Archive | January, 2011

Five Things We’ve Learned From the Indian Cricket Tour

21 Jan

Commentators still succumb to hubris.
Commentators who have apparently watched the game of cricket before (yes you, Manthorp) still make comments as though the game is utterly predictable. For example, someone announced before the test series that both teams’ batting line-ups are too good to be bowled out twice (they most certainly were not), and within 15 overs of a 50-over run chase that South Africa lost, they were already speaking of South Africa ‘cantering to an easy victory’.

SABC 3 is mystifyingly irrational.
Our national broadcaster is often unprofessional, but I can’t really understand the thinking behind the coverage of day-night games. The game time conflicts with the usual schedule — obviously — which has led to them moving the daily soap opera and the news a half hour earlier so that the cricket can be broadcast. Yet having already moved everything to try to accommodate the cricket, they then fail to accommodate the cricket by refusing to alter to length of either programme so that it over-runs the start of the innings by about 20 minutes (usually, I might add, one of the most interesting periods of any game). I know soap operas have hardly any fat in the plot that one could trim, but surely…

If you’re going to have middle-order batsmen who aren’t scoring runs, you might as well have Mark Boucher.
For some reason,¬† the Proteas management seems to have decided to try out as many inexperienced players as they can in preparation for a World Cup??!! AB de Villiers is not a genuine keeper, and if our level of panic and chaos in our batting on home pitches is anything to go by, we will certainly need players of Boucher’s experience at a World Cup in India. Furthermore, de Villiers is a good fielder, and our current crop of replacements clearly aren’t. Boucher behind the stumps and de Villiers in the outfield where he belongs.

South African fielders used to be the best in the World.
Used to be.

Getting women involved in the production is admirable, but they need to find some different women.
Claire Cowan is a nice lady, but when she gets excited, her voice has a little too much of Lloyd Christmas’ Most Annoying Sound in the World.

Most Annoying Noise in the World

Most Annoying Sound in the World

Secondly, the pop-vox-segment lady with the weird name who interviews people in the crowd is desperately desperately dull — I have to go and do something else until she’s gone. There aren’t that many people worth speaking to in the crowd. I didn’t really sign up to watch the people who are watching the cricket.

So if you could all implement my changes for next time, that’d be great. Thanks.


A Complaint Letter

17 Jan

The following is a complaint letter that I’m about to send to Checkers.

Change to Checkers?

They say that you should never shop hungry. That’s because one’s more primal urges over-ride one’s better judgment. Well I went to Checkers absolutely ravenous, and I left with nothing. Not a sausage. I had to struggle even to leave with the money with which I came, but I’m getting there.

I work very close to a Checkers, and so I’ve been persuaded to go inside for food twice in the last week. The first time, I tried to buy something labelled R8.99, and when the bakery lady scanned it, it was R9.99. I was already cross from the post office that day, so I was not in a forgiving mood, and I left empty-handed.

Some minutes ago, I left your shop angry again, but this time it was all you.

The choice between heavily-garlicked and vastly overcooked couldn’t tempt me to try your bakery again, so I took a loaf of bread marked R6.95, some cheese sausages above a R21.95 label, and a bottle of hot sauce also at R22. That should add up to about 50 bucks.

Getting quite keen for my lunch now, I got to the till and handed over my 50. I was twenty-something rand short, says the lady. My maths is patchy, but it’s never been that bad. I look at the slip, and it says that the sausages are actually R37.99 or something — nearly double the list price. Now I’m thinking, if I was at Pick ‘n Pay, their policies would force them to give me the item for free; why didn’t I go to Pick ‘n Pay?

What does the Checkers lady say? ‘Here’s a refund.’ She sends another employee to ‘go find these’, but tells me nothing about the implications of this for me. With a growing queue behind me, and without any lunch solution, I start to get angry.

‘But now I have nothing to put on my bread,’ I point out. ‘Must I go and get more sausages?’

