Two-part post: ‘Stop The…wait, what are we stopping today?’ and ‘competitive competition is so unfair!’

Again the netbook doesn’t want to let me type anything remotely controversial, so I’m using my phone (still loving it, by the way), so here’s what’s on my mind.

Firstly and more briefly, I’ve just stumbled across the ‘stop the cuts’ blog. I actually frequented it regularly around this time last year when it was students and staff versus the university management, but don’t much nowadays. The reason for this is that I realised the battle had been lost when I turned up on the first day of this year and half of my lecturers had been dismissed, which, to be fair on them, the university said they were going to do right at the beginning of the consultations and didn’t deviate from throughout.

However, and somewhat frustratingly, the STC movement don’t seem to be able to understand that not only has the battle of Sussex university been totally lost, but the same conflict on a national scale isn’t far from over with the same conclusion. They appear to be stuck in a bubble of some sort. Why, just the other week I saw a poster authored by them posing the question ‘how should we be organised?’. I laughed and died inside in equal measure, as this summed up the movement* perfectly for me. the movement* had been moving* for approximately a year, and they were still unsure of how to be organised. Maybe this need to re-organise was as a result of new aims, but then this was indirectly admitting defeat on the university front.

In addition to this poster of self-admitted defeat, and back to the blog I mentioned at the beginning, I noticed the latest blog post on the aforementioned blog was announcing the anniversary of what was known as, when people cared, the battle of Sussex house. In the whole of this pointless and annoying blog post, one sentence leapt out at me, but presumably not in the way the author intended – ‘questions will be asked.’ This was something that happened a year ago, one Earth year, and yet this emotive and pseudo-aggressive statement about the intention to ask difficult or probing or uncomfortable questions was still in the future tense. And my thought was simply this; these events happened a year ago. Not yesterday, not last week, and if you had any difficult or probing questions to ask, why haven’t you asked them already?

And all credibility was lost.

*I use ‘move’ and all derivatives loosely and purely as an adjective to describe the organisation, as progress of it has been evidently minimal.

Now a local, and quite irritating story that has tickled a nerve. Let’s scene-set. In every industry and service I can think of, bar very few, there are multiple providers or suppliers of the given product or service. For instance I have been looking at buying a bicycle recently, and there are several bike shops available to me, ranging from second hand and cheap to brand new, high tech and very expensive. This gives everyone buying a bike the choice of what price they want to pay for a bike that suits them. They’re not forced to buy an expensive bike, and conversely they’re not forced to make do with a cheap one.

Now back to the story – in this quaint town of Brighton there are the obligatory roads and there are the consequential buses. Until a few years ago there was one company providing all said buses, and as far as I was aware they did, and are still doing, a fairly good job of it – fairly frequent and reasonably priced enough to be used, and with a large fleet of approaching 300 buses.

A few years back, and again I don’t know the exact details but, a new bus company was set up, known as the Big Lemon, running their comparatively small fleet of no more than a dozen on reused vegetable oil, between the universities and the town centre. Now from what I gather it hasn’t been smooth running, but they provide a service on the busiest routes in town so have a good opportunity to plant a firm base of customers and use.

Cut to the last few weeks. The Big Lemon, who have been offering cheaper fares since their inception, noticed the other company have reduced the fares both of the daily and weekly tickets to match the Big Lemon, but only on the route they share. In essence, one company has reduced the prices for a service where they are directly competing for custom with another company.

All part of the business game you may think? So do I, but the folks behind the Big Lemon apparently don’t see it that way. They’ve assumed the role of the helpless chicken being stalked by a ravenous wolf, releasing quotes to the tune of ‘they can’t afford to do this elsewhere, they have reduced their prices “to get rid of us”‘ (I kid you not, that last bit is ad verbatim).

