Best of the West

Now I’m very conscious that I may have turned off my huge army of female readers with the last posting about 50 year old Yerkshire men in their trunks grappling with each other. So for something a little more contemporary and hopefully a touch more amusing and for all, I was just wondering if you’ve been watching the new programme on C4 A Very British Hotel Chain: Inside Best Western? This show is more fun than you’d expect, though maybe not in the ways intended. Here’s C4’s publicity image of the main characters…

 

Presumably Best Western thought a three-part series filmed in May last year would be a handy publicity boost for their 265 hotels, with its portraits of the wacky but lovable workforce. But thanks to the coronavirus it now looks more like a portal to a distant far-off time and a completely different business.

It did make me wonder fairly quickly what the point of this series was though. Cut to today and Britain’s largest chain has closed all but 60 or so of its hotels, presumably on a temporary basis, they must hope. And to be fair they are one of the few hotels staying open to give key workers in local authorities a welcome and convenient break from their work tackling the covid crisis. But sadly none of that comes through in this tv series which is very much played for giggles not serious business niggles.

So to the unintentional humour. It’s clear that a career in the leisure business demands a thick skin and eternal optimism and at Best Western’s HQ in York (back again – it could only be set in Yerkshire) they have tons of both. The new CEO Rob Paterson, an ex Aussie footballer, is just David Brent with an ozzie accent. He loves his slogans from the 1980’s with lots of exclamation marks like Beat Yesterday! Own It! Give a Shit! And his dopey staff  suck it up with gusto. Mark Stanley, head of hotel development, grins away and loves his staff to tell him how great he is. We saw him revelling in a sales, marketing and revenue conference, as staff were covered in pink gunk for charity. Brilliant! raved Mark, Best Western madness. Actually he might just have out-Brented his CEO.

Mark’s number 2 is ambitious Head of Acquisitions Terii (with two ‘i’s) whose job it is to sign up new hotels to the chain. We find her trying to get Marco White to allow his Rudloe Arms to join up. Marco teases her a little showing off his pixellated sexy artworks and larger than life images of himself to see what reaction he gets from her. But Terii’s (two i’s) made of stern stuff and won’t be put off. I love it, she replies, sniffing the scent of a deal being done.

Then there’s slightly camp and arch Alasdair, the wisecracking but ruthless hotel inspector who follows up on Terii’s (two i’s) new signings. He announced himself as if he were a righteous superhero: I am the hotel inspector. I cannot be bought. More sharply he mentioned that he likes to measure TV screens to see if they are as big as the new hotel claims. I pinched this out of my mother’s knitting box, he says, unfurling a measuring tape. She’s been dead for 20 years. Hard man eh. Then I noticed he’s quite the peacock, wearing wacky glasses and different brightly coloured socks. I wonder if you can spot him in the picture above.

There was also a lady whose name escapes me who’s a Marketing Manager at one of the bigger hotels and she just comes up with barmpot ideas for entertaining guests like creating a rocket ship cabin just off the foyer for people to experience. How it was relevant  I just couldn’t fathom. And it was totally crap. Unbelievable. And if you want to see how they magic-ed things up here’s what the whole marketing team supported by the CEO came up with for their Xmas promo campaign. If it makes sense to you, you might just need some therapy…

I was just shocked that they didn’t include the only funny line that exists about our four-legged friends – what do the donkeys on Blackpool beach get for lunch? About half an hour. Now Mark would piss himself at that one: BW donkey jossing, brilliant!

I’m tempted to ask what’s the difference between the BW senior management team and a donkey. They’re all asses but at least the donkey does something useful. Ouch

pp

 

 

 

Politicians

I’ve been browsing around Facebook and other social media and been pleasantly surprised by the number of postings from folks who are generally very supportive of what people are doing in the current pandemic. I don’t just mean praise for NHS front line and care workers, support staff, supermarket people, refuse workers, lorry drivers and all the many folks who are keeping essential things going for us all. I’m also talking about the large number of postings in praise of what our Government is doing in the face of this dreadful virus. Wow.