‘Yes, go and get something else.’

So I take my change, and leave the two items for which I have now paid with the till lady at the counter. On the way, I look at the till slip and notice that the R6.95 bread actually cost me R9.99. In case you’ve lost count, that’s 3 incorrect prices out of 4 — all of them higher than advertised. I collect the R6.95 bread price-tag from the bread shelf and hunt for different sausages. I notice that the price under my original sausages was not for that brand, but something else. And although two varieties of the sausage brand that I had originally bought are stacked on the shelf, none of the price tags on any of the shelves relate to either variety. None of the prices anywhere in the mystery meat fridge are R30 or higher. I would argue from this that it is your intention to deceive.

I see a good price on smoked viennas and try to find these. There are red viennas above the price-tag. I hunt around for the smoked ones and eventually find them above the red-vienna tag (the red viennas are more expensive, if you were wondering).

Getting cross now, I return to the till, and there is a long queue now. I flag down the managerly person who had previously refunded me, and start my story. She listens and then points out that she’s not a manager, she’s a supervisor. Oh. She points me to the manager’s office in the corner. I ask her to take me. She doesn’t. I go to the office in the corner and there are two doors. I knock, and it’s the wrong door. The manager’s office is not quite in the corner. I ask if the lady is the manager, and she says yes (but in a bored, huffy way, of course). I begin my story, and she interrupts me after the third or fourth sentence. ‘I have to deal with this lady first,’ she says, about four sentences later than she should have. So she calls someone else to deal with me.

After a wait, I start my story for the third time, and the ‘fresh-produce manager’ (viennas are fresh?) and I return to the till. The stuff that I had already paid for — bread and sauce — are not there. After a whole lot of umming and ahing, no one knows what’s become of it, so I’m standing with the change from my R50 — the wrong change — some viennas I’ve not paid for, and an empty space where my purchases should have been.

Getting extremely sick of all this, I ask for my R50 back. I’m very hungry, though losing my appetite, but I can skip a meal without fainting, and I’m now beyond spending money at this establishment. The manager, sensing that he’s about to lose a customer permanently, says a weak ‘sorry’, but does nothing except agree to give me my R50.

The till lady, however, decides that it inconveniences her to give me R50. She first has to finish ringing up someone else’s groceries before she can get to it (I assume it’s not like you can just open a till). And then when the supervisor lady from before sees that she’s about to shut the till again without acknowledging my existence, she points out that I’m waiting for my R50. Till lady wants to have a discussion about it, despite two of her superiors having agreed that it is a good, short-sighted solution to my problem, and so she won’t give over. Remarkably, the supervisor feels that a discussion is an appropriate course of action, and starts a rambling explanation. I preferred raising my voice at this point — a medium-volume shout, I’d say — because I’m extremely busy at the moment (though not too busy to write to you — it’s not like I have to waste any time eating today), and me not getting lunch had already taken a good half an hour. Till lady started to see my side of the story. I took my money and left.

Please allow me to point out that your ad campaign at the moment argues that you’re really quite cheap, and you have more kinds of cheese than any store in the known world. For these reasons we ought to rest assured that our lifestyle won’t have to change if we ‘change to Checkers’ from an unnamed store (Woolworths). If I was just at Pick ‘n Pay — supposedly a sideways step from Checkers — I would have had free lunch, an escort to the manager’s office, and someone dealing with my problem with me, instead of sending me back into the shop to try again while someone nicked what I had already bought. How on earth do you expect to compete with Woolworths if you can’t even cover common-sense service, let alone the extra-mile stuff?

I vowed never to use Shoprite again some years ago — you really have to hate yourself to suffer that kind of ‘service’ — but I thought Checkers was slightly more customer-oriented. I seems that I was mistaken. You see, your (ex) customers are also prone to the odd mistake!

