Risk.

I never considered myself much of a risk-taker. Three years ago I was content with sitting out my failing degree, and two years ago I was content with working a forty-hour week and still not being able to afford my own place. It wasn’t until a little over a year ago that I finally took my first risk. I did something that had no obvious immediate benefit, for no other reason than because I was finally sick of being content with the mundaneness of my existence.

More precisely a year ago, I was gearing up for the second risk I had taken – going to Rome for a few days, to meet a friend who may or may not have been too busy to meet me some or all of the time. It seems silly, in hindsight, calling it a risk. Nowadays I’d just call it a bit of travelling, but back then I had to resist drawing parallels between myself and Columbus, I felt epic. Of course I wasn’t, but the feeling became addictive. Doing something new, or unpredictable, with no thought for the consequences, so long as they wouldn’t be harmful. This was the first time I had stayed in a hostel, and it was the most enjoyable and social hostel experience I’ve experienced so far. I met some really interesting people and even found one or two to explore the city with.

I’ve been to many other cities since, and dare I say it I’m almost becoming accustomed to the novelty of it. I am still taking risks, in that I’m meeting up with new au pairs and seeing cities that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, but now I’m starting to notice risk-taking seeping into other areas of my life. I risked being thought of as unusually chatty by a stranger on my way through London last week on my way home from the airport, and got rewarded with a very enjoyable evening with that same stranger on my return through London back to Italy a week later.

There is no telling where some of these risks will get me, but I am definitely becoming less adverse to taking them. My only concern now is that I don’t become labelled as cocky or arrogant, as I only really want to take chances for what they’re worth.

Jack out.

Advertisements

All’s well that ends well

Wow, what a week this has been. First off, Early Saturday morning, I got some pretty sad news from back home. It was only ever a question of when, not if, but the suddenness with which it happened was still a shock. I’m counting my blessings that I’m away from home, and that my somewhat fatalistic nature kicked in which helped me handle it well.

Saturday itself, I had been invited to go to Pisa with some friends, and decided to go ahead with that, hoping it would take my mind off things. It was very much the right thing to do. Travelling has always been about more to me than the new places you find. I’m also after the people that deceive you in how long you’ve known them for – weeks and months that seem like years or even lifetimes. The moments you realise you’ve found another one of these people, that seem to instinctively know what to do in your times of greatest need, but can also share your most ridiculous laughs in your times of greatest goofiness, are the defining moments of life. Saturday was one of those moments.

On Sunday morning, still buzzing from this day out, followed by an evening in a natural hotspring with the same group of friends, I awoke to find an email waiting for me. In contrast to the news I received but twenty-four hours earlier, this was a message that I had wondered if, not when, it would arrive. I’m never one to go into detail unnecessarily, but it was the message a part of me always hoped to receive and, being of the opinion that life is too short to hold grudges, I accepted the apology within.

Sunday, again, I hung out with the life-changing friend from the previous day, and by the late afternoon I was both emotionally and now physically spent. I haven’t really been able to catch back up on my sleep up until this point, but I’m just ploughing through the days until I can relax for my birthday trip to Bologna this weekend.

Jack out.

Growth

It was boxing day yesterday, although it isn’t called that in Italy, it’s Saint Stefan’s day. I’m guessing he was the patron saint of boxes. The highlight of the preceding day was my host mother asking to clarify Cockney rhyming slang in relation to the ‘Barry White’ entry in the book of English slang and idioms that was my gift to her. For those interested, it means shite. The low-light was that I spilt the cognac filling from one of the chocolates in the gift from my old host family. I spilt it on my tablet’s keyboard.

However, that was yesterday, and today is today, and the new year is less than a week away. Now, normally at this time of year my mind turns to the mythical new year’s resolutions. What objective should I set myself for the year ahead? I then realise I never make them, can’t follow through on a promise to myself to save my life, and resolve to bring in the year with an early night.

In fact, glancing back to my posts of this time last year, I was too wrapped up in the mysterious adventure that lay ahead to write about any aims or ambitions I may have had. Quite rightly so, and in hindsight, I would have been severely limiting myself had I set any targets.

