Irrational Encounters With The Modern World

Co-Op

Feeding Back And Being Fed.

My time on the Work Programme has come to an end, after two fruitless years.

I was part of the first wave of people to be referred to them, and so am among the first to leave. My time there has not instilled in me any desire to praise them, instead leaving me even more cynical than I was to begin with. I am left, too, in precisely the same situation that I was in when i began attending fortnightly mandatory meetings. You can find several past blogs about my time there, listed at the bottom of the home page..

As part of my final appointment, I was told that I may be asked to provide some feedback. When the email arrived, requesting to know my opinion of the Work Programme, I was happy to reply in full, not least because the email addressed me as a “customer”, suggesting there was some element of choice in my obligatory attendance there.

I have not yet decided whether to make the full thirteen pages that I wrote available publicly. However, each section ended with a summation, and I wrote an overall conclusion, reproduced below:

“To conclude, this has been the feedback you requested. It details, or addresses, every complaint that springs to mind when I think back over the past 730 days during which we have been acquainted. Two full years of empty promises, false hope, incompetence, ignorance, and downright inconvenience. I leave in exactly the same position as I started, only more bitter and jaded. You have achieved absolutely nothing, in my interest at least. You have wasted your money, you have wasted our time, and, since that first day when my future advisor walked into the pillar, nobody has even had the good grace to make me laugh.

I doubt that you will reply to any of this – for a start, it is going to take somebody an afternoon just to read it all. There is nothing you can really say anyway, save for a stock response about ‘taking my feedback on board.’ If all you have is a stock response, please do not send me it.

Oh, your questionnaire asked, if I recall correctly, how likely I am to recommend the Work Programme to others. Not at all likely.

Not at all.”

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that, despite my suspicions, there was no character limit on the website form that I was directed to use to submit my comments. I copied in all thirteen pages of scathing, witty, but wholly negative documentation, and figured that would be the last I would hear. I am not interested in receiving stock responses, as I made clear above and as sadly ignored previously by RBS and the Co-Op, to name two.

Of all the outcomes that I anticipated, I did not foresee the phone call that I received less than forty-eight hours later. Their head of employability telephoned, inviting me to meet with her and expressing admiration for my writing and gratitude that I had taken the time to reply so thoroughly. She wants to talk through my experiences in order to improve the service that they provide all the other poor suckers following in my footsteps, which sounds like “taking my feedback on board” – but at least it was not a stock response. Unless they have some kind of written-word-based vacancy, it is unlikely to benefit me particularly, beyond having my lunch bought for me somewhere local. This was an unexpected development though, and who knows what may happen next?

That said, presuming it is on their expense account, let’s hope the place sells steak and champagne. I might as well enjoy it for what it is, given they are probably unwilling me to pay me a consultant’s fee.


Horsing Around With Supermarket Pricing.

Earlier this week, I was in my local branch of a mid-sized national supermarket chain. I happened to see an offer on burgers, and took a photo of the sign in order to make a silly joke on facebook, with reference to the UK horsemeat burger news story of last week. One of my friends looked beyond the cheap gag, and pointed out that the pricing information on the sign was arithmetically incorrect. I decided, for my own amusement, to write a complaint to the company in question. Ostensibly, it would be about the news story, and I would fill it with as many puns and as much wordplay as I could, before making a comparatively serious point about mathematical standards. This is the letter I sent, after the photo that I took.

BirdsEye Burgers

Hay there,

Unless you have had the blinkers on, I am sure you will be familiar with the major headline story last week. On the back of the recent news reports about “beef” burgers and their contents, I’m afraid I wish to register rather a serious complaint regarding one of the products you offer for sale. I saw it, and took the attached photograph, in a branch in Glasgow, on Monday 21st January.

I understand that this brand, Birds Eye, was not caught up in the recent ‘horsemeat’ scandal. I can only presume that this is because they use their name to alert consumers to the possibility that their burgers may contain alternative types of meat, for example avian ocular organs.

