England’s Rotten Planning System

March 29, 2017

The DeliveryDemon wanted a brand new shiny kitchen, matched units fitting neatly together, with nice level worksurfaces. Someone suggested looking  at Howdens Joinery offerings.

It was going to take some time so it seemed like a good idea to get some planners in to sort things out. Maybe someone from East Northants Council’s Planning Department. After all, they should have some understanding of how structures are put together.

The units needed to sit on top of a plinth, so 600 millimetres seemed about the right height. Roxhill Joinery said ‘Of course 600 millimetre units is what we will provide’. The DeliveryDemon designed out what was needed, and Howdens Joinery said ‘Of course, that’s what we will create’. The DeliveryDemon briefed the planners from East Northants Planning Department and they took her hard earned money to check that Howdens Joinery actually did what they were supposed to do.

Having done everything necessary, the DeliveryDemon headed off to spend days working long hours to pay for this kitchen (and of course to shell out what the taxman demanded).

Come the day the kitchen was supposed to be ready, the DeliveryDemon  went to look.

At first she could see nothing for the glare. The promised soft downlighting had been replaced with what seemed like searchlights. She asked for an explanation, and the reply was drowned out by a cacophony of beeping reverse alarms and revving HGVs, from vehicles which had ignored gates and warning signs to demolish the garden wall.

Finally she managed to see the promised kitchen. But it wasn’t the promised kitchen. Those 600 millimetre units were not 600 millimetres high. Some were 350 millimetres high, some only 250 millimetres. And some took up only a half or a quarter of their allotted width. The work surfaces had been hacked up and balanced randomly on the mismatched units. Not to put too fine a point on it, the kitchen was a mess.

The DeliveryDemon demanded an explanation from those planners.

‘Howdens Joinery told us 600 was the same as 300 and of course we believed them’ they said.

‘Howdens Joinery told us 600 was the same as 250 and of course we believed them’ they said.

‘Howdens Joinery told us part width was the same as full width and of course we believed them’ they said.

‘All your neighbours offered us tape measures but we decided to ignore them’ they said.

‘We don’t care that your family will have to live with this’ they said.

‘We CBA to give you even vaguely credible responses’ they said.

This is a fable of our times. It exactly mirrors the surreal process we have just been through in East Northants. It started with predatory developer Roxhill, in collusion with Howdens Joinery, ignoring all the suitable industrial sites available because Roxhill thought they could overthrow  the taxpayer funded neighbourhood plans in order to rake in profits at the expense of real people.

Their multitude of planning documents were thrown together to allow planners to tick boxes. And those planners duly ticked their boxes without ever considering the omissions, inconsistencies, and inaccuracies before them. People who actually used their brains pointed out that those documents were entirely unreliable. But the planners had ticked a box saying 600 new jobs and they weren’t going to get off their backsides to perform the most basic level of challenge which due diligence demands.

‘Loadsa jobs’ said East Northants Planning Department.

‘That 600 justifies destroying people’s lives’ said East Northants Planning Department.

The 600 jobs figure was challenged on the basis of inconsistencies too blatant to be ignored.

‘Well maybe it’s only 300’ said Howdens Joinery.

‘Well maybe it’s only 250’ said Howdens Joinery.

‘Well, a lot of those jobs are only seasonal’ said Howdens Joinery.

‘We only have embarrassing answers  to your questions so we refuse to answer them’ said East Northants Planning Department.

‘The answer is always loadsa jobs’ said East Northants Planning Department.

‘We’re not going to consider that a lot of those jobs will be done by robots’ said East Northants Planning Department.

Six doughty councillors toiled tirelessly to put the facts in front of their colleagues. Deaf ears were relentlessly turned. Six eloquent voices could not prevail against that obdurate deafness. Why? I have my views and no doubt you have yours.

And this has made it very clear that our planning system is not fit for purpose. Real people’s hard earned and over-taxed money pays for that planning system. Yet it allows faceless corporates like Howdens Joinery and Roxhill to ignore democratic decisions and ruin lives, all to make themselves a fast buck.