So should I do the same this year? ‘Why break the habit of a lifetime’ is my instinctive response. But then if I hadn’t broken the habit of a lifetime, in being content with the status quo, even if it wasn’t particularly beneficial to me, I wouldn’t be sitting where I am now, either literally or figuratively.

The obvious answer is therefore no. This year I will make them, and I will base them on what they would have been had everything this year been the result of ones I made a year ago.

1. Make the most of every negative situation that is thrown your way. Your girlfriend entices you out of your comfort zone, out of the country, and then, fairly promptly, leaves you. Don’t get me wrong, there are no hard feelings; it’s easily the best thing that happened to me this year. Partially as I made the best of what could have otherwise been a lame-ass situation. It was the real kick in the butt I needed to properly immerse myself in the country I was now in, and I was also now free to move around as I desired, which I hope to fully take advantage of in the next couple of years when I become some sort of nomadic teacher.

2. Do something you wouldn’t have done a year ago. Tomorrow I’m travelling half a day across the country, to somewhere I’ve never been before, to meet somebody I’ve never met. No way would I have done that last year. I was far too content with the here-and-now. You wouldn’t have been able to have convinced me of the point of it.

3. Do something you couldn’t have done a year ago. I found out today that there is a gym nearby offering kick-boxing lessons. For as long as I can remember I’ve been thinking it would be interesting to start some sort of combat sport or martial art, but never got round to actually researching it. Again it’s all part of the being part of the status quo that I’m continually trying to shake off. This discovery is perfectly timed for me to start a new hobby in the new year. I haven’t got the first clue about kickboxing now, but by this time next year? Watch this space.

4. See somewhere new. This one is a little easy, as I’ve practically organised it already – going to Finland when I visit home over Easter. All I need is my Finnish friend to confirm her hospitality and it’s a done deal. But I think that would be a good thing to continue yearly – hopefully this nomadic teacher thing will make it achievable by default.

Jack out.

Whatever They Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not

Throughout college and university I was a horrible procrastinator. Xbox, TV, going outside, you name it, I’d rather do it than an essay or assignment. If you go back far enough into the depths of my archives, every other post was written to delay something academic. Sure, it bit me in the ass like a police-trained attack squirrel, but I developed my writing style at the same time, and I know which I’m finding most useful now. As it transpires I’m finding English much more interesting than computers, and that seems much more suited to where I’m going in life.

Which brings me to the subject of tonight’s post – it seems I’m still using writing to procrastinate. In a little over thirty-six hours I’ll be on a plane to Italy for the second time in nine months, and I’ve spent the best part of the evening trying my hand at fiction writing. I’m in a real dilemma as to whether I’m almost finished with packing or not. On the return leg in July, I barely managed to keep my hold bag below twenty kilos, and my carry-on was so fat it had to spend the trip down below too. Now, being a little conservative with my clothes, my worldly possessions more or less now fit in the one bag. I can’t help feeling I’m missing some obvious, massive thing. Maybe I’m being a little too conservative with what I take.

However this is all slightly beside the point, in that my concern is more what I’m doing to procrastinate, rather than the task I’m avoiding. The eagle-eyed reader will have noticed I said I’m trying my hand at fiction. When you consider I’ve spent the best part of the last eight months writing (somewhat) factually about my experiences living abroad, you’ll understand why I’m as perplexed as you may be. The venture, currently, is under the encouragement of a new lurker on these pages, a fan of my writings, possibly even the first self-diagnosed case. At the moment I’m in two minds about posting anything on any form of publicly accessible forum (i.e. here). If I do, I fear things may get even more bipolar than they already are. Watch this space.

Jack out.

The twenty-second post of the expedition – the polar opposite of a previous release

“I know we’re only human. We do go in for these various emotions, call them negative emotions. But when all these are removed, and you can look forward, and the road is clear ahead to create something, I think that’s as happy as I’d ever want to be.” – Alfred Hitchcock

Seeing as I’ve spent a post gazing off into the future, and raving about how content I am with where my life is going for the next few months, it seems only fair in the interest of being balanced to talk about the past.

