BIG BAD BUSINESS BULLY

October 30, 2011

 

Times are hard at the moment; we all know that. And we are constantly told that the key to getting out of the financial mess is by encouraging and supporting our small businesses.

These Ma-and-Pa businesses are run by individuals who are working every hour they can, determined to make a success of their toils. All their hard work and commitment results in growth and profit that’s spent in the local area, and leads to employing more workers. It’s their effort that will lift us out of the financial pit.

So, with that in mind, let me share with you an example of the problems facing just one small West Lothian firm.

Imagine David and Goliath, where David is a small business-owner, and Goliath is a major corporation with a local branch, but with interests around the globe.

Goliath came to David in a panic. There was something they needed that he could supply. A small job, but critical to Goliath. They needed it to be right, and they needed it in a hurry.  David provided what they needed, and he provided it on time at a fair price.

But months later, David is still waiting for Goliath to pay him. He’s sent invoices, emails and letters. He’s made numerous phone calls, and even turned up in person. It’s only a paltry sum – nothing to Goliath. But to David, it represents just one payment of many he needs to keep his business growing.

The cash amount is less than a taxi trip for one of the Goliath directors; they could surely pay it out of petty cash.

But, no. Instead, David has been given the runaround by the big boy. They told him that they don’t actually deal with the invoices and payments here, in West Lothian. Being a multi-national conglomerate, they supply paperwork he has to fill out to apply for payment. His application is then dealt with by a department in Mexico. If he wants his money he has to jump through hoops, and then phone the folks in Latin America. Does that seem fair to you?

And remember, this is just one example of the sort of thing that is happening to small businesses throughout West Lothian. By making things as difficult and as convoluted as possible, this particular local Goliath is draining the very lifeblood from our West Lothian community.

That means they are also thwarting the effort of all those in West Lothian who are trying to pull themselves up by their bootstraps.

Shame on Goliath.

Drew McAdam

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PAID FOR A TICKET? TOUGH!

October 23, 2011

For once in my life, I read the small print on a flight ticket. And I have to say, I was amazed at what was lurking in there.

Tucked away at the bottom was this phrase: “In order to minimise the effect of ‘no-shows’… British Airways and most major airlines may overbook services.”

What? In other words, the World’s favourite airline regularly sells seat places that they have already sold! This, of course, means that if everybody DOES show up, several poor saps are going to be told they can’t travel. Either that or they will have to sit on the laps of other passengers.

But why? After all, the seats have been paid for in full. What difference does it make whether there’s somebody sitting there, or not? Oh, wait. It must be a way of making more money while inconveniencing people who have paid, booked, received a confirmation and turned up on time.

The airline company take the chance on a “no-show” in the hope of making a bit more dosh. Nice.

Digging into this a bit more, I discovered that, according to the Air Transport Users’ Group, “Some airlines’ flights have been 50 per cent overbooked… We hear stories of 50 and 60 people being bumped at one time.” In fact, British Airways admitted it overbooked almost half a million seats this year.

Oh, and the airlines don’t call it being “bumped”, they call it “denied boarding”. I suppose that way it sounds as though YOU have done something wrong.

In other words, despite you checking in on time, with a valid ticket and a confirmed reservation, you can find yourself “denied boarding” just so the airline can make a bigger profit.

Can you just imagine how one of those airline company directors would react if he journeyed to the theatre to see his favourite band, with a valid ticket he’d been given by a family member as a birthday present, to discover that – ooops – we’ve double-booked your seat.

Never mind, here’s a ticket for another gig, with a different band, on another evening at a different theatre. Ample compensation. Imagine if the theatre had double booked – and double-charged – his seat on the grounds that he MIGHT not turn up.

I’m sure he would argue the toss about that. And rightly so.

Drew McAdam


DOPEY DANGLERS

October 16, 2011

 

Have you seen cars driving around with a CD dangling from the rearview mirror? Do you know why it’s there? Well, it will avert detection by speed cameras.

And if you believe that – as many drivers obviously do – then you’ll also believe in the Easter Bunny, Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, and that if you use a DVD instead, your car will actually fly!

However, the real problem with dangling a shiny CD from your rearview mirror is that it creates a massive blindspot. An area that could hide a double-decker bus from view as you swing onto a roundabout.

And that’s not good.

Furry dice and dream-catchers will do a pretty good job of making sure you run into something, too.

As for those air-freshener pine trees… it’s like trying to drive through a forest, dodging the trees, and “Wallop!” you get a cyclist.

A recent survey of paraphernalia that drivers are willing to use to create their very own blindspot includes: a Margaret Thatcher doll, baby shoes, a plastic horse and a leprechaun. I’ve even seen flags. It must be like driving through somebody’s washing line!

