Author Archives: musingsonmatters

The World’s Best Biscuit

I’ve said this before, there is no argument here – Furniss of Truro’s Cornish Fairings ARE the World’s Best Biscuit – period! End of!  If you haven’t tried them then your view is irrelevant, if you have – you know what I’m saying is true – right?

I was brought up on these crunchy ginger biscuits.  From my early years on the cliff at Whitesand Bay through my years away at college in Coventry and then Reading the taste has never left me – not even now another 40 odd years later!  I’m delighted to say that thanks to my daughter I have a box in my cupboard right now – dunked in coffee – oh, I can barely contain myself 🙂

Who would have thought that the combination of the following ingredients would deliver such joy?  Wheat Flour, Sugar, Invert Sugar Syrup, Butter (Milk), Vegetable Fat (Palm Oil, Rapeseed Oil), Rice Flour,  Raising Agents (Sodium Bicarbonate, Ammonium Bicarbonate), Rusk (Wheat Flour, Salt, Raising Agent: Ammonium Bicarbonate, Spices), Salt, Natural Lemon Flavouring.  But Mr John Cooper Furniss and his descendants have created the perfect match of flavour, crunch and dunkability!

No surprise then that…

In 2007, Furniss secured an official trademark to preserve Cornwall’s most famous biscuit. Now we’re the only bakery licensed to make Original Cornish Fairings™. If you find yourself eating only one then stopping, please check the pack…they might be imposters.

Some people, yeah like imposters, have tried to come up with a recipe for Cornish Fairings – Paul Hollywood  and Mary Berry to name but 2 (charlatans indeed!) – sorry Mary, but they don’t look anything like the real deal.

Cornish through and through, Fairings should be gently spicy, crunchy and very moreish. The name ‘Fairing’ comes from a present bought at the fairs which were held every year at Whitsuntide and Corpus Christi – a little gift for a loved one or a sweetheart consisting of a gingerbread, sugared almonds, cinnamon sticks or macaroons.

Sadly as well as baking imposters and charlatans there are there are other views about what the best biscuit is out there!  Poor misguided fools who have probably never heard of Fairings or of Furniss of Truro – they have my pity… Channel 5 even did a survey for a TV programme ludicrously named “Britain’s Favourite Biscuit (snort!) and came up with the following list:

  1. Chocolate Digestive
  2. Chocolate Hobnob
  3. Jammie Dodger
  4. Custard Creme
  5. Shortbread
  6. Bourbon
  7. Jaffa Cake
  8. Ginger Nut
  9. Digestive
  10. Wagon Wheel
  11. Kit Kat
  12. Caramel Wafer
  13. Double chocolate chip cookie
  14. Rich Tea
  15. Fig Roll
  16. Milk chocolate chip cookie
  17. Malted Milk
  18. Chocolate Finger
  19. Hob Nob
  20. Chunky Cookie

Dog biscuits – the lot of them – and a chocolate digestive at #1 – oh, p-lease!

The Metro fared no better when it released it’s findings – not even close people, not even close!

So, what, you may ask, makes the perfect biscuit?  Well here are 10 tips – thanks to cupcakersandcashmere.com for starting me off…

  1. Freeze your butter. Start with frozen butter. …
  2. Use a sift to mix your dry ingredients. …
  3. Never use your hands. …
  4. Use the well technique for combining dry and wet ingredients. …
  5. Only work on cold surfaces like wood or metal. …
  6. Cut and stack the dough. …
  7. Do not twist the ring mold. …
  8. Do not use the leftover dough.
  9. Throw all of this away
  10. Buy a pack of Furniss of Truro’s Cornish Fairings

There you are!  It’s really very, very simple.  So just give up – the champion has been crowned – Furniss of Truro’s Original Cornish Fairings – take a bow!

 

That’s just the name of the company

Those of you who have reached well into middle age or are comedy geeks will have spotted that the title of this post is a Monty Python reference – but more of that later…

I really wish that I had the practical gene, you know, the one that allows you to be a DIY god, to transform your home at a fraction of the cost and to the envy of all men like me – but I don’t!

For anything more than changing a lightbulb or building an Ikea flat-pack piece of furniture I need a skilled person – to do it for me – I am perfectly happy with that – my skills lie elsewhere (at least that’s my story!).

Now I don’t think I’m alone in not having this gene, and increasingly it seems that I’m in the vast majority – well judging by the level of response when posting on ratedpeople.com (other websites for sourcing skilled tradespeople are available) anyway.  Sadly the work was outside the skills of my mate Handy Andy who has done lots of other stuff to my home – brilliantly I have to say – hence the need for my alternative approach!  Unfortunately, either the work I need undertaking is too piecemeal or these skilled individuals have become overly blase about meeting customers’ needs!

‘Cos let me tell you I’m not a happy bunny…

Today is the 6th November.  I posted a job on 17th August and got one response – but he seemed knowledgeable and keen so excellent. However, almost 4 months down the line and all I’ve got is a hole next to my garage and a lot of unanswered texts.. The most recent communication I’ve received from him was on the 11th of October.  The phrase “can’t be arsed” comes to mind.

If I had another alternative (bad grammar I know) I’d tell him to forget it – but I need the work done and as I said he was the only person to respond.

I wonder if I should start blaming the government for shafting the economy (look it’s still shite, whatever they try and tell you) which has dramatically reduced the number of house sales and turned the focus on spending money on your existing home and trying to make that better instead.  The logic here being that this upsurge in maintenance etc will have reduced the availability of these skilled individuals – supply and demand and all that jazz!

But there’s more to it than that – of course there is.

Is the man too busy to respond?  Has he lost his mobile phone?  Or does he just not give a ****?

I simply do not know – all I can do is highlight the time period, the lack of communication and what this makes me conclude and how that makes me feel. This feels less like rated people’s slogan – “Tradesmen at your Fingertips‎” and more like a tradesman has “slipped through my fingertips”!

