I wish I could fly…

Keith Harris and OrvilleDo the queues in the Post Office ever get any better?

No matter how much you want to avoid them, there are some things that have to be done over the counter in a post office. So this lunchtime I found myself standing in a queue for 30 minutes, snaking my way slowly to the front just to pay in some money to a bank account.

To be honest, I’d resigned myself to a long wait before I got there, which made it slightly easier to bear, but after a while the standing around, alleviated only by a brief bit of excitement as you shuffle nearer the front, gets too much to bear.

It’s not as if they put on a great deal of entertainment. They have a version of Post Office TV that simply shows a loop of all the ‘great’ products that the PO has on offer – including broadband, pet insurance and car insurance. What happened to stamps, first day covers and postal orders, that’s what I want to know?

As if that wasn’t bad enough, they were then ‘promising’ us the enticing prospect of a celebrity turning up in your local post office. Today, that was none other than ventriloquist Keith Harris and his dummy Orville – or should that be the other way round?

Now, Keith Harris and Orville were pretty bloody irritating the first time around and that was just on the TV. If I was standing in a mile-long queue in the post office and those two wandered in, they wouldn’t be very well received, I can tell you.

There would a news story in the paper along the lines of: Ventriloquist stuffed with duck!

Ban Sunday trading

Obviously having spent most of today in a bland Croydon shopping centre, I don’t really want to stop stores opening on the Day of Rest, but I’d be quite pleased if they did for one reason alone.

The reason? So the crap Sunday staff don’t get any work. The one big problem with weekend trading is that the proper full-time employees rarely work on Saturdays and Sundays.

One example: I went into (whisper it quietly) TKMaxx (look, it’s where I get my pants, OK?).

Having queued up patiently, I reached the till and handed over my purchases. The girl took them from me and rang them up. At the moment, one of her co-workers appeared alongside her and started to put them in a bag.

This co-worker started a conversation with ‘my’ assistant which lasted the entire length of the transaction. It wasn’t until the girl handed me my receipt that she looked at me and said the first word of the entire process: ‘Thank you!”

I’m not actually quite sure what she was thanking me for. Perhaps, allowing her to carry on her personal life with her mate, while still serving me.

So you see, if we ban Sunday trading, then people like this won’t have jobs and won’t be able to inflict their particular brand of customer dis-service.

Customer service nightmare

little chefI went to a Little Chef at the weekend, which in retrospect probably wasn’t the wisest thing to do, but when you’re staying at a Travelodge and have a 16-month-old and need breakfast, there aren’t many options.

I’ll give them one thing – their marketing is fantastic. The breakfasts looked genuinely appealing and their prices have come down a lot.

Sadly, from the moment we walked through the door, things went wrong.

1) No member of staff greeted us and took us to a table. So, we took it upon ourselves to find a high chair and find a table.

2) We had to find our own menus – none were forthcoming from the “staff” – I use that word sparingly.

3) After having been at our table for 10 minutes, one of the boys on duty came over to tell us we were blocking the aisle with the high chair and we had to move. He took us to the other side of the “restaurant” and promptly blocked another aisle with the high chair. Good old ‘health and safety’, eh?

4) Once the orders were taken, it took roughly 20 minutes to cook four breakfasts. However, in the meantime, another table sent their food back, because it wasn’t cooked. It’s sausage and bacon, for goodness sake, how can you not cook it properly?

5) Every time someone paid, the staff had to get the ticket from the chef and then decipher what each person had ordered. It took five blokes 10 minutes to pay for breakfast!

6) Their staffing policy is abominable: no-one seemed to be in charge, in fact I’m not sure there was a manager. Those on duty looked as if they’d just left nursery and couldn’t have looked less happy if they were standing in front of a firing squad. I know it can’t be much fun to be working at a Little Chef at 8am on a Sunday morning, but at least try to look as if you’re enthused.

7) Did we consider complaining? We did, but realised it wouldn’t have got us anywhere. The food, which was actually fairly OK, wouldn’t have reached us any quicker. The staff wouldn’t have magically cheered up and the service wouldn’t have been any quicker. We might have got a fiver off our meal, but that’s hardly recompense for a dismal experience.

All in all, very depressing. I know Little Chef have had problems recently and almost shut down for good. Well, on the evidence of this, perhaps they should do just that. I certainly won’t be going back for a long time.