Sunday, January 03, 2010

I thought I’d get in some early 2010 negative comments about levels of intrusive bureaucracy in Britain. So . . .

1. For those planning to work with children and other vulnerable groups, It’s taking up to four years to get the results of a Criminal Records Bureau enquiry. Meaning that some people have to go on the dole while waiting to know whether they’re allowed to do the job they’ve been offered.

2. In London, there are “senior revenue protection officers’ employed by London Transport with the power to investigate whether you are trying to avoid the congestion charge and to take a photo of you and your car if you reject their request to search it for such incriminating evidence as a pair of false plates.

3. Click here for an account of “galloping liberal fascism” and “State-sponsored unsafety”.

I have been known to suggest Spanish companies know only one business strategy – Trap your customers and then fleece them regularly. Well, here’s an account of how things have moved in this direction in the UK over the last ten to twenty years. Meaning, of course, that the Spanish were ahead of the game. As the author writes:- “Treating loyal, unquestioning customers badly is becoming endemic across large tracts of the British service industry. In banking and insurance it is virtually de rigueur, as it is among mobile phone operators and broadband providers. The customer who doesn’t relentlessly switch suppliers or at least threaten to defect is too often regarded not as a valued client to be cherished and treated well, but as a fool to be gouged. . . One little-remarked business trend of the past 20 years has been the way companies that would once reward customer loyalty now punish it. The client who is too trusting is clobbered. Savvy, promiscuous new customers, on the other hand, are lavished with keener prices and perks. Householders increasingly spend their free time these days not at rest, but trying to sidestep low-intensity but relentless corporate chicanery”

But the best story of the week comes from my daughter’s partner and relates to the wedding of his brother. Feeling that a minimum of 115 quid a bottle was perhaps a little pricey for champagne, they found some decent stuff elsewhere and advised the hotel accordingly. No problem, the hotel said, but corkage on this will be 4,500 pounds. Or a mere 53 quid a bottle. OK, it is Woburn Abbey but, nonetheless, how on earth can this be justified, except as the profit they were going to make on the bubbly?

Here’s an interesting comparison – A month or two ago my daughter in Madrid was invited to a party that began at 3am. Tonight, when searching at 9.15 for a place to have a coffee or a chocolate in Bayonne – 20km from the Spanish border – we were told the café-restaurant we’d just entered had already closed. We smiled at the shared vision of a Spanish family on a first trip to France getting ready to go out for an ‘early’ dinner at 9.30pm and finding everywhere closed and shuttered. Strangely, noises from somewhere on the edge of town suggested a rugby match was still being played at 9.30. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

Finally . . . It’s been a pleasant surprise – especially for Ryan – to find that all the hotels in Bayonne allow you to take a dog into the room. For a small extra charge of 2-5 euros. Though God knows what this is for. It’s not as if he’s going to take a shower or use the toilet roll.

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