The really important thing here is about setting and managing expectations – this has all the hallmarks of that excellent Monty Python sketch about the dry-cleaning service.  Irritatingly I’m unable to find it using good ‘ol Google but it featured a segment where the “customer” in a dry cleaners called “1 hour dry cleaning” asks why his dry cleaning isn’t ready yet and the shop owner responds – “That’s just the name of the company”….you get my drift??

This is from Quora as written by Eric Siu, who works at Single Grain, a digital marketing agency:

If you’re in a service business, your job is to retain your clients for as long as possible. That means doing the best job that you can and meeting their needs. But it also means meeting your own needs so that a long-term arrangement is beneficial to everyone involved.

He’s not wrong! He’s just set out the positive side of setting and meeting expectations with your customers – it’s when there’s a mismatch that things go wrong.


My current situation makes me want to add a review – right now – before he’s really even started on the job itself.  But what would that achieve?  Well if he bothers to check the rated people site he could see that I really was rather p*ssed off (but he should have realised that anyway) and I’m fairly confident that I be whistling for it if I thought he’d complete the job itself!!  That said it might be of assistance to someone else who thinks that this individual might help them solve their problems – DIY wise!

Online reviews are increasingly important – especially on sites such as ratedpeople – it’s in the very name of the site ffs – “Rated” people!!

Consider the following from an article by Andrew Thomas on inc.com:

  1. When customers are unhappy, there’s a 91 percent chance they won’t do business with a company again (Lee Resources).

  2. Dissatisfied customers typically tell nine to 15 other people about their experience; some tell 20 or more (White House Office of Consumer Affairs).

  3. A negative customer experience is the reason 86 percent of consumers quit doing business with a company (Customer Experience Impact Report).

  4. Good customer experiences lead 42 percent of consumers to purchase again (Zendesk Customer Service Study).

It’s even worse – he goes on to state that it can take 40 positive reviews to get over 1 bad review, he calls it the Secret Ratio – something that, as a service provider, you’d better learn it fast!

So, dude, get your communication sh*t together – pronto!!

Motorway behaviour – it’s just plain embarrassing

Here’s a question for you…

I can guarantee, from my observations, that not everyone knows the correct answer, which is, according to Driving Test Success website:

A two-lane motorway – keep to the left-hand lane for normal driving. Use the right-hand lane for overtaking. Once you have finished overtaking you should move back to the left-hand lane as soon as it is safe to do so. Large goods vehicles are permitted to use either lane.

Three-lane motorway – you should stay in the left-hand lane unless you need to overtake slower moving traffic. To do this you should use the middle lane. If you need to overtake several vehicles then stay in the middle lane. There is no need to weave in and out of the left-hand lane as you overtake individual vehicles.

You should only use the outer lane to overtake slower moving vehicles when the left-hand and middle lanes are occupied with slower moving traffic.

When in either the middle or outer lanes, you must be prepared to move over, to the left or middle lanes, to let faster moving vehicles pass.

Indeed!  If only!!

Basically, whatever motorway you are driving on, these “rules” are simply ignored – by almost everyone!    Which still baffles me as to why our motorways are statistically the safest places to drive in Britain.  Research by the Road Safety Foundation, and published by the Telegraph back in 2013, showed that single carriageway roads seven times more dangerous than motorways! It’s there in black and white so it must be true!

In 2018 Erin Baker, writing for the RAC highlighted the 11 of the most annoying driving habits and at guess what people –  #1 was Middle Lane Hogging.  Despite police pledges to prosecute middle-lane drivers, nothing has changed.  There you’ll find the older person keeping plenty of space around him or herself, totally oblivious to the law and absolutely insistent that they have the right to be where they are and drive at the speed they want.  Or it could be the timid mouse clutching, terrified, to the steering wheel with a fixed gaze – forward – and in no other direction, at any time.  It could be a young guy lost in his music, a family having an argument – it could be you.  In fact it is highly likely to be a lot of you!  Just today I was heading back up the M40 from London and I spotted  a silver Mercedes Vito (registration beginning EN17 Z.. – and yes I do know the rest) in my rear view mirror, who was moving slightly faster than me, I was doing 70 (on cruise control) in the inside lane – honest I was! He slowly passed me – couldn’t have been doing more than 1mph more than me.  About a minute later I had to overtake someone in the inside lane and he appeared in front of me – going significantly slower than he had been previously – but still in the middle lane.  Why? Because he was looking down at his phone, possibly texting someone.  I overtook him, returned to the inside lane and within a minute he came whizzing past me, clearly having finished his “chat” and keen to catch up the lost time – he was doing well over the national speed limit (god I sound virtuous here – pass the sick bag).

That’s not an isolated example – in the past few weeks I’ve driven to the top of Scotland and back and can confidently state that it happens everywhere – people driving in the wrong lane.

In fact I’d go so far as to say we British are the World’s worst motorway drivers – although according to HotCars we don’t even make the top 20 – to be fair this is actually about people who just don’t seem to be able to drive at all…  India only makes #12 – and having been there that’s one place I certainly do not want to drive in!

OK let’s say we’re the worst in Europe – well we can until Brexit happens and then we aren’t in Europe anymore (Cameron you **** – thanks for ****ing it up for us – and now you think we’d be prepared to let you back into politics – think again you total numpty!).  The only place that comes close to us in terms of motorway bad behaviour is Germany, and then only in the rain – the rest of the time they seem totally sensible.  The best motorways to drive on are in Belgium (hey some of them even have their own Wikipedia pages!) and from my experience the most organised and responsive motorists are the Italians – strange but true.  In 2014 Autoexpress published a survey that showed us Brits thought that the Italians were the worst drivers.  And that may well be true in cities and on the twisty roads such as the Amalfi coastline – BUT it’s a different story on motorways.

At least they are predictable and in general they follow the rules.  The drive fast – true, they will let you know they’re coming – also true but unless they are in what many seem to be, a terrible hurry, they WILL stay in the slow lane – they do NOT hog the middle or other lanes.

