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Rule that isn't its rule upsets Pottery Barn

HELEN HUNTLEY
Published April 20, 2004

Could invading Iraq really have anything in common with sending a wine glass crashing to the floor while browsing at Pottery Barn?

Absolutely not, say the folks at Pottery Barn, who are miffed by a metaphor attributed to Secretary of State Colin Powell in a new book by Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward. The book debuts in bookstores today.

Supposedly Powell warned Bush that if he sent U.S. troops to Iraq, "you're going to be owning this place." That was based on what Powell and his deputy Richard Armitage called "the Pottery Barn rule" of "you break it, you own it."

The real Pottery Barn has no such rule. And it's a bit weary of Powell's remarks being quoted in newspaper and television reports the last few days.

"This is very, very far from a policy of ours," said Leigh Oshirak, public relations director for the brand, owned by Williams-Sonoma Inc. of San Francisco. "In the rare instance that something is broken in the store, it's written off as a loss."

She said some store managers have called her, concerned about news reports. Pottery Barn has more than 170 stores selling home furnishings, including two in Tampa.

"It's upsetting and absurd that that analogy has been put out there," Oshirak said. "You'd think that somewhere along the line they would have checked."

Powell isn't the only one to bring up the so-called Pottery Barn rule. The expression is a favorite of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, who has mentioned it on multiple occasions, including during a speech in Tampa last year.

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