October 25, 2009


ONE of the benefits of the postal strike is that I haven’t been getting any junk mail.

Okay, so I haven’t been getting any demands to pay bills, which means my credit rating will probably plummet right through the floorboards – and I haven’t received any payments due to me, so even if I received the final demands I couldn’t pay them anyway.

Items I’ve ordered on the Internet have been a bit thin on the ground, too.

But, there has been little or no junk mail. And that’s a good thing… actually, that’s a great thing!

There has been nothing in the way of credit card offers, loan proposals, holiday bargains, insurance deals, and on and on.

Now, I am well aware that once this strike is over and the post starts being delivered I’m going to receive a whole back-catalogue of junk mail, the weight of which will buckle my postman and his horse at the knees.

But I have a plan on how to deal with all that junk mail. Oh, yes, I have a plan.

Of course, I know other ways. For a start, there is the Deceased Preference Service. (I’m not making this up.) This involves telling the unsolicited mail regulatory body that you are, well, dead. It’s a free service and it works by distributing your details to a myriad of companies so that your name can be removed from their lists.

It’s just a matter of visiting the Deceased Preference Service website and filling out the form. Simple.

But that’s not the plan. Oh, no, I have something much juicier to play around with once the bundles of junk mail arrive; and this is what I intend to do. First, I will open all the mail. I will then chuck out the envelopes in which it arrived.

Next, I will separate the contents and flyers and so on and put them in bundle “A”. Then I will take all the pre-paid envelopes and put them in bundle “B”.

The next step is to shuffle and mix all the contents of pile “A”, then take each individual advertising leaflet and shove it into one of the random envelopes from bundle “B”.

The whole lot will then be posted out, meaning that each and every company who went to all the bother of sending me a piece of junk mail will receive one straight back from one of the OTHER junk mail companies. It’s ingenious, I tell you!

It will be oh, so very satisfying. But if we want this to really work, then I need your help.

I need YOU to do the same thing. Can you imagine? Massive bundles of rubbish turning up in the mail rooms of all the junk-mail-sending companies throughout the land. They will have to open thousands of letters to find the single genuine replies!

Every time they have a mail marketing campaign they will be in absolute terror that they are going to have sack-loads of mail coming straight back at them – and they are paying for the privilege.

How great is that?

All that junk mail will cost them a fortune with their own “special offers” and “great deal” flyers going round and round and round.

Kinda’ gives a whole new meaning to the word “circular”, doesn’t it? 

Drew McAdam



October 18, 2009


THEY’RE all at it these days. And the worrying thing is they’re all getting away with it.

What I’m talking about is “drip-charging”. You know the sort of thing; you book a cheap flight and then you discover it costs you £18 in “processing fees” to make a credit card payment, £25 if you want to take any form of luggage with you, and a mere £4 if you want to go to the loo while on board the aircraft.

But a more worrying trend has now appeared. It involves making these drip-charges look like a special deal – as though it’s actually going to save you money.

A letter from BritishTelecom dropped through my office letterbox recently. The big – and I do mean big – brightly coloured headline splashed across the top proclaimed: “Change your billing options and save £36  per year.”

Well, that sounded good. Tight times. Credit crunch, and all that. It would be good to save a few pounds simply by changing my billing option.

Aha! But then, when you read on, you find – in much smaller writing – that “The payment processing fee for not paying by Direct Debit or Monthly Payment Plan is now £3 per month, per bill.”

That’s not really a “discount” as the headline says then, is it? Rather, it is the introduction of a new processing fee.

Moreover, it goes on “However, you will not be charged this fee if you switch to Direct Debit or Monthly Payment Plan.” In other words, they are introducing a new payment processing charge that will cost you £36 each year, unless you start paying the way THEY want you to pay.

New rules, new charges, and it will cost you dosh if you don’t comply.

Now, introducing that as a “discount” (their words, not mine) in anybody’s book, is highly misleading. Actually, it’s downright dishonest.

A change of contract and the introduction of a new charge dressed up as a price cut is deceitful.

Bad enough that companies charge exorbitant fees for processing credit and debit cards – which is profit to them. And even worse that they can charge you up to £4 for postage, then send out concert tickets by second class post that costs them mere pennies.

But what British Telecom is doing here surely borders on fraud.

And if you think this won’t affect you, think again. Because if the business community tolerates this sort of behaviour then you can bet your boots they’ll roll it out to include the domestic customers, too.

So, how far do you think I would get if, each time I sent one of these thieving companies a cheque I also sent them an invoice for “payment processing”, along with a ridiculous charge for “postage”. Not very far, I wager.