‘Is there anything you regret in the past?’, ‘what would you differently if you could?’. Popular questions in deep conversations around the world. Heck, it would surprise me if somewhere, someone wasn’t being asked it right now. For me, it’s easy to answer – so long as you are genuinely happy with your present, and not pushing the bad bits to the deepest, most inaccessible parts of your consciousness, there should in principle be nothing you regret in your past. It has, after all, combined uniquely to bring you to your current position in life. If not, you still have ample opportunity to change or rectify it – there is a whole future ahead of you, an undefined period in which to do things, so do.

In that vein, no, there is nothing I regret that has happened in my past, be within or out of my control, because I am content with the present, what there is, and even what there isn’t. Life, by all accounts, is good. And the future will be spent making it better.

Jack out.

Tablets in disguise…

Just browsed through this article on the Economist, about the need for tablet computers ( http://www.economist.com/blogs/babbage/2013/01/tablet-computers), which in actuality turned out to be a piece on the iPad and its siblings, and yet another closed-minded writer regurgitating how Apple products can’t do everything. How they’re too big or too small, too slow, or too casual.

Of course they can’t. That’s precisely why I’ve never touched them with a ten foot iPole. There is a free market in tablets you know. I’m writing this on a tablet, albeit a tablet that currently looks more like a small laptop than a tablet. It comes with a grand total of 30GB or so of memory, but the makers have had the ingenuity to provide a slot for a memory card and a connection for extra storage, so I currently have closer to 1TB to play with. It also has more cores than my desktop machine. Expandable memory? Detachable, real keyboard? Substantial processing power? All quite farfetched concepts to the average iUser, but then I never have been.

Might write a full review of this beast of a machine, but until then..

Happy new year.

Jack out.

Crap for the sake of crap…

So, Facebook is down, and I’ve got to be up in a little over five hours to begin the most hectic three and a bit days I’ve had in a long time. However my sleep pattern is a little skewiff and I only got up at half eleven this morning so I’m having trouble sleeping, so here’s something.

I would have thought in times of austerity the Christmas season would be more geared towards coming-togetherness and a sense of family and shared experiences than materialistic exchange for little actual gain.

I’ve found as I’ve got older, Christmas has been less about crap for the sake of crap, more about get me something if you think I’d like it and if not, I won’t mind, and, this year of all years, just spend some time with me, as that has more value to me than anything.

That people feel compelled to get a gift in response to me getting one for them baffles me a little. I understand the social reasoning behind it, but I’m not really doing it to say I expect something in return, but that it is in fact a return gift in itself, in return for their time throughout the year.

I don’t think I’d mind not receiving a single gift from my friends at Christmas, as long as I had friends to not receive them from.

Jack out.

Oh my days…

Welcome back. Apologies for the hiatus. Where were we?

As you may have gathered from reading some of my pieces previously, every so often I will read, hear, see or experience something that compels me to retort, usually with it ending up on here in some sort of eloquent form. And, at the risk of sounding like a teenager discovering his gentleman-vegetables for the first time – it’s happened again.

It’s about two years now since I was mid-way through my tenure as the ‘Comment & Opinion editor’ for my university’s weekly rag, so I completely understand the editorial reasons behind the publication of articles that may be inflammatory, inaccurate, or just incoherent – often I would have spaces to fill and nothing else to fill them with. However I am no longer in that position of necessity, and feel compelled to defend something of professional interest.

I promised myself a long time ago that I would never write about family or work, quite frankly for fear of sticking my foot in it, but as this is a retort to previous online literature, and not coming entirely from my own experiences, I feel safe in posting it, but will add the caveat that this is entirely my own understanding, that nothing should be taken as absolute fact, and everything, as always, should be taken with a small handful of the coarsest-grained salt you have to hand.

I do still work at the university, at the primary supermarket on campus, and have done since it opened at the beginning of the last academic year. This time has been far from trouble-free for everyone concerned with its operation, including the students. The disgruntlement of this group makes it a prime target for the aforementioned inflammatory, inaccurate and incoherent pieces I previously oversaw, and sure enough, the red laser-sight of angry penmanship has settled flickeringly on it in recent weeks. This is a piece I found online, dated 28th October:

Valentine Kalbov is an 18-year-old Music Informatics student from Bulgaria. Valentine is free to enjoy almost all social and academic experiences that the University of Sussex has to offer, except one. As an EU citizen in possession of a Bulgarian ID, Valentine is free to travel to any country in the EU without a passport as long as he produces his home country’s ID at foreign borders. However, there is one place in the EU where Valentine’s ID is not accepted and it’s surprisingly close to his (and my) halls of residence.

Following the recent scandal regarding the hike in fees for International students, I was made aware of yet another issue affecting non-UK students at Sussex. And this time it amounts to nothing less than pure discrimination and a violation of article 21.2 (‘non-discrimination’) of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights.

If Valentine wants to purchase alcohol or tobacco products in the campus Co-op, they are required to present a valid piece of identification to prove that they over the age of 18. I myself use my passport, others a driving licence: these are the only pieces of ID which the Co-op will accept as proof of age. I and many others have also signed up for the Thumb ID scheme which allows customers to simply place their thumb on a reader to prove their age. The scheme, however, only accepts people registering with one of these two forms of ID.

Now, as EU students don’t need a passport to move between member states, Valentine does not have his passport with him in the UK. He doesn’t have a driving licence either but that point became even less relevant when I learned that the Co-op only accepts UK driving licences as a valid form of ID.

In essence, the Co-op will not, under any circumstances, recognise a piece of ID which they have not arbitrarily decided is valid. It would seem that despite legislation prohibiting any form of discrimination on the grounds of nationality, the Co-op has made its own regulations without considering the law or the number of EU students who might be affected by them.

It may seem a little like I’m making a huge deal about my friend not being able to buy cigarette papers or cider, but to quote Bob Dylan, “the letter of law has no top and no bottom,” and however minor an act of discrimination may seem, it still amounts to discrimination. If Valentine (or any other EU student) is allowed to enter the country as an EU citizen and allowed to take a course of study at a British university, why is he then not allowed to enjoy the same freedoms that other students have automatically? Is the Co-op somehow a more exclusive club than the European Union? Why is it harder for an adult to purchase tobacco and alcohol products than it is for him or her to enter the UK in the first place?

When I asked management at the campus Co-op about this issue (and I have on many occasions), the answer has always been “Oh, that’s our policy,” or “It’s being discussed.” When I told them that their policy on ID was discriminatory and illegal, my argument was simply met with “You can fill out a complaints form if you’d like.” It’s now over a month since fresher’s week. I for one do not believe that anything is being done to correct this oversight or that it is in fact “being discussed” at all.

The Co-op has always had a reputation for being a very ethical company and one with which I would not normally associate with discriminatory practices. However, this issue has made me think differently. That is not to say that I think the Co-op is being purposely discriminatory, simply that a terrible error of judgement has been made when considering rules on ID. If Valentine cannot buy alcohol or tobacco products on campus due to his nationality, the Co-op’s reputation as an ethical company acting in the interests of students is certainly in doubt.

Graham McDougall

To which I have written a response:

Graham,

It seems you are not one to let a few facts or misconceptions get in the way of writing a gloriously lengthy, inflammatory piece. So as someone with knowledge and experience regarding the predicament your friend finds himself in, allow me to put forward a few more accurate facts of my own.

It seems you have mistaken the Co-op for the USSU. Your last point about the former’s reputation “as an ethical company acting in the interests of students” being in doubt is quickly disputed with the use of one’s favourite search engine. You are quite accurate that they are ethically motivated, but sadly they make no claims to act in the interests of any students. The Co-op store as it is now is run in partnership with the USSU, with the latter providing the staffing. While the similarities in their vision and values were a contributing factor towards the partnership it is erroneous to believe the headers are interchangeable and, as such, that the Co-op is looking out for students.

