Why an American named John Lewis gets lots of Twitter hassle from Brits

Virginia Tech lecturer John Lewis was quick to sign up to Twitter, snapping up the @johnlewis name within a year of the app’s launch in 2006.

What he never imagined was that having exactly the same name as a British department store would one day cause him a whole lot of hassle, leading to what has become a holiday season tradition for the put-upon American.

Twitter gets particularly busy for Mr. Lewis toward the end of the year as consumers increase their store visits for gift purchases. As a result, he spends a good deal of his spare time replying to folks who tweet @johnlewis thinking he’s @jlandpartners. The messages include everything from complaints and stock inquiries to opinions about the store’s Christmas ad, which has become a big part of British culture since the first one aired on TV there more than 10 years ago.

Despite adding “not a retail store” to his Twitter profile, Lewis still receives as many as 50,000 messages on the microblogging site each year, though he admits he enjoys the fun of responding to many of the tweets.

“I think it’s hilarious that people mistake me for the U.K. store and I do my best to direct them to the right place,” Lewis told the Guardian, adding, “I see a massive spike in tweets at this time of year and I always watch the John Lewis advert, especially as it becomes a big part of my conversation.”

In a neat twist, Twitter has now created an ad (above) for its own service that features John Lewis at his home in Blacksburg, Virginia, as he deals with the endless inquiries from British shoppers more than 3,500 miles away.

With the tagline, “This Christmas. Join the conversation,” Lewis is shown in front of his laptop as the tweets roll in. He always replies with good grace and humor, and in the ad is seen referring to a nearby whiteboard showing British/American language translations so there’s no confusion when the John Lewis shoppers receive his responses from across the pond.

You might think that the British department store would’ve offered to buy the account name from Mr. Lewis, but he said that up to now he’s yet to receive any such approach from the company.


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