Author Topic: The Kafkaesque World of Watt Tyler House (aka the new Gala Bingo Centre)  (Read 1410 times)

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Offline Tobes

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All I wanted to do was renew my residents parking ticket... The experience had started well: Those nice bureaucrats had actually sent me a reminder letter (after having dropped them last year - with the resulting harvest of parking warden over-time subsidising fines!)

Well, I'm working from work today (just taking a lunchtime break) - so I thought I'd save the price of a stamp, stretch my legs and drop my renewal form down there and get a receipt whilst I was at it, just in case the ticket didn't come through as advertised, making me the potential subject to the continued diligence of our 6.30am parking raids.

Going through the revolving doors of Watt Tyler house revealed that changes were afoot. Yes, in keeping with the modern management concept of sacrificing every vestige of service upon the altar of change and accountant-driven 'efficiency', a new system was in place! Instead of the helpful signs, directing you off the the relevent department, SBC services have now suffered the Boots-ise-ation process. Instead of separate
departments, desk and hatchways, all the council helpdesks are now lumped together in a long long line of hutch-like subdivisions. The atmosphere was  reminiscent of the set ups they have in those animal testing labs - tragic pallid faces staring out from a small wooden sided stalls. These victims are trapped in these little wooden cells as the presumable subjects of some sort of social experiment: How does the male SBC employee compare to a female of slightly older age when subjected to the stimulous of an angry man asking why his bins haven't been collected this week? Above each of these 'hutches' were the dreaded red LED signs announcing the 'number' of the desk. I counted 25 - although of course you can't see all of them from where ever you sit - and it soon became apparent that this was but the first flaw in a system which could only have been designed by the crazed descendents of some sort of Orwellian apparatchik.

However, at this stage, I was still in a state of innocent confusion. What was going on? Had they merely redesigned the space by the main doors? Was the Parking Department still located where it used to be? I attempted to move forwards, through the unusually large crowds of  'clients' who were milling around the area in a bovine fashion, clutching tickets, mumbling and generally looking confused. Amindst this throng strode an SBC security officer, complete with earpiece and black suit, no doubt wishing he'd taken up the alternative job of doorman at Foxies Extreme.

Reaching the boarded hatchway where the parking department used to be, I felt a horrible sence of foreboding. I wandered over to the security desk which was manned (wo-manned?) by a smiley lady who was peering out from behind a mountain of expensive looking equipment, monitors and gadgetry. 'Can I help?' she asked brightly. Indeed she could! I asked where I had to go to pay for my parking permit renewal. 'Ah, there's no longer a parking department as such' she said, 'You'll need to take this ticket...' she thrust a small piece of paper bearing the fateful digits 715 into my hand, '...and go and sit over there on the right until you hear you number read out.'

Now, we're all familiar with the blight of the modern mania for queing. This ancient British art has seen something of a resurgeance in recent times, thanks no doubt to the availability of small ticket printers and red LED signs. They did try it at the supermarket deli counters, though this seems to have fallen into disuse in the face of general antipathy, endless lost tickets and feisty old ladies. Argos famously labours on with a ticket system - an experience I remember Alexie Sayle assaulting; " I don't believe it! We spend 30 years funding a cold war to avoid the deprivations of a communist system which required citizens to queue with tickets for badly manufactured goods, and now we go and shop at Argos!"

Anyway, I took a seat next to a long queue of people by the housing desk. As there were only two specifically allocated desks to serve the nature of what ever their enquiries were about, it did of course rather beg the question as to why they were being issued tickets, but that would be a premature scratch at the surface of the annoying pointlessness and frustration of the forthcoming 'experience'.

I checked my ticket once again, and looked down the long line of hutch-like cubicles... A synthesised voice echoed out from the tannoy. 'Ticket number  102, please go to desk 4...' My blood boiled as the numerals on my ticket seared into my retina. I'm ticket 715!!!! I fought back the hyperventilation and gripped the side of my chair, jaw locked stoically. Was I going to create a scene? I thought I'd reserve my comments for which ever drone was unlucky enough to receive my 'custom'. In the meantime, a pin-stripe suited woman bearing an SBC security card glided past, obviously targetting a couple of hi-viz kacketed guys who were noisily asking what they were supposed to do. It seemed that the new super-efficient system had launched so seemlessly that it required extra staff to herd the confused crowds.

