Dame Anita Roddick’s unorthodox way of handling complaints is not overly appealing in the wake of her change of heart over giving away her millions
It is with deep regret that I announce the suspension of my plan to save Planet Earth. This setback, like global warming itself, is due to human error, or, more accurately, human misunderstanding.
I, along with many others, made the mistake of taking Dame Anita Roddick at her word when she recently announced her intention to give away her millions.
The founder of the Body Shop said she wanted to cash in her 20 million shares and give away the proceeds valued at some &£50 million. “I don’t want to die rich,” she declared. “Money does not mean anything to me. The worst thing is greed – the accumulation of money. I don’t know why people who are extraordinarily wealthy are not more generous.”
Fittingly, she made this announcement in London at a Beautiful Minds exhibition at the British Library, and those who heard her were as one in agreeing that hers was indeed an admirably comely mind and an example to us all. Owing to a pressing previous appointment with my bookmaker, I was not among those privileged to hear Ms Roddick speak, but when subsequently I read of her statement I was keenly interested. For reasons of confidentiality, which I feel sure you will understand, I am not able to divulge the precise details of my scheme to save the planet and all its wonders for generations as yet unborn. Suffice to say that they require me to invest in an Aston Martin DB9 in gunmetal grey and a new fitted kitchen.
Excited by the prospect of at last bringing my project to fruition, I resolved to pay a visit to Dame Anita and lay before her the blueprint of Operation Dewy Morning Green. Attired in kaftan, sandals, and eco-friendly trousers, and wearing about my neck a string of beads fashioned by Peruvian natives from driftwood washed ashore on the banks of the life-giving Putumayo River and – a nice touch this – a dab of papaya body butter behind each ear, I mounted my bicycle and set off for Chateau Roddick.
I am unused to pedalling, preferring as a rule to travel by car since my investment in petrol provides much-needed revenue for third-world oil producing nations. I therefore felt a little weary and halted at a wayside inn called Ye Olde Pole Dancer (a reference, I think, to an Eastern European folk mazurka). While refreshing myself with a large G and T, my eye fell upon a copy of the Daily Telegraph left on the table by a previous drinker, and what I saw caused me to start convulsively. The page swam before my eyes. This could not be true! But there it was in black and white.
“Anita Roddick is trying to stem the tide of donation requests she’s receiving after revealing her intention to give away her fortune.
‘I’d like to set the record straight,’ she says. ‘I will be giving my money away – that’s a fact – but not at the moment. Please give me a break – I’m not dead yet!'”
It was with a heavy heart and a sense of bitter disappointment that I drained my glass and set off back home. Dame Anita, it would seem, is a latter day St Augustine, who, you will remember, prayed “Give me chastity and continence, but not yet.” The Body Shop founder wishes to renounce her fortune, but not yet.
So be it. However, though I have misgivings and a lingering sense of disappointment, wisely was it said that every cloud has a silver lining. For not long after reading of Dame Anita’s change of heart, I chanced upon an article written by her for the benefit of aspiring entrepreneurs. In it, she explains that while she was at Body Shop, she provided new employees with a booklet outlining the company’s mission.
“Within this book were six or seven red envelopes. Any time you were really upset about anything the organization had done, or the people or the founder had done, you wrote it down in the red envelope, it was sent to me and I had to respond belly-to-belly with the person who was upset within 24 hours.”
If it is not too presumptuous, I should like to echo her words and “set the record straight”. Though it is my dearest wish to save the world and show leadership in global justice, human rights, environmental action and grassroots organising, I am not entirely happy at the prospect of resolving difficulties by the unnatural means of “belly-to-belly” contact with Ms Roddick. I agree that she generously allows 24 hours in which to brace oneself for the experience, but I confess that is not enough. I should need at least three weeks on a Seychelles beach, and that costs money.