One of the things I like about working (and travelling) in Milton Keynes is their attitude towards parking, along with a nice dose of apparent cynicism and understanding of human nature/lazyness.
Milton Keynes has been pretty much designed around the use of cars (I know, it wasn’t originally so, but the New Town concept pretty much was) and thus there’s a lot of parking available. Sure, the city gets busy, but there’s usually parking spaces available.
The great thing though – in my opinion – is that they organised (and priced) the parking according to proximity to the main areas that people use. So the parking spaces that are the closest to the high-footfall areas are the highest-priced. If you go a bit further out – by which I mean a block, not miles – then the price is about a quarter of the highest-rate, which seems like a valid reward for being prepared to walk a bit more.
Note : I’m aware that this could also affect those with disabilities and mobility issues, but there are mobility and disabled spaces right next to the main areas, and they’re not at the high rates.
Down near the train station, there’s a great example. The closest car-park to the station now charges £8 for the day. But if you go to the next one – literally, the other side of the (dual-carriageway) road – then it’s £4. And if you’ve got a Milton Keynes Employee permit (which will be the subject of a separate post) then it’s even less – £2.40. So an extra distance of maybe 20 yards can save at least 50% of the parking cost.
As a plan and concept, it understands human nature and lazyness, and take some advantage of it. I think that’s brilliant, to be honest.
With life taking several turns over the last year, I’d given up a bit on going to the gym. OK, I’d given up on it a lot. So I’d put my membership on hiatus, paying a small maintenance fee rather than the full monthly amount. (Because while I’m definitely an idiot, as will be shown shortly, I’m not a complete idiot) It meant I wouldn’t have to pay a re-joining fee etc., and could reactivate things really easily once I was back to being in the mood for it.
Last month, I decided I wanted to get back to going. Again, a number of reasons, but mainly just realising I wanted to do more, as well as some preparation for my idiot event in September – of which more later.
So I went to the PureGym website, logged in, and reactivated my membership. Oddly, I had to pay a joining fee again, but I thought I’d just not read the terms and conditions properly, and it’s not a huge amount, so there we go. The proper payment comes out of my bank about a week later, and all good. Job done, I’m going back to the gym from June 1st.
Come June 1st, I look at my bank account, and there’s that maintenance charge again. Weird. Maybe it’s connected to that billing cock-up where I paid a joining fee.
So I call PureGym, to try and find what’s going on. They tell me that the Direct Debit reference I’ve given them isn’t connecting to any of their records, so they’ll need more information from the bank, to know where that DD started, where it’s going etc. Annoying, but indicative that a significant cock-up has occurred.
I ring the bank, and speak to someone there. Let’s cancel that under the DD guarantee, here’s the details, it’s a Direct Debit for The Gym… And a light goes on in my head. I’m a cretin.
For whatever reason, I’ve got “PureGym” in my head as the one I’m going to. (And it’s one I was a member of, in two different locations) Only that’s not the one I’m using. I’m using “The Gym”, and that’s where the maintenance payment’s come from. So I’ve re-joined a gym I don’t want, and not restarted the membership of the gym I do want. For fuck’s sake.
The lady at the bank (having laughed) reinstated the DD for the Gym, and re-paid the money to them that’d gone out that day. Then I went back to PureGym, explained that I’m a complete idiot, what had happened, and asked if it was possible to get my money and joining fee back from them. No problem if not, we’d class it as an idiot tax, but if possible it’d be great.
And they did. It’s not a standard thing, but I’d not used the gym, it was still on the first full day of “membership”, and – I suspect most importantly – I’d admitted it was entirely my fault, and that I’m a moron. (It also made them laugh, which is fine)
All told, I got lucky in many ways. I’m lucky that (in general) my bank are pretty good on this stuff. I’m lucky that both gyms in question are month-to-month ones rather than contracts. I’m lucky that the people in both cases were nice, and obviously far more used to people shouting and swearing, and making out it’s all Their fault.
I’ve not lost anything (except some self-respect) and it’s all worked out. But man alive, do I feel like an absolute cretin.
This week, I was unlucky enough to have to try and deal with FitBit‘s idiotic e-commerce system. I’ve had a Fitbit for several years now (well, two or three devices over that time, but all Fitbit devices) and the strap on the current one is getting a bit ropy, so I wanted to order a new one.
The ordering part is… OK, I suppose. Then we get to entering addresses. It tells me that it can’t validate my preferred delivery address at all, and won’t progress the order any further. Not “Would you like to add this address to the system?” or “Please confirm the details, and we’ll accept your word for it that you know where the hell you work“. Just point-blank ‘Computer says No‘ dead-end. So far, so unhelpful.
In fairness, that should’ve been the warning sign. But I carried on. Rather than delivering to my office, I’ll set it to deliver to home. That’s OK, except for the standard “Royal Mail PAF says this address should be in [nearest city], so do you want to use that, or the info you’ve entered”. I’m used to that – it’s ridiculous, but it’s PAF, so I’m used to it, and it’s not going to change.
Enter in the card details, all well and good. Do the ‘Verified By Visa’ bag-o’-shite verification, and complete the transaction. Get the email saying “It’s on its way”. Happy day, job done.
