Wednesday, 17 September 2008

Royal Mail

I came home today to find a card from the Royal Mail.

"We've been unable to deliver your post as there is a fee due"

A fee of £1.06 to be precise, because someone has underpaid the postage on an item they've sent me. What a lot of postage to underpay, I thought. Closer examination reveals that the actual amount underpaid is 6p and there's a £1 handling charge.

This is happening a lot, I understand, since the introduction of Royal Mail's ludicrous Pricing in Proportion scheme, which replaced a simple array of weight-related pricing with a system requiring not only weighing but measuring too. It's easy to end up 6p adrift if your measuring and theirs don't precisely agree.
Now, I don't claim to have all the answers to the numerous problems of Royal Mail, but I can't help thinking that a system that costs £1 to collect 6 pence isn't at the cutting edge of business efficiency.

Friday, 5 September 2008

Life's Irritations #591

Call Centre Artificial Niceness

Someone, somewhere, is training Call Centre and Tele Sales operatives in the infuriating art of asking spurious, pseudo-caring questions. I'm sure it's meant to "humanise" the experience but, for me, it usually winds up making me hate the company responsible.

Cold callers, for example. They're not bad people. We've all got to make a living, after all. But if you've interrupted my busy day, at least have the courtesy to cut-to-the-chase.

Caller: Hello, is that Mr Nove?
CN: Yes
Caller: Hello Mr Nove, how are you today?
CN: (manfully fighting the desire to rant on about how my state of health and wellbeing is none of their concern) What can I do for you?

It's not just me, is it? Does anyone actually respond positively to this sort of thing?

Yesterday, I received a new mobile phone. A forced upgrade, after my battered old phone finally gave up the ghost and sputtered to a halt. Once you've got the phone, you charge it up and then ring the Activation line to get changed over from old phone to new. I rang the number and was warmly greeted by a call centre operative in warm Mumbai. I gave my details and awaited instructions. "And how is your life going, Mr Nove?" was what I got. That did it. One short diatribe from me later, he rather sheepishly agreed to get on with the business in hand. Then came a fulsome apology for having asked an inappropriate question. So now I feel bad for having barked at this poor man who's just trying to sound friendly. But what is it that makes his management believe that, when I call a number specifically designated for the activation of new phones, I want to be engaged in discussion about my life?

And ........ breathe .......

Monday, 1 September 2008

All Togged Up!

A cracking start to the weekend, with a grand adventure in Leicester, where I had the pleasure of joining The Togs at their annual Convention. For the uninitiated, I should explain that The Togs are the hardest of hardcore followers of Sir Terry Wogan's Radio 2 breakfast show. They have a whole community of their own, full of colourful characters with improbable names such as Luke Warm, Payne N Diaz and Edina Cloud. Hearts of gold, these folks - their charitable efforts raise huge amounts of money every year for the BBC Children in Need charity. The Convention provides a great excuse for a bit of a knees-up, and The Togs are kind enough to invite us Radio 2 folks to come along and share the fun.
Here we are, launching the 2009 Togs Celebrity Calendar
with, from left to right, "Pause for Thought" regulars Canon Roger Royle, Cpt Charles King of the Sally Army, Rabbi Pete Tobias and Rev Rob Gillion. Then Alan Dedicoat, me, Radio 2 Producer Alan Boyd, Sir Terry Wogan and John "Boggy" Marsh.

Onward into the evening, and the eagerly awaited Fancy Dress Competition with, of course, an expert panel of judges. Ours was a gruelling task, so I'm sure you'll understand that the glasses on the table are there for purely medicinal purposes....
The eventual winners? The Crinklies with their remarkable portrayal of Intrepid Explorer and Colourful Bug. This is the sort of thing that keeps Britain Great!
Togs, I salute you! And thanks to Hellen Bach for the pictures.
The Togs Celebrity Calendar, in aid of a very worthy cause, can be purchased from: and there's more Children in Need stuff on offer at: