Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Vueling, ignoring, and passengers discrimination.

The other week I went to Spain via flights from Vueling. Spain was fantastic! Vueling however, have gone down in history as operating the most horrific planes I've experienced, and frankly, I get on a lot of planes. I'd never flown with then before (hell, I never even heard of them before), and having now done so twice the idea of a third flight is about as appealing as a romantic evening with Fred and Rose West. 

So, once I was back I decided to mention this on twitter, to which they replied and suggested I send them an e-mail with more details. I did. They ignored it completely. I can't imagine why. It's almost as though they might not like having to answer some of the questions I posed to them. Interesting.

So, for posterity, for their own publicity, and frankly as a guide to the world for how to write a complaint letter, here's what I sent to Vueling. Who knows, maybe they'll even have the common courtesy to reply once it's public. 


"Last weekend I had the misfortune of getting my first flights with Vueling. On getting on the first place I discovered that not only could I not physically fit in the seat, but due to the position I would need to contort myself into to even come close to sitting down it meant that the customers either side of me were completely unable to use their tray tables for the entire flight. At fact that was quickly established once one of them rammed the metal bracket into my knee while trying to do so.

On my return flight the situation was so bad that I ended up sitting on the arm rest of my chair for the entire journey back to London. The crew were well aware of this, having already had struggled to get passed me with their trolly only to find that it was a physical impossibility for me to move out of their way, and gave me many apologetic looks.

Apparently though, the complex task of moving me to sit in one of the many free seats with extra legroom was "completely impossible" as I hadn't offered to pay an additional fare for the privilege of basic comfort.

Allow me to put this VERY simply. My height is genetic. Genetic in the same manner that my gender is. In the same manner that my skin colour is. In the same manner that any of countless disabilities are. They are not a choice. They are not a result of lifestyle choices. Your "kind offer" for me to pay more to have a basic level of comfort is discrimination. And no, before you attempt it; "common practice" amongst airlines does not prevent that statement from being true. I do however look forward to, and will expect you to explicitly address it in your response, lest this become a significantly more public blog post rather than an email, your explanation as to why you consider this to be acceptable.

Finally, you may have noticed that I've ignored the basic safety risks of being unable to sit on your planes. What would have happened had there been sudden turbulence (or worse) and I was injured due to the embarrassing state of your aircraft? Were I at my seat with no belt on then it would have been my fault. When your staff are repeatedly shrugging at me as they struggle to get passed me, it doesn't take an intellectual to establish that the blame would be entirely yours."

It's been 10 days, at the time of writing, that they've failed to reply. If Vueling ever do reply I'll be sure to update this and let you know how it goes.

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Tackling Tube Strikes

So, to put it simply, here are some of my favourite comments about this month's tube strikes in London.

1) Boris Johnson signed a petition in 2008! Boris Johnson promised this in 2010! 

Awesome! Let's base all our arguments on decisions, facts, and opinions that are 4 - 6 years out of date. That'll work like a bloody charm wont it. I presume the same people complaining about this make all of their life decisions on information from that long ago as well do they? Not to mention taking extra special effort to completely ignore ANYTHING that has happened since, or any more recent evidence to the contrary. You know, in the standard intelligent manner.

Run along kids, you're no longer qualified to use sentences. On the plus side there are some brightly coloured balls in the middle of the road for you to play with if you've nothing more useful to add.

2) Empty ticket offices will make life harder! 

How exactly? We've Bob Crow himself pointing out that he rarely, if ever, needs to use one any more. Personally I actually tried to use one the other day for the first time in about 18 months, only to find that, after explaining the problem 4 times to the guy at the counter, that he couldn't actually do anything, and I needed to call someone else. Someone not in the station.

That was helpful. Maybe we should do a quick software update to the machines instead to improve their accessibility and be done with it? Hell, we could even get the machines to work 24/7/365. But then someone would probably complain that they were being over worked, underpaid, and deserved better digital conditions

3) It's to protect the workers jobs!  

To a degree this is true. But after about 10 seconds thought you realise something else. Tube workers are VERY well paid for their work. Which is nice. Unless you're a teacher, a nurse, or one of countless other professions who get sod all for much more valuable work. But the problem is tube work isn't exactly the most highly skilled of professions. The Daily Mash's parody article about passengers discovering that they can learn to drive a train themselves in 5 minutes isn't exactly far from the mark. Instead what the workers are actually worried about is simple. Currently they get paid a lot of money for not having very many skills. Certainly not having many transferable skills at least. Losing their job on the Underground means that, assuming they get another job, they won't likely get anywhere near the same salary, as, put simply, they're not qualified. As such the RMT's constant demands for more pay have created little more than a self fulfilling prophecy of strikes and problems for them.

4) It's about safety. 