The overriding tone I picked up from your piece is that it is illegal, by virtue of being discriminatory, to refuse sale of age restricted products to anyone without one of a handful of very specific forms of identification. You appear to have overlooked the similarly illegal practices of supplying alcohol or tobacco products to those under eighteen years of age. As the main retailer on a university campus I would have expected these responsibilities to be prioritised over anything else. Priorities aside, I can’t see any actual discrimination taking place – the staff there ‘ID’ anyone who tries to buy age restricted products if they so happen to look under twenty-five. This is their way of complying with the Licencing Act of 2003. It is unfortunate that students from the EU are less likely to have acceptable forms, yes, but they’re not actively discriminating against them.

Whereas in the York House store it may have been possible to find the manager, say I want to use ID ‘X’ as proof of age, and have it enacted there and then, there is a lot more bargaining that has to be done between the USSU and the Co-op before staff in the former so much as breathes deeply. However that is not to say it is impossible to achieve a positive outcome – on last visiting I witnessed staff sighing no less than twelve times! On a slightly more relevant point, at the last set of sessions of Thumb ID sign-ups, three weeks before the date of this posting, the latest generation of Sussex student ID – that with a date of birth – allowed the holder to register. This, it is my understanding, was the result of discussions between the store management and their Co-op counterparts.

However, aside from all of the above, the most glaring fact you seem to have overlooked in your piece is that there are three other outlet on campus alone for the sale of alcohol, one of which also sells tobacco, and a small town not but a short bus ride away with numerous more providing the same, all, I’m sure, with fair, equal, and totally undiscriminating policies.

Yes I realise both the original piece and my response are fairly insular, but I’m presuming most who read it will be on that proverbial island, and those adrift will ask to be towed ashore. As with my other piece-response post, I haven’t posted it as a response on the original page – the internet is no place for constructive discussion, and quite frankly I’m not a confrontational type! I’m more interested in the provocation of discussion on the subject which I anticipate is what the original author had in mind as well.

Jack out.

The improving of improvements is an improvement for all of us. Right?

My former residence of Brighton is coming up on two years under the leadership of the Green Party, and it serves as quite a nice frame for this piece, which has been developing internally for a week or two.

As the name suggests, this party are very much orientated towards protecting the environment, through renewable energy and sustainable transport amongst other means. It’s then no surprise that they are pioneering the redevelopment of a main arterial route into the city over which they rule. Redeveloping it to make it more bus and bicycle friendly, and to discourage car use on it. A continuous bus lane, reduced speed limits and redesigning of several key points on the route is how they intend to do this. All well and good you may think, however, as far as I can see, they’ve overlooked critical aspects of the layout of the town.

The main problem with this whole idea is that, far from reducing the number of cars using said route by giving less space to them, it will merely give the same volume of traffic less space. The reason – the majority of the city’s car parks are in its centre. The premise that making it more difficult for cars to function and thus reduce their use is totally false and will ultimately lead to one of two things – either less visitors, not just by car but in general (I’ll come to this later), or more congestion. Neither of which are desirable outcomes for the environmentally friendly leaders of a tourist town’s council.

The solution? Relocation of car parking so a majority of it is on the outskirts of the city. Drastic but necessary to avoid an hilarious white elephant and drying up of revenue. It’ll never happen of course. NCP have a nice little income generator set up with their assorted car parks, and Churchill Square is making a tidy sum from motorists too, I bet.

So why do I say less visitors in general? Why don’t all these congested and displaced motorists leave their cars at home and use public transport? Brighton and Hove buses run an excellent network, yes, however they run a grand total of two, four if you differentiate between the 28 and 29, and the 12 and 13X, routes out of the city, neither of which are particularly enjoyable, especially if you have a family and supplies for a day out in tow, nor particularly useful unless you happen to be coming from Lewes, Eastbourne, Seaford (all of which have faster train services to the city), Ringmer or Tunbridge Wells. Not exactly a wide selection of starting points.

As for the train, yes it’s there and yes it’s comfortable and fast, but the timetable and frequency of the service necessitates planning your day out in the style of a Wing Commander, and congestion on peak time services are something to be winced at, along with the prices.

There are further problems, ironically demonstrated by the council’s very own artist’s impression of the redesigned road (available here: http://www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/imageLibrary/bus-lane-with-cycle-lane.gif)

Firstly, the dedicated bus lane will mean that the buses aren’t snarled up in the general traffic, and as anyone who has been on a bus late at night, when similarly there is less traffic to become snarled up in, will testify, the drivers will more than likely use the opportunity to catch up to their timetable through use of speed. Cyclists using the cycle lane will therefore be subjected to the air displacement the buses cause every time they pass. Even if, lo and behold, the buses comply by the new 30 m.p.h. limit, the effect on cyclists will not be insignificant, thanks to the proximity of the bus and cycle lanes. The solution here? Average speed cameras for both lanes of traffic, enforcing the speed limit for the safety of the cyclists.

Secondly, again demonstrated by that image, is the positioning of the cyclist. It therefore seems that the ‘artist’ in question has no clue of safe cycling practice, and believes a cyclist’s rightful position is as far left as possible. This is wrong. What if, as described above, the turbulent air caused by a passing bus caused the cyclist to wobble – they would wobble into the kerb and fall off. What if the cyclist encountered a drain, pothole or debris that had been pushed to the side of the carriageway – they would swerve towards traffic. Any competent cyclist should know not to hug the edge of the road like this, however the width of that cycle lane, combined with the presence of fast moving buses immediately next to it, makes it difficult to do anything else. The solution in this instance? Physically separate by way of a median the cycle and bus lane, giving the cyclists something to encounter before they swerve into the path of buses.

Lastly, from this image, the cycle lane seems barely wide enough for two cyclists side by side when digitally inserted into the picture, never mind when wind, wobbles and other external influences are factored in. This will force faster cyclists out of the cycle lane and potentially in to the path of the considerably faster and less patient buses. Again any competent cyclist would know to perform a ‘life saver’ shoulder check before pulling out, but again that’s presuming a lot about the competence of cyclists in Brighton.

 

Jack out.

The Good, the Bad, and the Techy

I’m writing this quite late at night, as ever. It’s not intending to be so much an update on what I’m doing, just what I’ve experienced over the last few months, and how, as ever, it annoys me. I’ll see how it goes.

Customer service is an inevitable part of any job where you interact with people, which includes pretty much everything. Ten, twenty, thirty years ago, when the internet was in its infancy and not nearly as saturated with shops as it is now, interaction with a given company consisted of writing a letter of complaint if things didn’t go well, and hoping somebody would read it and, at worst, reply with a generic letter of apology. If you chose to get something mail-order, it was inevitable that you would  have to stay in on the delivery day to sign for it, and not know when, or if, it would come.

The connectivity afforded to us in the present day has seen an evolution, in the most part, of the service provided by a company to its customers. The power is in the consumer’s hands when it comes to choosing the best value product or service, that’s an open-and-shut case as far as the consumer is concerned. The real battleground now, as I see it, is what the customer gets for shopping or subscribing or travelling or ordering from that company that puts them above the rest and means the cheapest isn’t necessarily the best.

Along with thousands upon millions of others, I am fully emerged in this new age of customer service on a daily basis, case in point being Twitter – company representatives, people on the inside, can have a near real-time conversation with their customers. my bank, mobile phone network, TV and internet provider and local train company are just some of my service providers I can contact in an instant, and usually with a swift and decent response. I have almost bypassed completely email-based enquiries thanks to this, and the benefits are clear. Periods of activity are visible – you can see if the account is currently manned, you can see the level of service being given – some of these types of accounts give the same response (often to contact a given email address) over and over, which seem on par with ‘placeholder’ type accounts with very little activity and merely acting as a social media presence.

