Thursday, September 13, 2007

Lies, Damned Lies and Couriers

I worked at home today (yay!) because I needed to catch up on a load of stuff after being on the rail* for the first couple of days of the week. Actually, I worked at home on Tuesday, too, because I had other stuff to catch up on then. It's an endless cycle of going out and talking to people, and then trying to find time to process what I've gleaned from them into something I can work with. I could tell you more, but a) it would be boring, and b) it would probably be in breach of my non-disclosure agreement. However, the fact that I was at home on Tuesday is relevant to this tale of woe and poor service. Oh yes. Another one. And so hot on the heels of the last one.

For it came to pass that I did find myself browsing on Amazon not too long ago. And yeah, was their selection vast and their delivery promises appealing to the eyes of the Lord. So submitted me my order unto them, and selecteth me the delivery option which involveth not the incurrence of additional charges.

Then didst I wait with patience, sure in the knowledge that my goods would arrive at the appointed hour.

On the 11th day, curiosity didst burn within me, and loggeth me on to their site once more, therein to track my package. Behold my astonishment at the revelation vouchsafed to me by the tracking application. For not only had the courier come unto me and attempted to deliver the bountiful produce of the Amazon, but they had come on more than one occasion.

They had knocketh on the door, quoth the tracking application, and had ringeth the bell until their very fingers grew weak with the strain. And tho their supplications had gone unnoticed, left they a calling card that I might arrange a redelivery at my earliest convenience. And left they a calling card on both occasions, lest the first contrived to turn itself from the true path between letterbox and doormat, and lose itself in the darkness of the cupboard under the stairs.

And vexed was I at these revelations, for I had remained within my chambers from the first hour unto the last on at least one of the days when they had knocketh on the door and ringeth the bell, yet heard I nothing. And vexed was I, for meticulously did I check for signs of a calling card, verily unto the darkest depths of the cupboard under the stairs.

So, ringeth I the people of the Amazon, and after much wailing and grinding of teeth did I learn that pretty fucking useless are they at getting their courier to do a decent job, and pretty fucking useless are they at providing people with the necessary information to remedy the situation themselves.

The fool hath said in his heart, "They'll sort it all out, it will be alright." But I say this to you, "Trust not the providers of service. Trust not their words of promise. Trust not their claim to put the customer first. For see, a courier company puts their customer first, but their customer is the company that uses them to deliver goods, not the poor bastard waiting for the bloody package to turn up."

And to drop out of the increasingly difficulty biblical mode and wrap up, I spent a bit of time digging around on the "Say No To 0870" site, got a phone number for the local delivery branch, drove down there, and picked up my package. I didn't mention anything about their drivers being liars. But they are.

*I could have said on the road, but I went by train. Pernickety? Moi? Not at all. I think you'll find I'm being pedantic.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Blue In The Face

No, that subject isn't the cue for a naughty double-entendre.

It describes me trying to get sense out of Demon, the company that I use for home Internet access. My account was recently restricted, following a bit of an orgy of downloading, mostly of episodes of Babylon 5, my DVDs of which are in New Zealand. (I have legit copies, so I don't feel too bad about downloading for the purposes of watching it whilst I'm in the UK.)

According to the Demon Fair Usage Policy, my download activity is monitored, and if it exceeds 60GB on a 30-day rolling basis, the download speed during peak hours is restricted to 128Kbps. I fell foul of the policy last week, and consequently have had to endure some painful days when even the Google home page was failing to appear in anything like an acceptable time. It was like the bad old days of dial-up.

This prompted me to find out when the restriction would be lifted, because quite frankly, it was making my life a misery. The first person I spoke to implied that once the restriction is put in place, it stays there for 30 days. He then offered some drivellous crap about what "30-day rolling basis" meant in that context, and his definition, such as it was, would have been more accurately replaced with the phrase "on a monthly basis" rather than "on a 30-day rolling basis". So, I had a look at the Fair Usage Policy on-line. It pretty clearly defined what a 30-day rolling basis is, and it is exactly what I expected it to be. It also explicitly stated that the restriction would be lifted based on usage over a 30-day rolling period.