The DeliveryDemon is holds a strong view that this country is overdue for a heavy dose of democracy.

And the DeliveryDemon would advise anyone considering a new kitchen to look for a supplier whose numbers can be relied on.

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Why Marketing Doesn’t Deliver

October 26, 2016

Every organisation in the world spends a fortune on marketing, to the extent the DeliveryDemon would have to go entirely off the grid to avoid the deluge. With that volume, it’s not surprising that it’s easy to find examples of stupidity. One of the commonest marketing fails is when an organisation is so busy preening its corporate ego that it completely loses site of the real customer experience. Microsoft’s latest idiocy provides a classic example.

For most people, email is a utility – boring stuff but it needs to be there and usable, low key but reliable. It doesn’t have to look pretty or to keep coming up with new bells and whistles when a typical user ignores most of the facilities already in existence. Hotmail used to be a good utilitarian email. It popped up quickly on the screen. It was easy to skim through emails and get rid of the trash. Emails could be sorted. There were reasonable filters. It was pretty good at identifying spam. And, having been around for so long, a hotmail address was reasonably memorable.

For a good while after taking it over, Microsoft let Hotmail be. Then came the change to Outlook. Now Outlook on a business network has been a pretty reasonable utility too, but that wasn’t carried forward when Hotmail became Outlook. Loading became painfully slow. Months later it hasn’t improved. On an iPad it’s still totally unreliable, verging on unusable. First it displays a smug little picture showing how the floppy disc supersedes snail mail. Below that appears what the DeliveryDemon at first assumed to be a progress bar. Actually it’s a throwback to the 1980s, when time and again users would watch the blue bar inch painfully slowly across the screen, only to freeze when it reached a fraction from the end. Time and again it does this, with refresh and URL reentry making not the slightest bit of difference. The DeliveryDemon has left the progress bar for 40 minutes and it still didn’t display any emails, hit refresh over 100 times without anything useful happening. Sometimes there is a complete access fail because the site has failed entirely. And of course there are no updates from Microsoft to let users know what is happening.

That’s the user experience. How does Microsoft marketing handle it? With a classic demonstration of being blinded by focus on the big fat corporate ego, that’s how.

Several times during this (ongoing) fiasco, the DeliveryDemon has had emails from Microsoft marketeers. ‘Now that you’ve been using Outlook.com and some of its features for a while, we hope you’ll try one free month of Office 365 to see how much more you can do.’ Lets translate that into user experience.

Now that you’ve been using Outlook.com and some of its features for a while…. –
Now you have endured for a while the primitively slow response times and clunky user interface……

….we hope you’ll try one free month of Office 365…. – A free month is nothing but a cynical attempt to entice users into locking themselves into something which is barely usable and certainly not worth paying for when that month runs out….

….to see how much more you can do – If it can’t even do the basics at a barely competent level, it sure as hell isn’t going to do anything more useful.

In other words, Microsoft has made crap out of something useful and its marketing department are so enamoured of their own verbiage that they expect the world to be equally blind and shell out hard cash in response to that slimy marketing-speak.

Of course there may be another agenda behind this. Maybe the end of free Hotmail is in sight. Maybe Microsoft hopes that enough users will transfer to the paid for product so that any furore following the withdrawal of Hotmail will be minimal. If that’s the case, the marketing needs to be a damn sight more intelligent than the current efforts. And if that does happen, the DeliveryDemon will follow the oft-tested prudent advice. If something which works well is withdrawn, don’t blindly accept the offered replacement. Treat that replacement as just another product and evaluate it against whatever else is available. And of course, that replacement offering starts with an immediate handicap – it comes from a supplier which values its corporate ego over the customer’s need for continuity and reliability.