The problem with drivers hogging the middle lane is then what happens…

  1. for starters on a 3 lane motorway this will lead to more and more people moving to the outside lane to get past them, this naturally causes the traffic to slow, as a concertina or ripple, effect builds up leading to what are termed “phantom traffic jams” – this is one reason why your are more likely to see an accident in the outside lane of a motorway.
  2. undertaking – passing them on the inside – usually accompanied by a long hard stare at them as you go by, possibly accompanied by a bit head shaking and/or finger wagging.  Go on, admit it – you’ve done it – I know I have, and whilst it’s perfectly permissable in the US it isn’t here – ok to be accurate – it is permissable here but only where the queue of traffic in the lane to your right is moving slower than your lane – but that is not the example I am describing here!
  3. overtaking and making a point.  This is the practice, especially on an otherwise empty motorway, of driving up behind a MLH (middle lane hogger) then dropping back and moving into the inside lane before flooring it and zooming quickly up the inside lane and at the last moment swerving to the outside lane to pass them before moving sharply left and back into the inside lane again.

Maybe it’s down to a lack of education – certainly all those years ago when I learnt to drive I didn’t drive on a motorway until after I’d actually passed my test!  Thankfully things are changing:

With the changes that came into effect in June 2018 road safety minister Jesse Norman said: “Britain’s roads are among the safest in the world, but road collisions remain the second biggest killer of young people.

“Allowing learner drivers to have motorway lessons with a qualified road safety expert will help more young drivers to gain the skills and experience they need to drive safely on motorways.”

But even then, according to the AA: “more than a third of drivers rarely, if ever, drive on a motorway. If that’s you, you may find motorways daunting or may be unfamiliar with some of the recent innovations.”

Plus you then have to factor in the growth in the volume of traffic – which seems never ending:

RAC roads policy spokesman Nick Lyes said: “While traffic has only increased very slightly on the previous year, it has taken us to record levels. The longer-term picture is more concerning, with overall traffic since 1995 growing by 18.6% in stark contrast to the overall length of our roads, which has only increased by 2.4%.

“The data shows the length of motorways increased by 11.8%, however in the same period traffic levels on motorways increased by 44%, demonstrating that major road usage is outstripping road space.”

The DfT statistics also reveal that the number of cars in Britain has shot up by 43% in the past 20 years, from 21m in 1995 to more than 30m in 2015, yet in that time the length of the country’s roads has only increased by just under 6000 miles.

And there’s more – the shift from shopping on the high street to out of town shopping centres not only started the demise of the traditional high street it also increased the number of journeys people take in their cars.  That trend has now been amplified by the shift to online shopping.  The consequent increase in the number of delivery vans on our roads has only fuelled the frequency of traffic jams.

For the last four years, van traffic has increased on average by 4.8% a year, and has been the fastest growing traffic type (in percentage terms) over this time.

Dear god is there no hope for us?  Well clearly there is – but you’re not going to like it, well if you knit your own yogurt, you’ll definitely hate it!

BUILD MORE ROADS!

Don’t spend £42billion (or £60bn as it might finally cost) on a crappy bit of railway – build more roads and help millions of people drive more efficiently as their cars can travel at the average speed it was meant to (c.56mph I believe) and give us more space just like driving in Belgium – ah bliss.

Dicks and Phoneys!

Dear Jack Clarke, Charlie Rostron, Nabil Patel and Jade Pritchard (they work for Dixons Carphone)…

Did you realise that you were working for an organisation which is extremely NOT customer focused – one might even say that it operates on Stalinist principles – me included (harsh..but fair)!

Some time ago I got an email, totally out of the blue, trying to sell me something – it came from the Dixons Carphone group – frankly I had no idea the last time I bought anything from them and wondered why in this world of GDPR, that they still had my personal information!!

So I responded to the email and asked them to remove my details – and there begins the tedious (I’ll try and make it exciting for you dear reader – like by adding in pictures 🙂 ) saga – that is still going on today – despite what they may think!

The nub of this is their failure to believe I am who I say I am – and then, on the basis that they don’t accept that I am who I say I am they go on to publish some of my personal information via the very channel that they refuse to accept that I am who I say I am…

Anyway as is normally the case in these types of sagas you have to read back in time from the end to the beginning, to see how things have developed…but I thought I’d assist you, dear reader, by producing my most recent communication up top and then you can read through the history from the start and understand my acute levels of vexation 🙂  I’ve separated each message with a horizontal line – so you can take a breather whenever you like.

So, to set the scene, I’m responding to an email which has a link to take me to their portal so I can read an update from them….


Dear Sirs please be advised that I shall be forwarding details of our “conversations” to the Data Protection Registrar as I believe that you are in breach of the latest regulations. Your overbearing approach seems intent to stop individuals having their personal data removed rather than making it the right which is enschrined in the relevant legislation – GDPR.

Plus the fact that, despite refusing to accept that I am who I say I am, through this email channel, you appear to have no problems with publicising my home telephone number – and that is surely a failure to protect my identity.

I have been out of the country and unable to respond to your continuous refusals to accept who I am and now you elect to refuse my request.

Well all I can say is that even after I have completed my discussions with the Information Commissioner I shall ensure that I will never purchase another item from your organisation and should I ever receive a single piece of marketing communication from you I shall seriously consider taking you to the small claims court for the time, effort and stress that dealing with you has caused me.

Yours increasingly irritated


…so having typed in the screed I hit send to let them know of my current state of mind 🙂 and guess what…

..so I entered my email – to gain access to “your dedicated” privacy portal – not anyone else’s but MINE! – er, how do they know it’s me? By entering my email obviously (doh!) – the same email that they have been using to communicate communicate with me…

And so, just like that, they “verify” my identity enough to allow me to access the conversation via their portal…but it would seem that it’s not good enough to allow them to actually ACT on my initial request…

Now I’ve been both irritated and on holiday recently (I wasn’t irritated on holiday even though the rain did fall horizontally and the sun did hide away behind the grey clouds for most of the time) so I hadn’t got round to responding to previous emails – but the last one, saying that they’d withdrawn my request really p*ssed me off (like REALLY P*SSED ME OFF) so, that’s why we are where we are right now..

