British Bakery’s Bungle Begets Backlash

Thom Weidlich 08.06.20


A U.K. bakery chain has egg on its face from mishandling an employee incident. The situation has risen like a soufflé into a full-blown crisis. It boils down to this: When cooking up a crisis response, do you slavishly follow the recipe or do you check the thermometer and decide to make some adjustments?

The facts of the case are pretty crazy. Megan Metcalfe, who worked for Birds Bakery in Radcliffe-on-Trent, Nottinghamshire, for 44 years, was fired in June for “gross misconduct” (the story came out in the past week or so). She violated the company’s COVID-19 hands-off policy of not taking cash for purchases.

Specifically, Metcalfe realized her many older customers couldn’t buy food at the bakery as they didn’t have debit cards. Her workaround was to put the purchase on her own bank card and have the patron place the cash into her purse (no changing hands). She reportedly took about 45 cash payments totaling £183, or about $239.

Metcalfe said she knew the practice was against company policy, but didn’t want to refuse longtime customers. And, she pointed out, those patrons had already touched the goodies. (In an earlier incident, a 94-year-old woman who wanted to buy bread at a different Birds Bakery was turned away because she didn’t have a bank card, Nottinghamshire Live reported.)

Did we mention Metcalfe worked at the store for 44 years? And, by the way, she had been store manager for 25 years.

The Backlash

Now, the backlash, which is obviously taking a toll — Birds Bakery shuttered its Twitter and Facebook pages.

“Card-Only Payment Policy Brings Birds Backlash,” BritishBaker reported. “Sacking a shopkeeper for helping elderly customers with no access to cashless payments is beyond outrageous,” said Roger Jenkins, national officer of the GMB trade union.

Nottinghamshire Live quoted reader reactions from its Facebook page. One wrote: “It would seem management at Birds are in a hole and are just going to keep on digging.” Another: “Think it’s less about the policy itself, and more about the way they’ve treated their loyal staff member who, whilst you can say was misguided, didn’t deserve dismissal. A warning, sure, but not outright dismissal.”


We are sorry that so many people are upset about Megan Metcalfe’s dismissal from Birds, but she contravened our health and safety policy and we took that very seriously.

— Birds Bakery

As of today, a petition calling on the company to end the card-only policy and reinstate Metcalfe has nearly 11,500 signatures.

The card policy is understandable. It’s even commendable in that it shows concern for the employees and the clientele. But why was the only answer to fire Metcalfe — who worked at the store for 44 years? We imagine that’s what most people are thinking (see: the above-quoted comment and the petition). Metcalfe, reportedly 60 years old, has a new job at a “care home.”

Midlands Locations

Birds Bakery — whose history goes back to 1919; is based in Derby, England; and has about 65 locations in the Midlands — is sticking to its pastry guns.

“Our card-only policy was not to be taken lightly,” it said in a statement, according to The Independent. “We take the safety of our staff and customers very seriously — and have very tight procedures in place during this continuing pandemic. We are sorry that so many people are upset about Megan Metcalfe’s dismissal from Birds, but she contravened our health and safety policy and we took that very seriously.”

Well, some have responded by saying they’ll no longer patronize Birds Bakery. That’s the way the cookie crumbles.

Photo Credit: Birds Bakery via YouTube

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