Monday, 30 June 2008

Companies Who Do Not Wish To Sell Things

Every since the industrial heart was ripped out of Britain as a manufacturing nation and the Great was dropped off the front, we have been repeatedly told we are a nation dedicated to the 'service industry'

My response to this is; where is it then? Where is the service?

As both a private and a business consumer, my experience of at least 70% of British suppliers and services has been that their idea of service is an insult to the word!

Take my trade account with Laura Ashley (home furnishings store) for example. Great products, mouthwatering catalogues. However try and buy a 5L tin of their paint to cover a medium-sized room and it was 'Oh we don't do 5L tins' And they didn't have it in stock in larger than 750ml tin size either! The latest LA catalogue would come out and you would bound to your local branch for samples of their exciting new fabrics, but they wouldn't be there. You'd ring to order them but half still wouldn't be available 'yet'! If you ordered anything - a well-priced reproduction clock for a formal reception room example - which you wouldn't expect to be a made-to-order item like a sofa, it would take weeks, even months to arrive, yet every time you telephoned to chase it, not only would the person at the other end of the phone sound suspiciously like they hadn't a clue, but they couldn't even give you an ETA of when you might see it, as if the concept of stockcheck/delivery screens on their computers was entirely alien to them! Finally I gave up trying to order anything from them as I was so sick of having to shop for last minute stop-gaps while I waited for the real thing (aka their products) to arrive.

Some while later I received a letter from Laura Ashley saying regrettably they were closing the Trade Account arm of their business. I replied with a long letter saying why I had ceased to use it anyway and it was a shame they had such desirable products they didn't seem to want to sell to me!

Time and time again I have noticed this. A British company would rather chase after new customers offering incentive after incentive - expensive for them both in marketing and advertising (and the incentives) you would have thought - rather than pursue the saner and more cost-effective solution of keeping their existing customers happy and harnessing that wonderful phenomenon known as 'repeat business' and that other knock-on side effect, 'word-of-mouth' advertising by their impressed clientele. Customer loyalty is not only unrewarded these days, it is positively spat on by the likes of banks and insurance companies in particular who lower their interest rates and hoik their premiums up respectively to the poor sap who is foolish enough to remain doggedly faithful to them.

I recently lunched in a funky café in the heart of a busy city centre and was surprised to find myself the only diner there. After a while I realised why the café was so quiet. Every time a potential customer came in, they found out the café didn't take credit or debit cards. And yet they had the customer footfall outside that many a business would die for!
Die is probably the word though, with an expensive refurbishment, four staff to pay and NO customers, I'd give it about four months and deservedly so if it is that dumb. Not that most British restaurants/cafes like or wish to serve customers anyway of course.

On a business level I can find no one to repair aluminium sash windows and patio doors locally, yet every second sales rep phonecall seems to be from a company trying to hard-sell me Plant Hire. Everyone and their dog is doing Plant Hire in Oxford, yet I can count on one hand the number of times we need to hire equipment in each year, let alone would I open a dozen accounts with a dozen suppliers for the privilege.

The worst businesses bombard you with customer feedback forms as if you have nothing else to do, (no mention of remuneration for the 'free consultancy' you're giving by indulging them), then completely ignore every word of their customer feedback until the next customer feedback form or glossy catalogue arrives.

As for all the business websites that still annoy with pointless floating graphics (and an elusive 'Skip Intro' button) or making you sign up your entire personal details down to your shoe-size merely in order to browse lighting products etc, well they don't get many orders from me either!

On the rare occasions I find a company that a. sells the perfect product at reasonable price and b. makes it easy to order and obtain said product, I could kiss them. And if they also turn out to have decent after-sales service, I want to marry them as well!

Friday, 27 June 2008

A Tale From The Family

Every family holds a character in its past who deserves not to be entirely forgotten. Here's one from mine in the form of a poem. I have incorporated some of my grandmothers' phrases about her late niece word-for-word (italicised), as she did like to romanticise the tale! I do not regard it as one of my best pieces, but it means a lot because of the family connotations.

Family Legend

A blonde siren to whom all the family looks had been handed
Together with an impossibly sweet and generous nature
My grandmother told me many times of Miriam Gunn
Loved by all who knew her – a charming girl
Could only die young
Became an early air hostess
Fell in love with an airline pilot as dark as she was fair
They married and bought a flat in Bell Green
A thoroughly modern suburb of Coventry
And lived in mutual adoration
For eight blissful months, until tragedy struck
When his plane was iced up and lost over the Atlantic
Less than a year later Mirries’ plane crashed in the Cape
She the only survivor
Dying of her injuries several hours after.
They were destined to be together, you see
Broken hearted, her parents left the Midlands
To live out their days running an antiques shop in Brighton
When they had lived them out some years later
My grandparents went down to clear their shop
Came across a locked trunk in the attic
Full of Mirrie’s things
Unopened since the day she died
And all as unfadingly beautiful as she
Shimmering silks and glittering mementoes
Of a short career’s travels round the world
She could never have been older than 26
And remained a figure of endless intrigue
In my young mind
Frozen in magic by tragedy
Only two hand-tinted photographs left
As testament to her glamour
Jealously guarded and shown only as a treat.