Now it’s time to see how we got to this point, but before we do let’s note that the GDPR allows individuals to make a request for erasure verbally or in writing.  Now had I telephoned them – at no doubt a cost to me – how could I have provided the “proofs” they ask for below?
Here we go with my initial request..in writing.

From: Data Subject 09/26/2018 4:01 PM GMT

Remove my details from your database


So I get an email back from them asking me to log into the privacy portal and now (like today) at the top is the following:
Request ID: TEQV0C
E-Mail: xxxx@xxxxxxxxx
Brand: All of your brands
Phone Number: 012xxxxx566

Show Less

Country: United Kingdom
Postcode: ox27 xxx

Now I’ve hidden some of the details but there are 3 important things to bear in mind here, given the issue at hand.

Firstly, I may have given them this information in the initial “registration” required to access the portal – frankly I can’t remember if there was one but I’m presuming that’s where they got it from – but irrespective of that if they aren’t prepared to accept my email conversation as proof of who I am then they damn well shouldn’t be displaying any additional information than that email to someone who might, if we’re following their logic, not be me.

Secondly, if they already have my email, my home phone number and my address surely that’s enough to be able to identify me from their records – I have a sneaking suspicion those details are collected at the time of purchase.

Thirdly transmitting data over the internet is not always secure and who are https://privacyportal-de.onetrust.com I’ve never heard of them before – and why is my data being transfered outside of the UK?  Will this change when Brexit happens perhaps Richard Purdy Counsel – (CIPP/E) at OneTrust can answer…

So why do they now need the following – isn’t that enough already?


From: Approver 10/01/2018 4:52 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Dear

Thank you for your request.

For us to continue with this request we need to validate your identity and require the following:

One proof of identity – we can accept an unexpired copy of either your passport or your driver’s licence

One proof of address– we can accept a copy of your most recent (and less than 3 months old) credit or debit card statement or a utility bill showing the same name and address as your account

Once we have received a form of identification and a proof of your address, we will proceed with processing your request.

You will be able to attach copies by clicking on the paperclip when responding to this message. We will delete all copies on completion of your request.

If you have used multiple email or postal addresses on your account then it will help our searches if they are provided to us at this point.

The 30-day time period to complete your request will start when we have received all documents requested.

If we do not hear from you within 14 days then we will withdraw your request from the process.

If we can offer any further assistance then please reply to us through this secure portal.

Yours sincerely

Jack Clarke

SAR Team

Dixons Carphone


From: Data Subject 10/01/2018 5:05 PM GMT
I responded to the email YOU sent ME. Remove my details from your database immediately. The very fact that i am using this email should be sufficient. If your original email allowed responses we wouldn’t be in this position now.

From: Approver 10/10/2018 4:05 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Dear ,

Thank you for your request.

Due to the nature of these requests our company policy is to ensure that we are always dealing with the right customer, especially when this might involve providing personal data back to a customer or making changes to customer data, including the deletion of customer data.

We always delete the data provided to identify the customer at the closure of the request.

Unfortunately, without proof of identity we will not be able to proceed with your request.

If we do not receive confirmation of identity within 5 working days then we will close down your request.”

Yours sincerely

Charlie Rostron

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


From: Approver 10/10/2018 4:06 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Dear Paul,

Thank you for your request.

Due to the nature of these requests our company policy is to ensure that we are always dealing with the right customer, especially when this might involve providing personal data back to a customer or making changes to customer data, including the deletion of customer data.

We always delete the data provided to identify the customer at the closure of the request.

Unfortunately, without proof of identity we will not be able to proceed with your request.

If we do not receive confirmation of identity within 5 working days then we will close down your request.”

Yours sincerely

Charlie Rostron

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


From: Data Subject 10/10/2018 4:54 PM GMT
Its me you ****wit. Now remove my details or i will report you to the information commissioner.

From: Approver 10/12/2018 1:50 PM GMT

Dear Mr ,

Thank you for your email.

Please be advised that we will require the information my colleague has requested to progress further.

If it helps, I am happy to accept:

One proof of address– we can accept a copy of your most recent (and less than 3 months old) credit or debit card statement or a utility bill showing the same name and address as your account

Once you provide this, I will be able to further this matter.

Yours sincerely,

Nabil Patel

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


From: Approver 10/23/2018 4:05 PM GMT

Private and Confidential 

Right to Forget

Dear Mr ,

Thank you for your request.

We have previously attempted to contact you to request further information to enable us to proceed with your request.

As we have not received any method to validate your identity we have made the decision to withdraw your request.

Please accept this as confirmation that your Right to Forget request has now been withdrawn.

If you have any further questions or issues with your request, please visit our privacy policy and submit a new request.

Yours sincerely

Jade Pritchard

WebSAR

Dixons Carphone


Frankly I’m not happy to provide that sort of “additional” information – my passport or my driving licence indeed – they didn’t need that when I purchased whatever it was I purchased from them – nor did they need a credit card statement with my address on it – just the bloody credit card!!! “Just give me the money”
So I shall be forwarding the details of this conversation onto the Information Commissioner and asking her for a response.
I may also share this post with her via her twitter feed – https://twitter.com/iconews
..and her Facebook page – facebook.com/ICOnews
Equally in the spirit of sharing personal information, as they have done so, I have no compunction of using the names of the people who have been communicating with me – that’s only fair – don’t you agree?
Plus, in this highly competitive retail landscape, where customer loyalty is hugely important I can honestly say that Dixons Curry’s will get nothing more from me (apart from poor reviews and general abuse that is).  I shall transfer my purchasing to other organisations that are not run by or in the image of dictators (remember Stanley Kalms, the man who founded Dixons was a total *******!)
Finally, the issue of GDPR is really proving to be a complete pain in the ass for us consumers – it seems that rather than protecting our information it’s making it easier for companies to hold onto it – well if my experiences are anything to go by!!
…and 10 out of 10 if you guessed the title of the blog post is a play on words – and if you didn’t realise that – c’mon – get with it!!

Scotland – beautiful yet bound to suffer from Brexit

When the clouds finally cleared, and the rain stopped falling horizontally Scotland shows you why so many love her.

