GEMS foot-in-mouth syndrome and the curious case of the disappearing comments

Please don’t put your foot in your mouth. If you have to say something do mutter the words when the room is empty, or when you’re in the middle of the ocean. And it’s also advisable to stay away from media (image credit: http://www.ronedmondson.com)

There’s a condition that I like to name foot-in-mouth syndrome. Basically, foot-in-mouth happens when an executive talks to a journalist and doesn’t think before they speak. This results in classic ‘how did they say that’ quotes which often whip up a storm of protests from all and sundry.

This week we had one of the best foot-in-mouth moments I’ve read for some time. The chairman of GEMS Education, the UAE’s largest provider of primary and secondary education, gave an interview to Gulf Business. The story was rapidly picked up by Arabian Business and has provoked hundreds of comments from some very angry parents. The quotes which did the (most) damage were below.

Parents have no right to complain about fees if they choose a high school they cannot afford, GEMS Education chairman said of “grumbling” parents in an interview with Gulf Business.

“If you put your children in a school that you can’t afford then you can’t grumble,” Sunny Varkey said.
“You understand what I’m saying? You must choose a school that you can afford.

“It’s normal human behaviour [for parents] to defend fees. But parents can very well see which are the schools that are good, outstanding, fair, or not good. And, accordingly, they can choose a school.”

I love media sites on the internet, partly because of the ability to leave comments and the inevitable pearls of wisdom that readers leave. Varkey’s foot-in-mouth (and if you can’t see why this is a disaster of an interview for Varkey, you’re beyond the pale) was attacked from all sides by parents. Comments included such wonders as ‘It’s no wonder GEMS and HSBC (?) are the two most hated firms in the UAE’, and ‘If graduates from your schools are as arrogant as you are then your schools are definitely not worth the tuition. I would highly recommend getting media training before giving out interviews.’

I wish I could show you more comments; the last time I saw the piece with the comments section still live there were 98 printed which must be a record for the site. However, Arabian Business’ publisher ITP has taken off comments for this piece, either due to the severity of the comments or, more likely, someone possibly threatening legal action.

What happened to the comments on Sunny Varkey’s case of foot-in-mouth? I don’t know. But I can at least leave you this cached screen shot to show you that what goes on the internet can always be found!

Where did the comments go? Only ITP and GEMS will know!

Where did the comments go? Only ITP and GEMS will know!

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