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Archive for August, 2009

How much do you value your time?

by Alex on Aug.22, 2009, under Blog

I’ve often resented having my time what I consider to be wasted when paying for a service. If I’m to spend my money in a supermarket I do not want to have to queue slash wait in line for 10 minutes – my time is valuable to me and I think it reasonable that if you want me to spend my money and time with you then you need to serve me quickly and efficiently and, if you can manage it, with a smile and maybe at a push a happy word. If I’ve paid not an inconsiderable sum to take the train to the airport, referring specifically to London’s Heathrow Express, I strongly object to being subject to aural advertising from which I cannot chose to escape. I’d not say that I harbour particularly vandalistic tendencies but were I to be able to get hold of a handy pocket-sized EMP device (electro-magnetic pulse – one of them things what frys things electric), I’d have no qualms in taking out the speakers that offend me so.

Anyway, this post was not to be me ranting about impositions on my time.

A friend of mine clearly has feelings on this subject that exceed mine to the power n. Well actually with Paul one may never presume what his feelings nor motivations for his actions might be. I’ve witnessed acts of such oddness and banter of such randomness that I’ve been 100% certain that save he and I, no one else party to his doings has had any idea that he’s fooling around, a man of true Morrisesquetendency and someone with whom I wish I’d taken more opportunity to hang out when I was in the UK.

Over a period of six weeks, Paul recorded all the time and money he spent as a consumer and has subsequently invoiced over 50 companies for time he spent with their brand. “I did this for two main reasons: firstly, to further understand how I spend my life as a consumer, and secondly to challenge the basic assumption that consumers are subservient to brands.”

Brilliant! Why indeed should we as consumers be used as free marketing tools? His study has received much attention – 12,000 site visits as of last week and one example of his press coverage is this post in London´s Metro (newspaper).

I’m sure Paul’s got a lot of people athinking, perhaps most notibly the MD of Cranberry who may well be lamenting his somewhat sarcastic response to Paul’s invoice, especially when compared to the response from Pret a Manger who actually paid up, albeit in a very tongue-in-cheek manner – nonetheless a very astute PR decision considering the coverage Paul’s getting and worth many many times the value of the cheque they sent to him.

Read aaaaall about it at #sixweeks and follow Paul on Twitter here

Crudders, this is brilliant. Were I to to be wearing a hat I would most certainly take it off to your good self, I hope to catch up with you when I’m back in London.

Update:

During the #sixweeks study Paul received 40,000 unique visitors to his site and estimates the story reached an audience of about 250,000. See an overview of #sixweeks here.

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The next level in carpark convenience services

by Alex on Aug.17, 2009, under Blog

It was a few years ago that I first remember seeing the ‘I’ll clean your car whilst you shop’ guys in UK carparks. A great idea – you’ll be in the supermarket for at least 30 minutes, you’re not of the volition to actively seek out getting your car cleaned unless it’s stinking stinking dirty, which it’s not, but hey, it could do with a clean it’s effortless and cheap, so why not?

This is taking carpark convenience service to a whole new level:

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Brilliant – you can get your oil changed, wheels balanced or alligned and I’m sure other stuff too, all whilst you stock up luxury imported foodstuffs in Carrefour.

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Why would you put an electrical socket in a shower?

by Alex on Aug.15, 2009, under Blog

Well, to plug the shower in.

Obviouisly…

shower
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Colombian mentalosities

by Alex on Aug.14, 2009, under Blog

There is so much stuff that happens here (in Colombia) that is mental. By mental I mean ridiculous, plain stoopid, things indicative of the fact that no thought whatsoever has gone in to their doing, stuff to which one’s only reaction can be one of incredulity. Etc… Don’t get me wrong, I love the place, and those who know me well will know that I love a good rant and there is so much ranting fuel to be found here without even looking for it. I’d not suggest that any of these things are Colombia-specific, rather things of Latin America.

The lying thing when requesting info is odd, and a pain in the ass. When traveling these parts many moons ago I quickly learned that when axing directions it was breast to ask at least three different people or parties. You could go with the first happy, smiley, confident answer, but then you’d often find yourself miles, or at least kilometres, out of your way, your frustration magnified by the fact that not only have you been sent on a wild goose chase, you have been done so with a 20-odd kilo rucksack on your back. And what’s the point? Oh oh, to save face I hear people say. Bullshit! Do you know everything in the world? No. Not even the most stupidly proudestest of people from wherever they mail hail is going to answer in the affirmative to that little question. So, with that in mind, might one of the things that you do not know be the location of place X? I’m not going to think any the lesser of you if you don’t know and even if I were to, who cares? You don’t know me and you’ll never see me again in your life. I’m certainly going to thing a lot the lesser of you when I find out you’ve sent me the wrong pissing way, cockend! Shirley even the most stupid can work out that it’s better to say ‘ask her over there’ than lie and send you off on a random mission.

So, saying we’re really drunk or drugged or something and accept this ‘losing face’ crap, how does that work with taxi drivers. With people in the street they can point and shoot, they can send you off without witnessing the end result, the taxi driver, by definition, is going to be there with you, that’s the point, that’s his bloody job! But they will still lie to you. Of course not everyone, I’m not and indeed it would be ridiculous to suggest that an entire culture of people act in this way, I am though saying that it is quite the norm. You can ask and double-ask a taxi driver, you can throw in trick questions and tests and you’ll be assured that this guy actually lives in the place to which you want to go, he owns it, he IS the place yet he’ll get arsey when you explain quite reasonbly that you’re not paying the fair as displayed on the meter as he’s been pissing about all over the shop driving round and round, clearly lost, asking for directions and wasting your bloody time having fully assured you in the first place that he knew exactly where he was going. Madness!