 Well, we will soon find out; watch this space.

Drew McAdam


October 12, 2009


IN THE FACE of rising fuel costs, motoring experts take great delight in sharing with us their views on how to save on the cost of petrol.

In fact, What Car even designed a special eco-driving course to prove that it was possible to cut fuel consumption by an average of 21% by applying ten basic techniques.

Among the suggested techniques were the recommendations that the driver maintain momentum, change up gear earlier, and shed any excess weight.

In fact, here is a list of genuine suggestions – with my comments:

Maintain momentum.

In other words, don’t stop. Keep going.

As if we drivers actually like stopping! No, the whole point in driving a car is to keep going.

Change up a gear as early as possible. The fewer revs the engine is doing at any given speed, the more miles it’ll do to the gallon.

Really? And there was me thinking that the more I revved my engine (while sitting going nowhere) the more fuel I was saving. Sheeeesh!

Shed weight. The lighter your car is, the less fuel it’ll use.

Sounds reasonable… but the first thing I’m going to get rid of is my collection of magazines and newspapers in which motoring experts write patronising columns and insist on treating me as a complete nincompoop.

Choose an eco route. …remember that a longer route might cut your fuel bills if there’s less stop-start traffic.

And there again, it might not. Why do I think that the writer of this report was struggling to make his list up to nice, round “ten”? How are you supposed to judge whether a route that takes in two villages and a town is more fuel economical than a 60-mile country road detour complete with tractors and little girls on ponies to contend with?

Slash your speed: …Cruise at 60mph rather than 90mph on the motorway and you’ll use roughly 50% less fuel.

Honestly, I’m not making this one up. Not only will you use less fuel but you won’t have the delight of a double flash from a speed camera in your rear-view mirror – and the accompanying sheaf of tickets.

And if I drive at 40 instead of 60, will that cut my fuel bill by a further 50%? What of 20 mph? Hmmm. According to the mathematics, if I drive at 3mph I will only use a teaspoon of fuel to get from one end of the country to the other.

And on and on it goes.

Well, here are my own suggestions how to reduce your petrol bill.

Firstly, get rid of any extra baggage. Don’t take passengers, just politely suggest that they take the bus and you’ll meet them at the other end.

Secondly, if you are at the top of a hill simply switch off your engine and coast down it. (But DO remember that the steering lock will come on and it’s unlikely you’ll make it round the bend at the bottom.)

Next, don’t go visit anybody. Let THEM visit you.

And lastly, sell the car and buy a horse.

Following my list I can guarantee that you will cut fuel consumption by a lot more than the paltry 21% the motoring journalists recommend. There again, my list is about as realistic as theirs.

Drew McAdam


October 5, 2009


On the face of it, it seems like a good idea; the Government has recently launched an advertising campaign aimed at turning young people away from knife crime.

The campaign includes trendy displays, online adverts and TV commercials with the slogan: “Carry a Knife and Lose Your Life”. Very clever.

Home Office minister David Hanson said: “The vast majority of young people are honest and law-abiding and won’t tolerate violence in their neighbourhood. This campaign targets the small minority who break the law.”

Sounds good. Except we already know it’s a minority who carry knifes. Oh, and paying an ad agency and splashing out taxpayers money to develop a campaign to encourage thugs to leave their knives at home where they belong in the kitchen drawer seems a bit questionable. Particularly when we already pay the police to do just that.

This becomes even more apparent when you read what the brains behind this campaign had to say. Alistair Graham, a creative partner at Ogilvy, who created an anti-knife-crime ad for MTV, says: “For some people, carrying a knife is a way of life, so campaigns have to sneak up on you.”

No, what these knife-carrying neds need creeping up on them is not some trendy advertising campaign, but rather a big, burly policeman with an equally big burly truncheon in his hand.

You see, I doubt very much if the kind of slug who carries a knife as “a way of life” is going to pay much attention to an advert – assuming that he can actually read, of course. Does the Home Office really think that some bayonet wielding mugger is going to look at the clever-clever advert, say “You, know, I never thought of it that way before!” and drop his favourite blade into the bin?

Honestly, these civil servants must be having a laugh. At our expense.

What we, the public who are paying for this, want is to see is the thugs who would carry a knife – other than for pencil-sharpening duties – off the streets and locked up in a secure place where they are nervous about dropping the soap in the communal shower block. And for that, what we need is a police force who go out there and find them, then drag them off screaming to a damp cell.

Expensive, trendy advertising is the last thing we need. What we need is a Government and a police force that doesn’t mess around, and simply get the job done. All right?

Drew McAdam