I am aware that, by law, burgers must have a minimum meat content, and I absolutely trust that the majority of burgers do contain a minimal amount of meat. Listening to the naysayers, this issue seems to be less about eating Red Meat, and more about inadvertently eating Red Rum.

I understand, too, that – while your business may have stable suppliers – it is not your mane duty to vet all sources of meat used in the products you sell. I do not mean to nag, nor to stirrup trouble, and trust that you will not trot out a generic answer to this statement of concern.

Selling these particular burgers at half price, after this (without wishing to sound too grand) national outrage, seems – in a manner of speaking – a little like you are shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. It is almost as if you do not wish to be saddled with this remaining  stock.

Having had free rein to bring this to your attention, I am now champing at the bit to explain the nature of my complaint. It relates to the advertising sign attached to the shelf edge in the photo, and I am not sure how it got pastyour quality control department.

Specifically, as you will see, the sign pronounces “Half Price” in large, bold letters. The original selling price, as stated and struck through, is £2.70.

You are offering this pack for sale at £1.29. I am not sure where you learned division, but it does not take great dexterity to realise that half of £2.70 is £1.35.

I realise that it is too late to amend this sign, and merely suggest that greater care is taken in future when calculating differences in price. Indeed, you could have made this offer seem more attractive to the potential consumer, by pointing out that it represents a saving of MORE THAN half price.

As you may gather, from reading this email, I am presently (like so many others) unemployed. I will be happy to come in and do basic maths or proofread signs for you on a regular basis, for a small fee. I am also available for any writing vacancies you may have, for example in public relations, subject to appropriate remuneration.

I do hope that you will give this some serious consideration, and await your reply..

—–

If a reply is recieved, be certain that I will post it here. I sincerely hope that they will reply in the same spirit in which this was written.

Edit, 2nd May 2014: Fourteen months after I questioned their maths, to which no reply was forthcoming, they have still failed to grasp basic concepts. A three-day weekend is fifty percent longer than a normal one. They are eight hours short.

co-op maths

 

 

 


Counter Service Intelligence

I had two encounters that amused me today, but you’ll need some background for the first one.

Prior to Christmas, I was employed by the Royal Mail via Manpower via the Work Programme. That sounds a bit messy, and it was. The job was meant to last until March, but lasted just fifteen days. There’s plenty more I plan to say about that in due course. Manpower’s staff and conduct were abysmal, so I made a formal complaint. This went to a grievance hearing, at their invitation, and the letter of outcome that arrived last week was very unsatisfactory in many ways. Feeling that they just don’t care, I wrote a letter to head office appealing the decision, but keeping my tongue firmly in my cheek. That letter will undoubtedly appear here once they have had the chance to respond – my wee sister read it and cried laughing. Today, though, I went to the Post Office to mail it.

The counter clerk, a wee Glesga Woman, took it from me, and asked if there was anything of value in it – vouchers, cheques, etc. I said no, only satire.

“What’s satire?” she asked, “Is that a flag?”

“No, that’s The Saltire.”

“So what’s satire then?”

“Sarcasm,” I said, explaining briefly the content of the letter and reason for sending it. She was happy to have learned a new word, and said she felt bad having to charge me to post it. I said that was fine, just so long as they don’t lose it…

 

From there, I went to The Co on the corner of Gordon Street and Union Street to pay a bill. They have the electronic voice thing that beckons you forth, and I was directed to Cashier Number Seven Please. Glancing up at the numbered LED displays above each till, it was obvious that they only go up to six. I took my chances, and went for the last till. When I mentioned the anomaly, the girl said “I know, I don’t know why that is.”

I asked if it was a joke, so they could stand and laugh at anyone stood scratching their head while trying to work out why they’d been called to the seventh till in a line of six. She laughed and said “Aye, that’s it.”

That was my entertainment for the day, not least because they both happened within minutes of each other. Sometimes I’m easy pleased.