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A permanent state of kow-tow

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Selfridges studs in Manchester

Selfridges studs in Manchester

The Selfridges company has claimed that studs in the ground outside its Manchester store were installed following customer complaints about smoking and litter.

[“Selfridges claim ‘anti-homeless’ spikes outside store were installed to stop smoking and litter”, Richard Wheatstone, Manchester Evening News, 16 February 2015]

[…] A spokeswoman said: “Selfridges installed the studs on December 1 last year as part of a number of measures to reduce litter and smoking outside the store’s team entrance, following customer complaints.”

But council chiefs are still looking to hold talks with Selfridges bosses to make sure the metal was not installed as an ‘inhumane’ anti-homeless tool.

The town hall’s city centre spokesman Pat Karney said: “I’m amazed that since the story broke on the M.E.N website it’s taken Selfridges more than 18 hours to put out a statement about the issue and offer this explanation.

“I can understand why there is now a lot of confusion and upset about this and I have called Selfridges to the town hall to speak to me about this as soon as possible.”

Academic Cathy Urquhart launched the petition [urging the department store to remove them] on Saturday after seeing the studs for the first time on Friday morning on her regular commute.

She said: “These spikes are an affront to humanity.”

Surely, these studs would actually make removing detritus more difficult, so the ‘litter reduction’ claim looks bogus. Like some other local authorities, Manchester council appears to be in a permanent state of kow-tow to big business. Still, it’s interesting to consider the implications of someone happening to trip on the adjacent footway, and making head contact with the studs.

Written by beleben

February 18, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Posted in Marketing, Politics

Blockheads get the chop

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HS2 Ltd's 'blockheads' video removed from youtube after just 1 day

HS2’s Ltd ‘blockheads’ video has been pulled from Youtube after just one day. I don’t know whether the animated characters will be seen again. I’m not surprised that they have gone for fantasy videos, because selling the reality is not really going to be possible.

“How do we fill 1,100-seat trains, running every twenty minutes from Manchester to London, that don’t serve any cities en route?”

“Um…dunno. Let’s make an animated video with blockheads in.”

Written by beleben

February 1, 2013 at 4:03 pm

Posted in High speed rail, HS2, Marketing

Tagged with ,

Get out. Your heritage has little value

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Local government reform in Birmingham has concentrated power in the hands of a politburo (‘cabinet’) with no effective checks-and-balances functionality. And so it has come to pass that the city’s “cabinet member for culture”, Liberal Democrat Councillor Martin Mullaney, has given Aston Manor Transport Museum six months’ notice to get out of its home, the old Aston tram shed, which is owned by the city council.

He said: “(Birmingham council’s) property department is regularly getting inquiries for the building from Asian wedding companies and retailers.

“On the open market, the property department believes they would easily be able to sell the lease for in excess of £900,000 – it has a sizeable car park next to it, remember.”

Coun Mullaney also stated: “We tried to offset the community value of the AMTM against the rent, but it’s (sic) value was calculated to be small.”

Mr Mullaney doesn’t explain what he means by community value, or how it was “calculated”. Most people in Birmingham don’t use its swimming pools, or libraries, so I suppose one might argue that their community value is “limited”, too. Given the enormous amounts that Birmingham city council has wasted over the years, cash from selling the old tram shed wouldn’t provide any real improvement for the city’s finances.

Sadly, such philistinism has been a feature of past council administrations as well. In the 1990s, the free-admission science museum was closed, and most of its collection placed into store. The remaining items were moved to a dumbed down ‘Think Tank’ exhibition within Millennium Point, with steep admission charges.

Written by beleben

August 30, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Rip-off at the doorstep

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Centrica plc (‘British Gas’) today announced that

its field sales agents will cease doorstep energy sales activity for an initial three-month period. This in line with a request to all suppliers made by Consumer Focus. The energy provider will now work with its customers and consumer bodies to develop the way it provides access to advice and information about its products and services, including the role of appointment based face-to-face advice.

Doorstep selling, in its current form, is an increasingly outdated way for energy companies to engage new customers who no longer regard it as a preferred or trusted way to review their energy arrangements.

British Gas has been reducing the use of doorstep selling for many years. The number of British Gas field sales agents is now less than a quarter of the 1,300 employed in 2006.

Adam Scorer, Director of External Affairs at Consumer Focus, said:

‘British Gas has responded to our call for action. We applaud the move and call for others to follow the lead set by British Gas and SSE. This is the sort of move that responsible companies make when it becomes clear that consumers are unhappy with the way they do business.

‘For over a decade cold call doorstep sales have led to hundreds of thousands of people paying more for their energy after switching to a worse deal. We know people strongly dislike doorstep sales, feel pressured to switch at the door and that energy firms don’t offer their best rates face-to-face. Cold call energy sales simply aren’t what customers need or want.

‘Energy firms have had years to get doorstep sales right. There have been plenty of well-intentioned commitments and initiatives to do things better, but they have failed to deliver the change that consumers want.2 Unless other energy firms realise the end of the road has been reached on cold call doorstep sales, mis-selling will continue to drive consumer mistrust even deeper. It also risks damaging consumer confidence and buy-in for key Government schemes, including the Green Deal and smart meter roll-out.

‘We would urge all consumers to think twice before they buy on the doorstep, shop around for the best deal, and take time to think things over before making a final decision.’

But British Gas seems to be reserving the right to resume such activity, if its competitors persevere with it.

The fact is, door to door utility salespersons have been scamming people across Britain for years, with many of them working for unscrupulous ‘marketing’ firms hired by the energy suppliers. It’s outrageous that they are allowed to call at the homes of confused old people, and sign them over to more expensive contracts.

Consumer Focus suggests that all consumers ‘shop around for the best deal’, but this is much easier said than done. The utilities companies have a plethora of different and complex tariffs, and equally complex terms and conditions. This makes the comparison of suppliers’ offers an extremely difficult task, probably beyond the capabilities of most people. So there needs to be a substantial amount of imposed tariff standardisation, in order that people can make informed choices between different suppliers’ quotes on the same product.

Written by beleben

August 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm