Last week a story went viral about U.S. tourist David Willis. After browsing on one of the higher floors of Waterstones in Trafalgar Square, Europe’s biggest bookshop, he came down and found the place deserted. He promptly realized he was locked in. He attempted to open the door, which set the alarm off. Then he spoke to security guards and the police. Finally, he did the inevitable. He tweeted: “Hi @Waterstones, I’ve been locked inside of your Trafalgar Square bookstore for two hours now. Please let me out,” and they did.
What Willis wasn’t expecting was a torrent of Tweets about what to read while locked in, plus appearances on Good Morning America and Good Morning Britain.
Waterstone’s handled the embarrassment with good grace and a smart promotional idea. After apologizing to Willis, they collaborated with Airbnb, the travel website, to organize a competition. The prize was a sleepover in the store for 10 winners plus one guest each.
The sleepover included a tour and surprise readings by a Jeeves impersonator and an actor playing Hercules Poirot. The guests were then allowed to browse and converse all night long, with the promise of a free breakfast in the morning. All of them got some sleep.