Making it Personal

Archive for the category “Cynicism”

Missing Letters

Way back in early December, I posted a couple of letters, both by Royal Mail Special Delivery – a service that tracks the letter, requires a signature on delivery, and is guaranteed to be delivered the next working day by 1pm.

In my case, one letter arrived, and the other didn’t.

After a week, I raised this with Royal Mail through Twitter, and they were… pretty slack, to be fair. The letter had disappeared into the system, they needed to investigate, blah blah. At no point did the words “sorry” pass their (online) lips.

Another week or so passed, and they came back with “we can’t find it, can’t you check with the recipients whether they’ve received it or not“. Which is taking the piss, as that was the entire reason for sending the sodding thing by Special Delivery in the first place.  And still, no sorry.

I ended up having to file a compensation claim with Royal Mail – again, the person who paid for the service has to jump through all the hoops, fill in the forms and so on – and wait even more. Still no “sorry”.

I finally got the response today to that compensation claim. They’ve taken six weeks to acknowledge that this “guaranteed service” isn’t, has failed, and I’ve finally got my money back.

The kicker, in my opinion, is that in that letter they say…

“If you need to cover yourself against this in future, I suggest you send items by Special Delivery “Guaranteed”

So the fucking clowns recommend I use the service that lost this letter in the first place – because it’s better. What the fuck?

All told, the customer-service experience of this process has been abysmal.

  • It’s taken nearly two months to get this sorted
  • Once we were past that ‘guaranteed delivery’ timeline, it should’ve been an automatic process to say “Yep, we fucked up, here’s your money back”
  • If you can’t guarantee delivery, don’t guarantee delivery.
  • If you don’t trust your own tracking systems and still require ‘proof’ that the item was posted into the system, you’re doing it wrong


And lo, already we’re a month through 2016. How time flies when you’re having fun, and all that rot.

Of course, with it being February we’re now going to be pummeled for the next couple of weeks about all the romantic shite you can do on the 14th – and on no other day, according to marketing twerds – and all that gubbins.

I’m still really tempted to book a table for a meal, and then go on my own, looking really sad as if I’ve been dumped or the other person hasn’t made it, and just generally messing with the whole thing for everyone around me…

Desperate and Gullible

It was interesting yesterday to see the BBC’s piece about the growing prevalence of ‘online rental fraud’ – basically, where a fraudster/criminal advertises a rental property for a great price, and people then pay a deposit for it without ever seeing the property – because it’s a great price in a sought-after area.

You can see where this is going, can’t you?

Yep – the fraudster doesn’t own the property, doesn’t represent the agents, and has no real connection to it at all. They’ve just grabbed photos, submitted the ad, and then people pay the ‘deposit’ into an account named by the fraudster.

Now, while I think it’s pretty scummy, I can’t help but also see it as more of an idiot tax. You’ve got to be pretty desperate – and pretty fucking dim – to put down money without seeing the place you’re renting, particularly without ever meeting an agent/agency/landlord etc.  I know that these people are good at getting people to believe they’re valid, and that there’s this urgency – but really, it’s still taking advantage of people too dumb to look at a deal and think “what’s wrong with this picture?”

Maybe that’s harsh. Maybe not.  For me, it’s hard to feel real sympathy for someone who just leaves themselves open to this sort of shit. Take a look at what one victim says in the article…

[He] said: “I was willing to take the flat without a viewing based on the location, just on the price of it.

[I felt] anger, disgust, I was really disappointed. I was thinking, ‘Wow I’ve spent money I couldn’t afford and what’s happening to me right now? I’m in a nightmare and I can’t wake up’.'”

I think the worst part, probably, is that now it’s been mentioned by BBC and on TV, it’s something that other scammers will look at and thing “Oooh, that’s a good idea”, so it’ll become even more prevalent…

Too Much Thinking

Over the Festering Season, I watched (yet again) Die Hard.  I still like it as a film, even though it is barmy.

But something occurred to me this time that hadn’t before. And that’s this…

Hans Gruber’s plan is absolutely reliant on the FBI turning off the power for the Nakatomi Plaza, in order to get through the final lock.

The FBI are there only because John McClane has called the police, and everything has escalated from that point.


What would the plan have been, if the entire takedown of the Nakatomi Building had worked perfectly? No word out, no hostage situation, nothing – so the police and FBI would’ve known nothing at all.

