Un marchio da dimenticare

Un marchio da dimenticare

In questi giorni va all’asta il marchio Alitalia. Prezzo base 290 milioni di Euro.

Ma sono impazziti?

Il marchio Alitalia è un marchio da dimenticare, è il simbolo di una “bad company” che per troppi decenni ha fornito un servizio scadente a un costo enorme per le tasche dei contribuenti.

E’ il simbolo della letale miscela di cattiva gestione manageriale e sindacalismo miope che l’hanno resa ingovernabile e inguaribile.

Non so se nessuno vorrai mai contaminarsi con quel marchio, ma certamente non a quel prezzo.

E’ anzi probabile che l’asta vada deserta, perché solo attraverso le lenti appannate di un burocrate di stato si può pensare che il marchio in questione valga ancora qualcosa.

Chi comprerebbe il marchio Eternit, quello della defunta azienda che produceva coperture in fibrocemento contenenti amianto?

E intanto i sindacati cercano di traghettare il loro humus ideale di corruzione e incapacità nella nuova compagnia, Ita, nonostante l’Europa abbia dato l’assenso alla sua creazione a condizione di assicurarne la discontinuità con la bad company.

Ita ha già poche possibilità di sopravvivere e crescere nell’attuale contesto, ma non ne avrà nessuna se il sindacalismo d’assalto la spunta. Quei dipendenti Alitalia che dovranno restarsene a casa hanno avuto anni di tempo e generosi “scivoli” per trovarsi altre occupazioni o andare in pensione. Se ne facciano una ragione.

Detto sinceramente, chi è rimasto in Alitalia non è il tipo di collaboratore di cui una start-up come Ita ha bisogno e il contribuente è stanco di finanziare degli incapaci..

Ho lavorato in Alitalia per due anni, dal 1982 al 1984, e ho rapidamente concluso che quell’azienda di scansafatiche, raccomandati e intoccabili politici non era il mio futuro. Sono fuggito alla prima occasione e mi sono redento con una carriera commerciale durata 25 anni.

Ita parte male (non le potevano trovare un nome meno stupido?) ma ha diritto a partire da zero senza alcun handicap.

Non si compete nei cento metri stile libero con un sacco di cemento appeso al collo.

Customer Service Woes

Customer Service Woes

My son runs a food-service firm in Kent, UK. He texted me earlier this week seeking my assistance on an apparently minor problem.

One of his Italian-made food-processing machines broke down and he promptly identified which component needed replacing. It’s something slightly more complicated than a stainless-steel bolt, but without a suitable replacement part, his machine can’t run.

The UK distributor told him a spare part can be made available in six-weeks’ time. That’s a long time, if your ability to serve your customers is impaired.

My son wondered if I could help him, seeing as I’m based in Italy. (I know, thinking you can solve problems with a phone call is old-economy, but old habits die hard.)

I called P.F., the Italian firm whose name appears on the equipment, quoted the serial number of the machine and the part number of the broken bolt.

The customer service woman I spoke with warned me that they don’t normally deal with end users, except through their distributors. I explained to her this was an urgent matter because my son does not have a duplicate machine of this kind he can use in the interim.

She asked me to write her an e-mail with all the relevant information, which I did the moment I closed the call.

Nothing happened for 3 days.

This morning I called her number again, only to find out she was not at work. It transpired she had her Covid-19 shot yesterday and today she runs a slight fever. Hence, no work. Also, this evening her firm will effectively shut down for two weeks due to the traditional August vacation period.

Her colleague was kind enough to access the e-mail I had sent containing all the necessary details. She ran a quick search and reported to me the machine is actually produced by a third firm, P.G., and she gave me a number to call.

In parting, I asked her why her coworker had not seen fit to respond to my mail with the same information, but predictably she couldn’t/wouldn’t say.

The next person I spoke with was a customer service employee at P.G., the company that makes the damn equipment.

Once I explained my son’s predicament, she told me she did not really understand why P.F. (the firm that sells their machines) had referred me to her, since P.F. are supposedly in charge of selling spare parts as well. Not unlike the machines, spares are manufactured by P.G. but distributed by P.F.