The disembodied emotionless voice announced another number... 'Ticket number 2, go to desk 24 please...'. So, the ticket numbers were NOT sequential! This explained the almost church like hush in the main waiting area, as each and every client who'd got wind of the system knew that they had to sit concentrating on The Voice. It was like a weird and perverted form of bingo. Of course, you couldn't stop concentrating for a minute for fear that you'd miss either your ticket number - or the desk to which you were supposed to be heading (and which as I mentioned earleir, stretched off round a bend). I immediately felt sorry for anyone suffering from either less than perfect sight or hearing - of for that matter any mother with kids who might distract her at the crucial moment the magic numbers were announced. The voice was all powerful. We all needed to pay homage and maintain our dilgent silence... 'Ticket number 1067, go to desk 9 please....' At least the non sequential number didn't necessarily mean I had to wait all the way through from 2 to 715 - but it also meant of course that I now had no means of knowing how long I'd be left waiting. with the old system of course, you could stick your head round the door. Queue of ten people for tickets? Fine, nip back out, do a bit of shopping and come back when things were quieter. Now, no such luck. The computer and the queing system were the arbiters of how much time you were going to waste....

After 20 minutes of waiting, it was eventually my turn. I gave an involuntary start as my magic number was read out, and fought back the urge to leap to my feet with a shout of 'HOUSE!!!!'

.... THE VOICE told me to go to desk 7.... Of which there was none! I scanned the options... 1,2,3,4,5,6... and 'desk 715', according to the red LEDs - so I opted for the weirdly non-sequential desk - which was empty but which at least matched my ticket. A fish-faced man in the preceding desk affixed a glassy stare at me at muttered 'Sevenfwafwaffwaf' or somethig similar... 'No,' I said 'I'm 715'... 'I SAID 715' he replied 'politely'. Mr Fish-face was obviously enjoying the new system as much as I was. I swapped desks. 'Having a nice day?' I asked, slightly sarcastically, as I took a seat (having been needled by his initial mumbling and subsequent narkiness). He blinked a piscine eye at me and leant forward, confiding: 'Some systems look better on paper than they turn our to be in practice!'  He glanced side to side slightly nervously, as though the authoritarian power who'd begun this debacle might be waiting for evidence of thought-crime or counter-revolutionary dissent.

Anyway, I 'processed' my renewal and headed out, face obviously like thunder. As I passed the main desk by the entrance, a silver haired and power dressed lady asked me if everything was OK. 'Please tell me this new queing system is a trial?!' I spat annoyed. I guessed her position lurking by the door and holding pen and clipboard indictated that she might bear some responsibility for the frustrating and pointless excercise in modern managent which was taking place. 'Oh no', she said, 'You're JOKING' I replied. We established that my experience had been less that enjoyable. Upon her suggestion I filled out a comments form - which was the only time I saw any smiles from the staff who were trying to apply this new way of working. I guess they're as equally fed up!

Anyway, here's roughtly the points I raised:

  • The new system is impersonal and treats people more like patients rather than customers
  • Its taken me 20 minutes to get something done which used to take me 5
  • How would people who are hard of hearing cope with the new system?
  • How would people with sight difficulty cope with the new system?
  • What's THE POINT of the new system?? - and how much has this experiment in modern management theory cost the tax payers of swindon?

People keep saying the world's going mad. Nope - its long gone loopy. Its just a shame that we're paying for the insanity.
« Last Edit: June 11, 2007, 10:41:22 AM by Tobes »


I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - [attributed to] Voltaire... 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessita' - William of Occam.... 'You have a right to feel offended, but just cos you are offended doesn't mean you are right'

Offline Lynda

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Tobes - I hugely enjoyed your story.

The subject is topical,the character sketches were good although I think you may need to work a bit more on a female co-lead if you're going to try for film rights which I presume you are.
The set is also a good choice. Could be anywhere - not limiting the casting directors trawl.




Lynda  NO2ID 07802 151464  Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Offline concerned_of_Old_Town

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I had the opposite experience when I went to get some visitors passes the other lunchtime.

I managed to get served virtually instaneously as soon as i got the ticket my number came up!

In previous visits you ended up standing behind some bloke as he argues about his recent fine etc (not much privacy) and very frustrating as see someone in the office having their lunch whilst large queue of people waiting.

Offline Tobes

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Dear concerned ....your experience illustrates the luck of the draw. If you go there when there's bugger all going on, no doubt you will get served as equally swiftly as you might have done using the old system. The major snag is of course, that you'll have no idea in advance as to how long you'll be left waiting by checking a specific queue. Another facet with the new system is of course that you still have to get issued a ticket, then sit down, then wait for your number, then (having correctly heard your number) make you way to the correct desk. In fact, on a quiet day, the new system looks even MORE pointless, doesn't it?

Besides:

Quote
I managed to get served virtually instaneously as soon as i got the ticket my number came up!

eh... so whats the point of issuing it then????

PS - as far as I could see, only ONE desk was dealing with parking tickets - so don't be fooled into thinking that thjis new system opened up the number of people who'd help you with your specific issue.

What will SBC be doing with 2000 odd tickets at the end of each day? I DO hope they remember to put them in the recycling bin. I'd hate them to get a fine...
I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it - [attributed to] Voltaire... 'Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessita' - William of Occam.... 'You have a right to feel offended, but just cos you are offended doesn't mean you are right'