Our recent trip around the country, from Glasgow to Dornoch, from there to the NW coast and back down to Auchiltibuie, then to Skye, then Pitlochry and our final stopover in Edinburgh, provided a mere glimpse of the abundant jewels that await.

The scenery is jaw-droppingly stunning (when you can see it! – see above..and below)

Castles in varying states of repair (this is Eilean Donan castle near the Kyle of Lochalsh), lochs of every size and shape (no we didn’t get a glimpse of Nessie) and every shade of ginger known to man (or woman) adorning the hillsides and trees.

I have to make special mention of the food. No deep fried pizzas anywhere. But beautiful, succulent seafood perfectly cooked and exquisitely presented. Lunch at Michael Smith’s, Michelin starred, Loch Bay restaurant in Stein, on Skye was a personal highlight – but then the Scotch Broth at the Green Welly Stop in Tyndrum was mighty fine too!

Ok this isn’t from the Loch Bay restaurant, c’mon, who photographs their food in Michelin starred establishments? You do? You’re weird!

Anyway its food that brings us to Brexit, well the hospitality industry to be specific…

At each of the locations we stayed the bulk of the team of people serving were not Scottish. A few were English but the vast majority were from Europe and predominantly eastern European at that. Even in Auchiltibuie at the Summer Islands Hotel the staff were a mixture of Spanish and eastern European. BTW do stay there. Accommodation was great, food fantastic, service impeccable and I reckon, in good weather, the views are to die for. And you might see this chap round the corner…

But my point is this.  Where are hotels and inns going to find the staff they need post-Brexit? Clearly the locals aren’t interested in working there…so who will be?

 

no-reply@ email addresses – should they be banned?

Well obviously the answer is yes – but let’s understand why that’s the case.

For starters let’s take a quick look at just at what experts in the field of email have to say.  So here are a selection of articles on why you shouldn’t use them…

For starters I thought that Chris Arrandale – the author of the first article made a very good point about the legislation:

Post GDPR, it is more important than ever to take the time to evaluate whether you should use a no-reply address for your marketing campaigns. How can you expect your subscribers to contact you to claim their rights if you don’t allow them to do so?

This is a bit like those irritating post GDPR cookie policies that don’t give you an option to refuse to accept them – see my previous post on this matter!!  And the situation is made a whole lot worse when they deliberately (oh c’mon you know they are doing it on purpose to reduce your ability to contact them!) either hide or actually don’t make an email available for you to contact them – unless you call them first – that’s you Scottish Power that is!

Apparently, according to  in article 4 – in many countries sending emails with a no-reply address is not allowed. In some European countries for example you have to have a working address people can reply to if they have any kind of question about your email – sadly it seems not in the UK – don’t tell me that’s another Brexit ****up!!

Julia Gulevich who wrote the second article list as her first reason for not using no-reply email addresses as it makes it appear that, by not allowing the recipients to reply to your email campaigns, you don’t care about them or their responses or problems.

Oh boy, that is so true.  And I don’t give a rat’s arse what the sender may say that’s the way that I, the recipient, of the email perceive the situation to be.  If they cared they’d make it easy for me.  I reckon the absolute master of this approach has to be RyanAir which has applied this no-reply ethos to it’s entire operation- what a bunch of *****!

The third article points out the issue of people auto-filtering no-reply emails as spam in their inbox.  This is something that I’m shortly going to be instigating.  Personally I find it insulting, demeaning and dehumanising to receive a demand for money (a bill/invoice) from someone who is providing me with a service….yet clearly isn’t interested in customer service.

As an aside here it also irritates me when companies send me invoices (in pdf format) at work and have locked them so I can’t electronically sign them and forward them for payment.  I’ve adopted a policy of simply ignoring these emails now – I have written back and explained the issue but they don’t seem to care so, sod ’em!

 in article 4 also raises the issue of people complaining about spam – some people don’t look for an opt-out link (which if they’re there at all are in very small pale print at the foot of the email) but hit the reply button when they want to unsubscribe from your emailings.  And when people get that “Message Undeliverable” response – hackles will rise, of that you can be sure.

Ryan Phelan  (article 5) is a respected thought leader and nationally (Canada) distinguished speaker. Ryan serves as Chairman Emeritus EEC Advisory Board, and member of the board of directors for the ESPC.  His view is that:

Your brand has a personality, a face. The face might be your logo, but it’s all part of your brand equity. When you send an email with “do-not-reply” or “no-reply” in the sender line, you’re really saying to your customers, “I am never going to look at the email that you want to send me. Never.”

It’s true – think RyanAir’s boss man = Arrogant Twat, Virgin’s boss – Goofy, wacky but innovative, Scottish Power’s Linda Clayton – ah sorry she’s a figment of their imagination – even the image used for her LinkedIn “profile” is called “ghost-person” – I rest my case.  A classic example of just how easy it is for a brand to go wrong – and then just ignore the fact and carry on regardless – doh!

Ms Clayton allegedly signs all of their customer service communication but does she actually exist?   If she does, or doesn’t, by jove she still manages to irritate people.  I’m still getting comments and tweets from a post about her/ I wrote years ago!  So get this brand personality thing wrong at your peril!!

And here’s where we get to the meat of this.  How am I likely to react to receiving these emails?  Well dear reader, how do you think?

…and you’re not wrong!

Yup! In a world where there is so much competition a key aspect of customer loyalty is providing good customer service and making it easy for people to do business with you – including contacting you to sort out any issues that might arise – small or large.  So to adopt a policy of communicating through the medium of a no-reply email is tantamount to a business shooting itself in the head!

Am I likely to do more (any!) business with them?  Not a cat’s chance in hell!

So you marketers and communications professionals out there working for these large (and increasingly small) companies listen up – not just my musings but those of the respected bloggers and experts above.  To be brutally honest there were a lot more links to stuff, in fact Google identified 1,200,000,000 results on the subject of “no reply email addresses” in only 0.40 seconds – yes that was 1.2 billion links!