There is a US website that specialises in “rearview mirror ornaments” including something – I can’t quite decide what it’s supposed to be – that is big, furry, dangly and looks like a military sporran. I think it’s made from a squashed racoon or something. Anyway, it could easily block 3-lanes of stationary motorway traffic from the driver’s view.

And as for those fruit-loops that fill up their rear-parcel shelf with their entire soft toy collection, well… Call me old-fashioned, but I feel the need to know what’s thundering up the motorway behind me.

Now, I like a bit of a thrill and a slice of danger as much as the next person. But, do me a favour: ditch the dangerous danglers. Next time, it might just be me that’s hidden from view by your dopey ornament.

Drew McAdam


THE GREAT AIR STEWARD HUSTLE

October 10, 2011

 

Hands up all those who think that the flight attendants onboard the aircraft are there for your “comfort and safety”?

Well, I was on a flight back from Jersey, following a performance there earlier this week. And something happened that made me stop and think.

I’m not going to tell you which airline I was flying, but the steward and stewardess obviously though they were a comedy double act. They laid on an unrelenting stream of cheeky banter and quips to the passengers. Okay, they weren’t that funny, but it was better than the standard-issue fixed smiles.

Now, on other flights I’ve noticed that very few people purchase anything from the duty free trolley. After all, they’ve had plenty time to shop in the terminal lounge. But this duo of funsters had created such a rapport with their “audience” that they were able to badger the passengers into buying goodies from the trolley – albeit in a pleasant and fun way.

They pointed out the savings that could be made, shot out one-liners about the suspected drinking habits of individual passengers, and so on. Between them, they had one of the greatest sales pitches I’ve ever seen.

And they certainly unloaded a mountain of duty free while keeping up the line of friendly banter.

When it came to me, I decided to buy 200 cigarettes. In a flash, the steward told me the savings, but pointed out that I would save even more if I purchased 400, and even MORE should I purchase 600 – as had most of the other passengers.

“Hang on a minute,” I said. “I seem to remember that despite being within the ‘footprint’ of the EU, the Channel Islands are outside the tax territory.”

“Yes.”

“Well, that would mean passengers can only bring in a limited number of cigarettes – namely 200. So why are you trying to sell them 400s and 600s – that’s well above the allowed limits, isn’t it?”

Leaning low, and sticking his face next to mine, the steward shrugged and said: “I’m not trying to sell them. I’m just advising everybody of the price.”

Hmmm. Really?

I watched as little old couples wandered through the green channel at Edinburgh airport, unaware that at any point they could be stopped by the Customs and Excise officials, and find themselves in a whole heap of trouble. All thanks to the staff on the airplane who had seemed so friendly, are happy to sell the goods, but not so keen to inform them that they would be breaking the law.

So, be warned. And ask yourself this: do the flight crew simply not care whether or not you end up being prosecuted for attempted smuggling? Or maybe – just maybe – they are on commission?

Okay, you can put your hands down now.

Drew McAdam


FROM ONE GENERATION TO ANOTHER…

October 3, 2011

Calling All Youngsters: A lot of interest has been generated recently in an article put together by the Scouting Association and Discovery Channel in which they claim “you lot” don’t have many of the practical skills that our generation possessed.

So, while you might be able to update your status on a social network site, only seven percent of you can tie a reef knot. A reef knot? It’s a knot that can hold or slip, depending on… oh, forget it.

Come to think of it, the expression: “He couldn’t tie his own shoe laces” was regarded as the ultimate insult, implying that the person had the intellectual capacity of a geranium.

Other skills that our generation possessed by the time we reached young teenager-hood included the ability to use a compass and read a map.

Well, according to the people behind this article, you might be able to burn CDs and wipe out the enemy double-quick on Call of Duty, but if you dared to adventure outside into the real world… you would get lost. 

Mind you, as a Scout I also learned how to play “Knifie”, which involves a sheath knife and your mate’s splayed legs… Took balls, that did. Sometimes literally! Ah, the days before elf ‘n’ safety.

Anyway, back to the point: the report also suggests that another lost skill is your ability to mend a puncture. So you know what YouTube is, but not Inner Tube. If you got a flat tyre you would be left sitting by the side of the road until Daddy came and collected you.

And all those skills are about to be lost forever. You see, me and my generation are getting ready to shuffle off to the Old Folks Home for the Bewildered. There, we’ll pass the time swapping stories of our Glam Rock clothing exploits and singing the old songs such as Joe Dolce’s “Shaddap You Face” (And if you don’t know what that is, then Google it.)

So, as we go shambling off, we are passing the torch on to you. All we ask is that you take it boldly, and hold it with pride – preferably by the end that’s not on fire.

Thank you.

Drew McAdam