A Beyond the Sphere election special post.
It’s General Election day in the United Kingdom today. They come around more frequently than Leap Years in modern times, and are just as much fun.
We’ve had hours of promises and counter-promises, proper gander and hip hop rap, heartfelt apologies for previously bringing in the wrong thing whilst in a previous government, and sincere promises that this time they’ll do better. We’ve been threatened that one thing will happen if we vote for such a party, and that will happen if we vote for a different one, we mustn’t vote for X because of Y, C can’t stand because of B, W was recorded saying this about Q, P became a block of ice, and blah blah blah…
I’m not politically minded. I can’t stand all the squabbling and bickering that goes on between politicians. I couldn’t bring myself to watch the ‘TV debates’ where nobody was interested in what any of the politicians had to say, but most folk were interested in what they had to say wrong.
I didn’t listen to the opinion polls, because I’m not interested in anybody else’s opinion. I did notice, however, how subtle messages the like of ‘you must vote this way’ came through in the oddest of ways; for example a TV programme review flipped itself round to one of the politician’s interests. I just stopped reading the review there.
But tonight I did my bit and went and cast my vote.
I walked down the dimly lit alley to the polling station. I pushed the door which needed to be pulled to open – they’d covered the ‘pull’ sign with the ‘polling station’ sign. I walked across a vast empty room, to a row of desks that were arranged in an L shape at the far side of the room. A man and a woman sat on the left, and two other women sat behind the tables directly ahead. The polling booth was over to the right.
“Hi” said the man, as I approached the table he was sitting at, not knowing whether I needed to go to him or not. I handed him my polling card as I said “Hello” in return. He asked me to confirm my full name, and then checked that I had gone to the correct polling station, which, luckily for all of us, I had done. It was the address on the polling card, so I couldn’t really have gotten it wrong.
The man gave a series of letters and numbers to the woman sitting next to him, and she announced that she’d written down a completely different set and questioned why she’d done that. She wrote down the correct series, and the man then handed me my polling slip.
“You MUST mark ONLY ONE X” the woman said, pointing to the polling booth at the other side of the room. “And then you MUST bring it back, and pop it INTO THAT BOX there” – this time she pointed at the ballot box beside the end of the table where the man sat.
I walked slowly across the room, noticing how eerily quiet and empty the place was. I marked my paper in the booth as instructed, and folded it as I walked back the ballot box to cast my vote. My slip was half-way into the slot when the man asked “Er… did you get that ballot slip from us?” I did that three way double-take look you do when you ask yourself if you were being asked the question. I looked around the room, and I was still the only person in there. “YES, he did.” said the woman. “Yes, I did” I also replied, not actually sure whether I should have been speaking at that moment but the correct words formed as I did so, so it must have been alright.
I then left the polling station, walked back along the dimly lit alley and then rejoined what felt like reality. This reality. Tomorrow’s may be completely different. Or it may be the same. Or it may appear to be the same, but really be completely different.
We just don’t know.
And by Jiminy will we be told about it for months to come.
Beyond the Sphere now returns to its regular irregular programme.
Just six words that have an unnerving affect on me.
They are just words, I know. Maybe I shouldn’t let them bother me quite as much as they do, but ugh! They really bother me.
I can’t seem to do anything without getting one of these letters or emails or text messages or phone calls nowadays. Oh, how I long for the days when I can just go to the shop and buy something, and as soon as I leave the experience ends there. Or use a service and when it’s done, it’s done.
‘They’ say they want the feedback so they can improve their services. ‘They’ say it is for customer satisfaction. ‘They’ say it is for marketing purposes. ‘They’ always seem to ask for this, yet wherever you go everything is always as it has been.
‘They’ say it takes five minutes to complete their ‘customer satisfaction surveys’. It probably does, per survey, but when you get asked for feedback for every bloomin’ thing you do those five minutes can add up to an hour or two.
I had one manager of a mobile phone store once tell me to give the store a mark of 9 or 10 on how well they did, when I received their survey, otherwise it would trigger an investigation within their internal review team. Unfortunately, the manager lied to me regarding the wording of a contract, after I had to wait for over an hour to be seen in the first place, so they didn’t even get a score of zero from me. I never responded. I’d already lost an hour waiting to be told how to answer the question.
I made a phone call earlier today to an energy company, and as I was trying to give a little more detail regarding my enquiry, the advisor simply cut me off mid-sentence and asked me a totally different question. I then, shortly afterwards, received a phone call from their internal review team asking how well they did. Well, I say phone call – it was from a robot. Same as with the mobile phone store, they didn’t get any feedback. (Phone calls nowadays ore recorded ‘for training purposes’, so they may hear that call, should their internal review team get round to listening to it.)
The dentists want to know how they’ve done. The computer shop want to know how they’ve done. The Bathroom-fitting people want to know how they’ve done. The petrol station want to know how they’ve done. Even places where there is no alternative to go to want to know if I would recommend their services.
If you do not know how you are operating yourselves, then it is rather a poor show, don’t you think? Instead of investing in these tactics, why don’t you just provide a good service, or, if you want to show off, a really good service, and have done with it. If you mess it up, and you will, no worries there, just have your customer services team on standby ready to handle the complaint.
Maybe I’m getting old now, and this is the start of the onset of grumpiness. Mind you, I must have started getting old when I was a teenager, because I have been somewhat grumpy (in certain circumstances!) since then.
So… does this question cause you to feel the same way? I’d love to know. Please leave your feedback in the comments below…
(A grumpy Six Word Saturday post)