I told her I had a hunch why. The August vacation clock was ticking and nobody could be bothered to address a customer issue. Even answering my mail proved too heavy a burden.

The customer service employee at P.G. suggested that, at the end of the day, going through the UK distributor was the wisest course of action.

I told her that it was a sad state of affairs when the buyer of an EU-made machine enjoys the same level of after-sales support he would get from a Chinese manufacturer, but after possibly spending three times as much for the equipment. Yet, this lady had at least sounded kind and understanding—and she hadn’t asked me to write her an e-mail that she could promptly delete.

Everybody offers outstanding customer support on their website, and you can access it through e-mail, an old-fashioned phone, or even via chat. But flashy, eye-catching websites are comparatively cheap to produce.

Good customer service is expensive: it takes the launching of top-down policies that affect all levels in the organization, good training, and an equally good follow-on by line management.

Everything else is window dressing, by which I mean a bunch of BS.

Cretini reali e cretini virtuali

Cretini reali e cretini virtuali

Il cretino non è un animale in via d’estinzione. Anzi.

Nella vita quotidiana, il cretino viaggia spesso sotto il radar della nostra attenzione ma è sempre presente. E’ nel traffico (viaggia nell’auto accanto—e magari anche in quella davanti a noi), è nei mezzi pubblici (ma con la mascherina, quindi seminascosto), cammina sul marciapiedi e anche soprattutto in monopattino elettrico, pronto a comportarsi da cretino appena se ne presenti l’occasione.

Poi ci sono i cretini virtuali, quelli che usano il Web e si rivelano tali per le domande o le affermazioni che fanno online.

Il vantaggio è che qui non si tratta di incontri reali ma appunto virtuali, ma lo svantaggio è che sono in tanti.

Li trovate nei commenti ai video di YouTube, ma si manifestano anche sul sito di Amazon nello spazio dedicato alle domande relative ai prodotti in vendita.
Il bello è che lì trovano spesso altri cretini pronti a rispondere loro con dei piccoli capolavori di imbecillità.

Descrivo ora la situazione tipica.

Articolo in vendita:Striscia di LED a 12 Volt per tuning auto/moto”.

Domanda del Cretino 1: “Che voltaggio è? La posso attaccare alla presa di casa?”

Risposta del Cretino 2 che ha già acquistato l’oggetto: “Non lo so, l’ho comprata per un amico.”

Pensate che dramma se il Cretino 1 avesse letto la descrizione dell’oggetto prima di fare la domanda.
Saremmo stati privati dell’opportunità di vedere un cretino all’opera e lui/lei avrebbe evitato di perdere tempo.

(Il che ci dà lo spunto per enunciare il corollario: Il Cretino ha tanto tempo a disposizione.)

Analogamente, se il Cretino 2 non avesse risposto affatto (che è l’approccio consigliato a chi non sa cosa dire), non l’avremmo mai scoperto.
In compenso, però, qualcun altro avrebbe fornito una risposta altrettanto cretina, del tipo:

Cretino 3: “Non lo so, prova a chiedere al venditore.”

Un pozzo senza fondo di cretinaggine è stato Yahoo Answers, che per 15 anni ha rappresentato la massima concentrazione di cretini mai registrata sul pianeta. Anche qui, i cretini erano sia quelli che ponevano le domande che quelli che fornivano le risposte. La percentuale di idiozie era così elevata da rendere sospette e inattendibili per l’utente anche le poche risposte corrette.

Qualche mese fa, il sito è stato definitivamente chiuso, ma non facciamoci illusioni: i cretini sono ancora lì che girano indisturbati in rete o per strada.

Parlando di cretini, non può mancare la menzione dell’ANSA, la TASS degli italiani.

La concentrazione di cretini all’interno dell’Agenzia Nazionale Somari Accreditati è superiore alla media nazionale di cretini ogni mille abitanti. La conferma ci giunge ogni giorno sfogliandone il sito e prendendo
atto delle baggianate e strafalcioni che lo costellano come i canditi in un panettone.

L’ultima plateale baggianata risale alla scorsa settimana, quando a illustrare una notizia di cronaca proveniente dagli USA uno stordito dell’ANSA ha usato la foto di repertorio di un’auto della polizia.

