2 August 2010 (Monday) - Complaining

Up early to put the kettle on. ‘er indoors TM got tea in bed this morning. Can’t think why. But she seemed happy with her pressie. Today was the twenty-ninth time I’ve given her birthday pressies, and each year it gets harder to find something.

On the way home from work I popped into Halfords to complain about the broken gazebo. I bought it the day before we went to the June Teston Kite Festival. I’ve used the thing at two kite festivals and one garden party, and yesterday when putting it away the aluminium had snapped. I spoke to the staff there yesterday, and they said to fetch the thing back. So I did that today. Unfortunately none of the staff who were on duty yesterday were about the place today. So explained to the doom-brained dimwit on the till that I’d brought back a faulty item. She tried to scan its bar-code, failed (because there wasn’t one) and asked if I could turn the thing round so she could scan the bar code. I explained again that I wasn’t buying, I was complaining. I started explaining the whole sorry tale, but it soon became clear that she had been programmed to sell things. Dealing with returns was far beyond her ability. But to be fair to her, she sat and listened, enthralled to hear what I had to say. And when I’d said my piece, she just grinned inanely. With no idea of how to proceed, it seemed that she’d thought that if she waited long enough, I might go away. And then she had a stroke of divine inspiration. Her face lit up as she told me her brainwave. Would it help if she paged her supervisor? I smiled sweetly, resisting the urge to ask if the last brainwave she had was when the thing said goodbye, and agreed that seeing her supervisor might help.

When it became clear that I wasn’t making a fuss, and was quite happy to swap the broken gazebo for a replacement all seemed well. But then disaster. Since the time when I’d bought the thing in June, they’d dropped the price by ten quid. I really couldn’t care, but this caused their computer no end of problems, and it was with a sense of relief that I finally drove away with the replacement gazebo. I wonder how long this one will last? I did notice one or two similar gazebos in various states of having been unbagged – I wonder if they too were returned broken?

And then home where there was an email waiting for me. Last week I complained to the organisers of Ashford’s “Create” festival that the thing was noisy, unwelcoming and was generally rubbish. I’d received a reply. They said:

To whom it may concern.

I am sorry that you felt that your experience at the Create Music Festival was disappointing and that you did not like what you heard from your garden. I am taking the two complaints I have received seriously. The other complaint was solely around ‘noise’ therefore I will try and get a better measure of the noise limits to local residents for next year’s event. It is very difficult for me to monitor how and where sound travels on the day as I am concerned with on the park issues but I will have a think about how this can be controlled for next years event. I will engage our Environmental Services department in this discussion.

On your other issues:

The beer tent was run by an external private company and is a matter for their business only – it was up to them (in agreement with the event organiser) what they wanted to sell to the public. Although they had a successful day I will pass on a recommendation for real ale next year.

I am sorry that you felt it insulting to be searched on the way in to the event, this was not my intention. In the past we have had issues with glass bottles being thrown or smashed on site which makes it very difficult for our clean team to pick up, making the site very dangerous during the festival and after (especially during school holidays and early morning dog walkers). So with no glass bottles on site, our clean team did a fantastic job of clearing the site this year - in record time, which minimised hours of man time cost on the Council purse.

I also maintain that fencing the park and searching people was necessary for other reasons and this has been justified by some of the things that my employed security team confiscated on the day. Create is a family friendly event and to ensure it remains so I will go over and above to make sure the thousands (11,000 people during the course of the day in 2010) who value this festival continue to enjoy watching and listening to Ashford’s newest local talent.

After frequent visits to the site over the last week, I have not seen any scorch marks from those cooking on mini barbecues at the Create Festival, although this may have happened, the park looks in very good condition. Incidentally I have often seen residents use the open park for barbequing during the summer months outside of my one day event.

I have no comment to make on a girl operating an ice cream stall, however given the amount of sales they took on the day I am afraid you must have been unlucky getting someone to cover a short break.

As for value, it is not of interest to me as an Arts Development Officer to run a beer festival like the one in Canterbury that is a chargeable event. At Create I am interested in giving young local bands, solo artists and djs a chance to perform in front of thousands of their friends and families, who attend for free. Having a beer tent helps to minimise the cost on the Council’s purse to put on the event and helps retain this festival to be free for all to attend.

I hope that this e-mail gives you a little more insight into the reasons why I take such serious actions, in the aim of delivering a positive free festival for all. I can see how you may have been disappointed and I can only apologise for that. Should you wish to speak to me about any points made in this e-mail further, my office number is 01233 999 999..

Thank you for your concern and I will look into minimising noise for next year.

I was quite amazed – I never thought they would reply. Sometimes it pays to complain. I then got my shears out and gave myself a quick haircut. The birthday girl was quite amused when she found I’d missed a bit…

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