Here's an example just to make it clear what my understanding of the situation was.
  • Day 1 - I download 30GB of data
  • Day 2 - I download 30 GB of data
  • Days 3 to 29 - I don't download anything
  • Day 30 - I download 1GB of data
On day 31, my account will be restricted because, on a 30-day rolling basis, I have downloaded 61GB of data, exceeding my download limit. However, on day 32, the total for the preceding 30 days is only 31GB, so the speed restriction should be removed.

So, I call them again and take them to task over the differences between what they claim they do in their Fair Usage Policy, and what they claim to do when you speak to them on the phone. I didn't get anywhere. Even though, after much convincing, I finally got one call centre bod to put me through to his supervisor, the supervisor was no more able to understand that what he was telling me was completely at odds with the concept of a "rolling 30-day period".

I tried to get put through to a group within the company that I have successfully dealt with in the past, to no avail. At least they have sense, understand English, and don't try to contort pretty standard phrases to fit their (poor) understanding.

Just before I cancelled my account, I asked the last woman I spoke to to tell me what my usage was over the last 30 days. She told me, and then pointed out that the restriction on my account would be lifted in 9 days, when the rolling 30-day total no longer exceeded the download limit. That was exactly what I wanted to hear! So, my reading of the Fair Usage Policy is correct, the policy is implemented correctly, it's just the cretins in the call centre who had made it seem like there was a mismatch, because in fact, they don't know what they are talking about.


I know there are some lovely people who work in call centres, and having done a fair bit of process design specifically for call centres myself, I know how tricky it can be when you get a customer who ends up going off the stuff that's covered in the standard scripts. But this crowd were just a joke! Maybe I should pitch for some business from them, to come in and fix their munted processes, and get them some better scripts.

So, I'll put up with the restriction for the next 9 days, and then I'll get proper connectivity back again. In the meantime, I don't think the Skype phone is going to be doing a lot of work.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Spice Of Life

There are encouraging signs that variety is making a big come-back, along with a resurgent, modernised form of burlesque.

A few times in recent weeks, I've been enjoying the delights of the Royal Vauxhall Tavern's Brouhaha, their Wednesday night comedy thang. Of course, the RVT has been the womb from which sprang many an act, of whom Lily Savage is probably the most well-known. And of course, the roost is still ruled by the hugely talented Dame Edna Experience, who, on a good day, outclasses just about everyone. Ducky has been such an amazing hotbed of talent and creativity for years, and now it looks like it's catching on elsewhere.

My recent visits to the RVT have been during the Summer School, with Topping and Butch at the helm. They're great - the entry price is worth it just to hear whatever topical material they have put into this week's version of "Never Mind". The acts I've seen them introduce have included Lorraine Bowen, Ursula Martinez and Andy Parsons, among others. Huge diversity, quirky, odd, fabulous.

However, more recently I've noticed that all sorts of places are having Ducky-like variety nights. There are several such things happening in Soho during the week, in straight and gay venues. Further afield, there's the Bethnal Green Working Mens Club, proud home of some beautifully modern burlesque. And this evening, we're off to the St Aloysius Social Club near Euston to see a bizarre mixture of things brought together by Dr Dimaglio.

Perhaps it's a reaction against too much "reality" television (which was subjected to an interesting attack last night on Judge John Deed). Why bother sitting on your arse watching talentless no-hopers being boring together, when for the price of a couple of drinks, you can be entertained by people who actually make an effort to put a decent show together? I'm loving it.


Some time after creating this blog entry, I remembered the reason that it had occurred to me to write it at all. I happened to catch a bit of The Sorcerer's Apprentice this morning. This is a CBBC show which has been running over the school holidays, and apparently has done very well with the target demographic. This is good news to several of my magical friends and and acquaintances, not least Max Somerset, who plays the eponymous sorcerer, and Angelo Carbone who is the magic advisor for the show. The show that was on immediately after this one, though, was also very interesting, because it was based around a collection of performers with different styles of act who had to compete against each other to escape from a prison. The whole thing was basically variety, with a bit of a theme. Aunty is priming the next generation of variety lovers. Excellent!