Customer service, customer cervix more like – it doesn’t really exist here. Again I generalise and of course you can find places where the staff are attentive to your needs but the norm is pretty poor. And I used to get pissed off with the crap we oft have to put up with in the UK! I was, the other day, trying to get to the bottom of how my hostel reservation has been messed up. The phone rings and the woman to whom I was talking who didn’t really seem to care answers. After about 20 seconds I realise that it’s not a business call and neither was she quickly telling her mate that she´d call back, she was full on gossiping! ‘Excuse me. Are you serving me or are you chatting to your friend?’ I ask. ‘Oh sorry, it’s my daughter and she’s calling long distance.’ She says. ‘I don’t care who it is, I’m a customer and you are in the middle of addressing my complaint.’ I say, at which she leaves her daughter and returns to our conversation which, of course, terminated unsatisfactorally – incredulous!

The above and a myriad of other examples can of course be explained by way of cultural norms. What I don’t get are the refrigerated busses, they are totally mental.

You get board a well appointed coach on which you plan to spend the next 10 to 20 hours traveling from one beautiful part to another in this most wonderful of countries. You recline your chair, it’s comfortable. You settle in, look around and then wonder why the locals have brought blankets and wooly hats with them. Very odd, it’s 30/85 degrees outside and, naturally, you’re in shorts and tee-shirt. Massive error. Some of the busses are pissing freezing! On the journey from Medellin to Bogotá I couldn’t sleep for the cold and I had a wooly hat, trousers and jacket on. It makes no sense. I’m dismayed at the apathy of the locals who rather than saying something about the ridiculous temperatures en masse and having it dealt with chose to address the issue by bringing blankets and duvets. And, I’m ravenously curious as to what might be the reason for this counter customer comfort and diesel consumption increasing practice. This is a real conversation that happened on that journey from Medellin to Bogota:

Me: Excuse me, can you turn the aircon down please
Conductor guy: No
Me: Why not? People are uncomfortable. Look around you
Conductor says something unintelligible to me
Me: Why won’t you turn the aircon down
Conductor just fucks off without looking at nor answering me

The only suggestion that has even a modicum on an iota of a possibility of having any sense whatsoever was that busses were kept so cold so that the drivers didn’t fall asleep at the wheel. I don’t though believe for one minute that the driver can’t adjust the cabin aircon separately to the aircon in the coach and even if he couldn’t he can open his frigging window. So, if anyone out there knows what the freezer-coach thing is all about please let me know. I’m dying to find out.

There is stacks more to rant about but that’s enough banging on for today. I’m off out for more Bogotá wanderings…

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Bogotá at night, from on top

by Alex on Aug.02, 2009, under Blog

I’m sat in the kind of living roomy place in the Platypus Hostel in Bogotá and of the 9 of us here there are 6 with laptops – what a change since my last traveling stint in 2002. Robbing a backpacker in those days meant you’d be looking at a battered copy of Lonely Planet, some useless travelers cheques, at best a soon-to-go-out-of-date APS camera, some fisherman’s trousers and a couple of pairs of skidded pants. Nowadays you could jackpot it right up with a laptop, iPhone and massive 12 megapixel SLR. And, to be fair, robberies are pretty rife around here – La Canderaria in Bogotá. It’s a pretty place: an old colonial part of town close to the historic centre with lots of little eateries, hostels, universities and I guess guys with blades judging by the number of people I’ve chatted to recently who have been robbed at knife point. Now, don’t worry mum I’ve not heard of anyone getting hurt, it seems as if the local ladrones have discovered the easy targets that are non-attentive tourists wandering round a nice yet poor area supposedly laden with phones, cash and cameras. To advertise the fact that I’m not such an easy target I’ve recently purchased a tambo – an extendable baton that fits neatly in the pocket and can be drawn at a moments notice to suggest that they might like to seek out a less potentially violent source of profit.

Anyway, that is not what this post was to be about. I’d taken some lovely photos of the lights of Bogotá at night, was struggling to think of anything to say about them and now seem to have run away on several tangents. Oh well, back to the pics…

I’d not been out to a good good restaurant since leaving the UK – coming on for a year ago, and the other day booked a table at the restaurant on the Cerro de Monserrate, the big hill thing overlooking Bogotá with both a cable car and funicular railway to take you to the top. The decor, ambiance and general quality of service was fantastic which is a rare find in Colombia. It’s perfectly usual to go into a shop, bar or restaurant here and be consummately ignored for minutes on end and I’m sure hours were you to be happy to stand about unattended for that length of time to see if it would really happen.

There was a slight down side, and of course when I say slight I mean reasonably significant – it was a French restaurant which as a vegetableanarian is second only in the ‘what can you knock up for me’ stakes to dining at an abattoir. The meat looked pretty high-level though and value-for-money-wise at less than 11 quid for a Chateaubriand, anyone spending pounds, dollars or euros and not yet scared of all the zeros involved in spending pesos would be well happy with the set up. Wine though is a different matter, it being easy to spend 10 times the cost of your main course on a bottle, which amounting to significantly more than half the minimum monthly salary here in Colombia seems a little odd, especially considering how much wine is produced a few countries down in Argentina and Chile.

Anyway, all of this has nothing to do with the photos, and it’s getting late, so:

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