Magazine

Big Ben

Our favorite Brit becomes Mr. Grumpy

Peter Guest

Fewer and fewer people seem to understand that the words “change” and “improvement” have different meanings these days.

Changing things for the sake of changing them should be a capital offense. People who do this should be ritually disembowelled in a public place as a warning to others, and children should be made to watch

and learn.

 My local supermarket here in the UK was recently “improved,” and now the vegetables are where the clothes were, the juice is where they used to keep the biscuits, and who knows where the washing powder has gone?

Just about everybody in the place is complaining, and the store has had to employ about 20 people to help customers find what they want. Why? How is this a better service? What failure in the gene pool decided the way to get more business is to piss off 100% of your customers?

And now Microsoft has joined in. I use its Hotmail service for email, but now that’s been “upgraded” to Outlook, and everything is somewhere else on a new screen, which appears to have been designed by someone who failed Graphics 101 – badly.

No, my “experience is not improved; no, it’s not better.” It’s just a pointless change that adds nothing and wastes my time having to learn a new layout to do what I already knew how to do. GRRR!



Oops!

Over here in England’s green and pleasant land, we have some pretty strict laws about what people can and can’t do with information that they might hold on you in a computer system; it’s called the Data Protection Act.

Basically, the act says that, if you have data on someone, you can use it only for the purpose for which it was supplied (so you can’t use information provided for, say, a job application for marketing for example), and you cannot share it with a third party.

There’s other stuff, but this is the core of the act.

It has been alleged that parking operators UKPC (UK Parking Control Ltd.) have a bit of a problem with the photos they have taken of people who they claim have parked improperly at the thousand or so carparks they manage up and down the country.

Each ticket contains a unique link that should allow a driver to see just the photos that relate to the infringement they are supposed to have committed. However, a driver has claimed that by tweaking the systems, UKPC have been able to access other people’s details, which is a complete no-no under data protection rules.

UKPC have responded with threats of legal action against those claiming the breach. Meanwhile, the Information Commissioner’s Office, the body that polices the Data Protection Act, has said:

“We have recently been made aware of a possible data

breach involving UKPC, and are now making enquiries into the circumstances of the alleged breach before deciding what action, if any, needs to be taken.”

If UKPC have got it wrong, then the penalties are quite high.



This is just silly

A few months ago, I wrote about the sale of several parking slots in a seaside town in Cornwall, where parking places are few and far between. Each slot raised about £50,000, or $75,000 or so U.S. dollars. This figure is blown out of the water by a Knightsbridge real estate agent who is offering a Rolls Royce-size space in a Central London garage for £275,000 (about $422.000 U.S.). And they expect to get it!

A government-of-none-of-the-talents

A conservative Member of Parliament, that’s an MP from their own party, last year described our Prime Minister (David Cameron) and Chancellor (George Osborne) as “two posh boys who don’t know the price of a pint of milk ... [and] who show no remorse, no contrition, and no passion to want to understand the lives of others. ...”

Well, the Chancellor kind of gave weight to this view when, at a recent stop in a service station, his car was blatantly parked in a disabled parking bay so that Mr. Osborne could get his Big Mac with the minimum of inconvenience.

 The Chancellor has a bit of a track record for missing the details. Not so long ago, he was nabbed travelling in a first-class train carriage with a second-class ticket and had to cough up an extra £160 (about $245 U.S.) to get the correct ticket.

Just to show that Cameron is not going to be outdone by his chancellor, the PM’s Jaguar managed to park for more than three hours in a 30-minute-parking bay on a visit to his constituency.

Talk about living up to your image! I am old enough to remember when politicians used to set a good example!

Other UK government ministers aren’t doing much better; Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles is banging on about ending “the war on motorists [who] have to run the gauntlet of unfair fines and soaring parking charges ... .”

Unfair fines? Well, the fines levels are set by Mr. Pickles’ government, and surely they are unfair only if the driver didn’t break the rules – and yet, surprisingly few drivers seem to appeal.

Soaring charges? Well, Mr. P, a few inconvenient truths here.

One, your government requires that all municipal parking operations are self-financing. They are not, of course, but that’s the rule.

Two, since central government has massively cut support to municipalities, the ability to provide “free” parking has disappeared.

Three, if councils do decide to offer “free” parking, the only place they can get the money is by raising the local council tax, which the government has put a cap on.

Sadly, Mr. P’s views on all this are endorsed by former Transport Secretary Philip Hammond, who really should know better.



Peter Guest, a consultant in the UK, is PT’s editor at large on all things British, European, Middle Eastern and Indian. Reach him at peterguestparking@hotmail.co.uk.

Article Abstract from May, 2013




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