With Bells On

Are we becoming more gullible? Or is it just me? I like to think that I’m quite wise to this nonsense but I’m also regularly surprised how the Spinners can present something as being really good for us, whilst shafting us in the process.

Two weeks ago, the cab company that provides Steven’s transport were taken over by a larger outfit. Two days into the takeover, I had to phone them to add another booking and the lady asked me if I was aware of their new “pricing system”. I admitted that I wasn’t. She explained that they were now operating a “peak” and “off peak” service and most of Steven’s outward journeys fall into their “peak” zone. That bit lasted all of a minute. She then spent ten minutes telling me about the great discounts on offer during their off peak times. A bit like George Osborne not explaining where he’s going to find an extra £8m from for the NHS, the woman refused to return to a discussion of the new peak rates – “You’ll see the big savings that can be had from our new discount scheme”.

So, what does this mean in reality? You’re probably ahead of me on this one. Every single fare, both outward and homeward, peak and off peak has increased. And not by a small sum too. For example, the old fare to the Mencap Pool and back was £7.50 each way. Now, because Steven goes at 5.30 pm (which they classify as peak), the outward journey is £12. He returns, during an off peak time but even allowing for their “generous discount”, the new homeward fare is £9.70. That’s a £6.70 increase for a trip that takes 10 minutes! In one fell swoop, the new company’s new pricing policy has added £25.80 per week to Steven’s transport budget.

But hold on a darned second. There’s more to their services than just the ride. We now get an online receipt, emailed within minutes of the journey ending. Up until now, the cab driver has provided a paper receipt as we alight the car. But, oh boy, these new receipts are all singing, all dancing. The detail they contain is extraordinary. You get a map showing the route the driver took. You get the time the car arrived, the time we got into the car and the time the car arrived at its destination. You get the distance of the trip and the length of time it took. It also gives the CO2 emissions (yesterday’s 9 minute return home from the pool had a CO2 rating of 661g). Finally, there are the details of the car – a description of the model, the driver’s badge number and the car registration. Unfortunately, this appeals to the geek in me. I found myself thinking: “1.95 miles in 00.09 minutes. How fascinating. I might bring this up to break the ice in my Schopenhauer encounter group on Tuesday”. See how I get sucked in.

Then this morning, came the latest new whistles and bells feature. Steven’s car to the Arts Centre is booked for 9.30. I leave early on Monday mornings to pick up his cherry bakewells and open up the Arts centre. At 9 o’clock, I’m sitting in the Centre, reading the paper, when I get a text from the cab company. It was informing me that I can “track the progress of the vehicle before it arrives at your pick up point”. I experienced a nano second of excitement before combusting. “It’s half an hour before the car is due. Do I really want to follow the driver’s progress for the next 30 minutes? Am I bothered that he’s on his way to Terminal 5? Is this what they mean by customer participation? Will I form a special bond with the driver knowing how he spent the half an hour before we met? It might give us something to talk about if we get stuck in traffic”. What bollocks.

I’m typing this haphazardly because I have suddenly developed a layer of wool over my eyes. For all the spin about the “improved service”, the “generous discounts”, the “exclusive receipting” and the “pre journey engagement”, the bottom line is that every single fare has increased by 62%.

From Gideon down to a Cowley cab firm, this stuff is endemic now.

10 thoughts on “With Bells On”

  1. And you’re having to pay an extra 62% for ‘services’ to Steven that you didn’t ask for and don’t want. ‘Economic’ isn’t the first term that springs to mind. I gave my bank a bollocking when they kept harassing me about getting a ‘premium’ account, which would involve me paying £dunno for frills I didn’t require but at least they couldn’t just switch me to a new account. Are you stuck with this firm by the terms of the PB or because switching will unsettle Steven? If you are, is there a contingency provision in the PB to cover beyond-your-control changes of this nature?

  2. I get the feeling that some of these things are technology looking for a problem, not technology providing a solution. When they can’t find a problem that their technology can solve, they have to make one up.

    I would add this to the electricity monitors that ‘help you save electricity’. They don’t, turning off lights that are not being used saves electricity. And the internet fridges that will order food. And package tracking:


    Don’t go crazy!

  3. This must be what we’re being told is the upturn in the economy! Unbelievable when all you want is to get from A to B. I suppose you could do a tender and make them do the work!! small ad in the local paper? Email to all listed taxi firms and get them to email you back with their best offer? Like Kara2008 I would definitely not want to use them ever again! Anyone else locally having the same problem? Maybe you could do a collective tender and get bulk rates!

  4. Hi Mark and Steven,

    I work at a local library, and spend quite a bit of time on the Reference desk. We’ve got access to two ‘business information’ databases, which are called FAME and MINT. They’re often used by companies providing services to other businesses, to generate a list of possible customers and their contact details. I’m just thinking if there’s something similar available at your locsl library, it might be a way to short-cut some of the work involved in finding a new provider for things like this in future.

    If your local library doesn’t have anything like this (and as far as I recall they should, it’s part of the public libraries’ universal information offer) dro4p me a line and I’ll find out if I can do searches for your area from my library, or if I can find somewhere locally that will help you.


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