Pete Fletcher, RIP

I learned today that an old colleague had died back in July, after a 9-month battle with cancer – a battle very few of us even knew about.

I’m sat here trying to describe him – loud, opinioned, honest, funny – he was a northerner, so all these adjectives are each a cliché by way of characterisation, but nevertheless they also act as truisms.

Sam Soliman: “He was quite the character who had a story for every occasion, appropriate or not (mostly not), but he got away with it and made every situation a laugh. I had this photo still on my phone …”

Condolences to those who knew and loved him.

My Own Heston Aerodrome Speech

My last post told of what I described as despicable money-grabbing behaviour on the part of First Great Western, and the fact that I was clearly lied to by either the conductor or the Customer Service department.

Well, after I was given short shrift by the customer service department (the irony), my ranting was picked up on by someone from the PR department, Customer Relations, and I was assured that I would indeed receive my refund as was originally promised. I am happy to report that the cheque arrived yesterday, and is about to wing its merry little way into the coffers of yours truly. To paraphrase the words of Neville Chamberlain: “…and here is the paper which bears my name upon it…”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have finally received my customer service, but in the same week that a 6% rise in train fares was announced (don’t get me started on the disparaging and exasperating issue of fare prices – haha: “fair” prices! Geddit!?), and general austerity measures are being applied across the board in Europe, I find it baffling that First Great Western has to have a Customer Relations department on top of a Customer Service department – both from a functional perspective, as well as a fiscal one. Surely only one would do? I know which one I’d keep if I were the chairman, btw, Miss Jones. Thank you for your intervention.

I’m sure there’s a moral here – perhaps something about truth and honesty avoiding the need for over-investment in the PR machine? I don’t know. Personally, I’m just happy to have my money back – even if it did only happen through the power of the internet.

FGW Rail: Money Grabbing Bastards

Earlier this month, I had the deep misfortune to travel with First Great Western to London. I had done my part and ordered my ticket ahead of time, and for this dilligence I was rewarded with a compulsory seat reservation. Unfortunately, I lost the reservation stub for my return journey. I didn’t think this would be a problem – I took my place on the correct train, and proceeded to sit. Given that no-one ever seems to care where I sit (never in my allotted – compulsory – seat) on the way out, I assumed the same nonchalance would apply on the way back. Not so…

Despite my protestations, I was forced to buy another ticket for the return portion of my journey. The conductor assured me that I would be eligible for a refund if I later found my reservation stub. I begrudgingly coughed up the money and sulked my way home. I’d bemoan the fact that the train was 20 minutes late arriving (sat out in the dark somewhere), but frankly that’s just par for the course.

But wait, the following day I discovered that I hadn’t in fact LOST my reservations stub – merely misplaced it – so I contacted First Great Western to ask how to apply for the refund that I was promised. Oh happy day!

*insert sound of needle dragging on vinyl*

Here is the response from FGW:
I’m sorry you did not have your seat reservation coupon and were asked to pay extra money to complete your journey. Whilst I appreciate this must have been annoying for you, my colleague was quite correct to ask you to pay this amount so I’m unable to offer you a refund.

1. Seat reservations are compulsory when buying ahead
2. Seat reservations, in my experience, are never enforced
3. The conductor LIED to me about being eligible for a refund if I later found my reservation stub (which I duly did, hence my initial contact)

I find all of this distasteful behaviour on the part of First Great Western, and an extremely poor excuse for squeezing money out of customers who are not in a position to take advantage of alternative vendors.


Warning to all: DO NOT LOSE your seat reservation stub, do not even MISPLACE said stub.

RyanAir Joke

I love a good bad joke, and it appears the CEO of British Airways has been doing the rounds telling a joke about his oppo at Ryanair…

Mr O’Leary goes into a pub, asks for a pint of Guinness and is told by the barman that it will cost him £1.

“Just £1?” asks Mr O’Leary.

“Well, I’m a great fan of yours,” says the barman.

So Mr O’Leary hands over £1 and the barman goes to pour the pint, when he stops and asks: “Would you be wanting a glass with that?”