Continue reading

Downcast

Well how long have we been cooped up now? It feels like around 6 weeks since the Gov’t imposed a non-essential travel ban and asked us to stay indoors except for critical needs, and if outside to stay apart from others by 2m and to wash hands thoroughly and regularly. And we’ve sadly lost over 20,000 people in that time. There are some signs that we’ve passed a peak in cases of the coronavirus but we’re looking at several more weeks of this aren’t we, if we’re honest?

Continue reading

Cynical, who me?

Well I watched the daily cv-19 briefing at 5pm and noted that the Government are talking confidently about achieving the Health Secretary’s target of 100,000 tests per day by the end of the month. Hurrah! Except it’s not exactly in terms of actual tests, instead they are now tweaking it to say that they’ll have the capacity to test that number. Ahh. So they’ll have 100,000 cotton buds in stock to take swabs but nowhere near enough nurses and the other medically-trained people to take the tests and process them. It’s not quite the same thing is it?

Continue reading

NHS and the BBC

I’m in awe of the people who are leading the fight against covid-19 in our hospitals and care centres. They aren’t receiving the PPE and testing they need from our bloody Gov’t but they keep working to keep us alive and too many of them are paying the ultimate sacrifice. Never will they be taken for granted again I hope. And let’s not forget our other key workers like postmen, refuse collectors, delivery and transport drivers, retail store workers, teachers and many more who are battling on, keeping essential life still available to us

Continue reading

Call me Mr Grumpier then ever

I think this self-isolation is getting to me. I seem to be in a permanent state of pissedoffnia. Today’s rant is about retailing. I know it’s difficult at the moment and we all have to be patient and all that but sometimes I bloody despair at how some things are being handled.

First up queuing; it’s a given now at any supermarket and I think we all accept it pretty much uncomplainingly. Here’s a couple of shots at the length of the queue at Waitrose earlier today:

I must have been about 40th in line when I joined the rear of the queue but it’s a lovely sunny day so no biggie, right. Now yesterday I walked down to Tesco’s and the queue there was a little shorter. As I approached the very cheery Tesco lady on the door she repeated to me what I’d heard her telling everybody before me; that if I had a Tesco loyalty card (which I did) I could register it at the scanner bank, then take a scanner around the store with me, scanning purchases as I popped them in my basket, which would enable me to go straight to the self-serve payment machines without having to wait for a free check out lady. So I wouldn’t have to queue twice. Fair enough I thought, so that’s what I did.

I completed the shopping and went straight to the self check out point (which I normally do anyway) where another lady asked me if it was my first time with the scanner. Yes I said. Ok point your scanner at the barcode on the screen. Now stand back because I have to double check that you’ve correctly scanned everything. Eh? What was the point in me doing it and registering and faffing about. It would have been easier for me just to get my 5 items and scan them at the pay-out machine as usual. Yes but there might have been a long queue for the machines she said. But there wasn’t and you’re only letting 10 people or so in at a time. Yes but now we have you registered too. I’m already registered with the loyalty card and with delivery schedules service. How many times do you need my data for goodness sake? But it will be so much easier for you next time she implored. This is all for your benefit. Really? She looked at me like I was Brackley’s version of Victor Meldrew. Sigh. I left without saying a big thank you to Miss Joyful at the door.

When I got back I felt a little curmudgeonly to be honest – the staff especially are really doing a great job and I shouldn’t carp at a young lady being enthusiastic, even if the new process really didn’t seem that useful. So in a slightly lighter mood I looked up the website for United Biscuits. A few days ago Carol bought a packet of a new range of biscuits from McVitie’s – the chocolate digestive Thins. We do like a biscuit with our midday cuppa and these seemed to offer all the great taste of the ultimate digestive just in a slightly healthier format. We’d opened the packet and each of us tried one to find the taste was completely stale. Wwurgh. They really were inedible. We checked the use-by date and it was 5/11/2020 and the packaging was all intact when we opened it. Now ordinarily I’d take the packet back to the store but I didn’t have a receipt. And queuing up for another 30 minutes just to make a complaint didn’t seem like an attractive idea. So looking at the packaging it said that in the case of any issues with the product contact United Biscuits website and follow the complaints procedure. So that’s what I did.