This is obviously a major issue yet there’s lots and lots of guidance for companies to rectify the issue – I don’t know why they haven’t but let’s just hope that they do get their collective **** together.

Should no-reply email addresses be banned?  YES!

Oh by the way here is just a selection of the no-reply email addresses I’ve received, and organisations that have p***ed me off recently – ok I got bored so stopped adding them!!

  • Auto Trader <noreply@autotrader.co.uk>
  • Adobe <account-noreply@adobe.com>
  • ASM Auto Recycling (Oxford) <noreply@partshark.co.uk>
  • Bannatyne <noreply@bannatyne.co.uk>
  • Cirrus <no-reply@s.backerkit.com>
  • Coinbase <no-reply@coinbase.com>
  • confirmation@easyJet.com <donotreply@easyjet.com>
  • Dyson <do.not.reply@dyson.com>
  • Aegon <DoNotReply@aegon.co.uk>
  • ‘Google Analytics’ <analytics-noreply@google.com>

 

It’s not just me – the world has gone barking mad!

I blame the BBC – it was this article that set me off on this one!  We’re talking about emotional support animals. An emotional support animal or support animal, is a companion animal that a medical professional says provides some benefit for a person disabled by a mental health condition or emotional disorder. Emotional support animals are typically dogs, but are sometimes cats or other animals. So says Wikipedia.

“Recent studies, including one published by BMC Psychiatry, have shown that owning an animal can help relieve stress and boost positive emotions, and studies also show that interacting with animals can increase the stress-reducing hormone oxytocin and lower cortisol levels, which helps us to calm down and feel more relaxed.”

Let me shout it loud – I am not against emotional support animals – in fact I really don’t mind how many you have – yes apparently you can have more than one!  I totally understand the power that the unconditional love that some animals are able to give their human “partners” is a wonderful, joyous thing, and that’s not just my view this is a great article written by Dr Hal Herzog covering the subject.

It’s not that I hate animals – I’d love a dog but then you’re locked into where you can go on holiday, having to pick up poo (hell, even my kids are long past that stage thank you very much) and vet’s bills!!

I just think that taking a miniature pony on a plane as an emotional support animal is barking mad – plain and simple.

The issue is that even the research, by BMC Psychiatry, highlighted above, isn’t sure just how helpful animals actually are in circumstances such as travel, and even though it suggests that pets provide benefits to those with mental health conditions it also says in its conclusion that…

Further research is required to test the nature and extent of this relationship, incorporating outcomes that cover the range of roles and types of support pets confer in relation to mental health and the means by which these can be incorporated into the mainstay of support for people experiencing a mental health problem.

And there’s more – even accepting the positive side of using animals for emotional support there is a growing darker side to it – the whole issue of fakery!  That is [shock horror probe] people claiming that they have emotional support needs just so they can get their pet on a plane!  Apparently one woman even tried to get a peacock onto a United Airlines plane in January this year (2018).  The situation has got so bad that  a Facebook page was set up for service dog handlers – it currently has 1,700 members, and, as reported by NBC, in 21 states it’s now a federal crime in the US to falsely claim pets as service and support animals so they can be brought into restaurants, theatres and other public places!

Delta Airlines too has had enough:

From March 1, the airline will require that “all customers traveling with a service or support animal show proof of health or vaccinations 48 hours in advance. In addition to the current requirement of a letter prepared and signed by a doctor or licensed mental health professional, those with psychiatric service animals and emotional support animals will also need to provide a signed document confirming that their animal can behave to prevent untrained, sometimes aggressive household pets from traveling without a kennel in the cabin.”


So to reiterate this point, clearly – it isn’t just me that thinks that there is a problem here. So?  What do we do about it?

Well the good thing is this – there are of course alternative solutions to having an animal, with all the disruption, defacation and disorder than can go with them, on your next holiday or business flight!

  • Perhaps a better approach would be for these poor individuals who are suffering from various forms of anxiety/depression/PTSD be permitted take the right drugs, those that increase oxytosin and lower cortisol levels, to get them in the right frame of mind.
  • Maybe learning some specific techniques can help – Hal Herzog’s article, in its postscript, goes on to describe how a therapist was able to teach one emotionally challenged individual some techniques to enable her to get on a flight – without any animals involved.
  • Or my personal favourite – just don’t get on the plane (with an animal)!!!

 

“Politicians need to take their foot off the accelerator in order to protect the planet.”

Oh really? That isn’t necessarily the case – see this scientific article!

I can vouch for the fact that if I’m travelling to work, sadly using the A34 in Oxfordshire then my mpg performance drops dramatically compared to a run where the car is able to run at a speed closer to the legal limit.  And surely improving mpg is one, I’ll admit only one, measure of helping to damage the planet less. We need to get to and from work and public transport has declined to a point that unless you live in London you’re basically ****ed!

My point being that if cars were able to travel at, or even closer to, their most optimum speed the amount of petrol/diesel consumed would drop significantly.  So, taking that point to it’s logical conclusion spending £42 billion on making cars work more efficiently by providing better roads would benefit far more people than building a railway that almost no one will benefit from – except of course the shareholders of those companies who win the contracts to build HS2.  Less fuel used, less time spent driving to and from work = more time for actual working or for the family – ok I know there’s the negative that HMRC gets less income form petrol duty!

So, instead of ruining many thousands of people’s journeys on a daily basis thanks to traffic issues which are going to cost us nigh on £62 billion by 2016… (and this is just the value that people would put on their time – not the actual cost of their “wasted” time nor the cost of the extra fuel that is being used!)

In the UK, INRIX Roadway Analytics identified and ranked 20,375 traffic hotspots in 21 cities. The ranking was determined by an ‘Impact Factor’, which multiplied the average duration of a traffic jam with its average length and the number of times it occurred in September 2016. The cost to drivers due to time wasted in traffic at these hotspots, calculated using the DfT’s ‘value of time’, amounts to £61.8 billion in the UK by 2025 if congestion levels are not reduced.