Hungrily yours,


Mainstay Ad’s Iffy Racial Comment

14 Jan

Mainstay Cane Spirits has not made a new TV ad in twenty years, but their new ad has been worth the wait, from an Ungenius perspective. It certainly seems to reflect attitudes from twenty years ago.

This link doesn't work anymore. Sorry!

Their new ad conceives Mainstay drinkers as belonging to their own republic, and it then spells out some of the characteristics of this new island nation. About half way through the ad, the narrator proudly says:

“Here, every single body is one colour… Bronze!”


Mainstay is white spirits.

So not black people then? I was going to point out that the ad does have a multi-racial cast, and so racism is not a fair charge, but upon watching it again, I notice that the token black guy is the pilot, and they wave him goodbye. At least they didn’t take him with to be the waiter, I guess.

So what do we have in this ad:

  1. The desire to form an exclusive republic.
  2. One of the entrance criteria is the ability to tan bronze.
  3. Characters use people of other races to provide essential services.
  4. Once the destination is reached, the homogenous race group waves black people goodbye.

And Mainstay’s final message to a previously white-oppressed country? ‘You can stay as you are for the rest of your life, or you can change to Mainstay!’ Presumably they mean, ‘or you can change back to how you used to be’.


Edit (2012): Mainstay produced another version of this ad that takes into account all of my comments. Coincidence? Or do I have… readers?

And shouldn’t I get some sort of consultancy fee? This criticism ain’t free you know!

Bravely Resisting Irrelevance

10 Jan

Nottoman: This is not an ottoman. It's a chest of drawers. But you probably would have believed me if I'd said it was.

The Post Office is a bit like an Ottoman. An ottoman is an item of furniture named after a formidable past empire, but much like the Ottoman Empire itself, not too many people know what it is. One suspects that mention of the Post Office might soon also be greeted with ‘What’s that?’, and if you do find yourself able to remember what a post office was, you might find yourself wondering what it ever was for.

I just got back from the post office, which means that I’m cross. They have a long history of making me angry. I mailed a CD to my brother as a birthday gift, which they left lying around in the foyer of his communal apartment block. He found only the wrapping. I tried to import The World’s Coolest Fly Zapper TM for my birthday two or three years ago, and they first notified me that it had arrived FIVE WEEKS after they received it, 10 full days after they had returned it to sender. Their resolution of my complaint is still pending. My parents made my daughter a birthday poster last year. I’m not sure what it was like when it was in one piece, because being too big for the mailbox they merely tossed it into the garden and my dog utterly shredded it.

Then today… I went in last week to get a quote in preparation for today’s visit. I supplied accurate weight and dimensions. I brought a sample to demonstrate what was needed. I got the quotation and left happy for once. So today I brought the parcel in — having received payment already from the buyer — only to be told that it is too long. After expressing my disbelief, the post-office man explained that it is absolutely impossible for the post office to mail something longer than 1 metre (my parcel is a cylinder of 1.1 m in length). He assured me that there was nothing that could be done, because they can only take parcels with length and girth ‘of a maximum of 2m combined’, which is the world’s unclearest way of saying 1×1 m.

Remarkably, that immediately suggested a way around the ‘nothing can be done’ issue, for which I have Pythagoras to thank (or at least the guy who invented triangles), because by putting my little cylinder at a slight diagonal, I pointed out that it would increase the width slightly, but decrease the length. Post-office man said, “I understand what you’re saying, Sir,” not understanding me, “but the parcel can only be 1 m long, and yours is 1.1 m.” So I drew him a little diagram that looked like this:

Being a visual learner, he got my point this time. So excited by my suggestion, and so eager to make their catalogue of mistakes right by providing extra-mile service, he said, “OK, but then you need to put it in a 1 m box.” Because I obviously have those at home. And he sent me away.

If my industry were facing irrelevance, I’d be putting a whole lot of time into innovation and service, so that people don’t actively go out of their way to find solutions other than me. Congratulations to the South African Post Office for standing around like a dinosaur watching a meteor shower.