No, it's REALLY not. I'm not even going to make the point here, I'll just link you to this amazing blog post about the real impact of what happens in London when the tube's on strike to "protect Londoners safety". Be warned, you will not rest easily when you read it.

5) It'll turn tube stations in a muggers paradise.

No. Again, this is beyond moronic. Unless of course all thefts in tube stations take place under the watchful eye of the staff who are sitting in exactly the same position all day, and not, say, when there are lots of people moving around away from the ticket office.

The reality of this is simple. The world is moving on, new things are coming in, the old is being replaced. It started with the industrial revolution, and it hasn't stopped yet. It never will stop until the world does. To claim that you didn't see this coming, or that you need more time to adjust isn't good enough. We've been happily buying tickets from machines for over 10 years. We've had driverless trains for longer than that. Just how much notice do you need exactly?

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

O2 be, or not be, O2

Dear O2, my dear dear O2,

It must be really stressful being part of the largest telecommunications company in the world. The problem is that the stress that comes with such jobs can do funny things to people. Some individuals go postal and embark on a random shooting spree, some kick back, put their feet up, and head off to a mental nirvana no longer capable of coherent thought or speech, others, such as the intellectuals at O2 have decided to take another route entirely.

You see O2, in their stress crazed minds, have noticed that customers pay them money. In fact, they pay them so much of the damn stuff that last year alone they made £332 million. Which, unless someone’s gone and changed how numbers work and not told me, is quite a lot. The problem is though, their customers still have money, and as big nasty Ofcom have rocked up and said that if you put your charges up mid contract that customers can walk away penalty free, O2 can’t get any of it. Sure, they could up their pay as you go charges, but that’d be like robbing a bank and walking out with the security guard’s wallet. So there must be a better idea.

It’s that better idea that the intellectuals O2 think they’ve struck upon.

But first some context, and a nod to Bill Hicks.

Back in the 70s it became fashionable to sue bands claiming that they’d driven someone to commit suicide. The question that was never asked was simple; What performer wants their audience dead? Can you picture the band in the studio? “Christ I’m sick of it. The money, the fame, the groupies, these people buying all my albums, t-shirts and concert tickets, giving me so much that I can have everything I want. We need to do something about this. Hey, why don’t we kill the bloody audience? That’d be great! Then I can go back to being a waffle house waiter!”

It made no sense. At its best it was hilarious, at its worse it was a sad indictment of a miserably low level of education and simple common sense on the part of the prosecutors. It has, since then, quite simply died a death. Nobody tries that kind of drivel any more, as it’s so obviously flawed it’s embarrassing.

Unless you’re O2. Because O2 have decided that while they don’t want their customers dead, they do want them to feel like they’re about as valuable to them as Michael Flatley with Rickets. Especially the ones who’ve been there for a while. New customers are fine, but long term ones? The ones who’ve been paying O2 for years? Screw ‘em. Apparently those longer term customers can happily have their contracted charges arbitrarily increased at a moment's notice and just have to accept it because they can’t leave their contracts early. Not new customers though, those are protected by a recent Ofcom ruling that allows them to leave if their rates are put up. So, for clarity, O2 are consciously, and deliberately singling out their longer term customer base for increased charges because they’re the ones who can’t leave. Yet. And it’s not their call costs, or their text message costs. No, those are costs that can be controlled by the customer through their usage. This is the flat rate contract price for your package. The one you have no choice about. The whole concept is little more than an acknowledgement that what they're doing is one huge motivator to their customers to leave, and publicly acknowledging the fact that that's what a lot of them would do. So, they've decided to leave the people who can leave alone, and screw the people who can't.

I guess what this really means is that their long term customers are the ones they have the better connections with.

Thursday, 23 January 2014

On what's wrong with your CV

Writing a CV is hard. Really hard. Trying to show a total stranger that you're qualified, smart, personable, and capable enough to get them to actually want to speak to you. It's a hard, nerve racking experience. So why then would you send off something that reads like it was put together by a schizophrenic toddler with social issues? Because you are. Constantly. I know this because you've been sending them to me. Here's some of the highlights....

But first a disclaimer, because I'm not an idiot. I've tweaked these where required to get rid of all names, companies, and any other personal information to protect the astonishingly stupid. And me. Mostly me.


1) Don't write your CV in the third person.

Seriously people, it's weird. REALLY weird. The first impression I'm going to get of you is that either a) You got someone else to write it for you, which I've caught people out for on several occasions, or b) You're about as mentally stable as Jack Nicholson's character from The Shining. Unless that's how you communicate in the real world there are no excuses. If that is how you communicate in the real world then I'm not the person you need to be applying to.

I'm seeing this constantly, bloody stop it!

2) There is such a thing as too much information.