© LS King

While reading up on 1930s Stewardesses, I was surprised to learn that they all had to be trained nurses, as flying was regarded as so dangerous! I guess my relative didn't have a chance to use her training in her own crash though.

Monday, 23 June 2008

My Drugs Hell

Perhaps it was a strict childhood deprived of sweets that had me exploring my parents' medicine cabinet in search of succour and happening upon the delights of New Era Biochemical Tissue Salts No. 4 at about the age of five.

Once I started guzzling them I couldn't stop and before I knew it the contents of three bottles of them had been crunched into delicious melted powder upon my tongue and I was avidly ransacking the bathroom for more when my parents discovered me.

My next memory is of being held down on the floor while they poured salt water down my throat to make me sick.

Whilst I admit I hadn't quite got the hang of the (less is more) principle of homeopathy at that age, my taste for these little tablets has remained undimmed and to this day I don't trust myself to have a bottle of them in the house.

In fact even writing this is rather dangerous as it makes me want to rush out to my 'dealers' at Holland and Barrett to procure a bottle (or three)!

The funny thing is they don't actually taste of a great deal, but to me the texture and taste is utterly irresistible.

Nor am I aware of any sort of high resulting, let alone any of my ailments being cured. Just an insane compulsion to keep eating them.

Worse still if it's true you can now buy a fix of coke for slightly less than the price of a cappuccino, New Era Biochemical Tissue Salts are a whole £4.49 a bottle, so I'd be better off being a conventional junkie!

On the plus side, I do hear they are about to develop a Biochemical Tissue Salt No. 13 remedy for 'addiction problems'.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Leamington Peace Festival

For all your Beatnik Poet needs (not to mention dogs against climate change!) Shame there was no live poetry though.

But check out my groovy felt strawberry bag and hell's kitsch 'Rama and Sita' Indian legend top!

Wonder what 'Swindon Give War A Chance Festival' will be like next weekend.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Nightmare on Main Street

The first time I met my neighbours' illicit two year old (she had broken the rules by having him on a child-free development) I looked under the cascade of golden curls expecting to see an angel. What I saw were the glinting malevolent eyes of a devil incarnate. I shuddered. Jakey (Wakey) was no ordinary toddler.

And so it proved. His otherwise pleasant-enough mother was soon to be heard loudly boasting that she had taken him out of his first nursery as it was 'too structured' and she didn't feel it appropriate he should be made to say 'please', 'thank you' and 'sorry', or wait for lunch if he was hungry at his age. As for the activities, it was quite unreasonable that he wasn't allowed to delve into the poster paint without putting the play dough away first. Toddlers weren't meant to be tidy. No, his new nursery was much better. He could just get stuck into whatever he wanted whenever he wanted and do his own thing and they simply changed them into nice clean clothes before the parents arrived.

Soon Jakey (Wakey) was running amok in his (far-more-expensive-than-mine) designer togs on the formerly-quiet estate, tearing up and down the main avenue on his toy tractor delivering his interpretation of tractor exhaust noises at the top of his voice, accompanied by his equally vocal friend on a bicycle, pretending to be a motorbike. At the Residents' Summer Fete, his mummy actively encouraged her little darling to help himself to as many free go's as he liked once his £1 had run out on the lucky dip or the hoopla, in full view of all the visiting children, and then demand to swap his prizes for better ones.

Another delightful pastime of Jakey (Wakeys') entails running around shouting rude things through letter boxes when he should be in bed. Noisy pirate parties take place in his parents' back garden on a weekly basis whether it's his birthday or not, his friends' parents' cars cluttering the narrow residential street so the rest of us find it hard to get in or out of our driveways. To cap it all his parents have decided they need an exceptionally noisy mini bus in which to cart their little prince and his retinue around. Exceptionally noisy as it is almost too large for their driveway and takes at least ten minutes of manoeuvring every time they go in or out, an activity they most enjoy performing at 7am on a weekend, just in case anyone fancies a lie-in.

Although still only 4, Jakey (Wakey) shows every promise of maturing into a fine young thug. Advanced for his age no less. I often wonder what sort of monster his mother-who-doesn't-agree-with-rules thinks she is breeding. Will future partners of her son (straight, gay or don't know) thank her for raising an utterly selfish sociopath with a Royal superiority complex who treats them like a doormat and throws a hissy fit every time he doesn't get what he wants when he wants it? Will future employers thank her for such a self-serving exercise in expediency who would sell their industrial secrets to the first rival who asked, as soon as accept their shilling?

Well that's got that off my chest, dear blog!

I have put out the extra large slug pellets. You never know.

