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



June 6, 2011

Oh, goody. I just received a Notification of Works from West Lothian Council informing me that there is to be a Topographic Study in my area. Sounds painful.

Every house in the area has received the same letter. And it’s the talk of the steamie.  What, exactly, is a “Topographic Study”? According to the letter, “The purpose of a topographic study is to gather survey data about the natural and man-made features of the land, as well as its elevations”. Which, coincidentally, is word-for-word-how it’s described in Engineering Magazine.

The magazine definition goes on to explain that from this data they can prepare a three-dimensional map.

More to the point, the letter informs us that work will take four weeks, and that “It is inevitable that the above works will cause some disruption to those living in the area”. Just what we need right now – more disruption in our lives. And all so that somebody can have a map.

Now, I can only assume that this four week long surveying malarkey is going to involve a lot of workmen and specialist equipment – to prepare a map. Doesn’t sound cheap.

Is it just me who wonders if, in these times where cutbacks are being made at every level of public life and affecting everybody from the very young to the very old, careful consideration should be given to where each and every pound is spent? I have to ask myself if a survey is something I would be spending my money on if I was all but bankrupt. I don’t think so.

And is it just me who thinks that collecting data over a four week period so that a map can be produced should be pretty low on the list of priorities?

Maybe I should organise a costly survey to find out.

Drew McAdam


April 16, 2011


So, Land Securities who own The Centre in Livingston is going to start charging for parking. Well, that’s good news. It really is.

Well, it’s good news if you happen to be a shopowner in any of the county’s towns other than Livingston. If you run a little hardware store, grocery shop, hairdressers, Post Office or stationery shop then your business is about to rocket.

For years now we’ve grown accustomed to “nipping down to the centre” for odds and ends.  You need a pair of shoelaces? Or a lightbulb? No problem. Zip into the centre carpark, run into the shop, grab what you need and get out again quick.

Livingston residents didn’t really think about it. A pen, or a newspaper – some small item that you urgently needed – you would jump in the car, zoom down to The Centre, pull into a parking space, get what you needed and be gone again within minutes.

Easy and free car parking was always one of the major attractions of using The Centre.

But that’s no longer the case. Now, a pair of shoelaces will cost you 50p, plus whatever they decide to charge for the pleasure of shopping there. That’ll be right.

Want to post a letter? Or check your bank statement? Then add the parking charges. And if you think you’ll be able to park in the streets around the centre, we have been warned of “resultant traffic management issues”. You can bet you life the area will be crawling with Parking Wombles.

And if you think you can go by bus, think again. Have you ever tried getting a flat-pack wardrobe onto a bus? Or what if you get your purchase home and find it doesn’t work? That’s right; back you go and pay the parking charges again!

I predict that sales over the Internet will rocket throughout the county.

You know, I have shopped at – and supported – the centre since 1976, when Woolco was the only shop that was there. Remember that?

Well, no more.

There are plenty of little towns around the county that offer quick and simple shopping – with no parking fees. If you’re a butcher, a baker or candlestick maker in Broxburn, Bathgate, West Calder and so on… you have a new customer the minute they turn the ticket machines on.

And I suspect I’ll not be the only one. Good news for you, eh?

Drew McAdam


February 20, 2011


Amidst the swarm of cuts heading this way, our libraries are under threat. Mind you, I would have to admit that it’s been a while since I visited the local library – I have the Internet now.

But like most people I can still recall many special moments. Like the time I happened across a very special book… But before that, we have to start with an advert.

Have you seen the recent TV commercial for It’s advertising an online Yellow Pages service. The commercial tells the story of a gloomy fellow who treks round a number of independent record shops to find a copy of the trance mix track ‘Pulse and Thunder’ by Day V Lately.

Eventually, his daughter tries the online service and finds a copy. He asks the record shop to put it aside for him. “My name?” he gives a little laugh. “It’s Day V Lately.”

Now, older readers will remember a similar commercial for Yellow Pages that ran in 1983. It had a lovely old gentleman trying to track down a book called “Fly Fishing” by JR Hartley. Wasn’t that a wonderful commercial? The old fella’s delight when a bookstore told them they had a copy in stock and he revealed that he was actually J R Hartley was a fabulous TV moment.

It was certainly a good deal better than the new advert with Day V Lately, I think you’ll agree. The new commercial isn’t a patch on the original.

So, what has this to do with libraries? Well – and I swear this is true – when browsing in the West Calder library one day I happened across a book entitled “Fly Fishing” by J R Hartley. Can you imagine my surprise and delight?

Ah, but such moments could be lost forever if we stand silently by and let politicians who didn’t understand basic financial budgeting try to recoup lost billions by cutting back the library service. If that happened, all we would have left is a shadow of the original – a book repository equivalent of Dave wotsisname.

And that’s not right.

Drew McAdam


July 26, 2010


News just out: the Government says it wants to “end the war with motorists”, and so is going to end its central funding for fixed speed cameras.

Now, there are around 6,000 speed cameras scattered around the UK, and they generate £100m in fines each year, so it seems odd that they would want to wave goodbye to that – but they do. Hmmm.

More news just out: hi-tech, infra-red, number plate recognition camera devices that are linked into a single server network and draw on global positioning satellites have been undergoing secret trials in the UK. We only know this because it was revealed in a parliamentary report.

