Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Chain mail

I just sent an e-mail to Mr P. at well-known publishers Archant. I got an automated reply saying “I’ll be out of the office until January 5. If the matter is urgent, please e-mail Mr S.” Deeming the matter reasonably urgent, I mailed Mr S. – and got an automated reply saying “I’ll be out of the office until January 5". Fortunately he did not say, "If the matter is urgent, please e-mail Mr P." or I'd still be at it next year.

Speaking of which, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish that loyal but diminishing band of readers a very happy, healthy and prosperous new year, and may your comments continue to be as creative, lively and penetrating – but conspicuously more numerous – in 2009 than in 2008.

Monday, December 08, 2008

BA Humbug

Just when I’d decided to retire from trying to be a consumer champion comes this credit-crunch-crushing offer from British Airways to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the One-World Alliance: reward, 10,000 BA miles!
All you have to do is this:
1. Fly First Class or Club long-haul.
2. Connect to another airline in the “Alliance”- American Airlines or one of nine others, including Finnair, Malév, Jordanian, LAN etc.
3. Complete the journey before December 19.
Not exactly an offer you can’t refuse – if you can afford to do all that, 10,000 BA miles (enough to take one person Economy Class to Glasgow) would be a highly resistible incentive. (You could buy them for £310.)

Enough of the caped crusading; I’ve decided to emulate the DG and move into Human Interest. So now, lest you get the impression that life on the Côte d’Azur is a bowl of cherries, a pip: we have new neighbours downstairs, who I hope read this. They have a three-year-old child. So did we, once, six times between us, and it’s a precious age. But these people are so precious about theirs that every movement we make causes them to ring – or shout – up to ask us to be quiet because the child is asleep. It must sleep 23 hours a day. They complained that our cane chairs scraped on our terrace, so we carpeted the terrace. They complain when we use the vacuum cleaner. They complain to our guests. Yesterday we returned from a long walk, changed into slippers – and within five minutes they rang to ask us to stop stamping.
We’ve been here eight years, and no other neighbour has ever complained. We spend only about six months of the year here, we read or write – neither very noisily – and play Scrabble, keeping score with felt-tip pens. We never have parties, rarely use the TV, and we tip-toe about the apartment in soft slippers.
So, having decided that we had compromised as far as we could, we called on them to ask if they could try to be a little more reasonable. (The child slept through the discussions.) Whether or not they appreciated our problems we don’t know – but they haven’t complained since.
If they do, we’re thinking of renting our apartment out to Michael Flatley for a while - as a rehearsal studio for River Dance.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

American Excess

Dear American Express,
Your current advertising says that American Express cardholders “gain access to a more exclusive world”. I fear you may have carried exclusivity to a point of excess. I have spent many hours over recent weeks trying unsuccessfully to access my own account.
The problem is that when I click “My account” and key in my ID info, I am told it does not agree with your records. I obviously can’t see those records, but I know that my details have not changed in years.
I call “assistance” (from France), key in my card number as requested and a man immediately ask for my card number again, then goes through the security routine and says there is nothing wrong with the card and assures me that I will be able to log in. I go back to the beginning and go through this loop again. And again. And again. And I get locked out.
I can’t e-mail you because when I click “E-mail us” I get “Site unobtainable”. I can’t use Help or access FAQs because it requires my ID reference, which you say is wrong.
A nice man named Chris listens to my woes and tells me he’ll give me a temporary password that will get enable me to log in. It doesn’t. Back to the beginning and repeat. Again. And again. I am now locked out.
Can you possibly imagine how frustrating and time-consuming all this is? Since there seems to be no way of solving the problem, I suggest that you cancel this card and issue me with a new one.
Yours sincerely

It's not just Amex is it? Security is the "Health and Safety" of the internet - the one-size-fits-all excuse. In fact, angry as I still am, I'd say AmEx are one of the better ones.

Speaking of excess, a Mr John C. Thomason of Colorado has a letter in the current Riviera Reporter: “I love everything about the French, but…” [sound familiar?] “…why are you French people…” [this to an Anglo expat magazine] “…afraid of Moslems and Russians”?
Blah, blah, blah, then “One day you people will get the same as us and then what? Cry for help a third time?”
Editor: Every issue we get at least one letter from a nutter. You’re the winner this time.