… between an awkward sod and a lovely lady.
Already in the writing-up process of a complaint against my local train service over the way they treated commuters last week as sheeple, there was another incident yesterday.
Just about to get on the train with everyone else, there was a woman passenger inside, blocking the door, screaming at someone else – turns out it was at a rail company employee. She was demanding, over and over, which train got her to a station she mentioned.
I knew this incoming train now bypassed that country station and couldn’t see what the fuss was all about. Anyone checking the boards and tickertape would know that – it’s signposted.
Besides, passengers were waiting to get off and we were waiting to get on. The employee kept saying she didn’t know which train stopped at that station and was the woman getting off or staying on? Passengers were waiting to alight and board.
The woman stormed off and I felt some sympathy in the light of the other matter with the rail company. I thought I’d talk to the employee who was being shouted at. Turns out she didn’t know anything about when which train went where.
I asked why she didn’t – if she was wearing a company badge, then it was only logical passengers would approach her for information.
The poor woman was on edge so I gave her the info on the trains on that line, then asked what she was actually doing – checking if the trains ran on time?
“No,” she said, “I’m checking how many get on and off at each station.”
“Ah, this is useful, is it?” She looked nonplussed. “No matter, they probably want to know whether to increase to 6 carriages from 3.”
She looked just as bewildered, then explained that she didn’t travel by train, she didn’t know anything about trains.
“And yet you wear the company badge, with your name handwritten on it.”
As she’d already turned her badge inwards so no one would know she was from the company, she wondered how I knew that.
I explained I’d seen it from outside the train.
“No, I’m not employed by XXXX,” she was scathing. “They hired my company who sent me.”
“So why aren’t you wearing your company’s badge?”
No answer. I went on:
“Do you know why that woman shouted at you?” She indicated for me to continue. “It was because no one except me knew you were not from XXXX and I only knew because I found out from you and you told me. Are you going to tell every passenger on the train that? You’re smartly presented and are wearing the XXXX badge with your name on it. Ipso facto, to the majority of passengers, you are from them and therefore, know everything about the trains.
The woman who was shouting at you was a bit dim. At either end, there are boards listing the stations the train does and doesn’t go to. Inside the train are electronic ticker boards which tell passengers the same – there are four in each carriage. She should have checked the boards.
However, she didn’t and you didn’t know either because you’re not expected to know anything about the trains – on a “need to know” basis.
1. She missed her station;
2. When you asked her if she was getting off here or not and she got off, she most likely went to the information office. Now, at this station, that means five minutes across various bridges plus the man, in the end, once she’s had her say, will tell her to look at the big board etc. Let’s call the whole process about fifteen minutes.
She’s therefore missed this train now, which does not go to her station and she’ll only just miss the next one, from here, which does go to her station. But she’ll be nicely in time for the one after that which doesn’t go to her station.”
“Oh dear. Well, I didn’t know, did I?”
“No and that’s not your fault. It wasn’t felt necessary that you, for this job, needed to know anything about the trains you were working on, ostensibly as a XXXX officer. XXXX, in their “wisdom”, outsourced to your external company, which asked you to do this. The fault lies fairly and squarely with the head office of both companies and I have the personal email of the manager of XXXX, such email falling into my lap this morning.
The letter is up to about four pages at this point. This company is one of the least competent in the UK. The main problem is that they are employing the wrong people in management, parachutees who have bypassed the knowledge of the railways bit and have somehow gone straight to a “management” role. There are many articles on the internet about this sort of thing. Imagine the wrong decisions on a cascade of issues and that’s XXXX.”
“It’s the same all over the country,” she said. She then told me all the railways she’d been on these past few days. “All the companies are the same.”
“There it is in a nutshell,” I replied. “Why are they all like this, employing incompetents in key positions? All these incompetents see themselves as big managers and want to be at head office on big salaries. It’s some sort of empowerment for them. The ones who actually know what’s going on are downline but their voice is not listened to. They know too much.
So these non-comps get big ideas to justify their salaries, ideas which those down the line – real railways people – say won’t work. Then they’re ordered to do it. When non-comps are given power, it goes to their heads and they wield it like a wrecker’s ball.
It is rampant in this country, from Westminster down – sheer incompetence rewarded with employment in management on big salaries, incapable of foreseeing that if they hire someone who hires someone and that person wears a company badge, people will assume that person is from the company and in these frustrating times, is liable to explode.”
She was warming to this so I went on. “It’s outrageous that they let you face this without either preparing you or letting you wear your own company badge.”
“And I’m being made redundant on Thursday too.”
“There it is in a nutshell. I’m really terribly sorry to hear that and I mean it. Did you read in the paper or see on TV that we’ve all recovered from the recession and all is now well? I wonder if you or I think it’s all good at this time? I’ve been where you are and my thoughts will be with you. When I get home I shan’t forget. Sorry but I have to get off here. Best of luck.”
“And best of luck to you. Nice talking to you.”
And so back to the complaint letter to the manager, not that it will achieve anything but a little bloodymindedness now and then is the best thing going.