Holland and Barrett – Delivering Rotten Food

August 24, 2016

The DeliveyDemon has in the past bought aloe vera juice from Holland and Barrett. The sealed opaque bottles usually have shelf life well over a year into the future so it makes sense to buy a few at a time and save the delivery hassle. But the last purchase from Holland and Barrett will definitely be the last one – the DeliveryDemon is strongly opposed to being expected to pay for rotten food.

The first bottle was OK. The second bottle was anything but – the colour of the urine of someone who was severely dehydrated, with a smell to match.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The one on the right stinks and tastes foul

Not a pretty sight! Bottle after bottle, including ones from the same batch, are clear and pale like the glass on the left. Then comes one which looks foul, smells bad, and a tentative taste makes it obvious that it would be dangerous to consume any more.

A reputable company would clearly be glad to know that there was a problem in their production line or product handling. But Holland and Barrett are clearly not a reputable company. And they insist that, when they sell in England, English Law does not apply to them.

It took from 27 July to 18 August – 23 days – for Holland and Barrett to try and wriggle out of their responsibilities on the basis that their process insists that returns must be made within 30 days. Clearly a process with that sort of delay is designed to force out the vast majority of complaints. The DeliveryDemon has a message for Holland and Barrett – your internal process is irrelevant when you sell rotten food.

First comes the Food Safety Act Section 14. Government guidance on this act says that the retailer must:

  • make sure food is safe to eat
  • make sure you don’t add, remove or treat food in a way that makes it harmful to eat
  • make sure the food is the same quality that you say it is
  • withdraw unsafe food and complete an incident report
  • tell people why food has been withdrawn or recalled, eg a leaflet or poster

 

The retailer has additional duties:

  • You must tell the Food Standards Agency (FSA) if you think any food your business:has sold is unsafe.
  • The FSA will tell you if the food must be withdrawn and customers asked to return it.
  • Submit a food safety incident report.

Clearly, by refusing to accept returns, Holland and Barrett is trying to weasel its way out of dealing with a food safety incident. Any company with this attitude obviously constitutes a significant risk to public health since it has chosen not to have in place the processes needed to comply with Food Safety Law.

That’s not the only legal breach either. The Consumer Rights Act makes unfair contract terms illegal, and Holland and Barrett are deliberately trying to hide behind unfair contract terms when they refuse to deal with food in sealed containers with a long shelf life whose rottenness becomes apparent more than 30 days after ordering.

  • Aloe Vera juice comes in a sealed, opaque bottle, so smell, colour and taste are not apparent on receipt.
  • The bottles have a shelf life which extends 18 months into the future, so a consumer may reasonably buy several bottles with the intention of using them over several months. Clearly, opening bottles on receipt in order to check whether the contents are rotten instantly reduces the storage potential.

To add insult to injury, Holland and Barrett emails glibly lie that:

  • We are proud of the quality of our products and as such, if you find that your products arrive with you in an unsatisfactory condition, please return the unopened products to the following address (note the weasel word ‘unopened’ in there).

The DeliveryDemon acknowledges that things do go wrong in retailing. Equally, the measure of a good company is the way it reacts when things go wrong. In the DeliveryDemon’s experience, Holland and Barrett as a company are as rotten as its products.

If you want to follow this saga to find out whether Holland and Barrett decides to live up to its legal responsibilities, or whether it clings to its policy of relying on unfair contract terms to conceal its food safety breaches, follow the DeliveryDemon on Twitter.


Another Open Letter to BT As They Deliver Sheer Incompetence

June 24, 2016

As I have already said very clearly in the email you have included in your reply, it would cause considerable problems to be called on the number BT nuisance called, and I have on multiple occasions made it very clear that BT do not have permission to call me on that number. Equally, my experience of BT is that staff are prepared to be blatantly dishonest, therefore I place no trust in verbal communication. All communication should be by email or in writing, and I prefer email because I do not want the hassle of disposing of junk snail mail from BT.

You already have the phone number which you have been calling despite being told not to.