The site advised me to send details of the complaint to a particular email address together with full details of my address, the use-by data, where we’d purchased it and when which I duly did. I even took a photo of the sell-by data and attached it to my message. Here’s the image I attached:

I said that we were unhappy with their product obviously and asked for their thoughts. I’ve reached the point in life where I hold companies to account if they get something wrong. It might be a pain to complain but why should we let people off the hook – this is a foodstuff after all.

I got an automated response back straight away saying:

Dear Consumer. Thank you for contacting us via email.  I would like to reassure you that our Consumer Services Department is operating as usual and we will continue to provide the level of service that we always aim for, however, during the current situation with (COVID-19) and the precautions in place it may take us a little while longer to answer your query.    

We thank you for your continued support and for bearing with us during this difficult climate. 

The personal details that you have submitted will automatically be logged with your contact details. Please let us know if you do not wish these details to be retained. We also invite feedback on our service. Please let us know if you do not want to be contacted for this purpose. Your details will not be used for marketing purposes or shared with any 3rd party. Our office hours are Mon – Fri 9-5. Please note that we do not work during Bank Holidays. For any urgent out of hour enquiries please call 01530 253209 and we will try our very best to get someone to get in touch with you sooner. You can find out more about how we use personal data at pladisglobal.com/privacy

I figured nobody would get back particularly soon but blimey fairly quickly I got a response from UB’s Consumer Services Co-ordinator M asking me to give her details of my address, the sell-by data, where we purchased the biscuits and when, so that she could deal with the issue thoroughly. Eh? I sent her a message back asking if she’d actually read my earlier message as I’d already sent her all those details. But just for the record I answered every point again and sent another photo image through. And basically just said I’m a bit hacked off with her response – either send me a voucher to cover the cost of my purchase or don’t bother me anymore.

I then got another automated response just like the one above. Sigh. Then another message from M saying she couldn’t read the data from my photo. Really? You are opening the attachment? I asked in response and with some annoyance gave her the details in type format. I got another automated message just like the one above. Sigh.

It’s just too hard sometimes to follow your principles.

Finally a tale from the delivery process. Carol managed to get a delivery slot from Waitrose a little while back which duly arrived 3 weeks ago. Several of the items she’d ordered hadn’t been in stock and they’d sent through some replacements. Carol didn’t want these and the delivery lady said no problem, I’ll get your account re-credited as soon as I get back. Well we had an email from Waitrose confirming the delivery but no sign of the re-payment. So Carol sent an email explaining that we’d like the money back. She got an automatic response saying her issue will be processed as soon as possible, please bear with us during the current pandemic. Umm.

No news after a week so Carol sent another email and got the auto response again, sigh. Again the issue is do you queue up for 30 minutes and try and have a conversation with an advisor in the local store from a distance of 2m or plough on electronically. Carol sent a third message a week ago. Today we had confirmation that our account had at last been re-credited.

OK it’s a strange time but 3 weeks to pay us back? Umm. I just sense the retailers are doing a great job but playing a bit fast and loose with us at the moment. I bet your average weekly spend has gone up as there are no in-store promotions are there? (they don’t need to discount as whole shelves get cleared out almost immediately). We’ve had to visit 5 places over the last few days just to try and get a bag of flour, which we did in Lidl this afternoon. And I haven’t seen pasta for weeks. I’m sure you can relate more examples.

I like the whole public-spiritedness but it is starting to get a bit challenging don’t you think? Or maybe I’m just a grumpy old git. This isn’t a vote…

pp

 

 

 

Hancock – part III

I don’t want this blogsite to sound like I have a hate complex about Matt Hancock the Health Secretary but he’s doing his damnedest to make me react against his policies. This time he’s threatened an exercise ban if people continue to flout his directions.  Whoa Mr H, can we just take a time out here to reflect on this pronouncement.

Continue reading