I recently got a CV that told me the author liked to keep up with current events. Which in itself isn't exactly news worthy, but fair enough, I know why it's there. Unfortunately the author clearly realised that people get suspicious about what's on someone's CV. After all, they might be lying. The bastards. So in an effort to combat this they decided the best solution was to list some examples of "current events" because that's the part of their CV I was most likely to be suspicious about.

The same person then went on to tell me they'd just started doing Yoga. Which was nice. What I didn't need to know was that they were doing so to "make me more flexible." NOT OKAY!

3) You are not in school, I expect you to write your own CV

There was a time, when I was about 14, that copying off the internet was amazing. Homework done in seconds and the teachers too far behind the times to realise what I'd done.* It was a glorious time to be alive. Sadly, by the time I was 15 that time had passed. So, you can imagine my excitement when I received the following CV for an IT job.

"[Previous company: Fashion label] IT dept.

[Company] is a British fashion retailer headquartered in [Removed]LondonUK.[1][2][3] [Company] now sells menswearwomenswearfootwear, and accessories in 35 department stores and 65 stand-alone stores across the UK, EuropeCanada and the United States.[4][5][6] Currently, 85% of the company is owned by [Removed].[7][8][9]"

That's right kids! Not only did this guy simply copy and paste the Wikipedia article for one of his former employers, he also left in every single hyperlink to other Wikipedia articles too! Presumably he thought that I might become so interested in London or Women's wear from reading his CV that I'd immediately want to get myself onto Wikipedia to learn more!

Oh, and just for some bonus points, he also didn't even bother to change the font to match the rest of the CV either. Just incase I was under any doubt that he was lazy and lacking in even the most basic IT skills to realise what he'd done.

4) Get to the point!

I like the point. It's a great and wonderful place driven by efficiency and with very little time wasting. Glorious. Imagine if everything were like the point. We'd probably be reading this on Mars by now. The point in your CV needs to be gotten to, and fast. Ideally over no more than 2-3 pages. So, to the guy who sent me a 19 page CV, and to the HR department who couldn't comprehend why said no without even turning to page 2, let this be a lesson. If it takes you 19 pages to make yourself look good I don't even want to talk to you, let alone employ you.

5) "Txt spk" is glorified illiteracy.

Apparently this makes me uncool and ignorant of the way young people are creating an exciting new langu....oh you know what, I just don't care. It doesn't matter how many bleeding hearts come on TV to say that we shouldn't look down on such things. I don't care. I pay you, I employ you, your job exists on my terms, not yours. If your first day's training includes handing out a dictionary then I can promise you there wont be a second day of training. Don't like it? Fine, don't get a job then. YOLO.

6) Don't attach a photo

See point 1. It's weird. It also makes me feel excessively judgemental as human nature dictates I've already made assumptions. Also, more often than not you've sent me a passport photo. Which makes you look like a murderer, and I try to keep the number of murderers I'm associated with to as few as possible.

So let's be clear, with your CV you are asking me to be your manager. You reflect on me, if you're shit, and I hired you, I look like shit. As your manager, I am not your baby sitter, your parents, your carer, or your psychiatrist. I don't care if you 'need to work on' somethings. I expect you to have worked on it and be able to function as a useful member of a team. I DO expect to train you, to show you things, teach you new processes, and basically enable you to do your job properly. I do expect to treat you like a decent human being and understand that sometimes shit happens to people, and I need to be flexible when it does. But I do not expect to have to make you a viable member of society before you become a useful member of my team.

The nice bit

Just for balance, there are a lot of things I simply don't care about for you either. Your hair length, your piercings, your tattoos, your dress sense, and all of the other good stuff that makes you a human being. Couldn't care less about them. You're either capable of doing the job or you're not. If you are, you'll get the job. But remember, that's me. Other people are stuck in the dark ages and expect you to jump through hoops and look a certain way. So think about that before you rock up without even bothering to shower that morning. Because yes, that's happened too.

*Let's all just take a moment to remember how awesome Encarta Encyclopedia was.........Done? Cool, carry on as you were.

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Cleaning up the London protestors

Good god this has been a long time coming. Finally, after years of protests, riots, and petitioning (most of them nonsense) it's finally happened. Boris Johnson, and the wider Tory Government has taken notice of the plight of the nation's protestors. Most of them are, plainly, disgusting.

"Soap dodging on this scale hasn't been seen since the middle ages." A spokesperson for the mayor's office announced, echoing the voice of the people of Highgate, Hampstead, and Blackheath. "We've heard the voice of the people, and the people are desperate. These uprising's of the unclean need to be addressed, and today we're showing that we're listening, and we're acting."

Government cut backs have already impacted on the scheme with confirmation the protestors would still be required to bring their own soap. But the general consensus seems to be that even without soap in the water, the principal alone should see London move up the list of the worlds cleanest cities.