How would that’ve worked, without that reliance on their plan being messed up, and a rogue operative like John McClane being able to call the police and inform them of the situation?


And yes, I know, I think about this kind of thing way too much. I can’t help myself.

Pushing the Limits

Over the last year in particular, I’ve been more and more interested in Michelin-starred restaurants, and have been to a few, as well as other high-end places that don’t have stars.

One that fascinates me is The Fat Duck, which re-opened this year after a major refit and refurb. However, regardless of that fascination, there’s no chance I’ll go – primarily because I just think their attitude currently is horrific.

For one thing, you pay upfront – the full price of the food, at the time of booking. And that price is exceptionally hefty – £255 per head, no less. That’s nothing short of obscene – while I’m sure it’s a remarkable one-off experience and rah rah rah, I could go to the three-Michelin-starred Alain Ducasse in London and have the full 10-course tasting menu.  Twice.

Bear in mind, currently the Fat Duck has no Michelin stars. That’s worth remembering.

The attitude doesn’t improve when you start to read their terms and conditions, and even more so with their FAQs.

Among those, there’s a number of gems…

  • You can’t get a table for one – the smallest is a two. And they won’t change that for anyone.
  • You can’t arrive early and have a drink at the bar. There’s no bar. (I get that the place is small, but still)
  • There’s no waiting list, or notification if someone cancels. You’ve just go to keep on checking on the website. That’s it.
  • If you cancel the reservation and they can’t rebook the table (or if you cancel with less than 28 days to go) you don’t get your money back. Only if they can rebook the table do you get a refund.
  • On top of that £255 per head – and a minimum of two people, so we’re already on £510 – they add a ‘discretionary’ 12.5% service charge to the bill. Plus, of course, any extra drinks, wine, etc.  Even if you’ve only paid for the food, that’s an extra £63.75. That’s just taking the piss.

And all that, without even a Michelin star to its name.  That is one hell of an ego at work.

So no, much as I’d love to go and experience it, the Fat Duck can fuck off.

Cinema Seating

This year, my local cinema has started a process where people book specified seats, rather than just “first come, first served seated”  I don’t mind it at all, it makes sense and should make life easier for everyone.

Except, well, people.

Every film I’ve gone to see, there’s been a noticeable percentage of the people who either don’t sit in their booked seats (for whatever reason) or just seem to be confused by the whole concept of how the seats are organised into rows.

It’s a simple process – or is to me, anyway. If you stand at the front, with your back to the screen, the seats go from row A at the front to row Z (or whatever) at the back, and from 1 on the left to 100 on the right. It’s simple, but it confuses so many people, it’s really quite scary.

Really, is this concept so difficult to comprehend?


School Internet Tracking

Interesting to see today that there are new proposals to monitor the internet usage of all school pupils, ‘to prevent radicalisation’. (Because yeah, of course that’ll work)

It’s interesting to me, because I’d thought that was in place already – certainly at least twenty years ago, Research Machines did a whole internet-monitoring and dubious-link-blocking system, and I’d kind-of assumed that was the de-facto standard for schools even now. Apparently not.

It was certainly one of the strangest temp/contract jobs I’ve ever had – I worked for RM for three months, and the job description was to spend that time finding dodgy sites, so they could be added to the blacklist, and RM’s firewalls would then block those sites from being seen.   So yes, the job was basically to look for porn. It was a challenge, honest. *cough* (Having looked, RM do still do ‘online safety’ stuff for schools, so I wonder why it’s not the standard. Maybe they’re priced themselves out of the market, or there’s just more companies that do it, and their market-share has shrunk. I dunno)

However, I don’t think it’ll be easy to do anything that will block the access now. There are too many routes – and any vaguely tech-savvy child will be able to go outside the school-enforced network on their own devices etc. Sure, you can lock a school-owned device (computer, iPad etc.) to the school network – but you can’t do the same for their own devices. On those, there’s always public wi-fi, and even ‘just’ the usual 3G/4G connection. And whatever internet access is available at home, and anywhere else.

Also, as with so much of this ‘monitoring’ crap, I’m sure it’ll only be of use once something has happened. There’s nothing that can proactively monitor these things, or flag up significant warnings beforehand. All the monitoring can do is provide a record, to say “This is what they looked at before they did something that brought them to our attention”, in true “locking the stable-door once the horse has bolted” style. As usual.

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