Tuesday, 5 July 2011

4 July 2011. Letter 4

Dear Mark and Sue

Re: 19.21 FGW service from Paddington to Oxford, 4/7/11. Amount of my day wasted: 11 minutes.

Gosh, this is becoming a regular correspondence isn't it? More regular than even I anticipated. The service you're providing must be worse than any of us could have guessed!

Or, at least, worse than I realised. How about you Mark? What sayest thou Sue? Are you aware just how frequently your trains run late? How closely do you monitor these things? Do you bite your fingernails and chainsmoke cigarettes fretting about it? Do you roll up your sleeves, loosen your ties (run with the metaphor here, Sue), pour yourself a stiff drink and burn the midnight oil wondering how to make things better?

Thankyou for your most recent email, Mark. Great to hear you're double-checking my tardy arrivals - you clearly have a far more expensive and accurate watch than mine. Accuracy is a good thing, don't you think? Accuracy, punctuality, transparency. Old Isambard Kingdom would be proud of you! (Well, perhaps that's not strictly true, given the appalling train service you're providing for your vastly-overcharged customers, but I'd like to think he'd at least tip his stovepipe to your timepiece.)

So then: your attention to detail concerning my last delay intrigues me. I said eight minutes, you said six. You checked, dude! You totally checked! There must, I thought, be a spreadsheet! Is there a spreadsheet, Mark? Does he let you see it, Sue?

You use spreadsheets a great deal, I imagine. Which spreadsheets do you pore over most when you're pondering the big issues at First Great Western? The ones detailing exactly which of your services ran to the times you promised they would? Or the ones detailing profit and loss, cost-effectiveness and "efficiency savings"? Which of those spreadsheets shape your corporate strategy?

I wonder.

So: the raison d'ĂȘtre for today's missive. Mark, Sue: you will be distressed to hear my train home was delayed. Again. You have wasted my time. Again. What's that now? Four times in a week or so? Dear oh dear!

Tonight's delay wasted 11 minutes of my time. Hence the length of this message.

Let's call this a middling length, shall we? Not insignificant, of course, but then not eye-wateringly impressive either. Average, I'd say. The kind of length a man needn't be ashamed of - but then not so long he'd feel compelled to boast either.

An average length then. How do you two feel about that? Do you think it's fair to describe a delay of 11 minutes to one of your services as average?

Is average something we should all learn to live with? Or should we look at both those spreadsheets again? And maybe, you know, try to do a better job? Or do our jobs better. Even if it means we don't make quite so much profit? Even if it means our bonuses won't cover the cost of a shiny new Rolex this year? Seriously chaps: I'd love to hear your "feedback" on this. Because, and I mean this at least as sincerely as you do, your views are important to me.

How are we doing for time, Mark? What's that wrist-candy of yours saying? Have we reached our allotted 11 minutes yet? We have? Oh what a shame! There's still so much to say! I was going to tell you all about the novel I'm going to write, for example. It hinges on a... well, I won't spoil it. I'll save it for next time. Because I'm sure there will be a next time.

Until then, mes amis, au revoir!


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