Peccato però per quella visibilissima scritta POLIZEI, che ne tradisce istantaneamente l’appartenenza alla polizia tedesca.

Contro i cretini non c’è difesa.

 

Slow-Boating to the Med

Slow-Boating to the Med

Four years ago, I wrote here about my love story with a classic boat, the Wairakei II, and about the weeks my family and I spent on board when we sailed her through Europe, from north to south.

What I failed to mention was that I had kept a ship’s log, taken scores of pictures, and saved charts and documents about my Channel crossings and trip to Italy through the inland waterways of Belgium and France.
Not only that, I had amassed hours of video footage!

Unfortunately, having moved houses (and countries) several times since the early 90s, this treasure trove of information lay somewhere in a packing box—or more likely in more than one.

The ship’s log was the first item to surface, entirely by accident, as I was looking for something else. I just couldn’t believe I had found my journal and I went through it more than once, reminiscing about those events that had transpired three decades prior.
Many episodes I had forgotten turned into vivid images the moment I read my log entries that described them.

This find spurred me to look for the rest of the material, which I eventually did and, quite incredibly, it was all there!

I then came up with a plan, the first phase of which was to gather the material for one or two videos.

In trying to convert the old VHS tapes into mp4 files, my friend who has the necessary equipment ran into some trouble, but we eventually managed to extract everything.
The quality is what you would expect from VHS tapes of 30 years ago, but it’s still more than acceptable.

So I moved on to Step 2 of my plan. I wrote a book called Slow-Boating to the Med. (The Adventures of a Young Family Crossing Continental Europe in an Old Classic Boat) and published it on Lulu.com.

While I was writing my book, I also put together two YouTube videos, one dedicated to our Channel crossing to Dunkirk in 1990, and the other to the actual boat trip through Europe.

Now I believe I have finally done justice to my old boat and those epic days.

 

 

Buon Compleanno, Will

Buon Compleanno, Will

 

 

 

Oggi compie gli anni un certo William Shakespeare, nato (e morto a 52 anni) il 23 Aprile.
Il papà di Essere o Non Essere ha lasciato un’impronta indimenticabile sulla lingua inglese.
Perfino chi non sa della sua esistenza (ma ci sarà veramente qualcuno?) avrà di sicuro usato qualcuna delle sue celebri frasi.
Qualche esempio?

  • All that glitters isn’t gold

  • What’s done is done

  • Refuse to budge an inch

  • It’s Greek to me!

  • As good luck would have it

  • Something’s rotten in the state of Denmark.

  • Hoist on his own petard

  • I have not slept one wink.

  • Too much of a good thing.

  • Neither rhyme nor reason

  • Foregone conclusion

  • Wild-goose chase

  • Break the ice

  • In my heart of hearts

e altre ancora.

E’ tutta farina del suo sacco ed è andata ad arricchire una lingua già straricca di espressioni idiomatiche come è appunto l’inglese

Non del tutto a spoposito, mi viene in mente, da frequentatore di forum online anglofoni, una delle critiche ricorrenti che qualche zotico britannico fa all’inglese americano.

Un esempio tra tutti estratto da Yahoo Answers, dove alloggia una speciale razza di storditi:

I was reading a book by an American author and once again came across the word “gotten. Why then do you double the length of the word “got” to obtain “gotten” which means exactly the same thing?
The proof that the word is totally unnecessary is that we in Britain do without it entirely. I have never once read the word in a book and found that removing the last three letters changes the meaning at all.”

Il tipo non sa che anche il nostro amico Will usava gotten. Anche I Pilgrim Fathers che nel 1620 fondarono Plymouth in Massachusetts lo usavano, perché era il participio passato di to get.
Non l’hanno inventato gli americani, come anche gran parte delle parole che agli inglesi di oggi suonano strane.
Gotten è stato usato per secoli nella lingua inglese senza che nessuno protestasse, ed è ancora in uso in parole composte come, per esempio, ill-gotten, o nel participio passato di to forget.

Col tempo, l’inglese parlato in Inghilterra ha fatto cadere la forma gotten, sostituendola con got. Così facendo, però, ha privato il verbo to get di una sfumatura di significato non indifferente.