**Note the name of this child has been changed to protect - me!**

Friday, 13 June 2008

Suicide and Saving

A Re-cycling Appeal to ‘Jumpers’

Suicide is gainless
Unimaginative, clichéd, brainless.
Now you may say it's in bad taste
To question why this bloody waste
Of humanity
Is at worst termed 'cowardly'
Or criticise the wretched whose idea of glory
Is to incur commuter curses for train delay.
But to anyone who wants to die I say
Offer yourself to Cancer Research today!
Turn feeling useless into being useful
Leave a legacy above the miserable
Ensure your life wasn't late-aborted in vain
If the Buddhists are right, you’ll only have to do it all again
And your DNA is a much closer match
Than that of the non-consenting lab rat.
So think of humanity and maybe we'll think of you
Commemorate you with a bit of a ‘do’
Attended by all the lives you’ve saved
Who’ll drink to your life beyond the grave

© LS King 2008

But suicide for artistic immortality/book sales is fine of course! ;-)

Monday, 9 June 2008

One Day My Prince Will Come....

How many times are you supposed to kiss them again?...

Or could he just be a piece of pond life out to fool me?

Watch out, the ducks are coming!

Hmm, I wonder what you get if you kiss a duck...

A prison sentence, probably.

It's all happening in my garden folks! Butterfly invasion next.

Friday, 6 June 2008

What Is The Point Of Digital TV?

Primitive and painfully slow as the internet was when I was first introduced to it some 13 years ago - I could see it had potential.

Eighteen months after acquiring the TV digibox which multiplied my five terrestrial television stations x seven (to reluctantly abet my country in selling off the analogue signal which will eventually deprive me of TV altogether without a digibox), I still don't see the point of digital TV, bar for hard-core sports or home shopping fans.

For the rest of us the same few programmes are endlessly repeated, not unusually within the same day, and certainly within the same week. I can easily imagine that Friends in particular will be replayed on a continuous looptape on one channel until our speed-dating thirtysomethings are shuffle-dating ninetysomethings!

Other channels drown in home makeover show repeats that even I have managed to catch at least twice already as a makeover show fan. Talent shows proliferate, but so samey and formulaic it is often hard to tell (or care) if they are repeats or not. Cheap imported fillers such as Judge Judy go out several times a day, seldom a day under ten years old.

Low budget productions abound, but new television programmes, particularly quality drama productions are increasingly becoming a rarity as the television money pie is cut into ever meaner slices to accommodate all the digital 'new kids on the block'.

Conversely our lives get busier and busier leaving us with less and less television viewing time and the internet competes by offering YouTube and other viewing on demand, so does it not follow we'd rather watch something GOOD when we have the leisure time?

The best thing about all the digital repeats has been the opportunity to see the odd series that I missed as a small child - Upstairs Downstairs for example - which was superb! And the 1980s Sherlock Holmes series - again a poignant reminder of what television is capable of at its best.

Once in a blue moon the BBC might take a risk with a new expensive series - such as resurrecting Dr Who - for example. Or even a BRAND new concept such as the far-riskier 'Life on Mars'. The resounding success of these series is not lost on them, but rather than commissioning even more new series and taking even more risks to raise themselves head and shoulders above the competition, what do they do? Rather extraordinarily, kill the couple of geese laying these golden eggs for them with OVERKILL. Aside from the ridiculous levels of tie-in merchandise, there is now a digital channel almost devoted to recent Dr Who repeats and 'behind the scenes' documentaries about it. Having enjoyed it as much as anyone in the initial stages, I am now rapidly going off Dr Who, despite the undeniable charms of its star, David Tennant.

Yet presumably the rights to our television successes are then sold to multiple countries - as with the BBC's most successful series ever, 19th Century sailing saga 'The Onedin Line' - still generating revenue for them over 30 years later and hot in Yugoslavia!

The other annoying thing about digital aside from all the repeats are the ad breaks, which are at least twice as long and loud as those on terrestrial commercial channels. Oh and 24hr News actually encourages 'creation' of enough news to fill it, rather than quality reporting on real issues, aka 'News'.

Simultaneously the big slide with the terrestrial channels continues apace as they make less and less effort to differentiate themselves from their poorer digital cousins, ignoring viewer complaints about quality, messing with scheduling, and insulting programme makers by docking, squeezing or whizzing programme end credits, including cast lists, of the few decent programmes they still broadcast in the name of advertising the often far-crappier programme coming up next.

To sum up, although I have enjoyed some nostalgia on digital in the form of old films and series, some history programmes, and even a bit of low-budget such as 'Spendaholics', I have not seen anything worth seeing which could not have easily been slotted into the five terrestrial channels that I started out with.

Monday, 2 June 2008

The King of Couture

So Yves St Laurent has died at the age of 71.

World-renowned haute couture fashion designer and head of Dior by the age of 21.

Rich beyond his wildest dreams.

Surrounded and fawned over by all the young Ganymedes he could shake a stick at (the world's most stunning supermodels too if ever he fancied a change!)

Best buddy to princesses and pop stars alike.

Drug-addled and depressed for most of his adult life.

Yves dharling (air kiss, air kiss) , why did on earth did you suffer in silence? Plenty of us would have been more than happy to relieve you of at least some of these terrible burdens!

Ok, so they do say 'Never judge a man until you have walked a mile in his moccasins.' (by then you'll be a mile away and you'll have his moccasins!)

Except of course that YSL wouldn't have been seen dead in a pair of moccasins!

Don't know about you, but I never have understood this 'rich and depressed' thing. How does that work exactly?