Tag: Rant

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.


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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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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The three smell bus ride

by Alex on May.30, 2009, under Blog

So I’m in Cali airport after my three consecutive flights for less than the cost of taking only the first one – no idea what that’s all about. Shocked at the cost of a cab, considering I’m in Colombia, I get a colectivo (like a minibus) into town for just over a quid – that’s more like it.

At first I thought I was bearing witness to the perfect fart. I guess that’d be a bit like the perfect storm only with a little less death and destruction, and no water involved – hopefully.
I knew though that the likelihood of me being present at an arsequake measuring 10.0 on the rectum scale was so very low, it had t be hydrogen sulphide – rotten egg smell, the stuff that stink bombs are, or at least used to be made of. I’ve no idea where it came from, I once heard that catalytic converters produce a little HS but shirley not on this scale – lovely.

Then came what must have been a dog biscuit factory, not wholly unpleasant but a little sickly, and quite doggy. We drove past a fully armoured water cannon cum troop carrier type vehicle – a reminder of where I was and what goes down here. And then something I’ve not seen for a long long time, in fact since the last time I was here – motorbike taxis. Now as you might expect, driving here is not the safest. People tend to make lanes for themselves and I’d guess that drink-driving is rife. I’ve no idea as to the average life expectancy of motorbike taxistas but I’d guess it a lot lower then the average for the country. I think you’d have to be mental to get on one, or actively seeking to put an end to it all.

Then the brewery, that lovely sweet smell of… what is it? Molasses? Hops? I really don’t know but find it quite a homely smell – I’m not sure why as I’ve never lived in or near enough to a brewery to smell it, maybe it’s my penchant for beer coming through…

And then the taxi debacle. Being a wise old traveler I asked three people how much I should pay from the bus terminal to the hostel, so as to try and avoid the almost inevitable gringo tax. But, apparently there was no need. For about ninepence the lovely girl at the taxi stand takes the address of where you wish to go, and gives you a print out of that address along with how much it costs to get there along with details of any night tariff or extras that you might need to pay. 3,600 pesos was to be my bill, a little over a pound. So I give this to the cabby and we eventually get there after going the wrong way a bunch of times. And he tries to charge me 8,000. What’s that all about? I show him the print out and I’m told that that is the minimum tariff. Oh great, good job that I’m stupid then. What the hell would be the point in giving you minimum tariff information to which the taxista could add at his leisure – that would negate the whole exercise of providing a service to ensure that you don’t get ripped off. He wasn’t really understanding this nor the fact that I wasn’t going to pay extra for him not knowing where he was taking me and driving all over the shop before getting here. With Germanic efficiency, Gunther, the guy who runs Hostal Pelican Larrys got on the case, backing me up and then calling some local transit agency to sort out the driver. Thanks Gunther. I still ended up paying 4,500 which included a night tariff that according to the print out wasn’t needed. Whatever, quite the shambles but again I’m not surprised – with all its beauty, cheapness and freedom from oppressive anti-litigative ‘health and safety’ legislation there is a whole world of shambleism to behold here in Latin America. Clearly I don’t care whether I pay a pound or a pound and a half (so long a it’s not of my flesh), it does bother me though when people try to rip me off…

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When no can’t possibly mean no, apparently

by Alex on Apr.28, 2009, under Blog

There are lots of street vendors here, in Granada (Nicaragua). Those who have stalls and those who walk round the streets selling their wares. Some of the wandering ones sell goods for the local market such as wallets and mobile/cell phone chargers, and cheese. Well, I guess that primarily they are aimed at the local market but that doesn’t stop those eager to sell from touting their goods to all on Sunday (mum, I know you’re wondering – that’s a bastardisation of ‘all and sundry), irrespective of whether they are local or tourist.

‘Do you want cheese?’ exclaimed a guy sporting a large aluminium pot atop his head. (continue reading…)

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Mini Supers

by Alex on Apr.12, 2009, under Blog

When I was little, everything was mega. Mega good, mega skill (spelled with two ls as ‘they’ said that skil with one l was an American bum disease, so one had to stipulate), mega lush, mega ace, even mega tiny. The fact that mega tiny was an oxymoron didn’t bother us. One, as we were four and so had no idea what an oxymoron was, and two, mega in our vernacular simply meant ‘very’.


Mini super though? What is that all about? (continue reading…)

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Gotta lotta bottle

by Alex on Apr.09, 2009, under Blog

For those of you who didn’t grow up in the UK, or did but are too young to remember crap 1980s TV advertising, you can see where the title comes from below. For the rest of you, who are no doubt humming the tune or at least have it going on in your head, why not click away and return briefly to those halcyon days of dodgy perms, massive shoulder pads and day glo jumpers.

Click me

So, bottles… Back in the day, it was perfectly normal (in the UK at least) for drinks manufacturers to re-use their bottles. You’d buy some awful, sugary, carbonated, tartrazine-laced concoction from the corner shop and on returning you’d get your 10 pence deposit and probably spend it on a sherbet fountain or some Black Jacks (probably now called Chalk Jacks or White Jacks), bouncing home on a sugar high. Sadly, for those of an eco bent, the days of bottle reuse is limited to delivered milk, and who gets milk from the milkman (milkperson, bovine lactate product delivery agent) nowadays? (continue reading…)

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