It’s not just live customer services like these that put extra value into a product. A key part of customer service, for me anyway, is meeting the customer’s needs. In the past this meant stocking up your shop so as much as possible could be sold and taken by the customer in the same transaction. As mentioned previously, with more shopping done from the comfort of the computer chair, more value needs to be squeezed in here as well. Stock checking is automated, so it’s instantly visible whether they have what you want, and this information is taken for granted, although this isn’t applicable to every type of business. The other decision influencing parameter is how it gets from there to here – in essence, ‘when’s my stuff/service coming?’. The more accurate period in the most immediate future a company can give for the arrival of their product, service or repairman, the more value is added to whatever it is that’s coming. With the slow demise of the nine-to-five industrial workday and transition to shift-based service work, vague is no longer acceptable.

However, a high-tech age hasn’t completely overridden bricks-and-mortar shops yet. If they have any hope of not succumbing to the digital competition, they again need to provide additional value for money on top of the actual product they sell – give the consumer the chance to physically touch what they intend to buy, to try it out.

So why this? And why now? Personal experience of all three, or rather opportunities for all three missed. Name and shame time

One -Interactive Customer Service – Brighton and Hove Buses. (@BrightonHoveBus)

They have a Twitter account, which is updated occasionally (read – every few days) with a link to their main website regarding service disruption. It is essentially serving the same purpose as somebody checking their website and telling everyone when there’s a new article, which anyone could do. It adds no real value onto their service.

Interactive Customer Service – Bonus – City Link. (@CityLink)

They also have a Twitter account, along with a sub-par reputation. Their Twitter account seems to be manned through business hours, but consists entirely of messages of “please could you email your consignment number to twitter@city-link.com and we will investigate”. Any half-decent user of Google could find a contact email address to contact them. It’s essentially showing you an open window when you can already see the letterbox. Again, no added value, and missing out a great opportunity to improve their service. They’re not alone in having this type of account, but just the one I happen to have had dealings with recently.

Interactive Customer Service – Done right – Vodafone/Southern Rail (@VodafoneUK and @SouthernRailUK respectively)

Two accounts, manned throughout the working day and then some, especially in the case of Southern. Followers interact with both and get useful responses to generic enquiries, only resorting to email with account-specific information. There are probably plenty out there, and I know there are for other areas of the rail network, these happen to be the accounts I interact with the most.

Two – Delivery – City Link

As I said above, vague delivery estimates don’t really cut it when there isn’t somebody at home all the time. It’s more acceptable with well used companies such as Royal Mail as you know from past experience how long they’ll take, and in the worst case scenario, the collection offices are pretty centralised. No such luck with a company such as City Link. A quoted delivery of between 07.30 and 17.30, two attempted deliveries on two consecutive days, both suspiciously within a few minutes of the house being empty and then wait at depot miles away for a few days before returning to sender at more expense, inevitably passed on to the recipient. There was a tracking number, but I only discovered this after the first failed delivery attempt as the sender had helpfully not included it in their correspondence.

Delivery – Done right – Supermarkets

All supermarkets which I have used the home delivery service of have been able to give time slots of an hour. Of course I rarely appreciated it, it was a whole hour out of my day I had to wait in. But in hindsight I could specify which hour it was, and it was only an hour.

Three – Bricks and Mortar shops – Currys

For Christmas I wanted some headphones, but not knowing the first thing about brand quality I was at a loss when it came to which ones to get. To overcome this I utilised my local bricks-and-mortar electrical store, but was greeted by something totally unhelpful. They had headphones out to try, but being ever security conscious their cables disappeared into the display. Some cables were plugged in to MP3 players, some were not. Some MP3 players had power, or tracks loaded onto them. None had both. The grand summation of their headphones ready to be tested were six Sennheisers on a separate display elsewhere, next to assorted boxes of various makes ready to be sold but, alas, not able to be tested.

Bricks and Mortar shops – Done right – Comet

My other local electrical store (luckily I have two) fared so much better. An assorted range of headphones in size, price and brand, all connected and playing music, with the option of connecting your own source.

 

If anyone actually reads this, I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

Jack out.