You already have my name associated with that phone number, including in one of your nuisance calling lists, and you have confirmed this by promising to mark the number as one not to call. Equally you had sufficient information in that junk calling list to mention details of the previous account so it is clearly on your systems somewhere.

You should, under the Data Protection Act, have recorded that you have been refused permission to make nuisance sales calls to my number.

You should have a record on your complaints system from when I became so annoyed with BT’s dishonesty that I spend considerable time making it very clear that your behaviour was unacceptable.

If you check your domestic and business accounts, complaints system, and data protection records, you should find all the information you are requesting. Equally, if you check your own records and confirm the actions you have taken I will have slightly more confidence of BT taking appropriate action than I would if I spoonfed all the details only to receive a bland and unreliable assurance that the problem had been dealt with.


Delivering An Open Letter to BT

June 23, 2016

An open letter because BT continues with its custom of blatant dishonesty and obstruction of customer complaints. This letter was sent to Gavin Paterson, BT’s CEO, following a correspondence string which invariably received responses whose honesty was noticeable by its absence.

It appears that your staff are unable to check customer history correctly. Your complaints system should have comprehensive details of my previous complaints which state very clearly that, having been an extremely dissatisfied customer of BT, I was formally requiring that you did not pester me with junk sales communication via any channel.

It is unsatisfactory that your staff are pretending that the problem lies with another company. This is WRONG. I had enough unpleasant dealings with BT to be very sure of the name of the company causing the problem.

Your staff claim that the problem would not have existed were the number registered with TPS. Your staff should be capable of checking this before making such a stupid recommendation. They should also have the basic understanding that TPS registration is done directly, not through the service supplier. The number has in fact been registered with TPS for years, apart from a brief period when BT abused its position by instructing TPS to remove the number from its Do Not Call list. If your staff think that the TPS list is an effective way of preventing unwanted calls, then your processes should ensure that a check is made against TPS records BEFORE attempting to nuisance call people.

It is also clear from the reply below that your processes are unacceptably inadequate in dealing with the issue of nuisance calls. When BT is told that its nuisance calls are unwanted it has no excuse for failing to record that, whether or not the requirement comes from a BT customer. In this instance, your staff are wrong in claiming that there is no account to mark. There is the historic account, whose management left me disgusted with BT’s dishonesty. And, as I said in earlier correspondence, you are holding sufficient information to have my name associated with the number. Were you making the least attempt to comply with the Data Protection Act, this alone should have prevented your nuisance call.

It is very clear that BT is hiding behind company size and ignorant staff to try and block serious complaints. While this is not surprising given BT’s history, it is completely unacceptable.


Delivering Dietary Confusion

June 15, 2016

The DeliveryDemon has reached the conclusion that the worst thing anyone can do for their health is pay attention to the dietary recommendations from governments, the press, organisations with something to sell, and people with pet theories.

Just for the hell of it (being a Demon), she has decided to keep a list of all the foods reported as wonderful, along with a list of all the foods reported as evil. To keep things simple, there will only be one list, with items being tagged as good, bad or both, and it will grow for as long as the DeliveryDemon bothers to keep it updated. It’s not scientific so it won’t link to information sources. It’s just the DeliveryDemon up to her usual habit aof calling BS when she sees it.

Coffee                     Wonderful / evil

Herbal teas            Wonderful / evil

Fats                          Wonderful / evil

Meat                         Wonderful / evil

Alcohol                    Wonderful / evil

Eggs                          Wonderful / evil

Chocolate                Wonderful / evil

Carbs                         Wondeful / evil

Blueberries              Wonderful

To be continued………


Delivering Referendum Tedium

May 23, 2016

Tons of newsprint are heading unread for landfill, along with taxpayer funded junkmail. It’s all in the cause of the greed and egoism of politicians and business leaders.

We have over 40 years of EU and pre-EU data to evaluate, and the pre-referendum yammering of both camps is a complete irrelevance. The only useful new information at this stage would be if politicians and business leaders would tell us their real plans, capabilities and limitations in the event of each option. And that just ain’t gonna happen.