And now it makes sense. Forget the old flash-flash boxes at the side of the road. This system, known as SpeedSpike, can monitor thousands of vehicles at the same time, even on little-used back roads.

The manufacturer claims the cameras used to collect the information are small and cheap – so cheap that they could even be used to reduce the need for speed bumps on smaller roads.

The cameras then communicate with each other. The average speed over your journey is calculated, and if your vehicle has travelled too far in a set time then you’ve broken the speed limit somewhere along the route. Bang. You get a ticket.

Spies in the skies. Satellites to watch your speed and fine you if you step over the mark. Who would have thought? It certainly doesn’t sound like the Government is ending the war with motorists; it sounds more like an escalation!

So, what does the Government have to say about THAT? Well, the Home Office said it was unable to comment on the trials because of “commercial confidentiality”. Honestly, I’m not making this up.

Well, I have some news for the “unable to comment”, sneaky, deceptive bureaucrats behind this one… There are an incalculable number of roads where – thanks to the potholes that would make a Third World jungle track look inviting – it’s impossible to even reach the speed limit without your car tearing itself to pieces leaving little more than shredded tyres and a scattering of bolts in its wake.

If you want to end the war with motorists, try spending money on sorting that, rather than hi-tech outer space gadgetry to spy on your citizens.

Drew McAdam


June 14, 2010


Scams used to be simple and unsophisticated. For example, back in the ‘70s it became the rage to etch the registration number of your car into each window. That way, if the car was stolen and the plates changed, the real registration number was still on view. Companies were set up to carry out this expensive procedure.

However, one supplier was selling the glass etching kits by mail order for just a few pounds. It seemed like a bargain, until it arrived in the post. What you got was a six inch nail!

The internet has changed all that. Today, scams by organised criminals are worth £3.5 billion in the UK. There is an army of twisters and conmen out there waiting to separate us from our money.

 These scamsters would probably see it as a way of “increasing their revenue streams”. Changing the rules in their favour.

But plenty of established and – until now – reputable national companies are playing the same game.

BT recently changed the times of their weekend calls. Instead of 6pm, the weekend now starts at 7pm. Which means that free evening calls between these hours are no longer free. Notification of this change was buried within letters and emails that went out to customers – I’ll bet you didn’t notice it in there.

And consumer experts recently listed a number of financial products that are useless. The long list included mobile phone insurance (it’s covered by your home insurance), extended warranties (far too expensive to be worthwhile), identity fraud cover (that’s you bank’s responsibility).

 They must know the product is useless when they sell it to you. They’re all at it, I tell you.

And small print; why has that not been made illegal? It’s only there to trap the unwary. I discovered a great computer program that would speed up my internet connection – allegedly. I was just about to use this “free” product when I noticed, in writing so small that an ant with a magnifying glass would have trouble reading it, “To avoid being charged the recurring subscription fee, simply cancel before the free-trial period ends.”

And this from a multi-billion dollar corporation. I suppose that’s how they became multi-billion dollar corporation. Legal trickery.

It was so much simpler in the old days when you could trust nationally recognised companies to look after you. All you had to watch out for was the guys selling six inch nails.

Drew McAdam


April 26, 2010


In recent years successive government departments have promoted buses as an efficient way to combat global warming and traffic gridlock. We are encouraged to leave the car at home and catch the Number 44.

Sounds sensible on the face of it. But if you apply a smattering of logic it becomes obvious that it’s utter nonsense.

Consider this: even if the bus IS more efficient and greener – which I very much doubt – when sitting at a bus stop it creates a tailback of parked cars, all of which are producing more greenhouse gasses than if they were allowed to simply carry on their way.

And have you noticed that when you do finally manage to get clear of the bus that’s been holding back the line of cars (and there will be another just ahead, don’t worry) it’s carrying only one or two passengers? A great big bus with a great big engine pumping God-knows-what into the atmosphere so that two people and a dog can get to The Buroo. Hardly sounds like a way to save the planet.

Now, buses are probably a good idea at rush-hour, granted. But for the other 11 hours it’s the stop – go – stop journey these wheeled boxes create for all the cars stuck behind them that really irks. With every stop, more cars join the queue until the bus is leading a mile-long procession through the town.

This isn’t helped by the number of bus stops, either. Take Polbeth; a village hardly a half mile from beginning to end. But it has eight bus stops – plus a temporary stop – within the village. And just yards outside the boundary there are another four! That’s thirteen places where a bus can block the street and create a jam, keeping a line of busy individuals and delivery trucks from going about their business, while a couple of dozy passengers fumble around in bags and pockets looking for the right change. And that’s just one village. Does that sound sensible to you?

Yet drivers put up with it every day. The next time you’re driving around a West Lothian town, try driving at bus-speed and stopping every 100 yards to ask whoever happens to be on the pavement if they have change of a fiver. I guarantee you won’t get very far before one of the drivers in the following cortege pulls you from the vehicle and gives you a hefty slap – or the police pull you over. But buses get away with it.

The conclusion? If you want to free up the traffic and reduce air pollution in West Lothian it might make more sense to reduce the number of buses trundling around our roads, and encourage people to take the car.

Drew McAdam