Got (participio passato) indica il possesso di qualcosa, gotten il processo per cui si possiede qualcosa.
Un esempio?

– I haven’t got the money: Non ho I soldi.
– I haven’t gotten the money: Non mi hanno ancora pagato.

400 anni fa Shakespeare sapeva bene la differenza, mentre gli ignoranti saccenti di oggi no.

Big-box Blues

Big-box Blues

For over ten years I’ve enjoyed giving my custom to a large, family-run hardware store in my neighborhood.
It’s a rambling and rather cluttered store, where someone has to lead you through a maze of shelves before pointing you to the product you need (nuts, bolts, screws, washers, etc.) for the final selection of the right type or size of fastener or drill bit that you are looking for.

I liked everything about this store, from the personal interaction with the elderly couple who run it, to the smell of cardboard, lubricant and rubber wafting in the air.

Then, less than a year ago, a big-box home-improvement chain store opened up not two hundred meters away from the friendly hardware folks. Something on the scale of a Lowe’s or Home Depot in the US or a Leroy Merlin in Europe and elsewhere. This has been an only-too-common occurrence in the past two or three decades. The old mom-and-pop stores are driven out of business by the big-box behemoths.

The size of the new place is staggering, with oodles of space, high ceilings and long aisles with countless arrays of shelves. There’s even a bar with a seats and tables for those who want to grab coffee and a croissant (the store opens at 07:00), buy their supplies and start on their project before 09:00.

Predictably, the inventory is mind-blowing, the parking lot extra-large and prices reasonable.

It was a given that I would soon take my business there and, indeed, I’ve been a happy customer—until today.

This morning I bought a special repair putty by Loctite. It comes in three separate baggies each containing 5 grams of product. You mold it by hand into the required shape and it will promptly harden.

When I got home, I removed the three baggies from their wrapper and realized that the contents of two of them was rock-hard and virtually unusable.

So, two hours later I was back in the store, waiting in line before the returns counter.

When my turn came, the young customer-service woman made no less than seven phone calls to find out which department was in charge of these items. I did explain to her that this product was hanging from a Point of Purchase (POP) display situated before the checkout, but apparently it didn’t help.

She eventually issued a refund and pointed me to the Paint Dept. to get a replacement product if I still wanted one. From her expression, I got the feeling she was happy to get rid of me and the Paint Dept. was just a means to that end. The HVAC Dept. would have also done just fine to get me out of her sight.

Just over 10 years ago, I was in a similar situation at a Lowe’s in the southeastern US, but the outcome was the very opposite. The employee helping me was about my age—an older guy, that is—and knew his way around the system. He took care of my issue and made sure I was on my way without delay and satisfied with the solution he’d found.

But for all I know, things may be have changed across the pond, too, in this second decade of the third millennium.

Anyway, the “paint guy” was not at his workplace, but I found him stocking shelves from an aerial work platform. When he descended electrically to my level, he hastened to show he didn’t want any part of this and claimed that items like my repair putty were scattered around the store in strategic locations to be bought on impulse but did not fall under any particular department. Not his own, at any rate.

I gave him my best “why should I care?” look and told him I just wanted a replacement item that was entirely usable and I could not care less about the way his employers ran their business.

All he could suggest, however, was that I personally inspect the POP displays by the checkouts and squeeze every single packet until I found one that was still usable.

“Thank you very much for nothing”, I said and went out in a foul mood headed, of course, to the old hardware store.

Incidentally, one of the banks where I hold an account operates much the same way. They employ a bunch of minimum-wage young people who are terrified of escalating a customer-service issue to a supervisory level.

They will waste time trying to deflect your enquiry in the hope that you eventually give up. They sound bored and demotivated—almost catatonic— but they have nowhere to go in terms of career options.

The bank has chosen to open its service center in a depressed area where jobs are scarce and wages are low, but so is the average quality of applicants in that catchment area.

Better candidates normally balk when they’re offered a job that requires moving there, so the standard of service is and will remain lousy.

But if you ask the bean counters who supported running the customer service from there, I’ll bet they still think it was a genius idea.