Personally over the years I've grown thoroughly fed up with seeing legions of angry people shouting about pretty much everything, without even having bothered to take a shower before heading to the streets. Finally this means that we can protect people's right to protest, and help the homeless, simultaneously.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

38 Degrees of separation

I can’t bloody stand 38 Degrees. Not the idea that is. The idea that people can do something that isn’t setting fire to stuff to raise legitimate issues for consideration by the powers that be is, well, quite good really. What I can’t bloody stand is how it’s actually used. You know, in the real world. Where people live. And by people, I mean idiots.


Literally, all of them. Don’t like something? Start a petition. Have a hair brained scheme that you rehashed from an episode of Pinky and the Brain that you watched during a depressing, Special Brew fuelled, YouTube evening? Start a petition. Sick of writing angry letters to the Daily Mail to complain that you’re, curiously, not in charge of everything, and that other people have the nerve to disagree with you? Start a petition.

38 Degrees has basically turned into Twitter with signatures and frankly it’s making us look like a bunch of morons.

My current favourite is this stunningly clever idea that Michael Gove should spend a term teaching. 

Let’s break this little gem down shall we.

Michael Gove, a politician, a man with no discernible capacity to do his own job, let alone someone else’s, should, according to about 100,000 people, spend a term teaching. Should he? Really, should he? Michael Gove is, quite clearly, a dribbling moron who’d struggle with the responsibility of looking after an Ice Cream in an Igloo, let alone the education policy of a nation. And you want him to be in direct charge of actually teaching Children? Not the hypothetical way that he comes up with policies, but in an actual standing in front of a class of eager young minds imparting wisdom and helping them develop their critical thinking way.

You bloody don’t. You don’t want him anywhere near where Children might “learn” from him. What you actually want is for him to get fired for being an inept window licking moron with the intellectual capacity of a Cat Flap and be consigned to a footnote in the county’s more embarrassing history books. But, instead of that, almost 100,000 people have decided he should spend a term teaching in order to be able to do his job properly.For people who like lists (or keep reading BuzzFeed), here’s some numbered points….
  1. Michael Gove is, sadly, an MP. A man with an existing job. A full time job. A job that were he not doing it full time you’d also been complaining about. A job that he won’t be doing at all if he’s teaching in a school.
  2. What type of school? Or do you just mean the one that specifically applies to your child, and your own specific needs. Because having the Minister in charge of Education focussed solely on your own little niche is of literally no use to anyone.
  3. Michael Gove is not a teacher. Which means that he's never had ANY teacher training. Which, to my mind at least, means that teaching isn't really something he should be doing. But don’t let that little technicality get in the way of your irate shouty genius.
  4. By creating or signing this spurious nonsense, what you’ve actually done is legitimise those in charge to completely ignore online petitions entirely. After all, if it’s famous for complaining about things they plainly don’t understand, are making ill informed petitions consisting largely of plainly unworkable ideas, why would anyone who wasn’t taught by Michael Gove want to listen to it?
So there you have it. Well done you. You've successfully turned what could have been a powerful tool of the people into an easily dismissed haven for those who didn't watch enough Sesame Street as kids. Thanks for that. Here's a round of applause for you....

Monday, 5 August 2013

I really am very sorry.

By virtue of some unlikely circumstance, I recently spent a curiously prolonged period of time with someone who, among many other things, can be most accurately described as 'American'. As an Englishman, this inevitably led to an avalanche of culture clashes, casual imperialism, and pointing out that, at least from an administrative level, the US is still technically a British colony, and it might be an idea for them to remember that once in a while.

But more than anything else it led to apologising. Constantly.

At this point you're probably thinking: 'Good! Bloody Americans, it's about time they started acknowledging a few things.' You would of course be completely wrong.

You see, as any good English person will tell you, it's entirely reasonable to compose a sentence that's comprised of 70% apologetic terms. 80% if you're being polite. Which you should be. Always. For an American this is frankly incomprehensible. After all, how on earth can I spend that much of my life being that upset about things that in their (savage?) mind I shouldn't even have acknowledged?

I have apologised for being in a slightly inconvenient position (for them), doing something entirely legitimate, but thus putting them through the trauma of having to work around me.

For not predicting their precise need to intake fluids, thus forcing them to actually have to ask for them in the first place.

For having the audacity to attempt to engage them in casual conversation.

For trying to be helpful (I apologised for this a lot).

And for them bumping into me. As frankly I probably shouldn't have been there in the first place.

This was met with a constant procession of confused expressions, and an awful lot of "wait, did you just apologise for that?" Which made me feel awkward. So naturally I apologised for that too.

The only thing I'm worried about is that I might have left something out. Or not apologised enough. Two thoughts that frankly keep me awake at night wondering how best to apologise for that.

One thing I'm not apologising for though is my manners. Which are clearly impeccable. I'm sorry, but I'm just not prepared to call that into question.