Dear Mark Hopwood and Sue Evans
Re: 08.06 FGW service from Oxford to Paddington, 28/6/11. Amount of my day wasted: 35 minutes.
I do hope you're well. My name is Dominic Utton and I am a customer of FGW. As Managing Director and Director of Communications for First Great Western respectively, I am sure you will be fascinated, concerned and most of all keen to hear about my experiences on your trains.
Because that's your job, right? To do all you can to provide a good service for your paying customers?
So: back to me. I have been getting First Great Western trains to and from my work at the News of the World for five days a week between Oxford and London for the past 14 months. And, to be honest with you, I'm fed up.
In fact, my frustration at the appalling service you provide has prompted me to write you this email. Not only this email - my frustration at never going more than about three journeys without experiencing a delay, has prompted me into what I'm going to call a "project".
A project! That makes it sound exciting doesn't it? Do you want to hear more about my project? You do! Oh goody! Here it is then. Here's my project.
From now on, every time I'm delayed on one of your trains I'm going to send you an email letting you know about it. Good eh?
But wait! It gets better! Not only will I send you an email every time I'm late, I'm going to make the length of that email reflect the length of delay on the service you have "provided" for me. Because, after all, Mr Mark Hopwood, Managing Director and Ms Sue Evans, Director of Communications, it is your job to be interested, concerned, and eager to help with this kind of thing, isn't it? Because you're both anxious to provide the best service you can to your customers, right?
Good. So, to continue with the rationale behind my project.
The idea is that by sending you an email every time I'm on one of your delayed trains, I shall waste some of your time, just as you have wasted mine. If you've only wasted a few minutes of my morning (or evening) I shall accordingly send you a short, pithy, minute-or-two wasting email. And if, on the other hand, you've wasted more of my time, so the email shall be longer, and no doubt far more tedious for you to read.
This morning, for example, you wasted 35 minutes of my time, when the 08.06 train from Oxford to Paddington slowed to a crawl between Maidenhead and Slough. I was late for work. I'll have to leave work late now. Thanks for that. Thanks for wasting my time, messing up my work schedules and wrecking my evening.
Anyway. Back to wasting your time.
Because the thing is, it's not a bad idea of mine, is it? This project, I mean. If only there were a way I could charge you £458 a month to have your time wasted by me, or make sure that you had to read my emails standing next to a lot of similarly disgruntled people next to an overflowing toilet, the experience and analogy would be perfect.
Alas, it's not a perfect world. And we all have to settle for what we can.
The thing is, Mr Mark Hopwood and Ms Sue Evans, time is precious, isn't it? I'm sure you're not enjoying having your time wasted like this. I'm sure as Managing Director and Director of Communications for First Great Western, you have fantastically busy working days. I'm sure you have happy, healthy, fulfilled home lives too. I'm sure that you wouldn't want unnecessary wastes of time to impact upon either your work or home life, would you?
Of course not. It's rubbish when that happens.
In fact, I shall be presumptuous enough to even assume that the prospect of receiving many many more emails like this from me - some of which, let's not kid ourselves here, will be longer and far more tedious to match the longer, more tedious delays that your train company will doubtless waste my time with - fills you with a kind of dread and ennui. Of course it does! And that's how I feel every morning at Oxford and every evening at Paddington. It's like anticipation in reverse.
What do you call anticipation in reverse, do you think? What's the word for when you're expecting something that you know will be rubbish? Something for us all to think about perhaps.
So then, that's my project. It may be that by some happy miracle your train service suddenly starts doing what I'm paying you to make it do, and run according to the timetables. In which case, this will be both hello and farewell!
But, I think we both know that's not going to happen, don't we? So - not farewell, but au revoir. (That's French, you know. It means "until we see each other again". Or something similar.) I've got a train to catch home tonight, after all. What do you think the chances of it running on time actually are? I mean - as Managing Director and Director of Communications for First Great Western, you should be able to put a percentage on one of your trains running on time, shouldn't you?
Shall we say: 100 per cent chance? No, of course not. Ninety per cent? Eighty? Fifty? Twenty? Let's see, shall we?