I’m not sure how much the big lemons behind the Big Lemon know about business, but it’s high time someone introduces them to the notion of competition. The reason the opposition haven’t reduced prices elsewhere is they don’t need to. They don’t have competing services elsewhere, so have no reason to reduce prices to match others.

Another laughable paragraph I have seen ponders that as the Big Lemon is barely breaking even at its current prices, how does Brighton and Hove buses manage it running bigger, more frequent buses. It then goes on, in the general tone of the piece to indirectly accuse the opposing company of contravening EU competition law, all the while completely ignoring the incomparable scale of the two companies (I refer you to the fleet sizes above).

Aside from this whole fiasco of one company not understanding the concept of competition, and the other using it as an opportunity to promote its reduced fare free of charge, I think instead of grumbling about the unfairness of another company being able to match your prices, this should be a wake-up call to the Big Lemon that aside from the lower price (and for many even that isn’t enough to gain their custom), they don’t have much going for them in the view of the common man.

What frustrates me even further is that my students union seems to have sided on the side of the underdog. True, It’s apparent that a majority of the Lemon’s custom is from students, but a majority of students still use the other service, evidenced by teeming buses on the university route most weekday rush hours, and probably a greater number drive than use the Lemon, so to truly represent its members it would have to lobby Brighton and Hove buses to reduce its prices across the city and improve traffic flow, but then that would be going against the university’s environmentally friendly core, which presents a dilemma which it seems the environmental core are winning.

Might add more to this or refine it in the morning.

Jack out.

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About Jack
A small-time traveller in a big-time world

One Response to Two-part post: ‘Stop The…wait, what are we stopping today?’ and ‘competitive competition is so unfair!’

  1. The problem that Stop the Cuts and every other organisation like it has always had is this: they haven’t the slightest idea what they’re doing. You know me, so you know I was involved with the group, fervently. And to sum up months of rage and frustration, they just don’t have the first fucking clue about how to organise anything. Between the incessant bullying of SWP and the total lack of any kind of organisational skills, the campaign was never going to get anywhere. I’ve seen it on a local level and on a national level. Cuts are bad! We’re gonna stop ’em! No idea how to do that, but yeah! Cuts suck!

    And what happened? Predictably, the campaign failed to organise students in any meaningful way, apart from when the administration decided to be colossal dickheads and suspend six of them. It should have been easy after that to keep the momentum going, but gee, holidays and I’ve gotta go see my family and I’m so busy and um yeah, cuts still suck?

    Predictably, UCU backed off its halfhearted industrial action the moment they could do so without looking like they’d practically welcomed the cuts with open arms. And when UCU lost interest in the fight, there was no hope for the students. Especially since they had no clue how to do anything except cheerlead UCU.

    This is exactly the same kind of incoherent but definitely anti-something ‘action’ that took place on the site of where Taj used to be. First they squatted. Then they asked everybody else what they should do with the space. Uh, don’t you think you should have considered that first? And as usual, after talking a lot of big talk about how they weren’t gonna stand for it… they left. The courts, predictably, sided with quasi-evil business interests over disorganised students, so the totally rebellious denizens of SABOTAJ (get it, cos it uses Taj and it’s ANARCHY) slinked out with their tails between their legs. It’s the same thing that happened with the Lewes Road Community Garden: things got a little tough, so the hippies gave up.

    This is why all these preposterous and nasty Tory cuts are going to go right on through and ruin thousands of lives. All the anti-cuts movement has is empty rhetoric and a lot of blustery self-righteous politicos who are more interested in soundbites and party recruitment than in actually doing something meaningful. I mean, how the hell can you fail to mobilise people in the face of such cruel public policy? By being completely incompetent, that’s how. Just look at all the anti-NUS lefties and anarchists on Facebook urging people to vote for NUS delegates– and sign UCU petitions! They don’t learn from anything, so they are doomed to repeat it. And if the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result, I would prefer to stay sane and stay out of all that crap. And I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    … I seem to have ranted all over your post. Sorry about that. :S

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