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Big Ben

Our Industry Has A Bad Name

Peter Guest

It doesn’t snow much in England’s green and pleasant land but in 2010 we had a doozie with half the country in lock down, all because it snowed. This included Nottingham where streets were deep in snow and ice and for several days. Now the thing about our parking rules is that “NO-PARKING” is only shown by striping the road, there are no vertical signs so if there is 18 inches of snow on the ground drivers have no way to know they can’t park.

Despite this Nottingham’s parking contractor valiantly fought on to provide a service and their staff could be seen on the street scraping the snow away with their feet to reveal the parking restrictions and then issue tickets. Anthony Wilkinson watched the tickets being written and thought this was unreasonable (I agree). Even though they were not his cars he wrote to the Council challenging the actions of the contractor. Then it all went a bit wrong for the City. The Council apparently denied that anything so underhand had happened and said the tickets would stand, even although the wardens’ actions were recorded on CCTV. 18 months and 30 letters later the city has finally held their hands up and cancelled the tickets. I do hope that the person who denied that it had happened and held out for 18 months even when faced with CCTV evidence has now been given a job more suitable to their skills; night soil collection comes to mind.

Why our industry has a bad name (2)

Car park operator 1 raised the costs of parking at 38 of its 104 London sites to cover the “increased costs” of operating the sites during the Olympic and Paralympics with increases up to 82% at one site next to an Olympic venue. The reason for this was apparently because the company hired an extra 35 staff so that the car parks were fully staffed

“To ensure that we are providing the best possible efficient environment for our customers”; which is what I thought they did anyway. Interestingly at the same time car park operator number 2 announced that there would be no price increase at their central London sites because “any extra costs incurred as a result of the Olympics are minimal.” The truth is out there somewhere...

I hate it when they do that. (This is a curmudgeon’s grouse; you can skip over it if you are under 50)

Marks and Spencer is an English institution. Mr. Marks and Mr. Spencer started selling cloths in a penny bazaar off a market stall in Leeds in 1894. Roll the clock forwards a hundred and twenty years and we have a billion pound retailer with over a thousand stores worldwide selling clothes, food, furniture and most famously underwear. There is probably no one in Britain male or female that hasn’t bought their underclothes from M&S at some time. You would think that “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it” would be the company’s credo here but no. Men’s socks are sold by shoe size with each sock size covering three British shoe sizes. I have a shoe size 9 ½ so socks size 9-11 are perfect for me and this is what I bought, for the last 40 years. Only now they do size 7-9 and 10-12. The little ones are too tight and the big ones flap around; moan, moan, moan...

Seemed like a good idea at the time.

City Authorities in Shaoyang China decided that it would be a good idea if they gave a thousand local citizens the power to issue tickets for minor traffic offences and anti-social behavior such as spitting. The plan was that these people who apparently are mostly retired civil servants and party members get 500Yuan ($75) a month but they then get to keep 80% of the face value of all the fines that they issue.

 According to the Independent Newspaper: Head of the Shaoyang urban management bureau, Wang Dasong, claimed that the scheme was an attempt to “improve the urban traffic situation without expending too many of the city’s resources”, and hailed the program as a success. Others tell a different story; with drivers who commit minor infringements being surrounded by gangs of people each demanding that they pay an on- the-spot $1.50 fine. This although City officials say that the inspectors are only supposed to report the offence which the authorities will then follow up. Not surprisingly the inspectors, known as chengguan are widely despised and, the China Daily said the city authorities in Shaoyang were breaking the law with this scheme which has also been adopted by other cities in Hunan province

Meanwhile back in Shaoyang city hall the authorities have apparently been surprised to learn that when enforcers are paid by results they tend to enforce more and bend the rules. The City is considering dropping the scheme. Never saw that coming.

Olympics

A final thought on the Olympics. I couldn’t get to the Olympics but my daughter bought us all tickets to the opening day of the Paralympics track and field in the main stadium. All I can say about the venue and the athletes is WOW! The organization was silky smooth with everyone involved on the ground super helpful making sure that everyone had a good day.

Unfortunately the sponsors come out of the event rather less well. VISA got pole spot on the sponsorship table and totally excluded the use of MASTERCARD or any other plastic payment in the event. Why? You got the Kudos from sponsoring the event and do you really think that any MASTERCARD user is going to switch to you after you pissed them off by not letting them buy little Johnny a souvenir with their card?

The event loses, the customer loses and so Mr VISA do you. Now VISA may say that people had plenty of time to sort this issue out but apparently this was not long enough to allow VISA to put in ATMs with speech synthesis for blind people. The publically stated reason was that they didn’t have long enough to do this. The Olympics were awarded in 2005.

And finally, the Olympics decided for security reasons that people wouldn’t be allowed to bring in liquids, just like at an airport. This meant that the bottle of Coke that I bought for $1.20 in the supermarket was taken off me at the gate; but it’s OK Coca Cola is a sponsor and there is plenty for sale inside; only the same bottle now costs $3.60 a 200% mark up. I would be really interested to hear the justification that explains just how this is not blatant exploitation of a monopoly situation using the force of law to impose the monopoly.

Peter Guest is PT’s correspondent in the UK, Europe and the Middle East, and discusses all things parking. He can be reached at peterguestparking@hotmail.co.uk.



 

Article Abstract from October, 2012




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