…why not focus on these – the top 10 ways that Global Citizen reckons are the way to reduce climate change…

  • Rooftop solar – Elon Musk is big into this
  • Silvopasture – apparently this is as simple as planting trees in pasture land and letting cattle roam there!
  • Solar farms – like your rooftops only on a massive scale.
  • Family planning – tricky given that a vast majority of the under-developed world is Catholic and China’s just upped the children per household to 2!!
  • Educating girls – we’re talking mainly (but not exclusively) in the under-developed world as educated girls/women have less kids – although educating stupid men not to treat women as an inferior species would be a good start!
  • Protecting or replanting tropical forests – clearly cutting down the Amazon is just bonkers.
  • Plant rich diets – this means shifting away from the western style processed food diet – clearly a good thing but pretty tricky to sell.
  • Reducing food waste – absolutely essential.  The amount of perfectly edible food that we throw away is just obscene.
  • Offshore wind turbines – surely there are enough places that we could site these – without destroying the beauty of them.
  • Refridgeration management – we’re talking air conditioning in homes and cars as well as well fridges!!  Apparently the eradication of Ozone crunching CFCs has led to a repairing of the hole but sadly the replacement HFCs which get released at end of the fridge’s life can heat the atmosphere 900 times more than CO2!

Clearly governments have a big part to play in this, so to come back to the original headline of this post, governments need to take their collective feet off the motorist and plant them firmly on accelerators – those organisations that can stimulate innovation and future business, ‘coz that’s the only way we’re going to get things like these:

  1. home battery packs to store electricity generated from our roofs,
  2. wind turbines that can be fitted to homes and offices as well as out to sea,
  3. greater investment in planting more vegetation – everywhere,
  4. ways to convince people of certain religions that their dogmas aren’t right,
  5. getting “out of date” food to people and places that need it,
  6. packaging that can be recycled,
  7. home automation systems designed to minimise power usage
  8. I’m inclined to add in “drive less/drive smart” but only if there’s an equivalent improvement in public transportation
  9. tell Trump he’s an idiot and get the US to stay in the Paris agreement
  10. and finally tell planners to sort out the road network so we drivers CAN drive more efficiently!

 

Is GDPR turning us all into sheep?

I dunno bout you but I’m getting extremely p’d off by all the changes that GDPR has introduced to make our lives better.

The purpose of the GDPR is to provide a set of standardised data protection laws across all the member countries. This should make it easier for EU citizens to understand how their data is being used, and also raise any complaints, even if they are not in the country where its located.”

That’s what the Privacy Trust says. Well guys you have actually done the opposite.  It used to really easy to block cookies and stop people using your data – but now you get things like this appearing – and yes, this from the Privacy Trust’s own website!

We use cookies to see how many people use our site, and which parts are the most popular. Can we continue to use cookies? You can say NO and it won’t have a major impact on how you view our site.

More informationYes

Do you see that we aren’t being offered a yes/no option we’re actually being offered a say yes or we’ll make you spend more time than previously needed to block us?  Where’s the NO option?  Answer there isn’t one!

Clicking the More information link takes you here – https://www.privacytrust.com/about/privacy.html and I defy you to tell me where the NO option is.  I have contacted them and they say they’ll be back in touch within 3 days – I’ll update this post if/when they do 🙂

And of course if you decide you want to block their irritating cookies you’ll get the same damn irritating messages every time you try to view the content they’re pushing out –  believe me, I reckon a number of websites out there will be looking at dropping visitor figures and not thinking positive thoughts about the law makers!  I’ve already blocked plenty!

In addition to (if that wasn’t bad enough!) these extremely irritating cookie/data messages there’s the whole issue of GDPR causing the EU individual’s view of the world to become more insular.

Have you not noticed that a number of your favourites information sources are now displaying messages along these lines – this one’s from Lee Enterprises – they publish 46 daily newspapers across 21 US states:

“451: Unavailable for legal reasons

We recognise you are attempting to access this website from a country belonging to the European Economic Area (EEA) including the EU which enforces the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and therefore cannot grant you access at this time. For any issues, e-mail us at support@qctimes.com or call us at 563 383 2200”

I’ve lost count of the number of hyperlinks that appear in my daily Google alerts about subjects related to my day job that end up with something like that – or they just hang – a blank white screen like the LA Times …great – I’m lovin’ it – NOT!  So, how long is “temporarily unavailable”?  I think we should be told, lest we turn into an insular little country with a jaundiced view of the world – a sort of small USA!

And it’s the combination of the measures that GDPR has inflicted on us web browsers that fills me with dread.  From memory it was Oscar Wilde who famously stated that “The law is an ass!” Well clearly he wasn’t wrong.

I’m of the view that all this nanny-state nonsense is reducing out ability to think for ourselves, and naturally that’s not a good thing in an era where we need all the thinking we can get to sort out the real problems facing our very existence e.g. the people making these laws as well as the Trumpster himself.

Or are you all just sheep?

 

 

 

 

Political correctness – sorry, but yes it has gone mad!

2016-02-01-1195outragePolitical correctness
noun
the avoidance of forms of expression or action that are perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult groups of people who are socially disadvantaged or discriminated against.

The definition from Dictionary.com and there’s one absolutely KEY word and that is “perceived” – perceived to exclude, marginalize, or insult..etc etc.  Perceived by whom?

There are plenty of people out there who are prepared to “educate” us about how we should be using language e.g. Tess Thorson, Ph.D. Fellow at Aalborg University, based in New York, researching intersectional representations in film and media – I perceive her analysis of a Jonathan Pie video as both deep and deeply patronising at the same time – but I welcome the fact that she has the freedom to express it.

In the last few days we’ve seen stories in the news about students no longer clapping but using “Jazz Hands” instead to make events more accessible to those suffering anxiety.  And we can no longer show the Shetlands in a box on a map…although authorities can avoid complying with this if they provide “information” about their reasons!!

Now I’m not saying that there aren’t plenty of bits of language that we shouldn’t use – there are – although I perceive that there do seem to be more and more…and yet still more being added to the list – almost daily!

