A LOCAL spa has apologised to its members after sending out an email backing Brexit.
On Monday, people who had signed up to messages from Sindlesham Nirvana Spa received an email inviting them to read the views of John Barley, its owner and chairman.
The short message said that he had been recently invited to share his views on the European referendum, which takes place on Thursday. It added: “We would like to offer you the opportunity to read his article”. People who then clicked on the link where taken to a webpage which reprinted his article.
He argued: “Far from being intimidated by financial scaremongering I am confident that Britain can prosper as an independent country.
“My vision is for a Britain with strong growth and development, I firmly believe that our constitutional framework underpins this. The UK must regain its democracy and be in control of setting laws which allow businesses to be agile and forward thinking.
“A vote for leave is a vote for freedom and opportunity, I am confident that leave will provide the climate to further grow my company which in turn will bring jobs and prosperity to the local area.”
However, sharing this message has not been popular with all of its recipients.
A reader who contacted The Wokingham Paper but did not wish to be named, said: “This is completely inappropriate and an abuse of the mailing list.
“This is NOT[a] legitimate use under the Data Protection Act (a UK law not an EU one!!) and I will be filing a complaint with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
“Send anything like this again and I will cancel my membership.”
While people on Facebook have also been expressing their concerns, calling it disappointing and appalling and also pointing out that it breaches sections of the Data Protection Act.
Another member, Emma Cairns, said she was ‘appalled’ to receive the email from the spa, calling the move ‘wholly inappropriate’. She said: “I have a membership at Nirvana Spa and visit once a month or so to enjoy some relaxation. I have a serious medical condition that means lots of visits to the hospital so any break from that is very welcome.
“I was appalled to receive an invitation from the owner of the spa to read his article on Brexit. It’s seems to me to be wholly inappropriate for the spa to be using my personal e mail address to send me propaganda about the current EU debate. I feel it’s a real infringement on my privacy and a cheap shot to be using the contacts he has from his business to circulate his opinions.
“I also heard on a local Facebook group that there were posters up in the spa for the Vote Leave campaign. If I had been attending the spa and seen that I would have left immediately. It is totally unacceptable to be bombarded with these debates in a spa!! This is where we go to escape from all the rhetoric that we are being subjected to at the moment.”
Editor’s note: there were no such posters on display when we visited the spa on Tuesday, June 21.
Daniel Green added: “Such a contentious issue is not the place of a gym to, in my opinion, abuse their mailing list. I think it was a reputational risk sending the email, especially as the views in the email/post were a sketchy interpretation of facts or actual misinterpretation of facts.
“Not sure if I’m just clearly biased as I don’t agree, but I believe they could have claimed a position in the paper but not in my inbox!”
Danny Crossland, operations director of Nirvana Spa, said: “We would like to point out that members were invited to click on a link which clearly stated what the article was about.”
He also included the text of an email being sent to customers who contacted the spa to express their concerns over the email.
“Thank you for your feedback, we apologise that you did not appreciate receiving our email.
“It is of interest to some members that our Chairman, who is a well-known business owner, is asked for his considered opinion. We have had feedback that some members feel this is a misuse of their data and we do take this matter very seriously, we will consider adding different levels of opt-in for future communications.
“You are currently opted in to club communications and this includes the newsletter. The link to this article was due to go in the newsletter on Friday 17th but this was rearranged after the sad events of last week. We recognised that some members would not want to read this article and we took care to ensure that members were invited to click the link to read further.
“The article was not written to provide advice or instruction on how to vote but to share the opinion of the Chairman. We understand that club members and staff have a full range of opinions on this issue, which the Chairman respects and we apologise that our article caused upset.”
What do you think? You can read the email message here.