Or so I thought…
Half an hour later, I get another email. “There’s a problem with this transaction”, saying that either…
- The billing address provided doesn’t match the address on file with your financial institution (No, it matches fine)
- Your financial institution denied the charge for unspecified reasons (OK, maybe)
- Your financial institution denied the charge due to insufficient funds (Nope, definitely not)
- Your financial institution doesn’t recognise Fitbit.com as a vendor (that sounds like cock to me)
I call the card company. Nope, all fine, not even a declined transaction. And “doesn’t recognise the vendor” is a bag of cock. To quote them, “If it were for ISIS-Iraq.com, we might be blocking it, but not standard stuff”
I call FitBit, who are *massively* incompetent, unable to understand basic English, and can only “resubmit the transaction”. Can’t change the card details, just ‘resubmit it’.
“OK sir, that’s gone through fine, so you’ll get a confirmation in a minute”
“Has it actually gone through the card company this time?”
“Yes, it’s gone through fine”
“What’s the transaction authorisation code?”
“We don’t know yet, it hasn’t gone to the bank”
So…. Fitbit, these <sarcasm>masters of eCommerce</sarcasm>, don’t do the card transactions immediately. They cache them, for some fuckforsaken reason. And no-one knows ’til then what’ll happen.
When I checked the resubmitted one, the phone cretin had also decided to change the address for billing and delivery to the PAF-recommended one (without even asking) so I ended up talking to them again, they edited the order, and ‘confirmed the transaction’ again (i.e. re-submitted it, and played wait’n’see with the cards)
That failed too, unsurprisingly. Same email, you need to speak to us, same list of possible reasons. Card company re-confirms that absolutely nothing has touched the account – they’ve had a 1p pre-authorisation amount go through, which verifies the card details, but after that, nothing else has been received by them at all.
In the end, I’ve called Fitbit (again!) and just cancelled the order. There’s better and quicker ways to do this. Hell, I can get a pikey knock-off strap through Amazon for a tenth of the price, and it’d be delivered tomorrow.
The really telling thing though, for me, was that when I cancelled the order, there’s not even a process for it. No questions about why I want to cancel, no attempt to keep the order, nothing. Just “OK, that’s cancelled. You’ll get an email telling you so”. That tells you everything you need to know about whether a company gives a shit or not.
Here in the UK, today is a Bank Holiday – and that link is an interesting read, if you want to know more about why they exist etc.
Since moving to the current house – in my head it’s still the ‘new’ house, but that’s patently untrue, having been there five years now – I’ve become far less of a fan of Bank Holidays, mainly for one significant reason.
I live near(ish) to the only pub in my village. Usually that’s fine, there’s little-to-no trouble, and it’s all pretty decent. I’m yet to darken its doors, but that’s a different thing entirely. People come, people go, and it’s all good.
On Bank Holiday weekends, however, people seem to become fuckbags. The pub itself usually has some kind of event on – a band or whatever – and opens a bit longer, and both of those things are fine. But by the time we’re mid-evening, there are always people screaming and shouting, having arguments, and generally being cocks. And that goes on ’til gone two in the morning. Every Damn Time.
You can hear these arguments all around the place – the people involved try walking/stomping away, only to be followed by the other party, screaming and yelling to “get back ‘ere” and whatever (or my favourite, chasing after them yelling “Go on, fuck off then!”, which I still can’t get my head round) Fortunately, it rarely gets nasty – once or twice it has, but usually it’s just loud and twatty.
For me, it’s unavoidable. I live close enough to be in earshot, and to be on the main route back to most of the rest of the village, so short of being away on Bank Holiday weekends, I can’t miss what’s going on. It’s not a huge thing, just an annoyance, and it grinds on me after a while. The thing is, it also makes me not want to visit the pub at other times – and to be fair, I don’t need much of an excuse on that score anyway. It’s just another factor that adds to my Reasons Not To Bother.
Yesterday, a lot of people held a one-minute silence for the victims of Monday’s bombing in Manchester. Personally, I don’t really understand why this appears to have become one of the “done things” to do for any tragic event.
Yes, the bombing is awful, and should never have happened. The people who did it are unutterable motherfuckers, and deserve to be damned to whatever eternity their religion believes in. The victims shouldn’t have been victims, because this shit shouldn’t have happened.
But it did, and so we go on.
But what do these silences actually do? They re-focus attention on the event (but of course we’re not going to give terrorists the air of publicity that they crave, except when we then have every news broadcast for the next 72 hours focused pretty-much-purely on that event) and make people think about it even more. But we’re not going to let terrorists change our lives, are we? Except when we do, when there are now more armed police on the streets, and even more security on the streets, in airports and elsewhere – all of which changes our lives, and makes us think about terrorism even more.
I know the silences started off from the two-minutes-silence on Armistice Day – and I’m fine with that. But when did they become the done thing, the marker for every event?
I feel the same about the huge numbers of bouquets at the sites of deaths and tragedies. I get that people want to voice their sympathies, but when did a bouquet and gifts become the way to do it? It’s almost enough to make you wonder whether it’s not the florist industry behind it all, in a similar way to Valentine’s Day, just to improve their own profits – but this time out of the grimness and death of others. And the sodding cards that go with it – the ones that get read out in news broadcasts, that all seem to be suspiciously “on-message” for whatever’s been being reported.
The real start for the floral stuff seemed (to me) to be the death of Princess Diana, when flowers appeared everywhere, in true Damien Day style. Since then, they’ve accompanied every bloody event known to man.
Fine, people want to show their concerns, voice their sympathies and so on. But surely it’s better to do so with donations to a particular cause, with speaking up about (in the case of Manchester) terrorism and the like, to actually do something, rather than pay lipservice through a wallet and a minute’s silence?