope all your points have been covered in this email. If you require any further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.

Kind Regards

Will Hayton
ASDA Service Team

I only moved to Battersea 13 (fourteen, if you round up) years ago so I’m quite happy to admit I’ve been wrong all this time and have somehow fooled myself into…

Hold it. No. Of course I’m not wrong. Even as a relative newcomer I have seen enough evidence, both objective and subjective, to know I live in Battersea and the Asda store is in Battersea. Of course areas change, but not at the whim of one person (unless Wal-mart have staged a coup d’etat I missed and their manager is now some sort of regional governor). I could pretend I’m typing this in Manhattan. Or on the moon. But that doesn’t make it so.

Happier times: 2008, when people knew where they were
I will be replying to Asda, but decided to hold off my reply to calm a little. The odd thing is that the more time passes the angrier I get about Asda’s attitude.

I’d love to know the manager’s connection with the area prior to managing the store. Very often in retail the managers (because of the nature of their career progression) manage stores some distance from their home – this is particularly true in London where moving can be expensive. But even putting that aside…

Has he had a chat with one of my neighbours who obviously mistakenly believes she has lived in Battersea for the best part of 80 years – all that time a few hundreds yards from the store (or the railway yard that preceded it).

Or perhaps he’s raised it with the council, who – in 2008 – mistakenly passed a motion that highlighted SW11 is Battersea (opens PDF).

I’m sure he’s popped into the Royal Mail delivery office next door to the store and told them how wrong they are to call themselves the Battersea Office. And while he was at it had a word with Battersea Library and Battersea Arts Centre. I can only imagine how foolish they must all have felt having the wrong names all these years.

And I’m sure they’ve had a chat with their press office and the previous store manager. Pointing out their total ignorance when in 2008 they changed the name of the store to reflect it’s true location of Clapham Junction, Battersea.