Take “black” and “white” for example – the meaning behind these two has changed dramatically in the past 30 years.  My first wife was black, no sorry that should be Afro-Caribbean – or should it be BAME?  Well when I was in Jamaica there was a clear divide amongst the locals which was dependent on their own perceptions of skin colour – black skin was perceived to have a higher status than brown skin – their perception not mine!  My nickname , as given by the smiling, cheeky, kids on the hillside outside of Mo’ Bay was “whiteman” – I certainly wasn’t insulted, I felt accepted!  Yet today “White” is an insult, a term laced with denegration and meant to demean.

We are constantly being told that we need to be more considerate, more inclusive, yet at the same time some people – comedians for example – are perceiving that they are far more constrained, that they now have less opportunity to poke fun at the things and people that damn well need to have fun poked at them!!  Here’s Frankie Boyle back in 2015.

I find it incredibly worrying that we no longer need to hear the actual content of the thing we’re told to be offended by. We hear of people being arrested for tweets without the tweet being reported; comics are blasted for routines that aren’t printed; newspapers hire lip-readers to find something to get offended by at the tennis and then print the resulting fuckfest as asterisks. And who decides whether we should be outraged at something we haven’t seen or heard? The press. Our seething collective Id. None of us would trust a journalist to hold our pint while we went to the bathroom, yet we allow them to be ethical arbiters for the entire culture.

..and it’s not just journalists, see the good Dr listed earlier plus this article by Julia Watson which won The Economist’s Open Future essay competition in the category of Open Society – there are plenty of people keen to reduce your and my ability to use langauage.

To me, a believer in a meritocracy, a lover of language, and a lover of good comedy we need the freedom to be perceived as being “politically incorrect”- even though comedy is inevitably at someone or something else’s expense.  It’s been at “my” expense, my late wife and I both howled at the numerous hard-core cancer gags that Frankie Boyle delivered at the New Theatre in Oxford back in 2012 (she died in 2013) – we didn’t perceive that he was being politically incorrect – just painfully funny.

And do you know what is the most worrying thing of all here?  It’s the fact that it’s some appalling behaviour by no less a character than (yes you’ve guessed it!) Donald Trump that has pointed out the issue really is about perception.

Kurdish journalist ‘proud’ to be called ‘Mr Kurd’ by Trump.

Rahim Rashidi told Middle East Eye in an email on Friday that he felt “proud” and “honoured” being addressed as “Mr Kurd”.

“For a long time, the Kurdish people have been denied their self-right to Kurdish ethnicity,” Rashidi explained.

“Kurds have experienced assimilation and genocide, simply for being Kurdish. To be addressed as ‘Mr.Kurd’ means a lot to me. To recognize my identity when it has always been denied is a great deal for me. Especially by the president.”

Wow!  I mean double-wow!  Good on you Mr Rashidi – I applaud you!

Of course there are boundaries that normal life applies to the use of language to “highlight” various groups in society – and these boundaries and the groups they “highlight” differ from culture to culture – but all cultures have limits on what is acceptable, what is politically correct and what you can get away with.  Embracing different groups and cultures is vitally important, we shouldn’t be seeking to exclude them BUT #FFS are you happy that:

  • In 2007, Santa Clauses in Sydney, Australia, were banned from saying ‘Ho Ho Ho’. Their employer, the recruitment firm Westaff (that supplies hundreds of Santas across Australia), allegedly told all trainees that ‘ho ho ho’ could frighten children, and be derogatory to women. Why ? Because ‘Ho Ho Ho’ is too close to the American (not Australian, mind you) slang for prostitute.
  • ‘Reliable’ and ‘hard-working’ – surely the two keystone employers look for in an employee? Well, maybe not: a Hertfordshire recruitment agency boss was once told she could not request those qualities – Jobcentre Plus in Thetford, Norfolk, told her such an advert could be “offensive” to unreliable people.
  • Undoubtedly the rudest-sounding dish in your recipe book, Spotted Dick is  pudding made with suet, raisins and currents. It dates back centuries – the earliest reference is 1849 – but that didn’t stop one overly concerned council from changing the name to Spotted Richard. Flintshire County Council was apparently sick of all the jokes, so changed the name – much to the chagrin of everyone else.
  • Oxford University’s Equality and Diversity Unit tried to accuse people who avoid eye contact with others of ‘racist micro-aggression’ — before it was pointed out that such advice might be seen as discriminatory against people with autism who may struggle to look others in the eye.
  • Suffolk County Council stopped using traditional signs warning drivers ‘Cat’s eyes removed’ after fears that real cats may have been killed to manufacture these reflective road safety measures. Ipswich resident Rebecca Brewer was reported as saying: ‘I have a five-year-old daughter who was very upset the first time she saw the sign — she really thought cruel people were torturing cats.’ Instead, signs across the county now state: ‘Caution, road studs removed.’
  • Use of this braided hairstyle by white people is said to represent cultural appropriation. When the designer Marc Jacobs was criticised for using a group of predominantly white models wearing dreadlocks in a show, he argued — not unreasonably — that this was similar to black women straightening their hair. This was met with further outrage from (mostly white) commentators who complained that hair-straightening had been ‘forced upon the black community due to beauty ideals based on white archetypes’.

Well let me tell you – I’m not happy about that list.  In fact the Daily Mail, that arbiter of good taste (NOT!) provides a complete A-Z guide for you to peruse and make your own minds up about – because it really is about you and how you perceive things.

perception

But really you just need to be nicer to people – on a one to one basis, face to face.  Be sensitive to other people’s situation but do not, never ever, stop highlighting what you perceive to be injustice, exclusion, racism, sexism or any other kind of ism and remember those words from your childhood…

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

I urge you, if you still have the stomach for it to watch Jonathan Pie’s Hammersmith Apollo show – there is an entire section on political correctness and despite what some might say – it’s spot on the mark!   In fact let’s keep “political correctness” as a term specifically for politicians – those lying, mendacious, self-publicising egomaniacs who use and abuse language on a daily basis – causing offence to many, avoiding questions, taking our money and continually getting away with it – Trump, Johnson etc etc you know who you are.