http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12859104

BBC had an article about parking tickets and how you should challenge them, because 60% of cases are found in favour of the driver. Covering some examples of when drivers receive tickets, it gave good insight into the attitudes of some sectors of the public service, and reminded me of recent and equally frustrating encounters with them.

This kind of attitude is so pervasive in this country. This lack of ability to assess a situation to come to a constructive solution is what holds this country and businesses back.  Britain is not known for its customer service mentality in its public services, nor most businesses.

Reminds me of when I got a notice by the Metropolitan police for cycling on a pathway near a pond in Richmond Park. Truly there was no sign on the path we were on not to ride a bicycle. The signs were at the entrance to the park, or on tiny wooden blocks just at the start of the path – wooden blocks that can hardly be seen. But we still got a letter of warning, because he had to keep statistics to show he was doing his job.  This is from the Metropolitan police. Wait, let me think, last time I checked, London had other issues with crime. And by the way, I asked the policeman very gently, isn’t this an issue with education and not enforcement?  He did agree, but nevertheless proceeded to take down our details.

Oh, and by the way, doesn’t the Metropolitan police have better things to do than target families enjoying the park on a sunny day?

There are many times in the past where I’ve often thought that this country doesn’t seek to apply common sense, it simply apply what they believe is the letter of the law.  They can issue a ticket so they do, irregardless of the fact that the information was not properly published, or there were other extenuating circumstances. Really, most of the public aren’t going out of their way to commit a crime.  Sometimes, things happen or you’ve done something you weren’t aware of.  These are occasions to slap you with a fine, rather they are opportunities to educate. Unfortunately, enforcement officers only seek to do one thing – enforce.  Education is someone else’s job.

What about the story of the park ranger who verbally and at the top of his voice abused my child for doing something playing in The Princess Diana Memorial Fountain.  Truly, all the guide books said this was a fountain for  children to play in. And we took them at their word. We don’t visit Princess Diana anything anymore because of this abuse that the park ranger thought fit to spew at children. The ranger said that there was a sign not to play on the granite stream. Yes, but the sign is so far away near the entrance, slightly behind bushes, and in tiny print. When asked why it was not more prominently displayed right bang smack in the middle of the sculpture, the answer was that Royal Parks did not want an ugly sign up.

Is there a Monty Python gag I’m missing?

Or, the ticket inspector at rail company interrogating me for why there was no credit on my son’s Oyster card.We had walked in from London Waterloo station to pick up a train to London Bridge. There’s no boom gate, you just swipe your Oyster card. We didn’t know the card was out of credit. The beeping noise is the same noise that’s made for a child Oyster card, so we had thought all was okay. Of course we couldn’t get out. So anyway, spoke to one rail inspector, who kinda questioned us, but it was the child’s Oyster card. I mean these things happen with children. They are not so alert to it.

Anyway, we went up to the ticket inspector, and another rail inspector gives me the 3rd degree and starts questioning why I had used a card when I KNEW there wasn’t any credit.  It’s not like we jumped the gates or vandalised the carriages. We only ran out of credit. Sorry, but we really didn’t mean to. Or, seriously, invest in a boom gate if you are going to get so heavy-handed about it. Don’t talk to me like I should’ve known and that I deliberately did it. And when I told the rail inspector that we had been told by another rail inspector that all we had to do was buy a ticket to top up my son’s Oyster card, he asked whether I was questioning his authority when he had worked with the rail company for 30 years.  What?  All I was saying was we had already spoken with the other rail inspector, sorted out what needed to be done, and we were getting the 3rd degree. He then said that he can’t speak for other staff of the rail company.

In the end, he gave us the ticket we needed to get out, without more, but ruined our day. The Met police could simply have let the issue go and let us on our way. The park ranger could actually do something more constructive and try to get proper signs put up, and not run around screaming at children. I think what I’m saying is that they would’ve achieved exactly the same result with a whole different attitude of helpfulness and understanding. Why all this unnecessary angst?

This kind of attitude is so pervasive not just in public sector.  Makes life extremely frustrating sometimes. Makes for very poor customer service oriented organisations. I often think of writing a letter of complaint, and then I don’t. I think they don’t care. Even when you ask for an address, they give it to you with an attitude of ‘like it’s going to help’.  In the end, it’s my time and I just choose to forget about it and move on, and focus on avoiding that situation again.  Takes energy not to waste energy, because I do get quite cross.  I think this is truly the ugly side of Britain – Passive aggressive Britons who don’t listen or think about what they’re doing or why they’re doing it.