Well, two moans actually.
This afternoon I went to the local post box to post a letter. Ever since we've lived in Lancaster the post has been collected from this box at 4.15pm. But today, it's changed. Last Collection is now 9.00AM! In recent years I've got used to later and later delivery times but now apparently, collections are so early as to make next day delivery almost impossible. I know I could have emailed the contents of my letter at any time of the day and night and it would have been delivered (more or less) instantaneously but that's not the point. It's just yet another example of a bloated public-sector industry making life easy for itself and its staff. What it needs is a shake-up and bringing-in some go-ahead, dynamic private sector management. . . . Oh! Hang on, that's already happened, hasn't it!
Another classic example of our wonderful private sector manifested itself in mid-afternoon when the postman brought a renewal notice for our car breakdown insurance. At one time this market was exclusively in the hands of two fuddy-duddy old "mutuals" - organisations owned and run by their members. But those days are long gone and even the AA and RAC are dynamic, thrusting private businesses now. And there are a lot of private-sector competitors, one of whom has my business, so surely things are better?
Well, three years ago my breakdown cover cost me £62 a year. By last year that had risen to £92. I'd made no claims in that period, although I suppose the car was three years older, and inertia led to me accepting the quote. This year they wanted £121!!
From the organisation's own website I could get identical cover for £72. So I rang them:
"It's about my renewal, you're taking the mickey aren't you?" (I was being polite).
"Is the cost too high, sir. Do you want to reduce the level of cover?"
"No, I want the same cover. I just want you to reduce the price!" "Three years ago I was only paying half of what you want now."
"Ah, but three years ago you were given a special discount, sir."
"Oh was I? Well, why can't I have a discount this year?" "Anyway, on your website I can get it for £72"
"Oh, we can match that quote sir, All you have to do is save it from the website and then ring us back."
There then followed thirty of the most frustrating minutes of my life whilst I obtained the quote and attempted to "save" it, whilst being thwarted by dodgy internet connections but mostly by the organisation's website which said that because I had arleady registered with them (news to me) I had to Log In before I could save it. Then it wouldn't accept my password. Following the "forgotten your password" link didn't work because then it wouldn't recognise my email address! I was convinced that this was all a trick to prevent me from saving the quote and thus getting the reduction. But when I rang back and spoke to a different "customer advisor" I was first told that they would need to see the quote from their end, which they could only do if I saved it, but when I explained my difficulties it was "Oh, classic Catch-22 then, sir. Never mind, just go ahead and accept the quote on line (which I could do) and I'll cancel your renewal of the old cover from here!"
Perhaps I should have stuck to narrowboating!