Thursday, November 04, 2010

The customer is always wrong.

The photo above makes a bit of a departure for the Maggot Sandwich - it is not often that I feature action shots. The scene shows a recovery vehicle called to rescue a broken down Ford Transit van on Manor Road on Tuesday evening. The van driver was not very happy at me taking photographs, but I made it clear he had no say in the matter, and that I was perfectly entitled to shoot photos in a public street; he did not seem inclined to argue with this.

Morrison's in Erith have got me mightily ticked off this week, hence the blog entry title of "The customer is always wrong".  I ventured into the store at just before 9pm mid week; all I wanted was a half of a white cabbage, and four finger chillies - I was planning on making some coleslaw with a chilli kick as an added bonus; I got to the checkouts only to find that the only ones open were packed to the gills with people doing their weekly shopping; they had pantechnicon sized trollies loaded to the maximum. I walked along to the hand basket only aisles, only to find them closed and unavailable. The only alternative was the despicable and user manipulative so called "self service" tills. I asked the supervisor if she would open an additional till for the gathering group of customers with hand baskets, who were not prepared to queue behind the over filled trollies. She directed us to the self service tills and said that as of now the hand basket only tills were being shut in the evenings, and that we had to use the self service aisles. I told her that I would not have a dog and bark myself - if I wanted to operate a till, I would get a job at Morrison's - I then downed my basket and walked out. I was not the only one. Morrison's have to learn the art of customer service. It was not that the store was half empty and working on reduced staff; the place was heaving. It was just a heavy handed and unsubtle attempt at customer manipulation. Not with me.

I am a great proponent of free and open source software; I am an enthusiastic and daily user of the Linux operating system as many of you will already know. I have now completely converted to the Chrome web browser created by Google. I stil like and use Firefox and Opera, but Chrome "just does it" for me - it is multi platform, quick to render, stable and simple to use. You can see a video about Google Chrome below.

On my way to my daily Dad visit in his nursing home, I pass through Woolwich town centre; the area is currently undergoing some well deserved and overdue refurbishment. One location that has so far unfortunately been overlooked is the old Woolwich covered market site (see the the photo below). It used to be a bustling and busy venue when I was a kid, but nowadays most of the pitches are empty - there are only a scant handful of traders trying to maintain business in a venture that has petty much now died on its' feet. Whilst waiting for the 99 bus at Upper Belvedere yesterday, I was struck with an idea to refurbish and revitalise the site at little or no cost to the council. This might sound like a bit adventurous, but when none considers the Woolwich Arsenal development directly opposite, I think it could be a big success. What I propose would be to gut the covered market building - it currently has a number of dilapidated and run down wooden mini "shop units"inside the building. Get rid of these, clean the up place and give it a coat of paint - possibly using people on community service doing the leg work, get a fresh supply of running water, get the electrics refurbished and then open it, initially just every Saturday as a farmers market - a mini version of what goes on in Borough Market, close to London Bridge Station. The Woolwich Arsenal development directly opposite is full of wealthy middle class potential customers, and it should also attract customers from further afield - those who attend the farmers' market at Blackheath, for instance. I think, with the proper involvement of Greenwich Council, the whole enterprise could be trialled for around £5,000 - it would not involve a great deal of expense at all. Potentially it could breathe new life into Woolwich, and turn it into a destination town, and elevate it from its' current position as a chav infested sink hole. Potentially it could provide employment and a much needed image revamp for the town.

I see that work is rapidly nearing completion on the new McDonald's drive through fast food destination in Pettman Crescent in Plumstead, close to the Plumstead bus garage. You can alway find out more about what is going on in the Plumstead area by checking with the Plumstead Integration Project

On another food related issue, the old site of the Woolwich Infant pub has been revitalised. The pub was a right old dive, it looked the kind of place that even the local drug dealers would avoid as being too rough. It was closed down and abandoned for a while; it then became a Cash Converters look - alike for the local druggies to sell on their stolen goods to make some money for their next hit. Things have now moved on, and the location is now a very successful Sam's Chicken restaurant. I have done some online research, and Sam's Chicken was started about twenty years ago be a couple of senior KFC executives who decided to go it alone and form their own, independent fried chicken restaurant chain.  I am not  great fan of fried chicken, preferring the offerings of Nandos, where the meat is initially poached, then charcoal grilled. Nevertheless, Sam's Chicken has some great online reviews, with many eaters preferring it to KFC, mainly commenting on the fact that Sam's is not only cheaper, but the restaurants are higher class, with better quality furnishings and fittings, and that the chicken is tastier. I will have to give the Woolwich restaurant a try, and then report back in due course.

I watched with great disappointment the new Wallace & Gromit series on BBC1. It was plugged as being a new spin on Wallace's enthusiasm for engineering; what it turned out to be was Tomorrow's World with plasticine and poorly judged fart gags. Not good enough BBC. I love Wallace & Gromit, and I hate to see them being misused in this way. Leave your thoughts and opinions below, as always.

As many of you know, I have been a licenced radio amateur since passing my exams back in 1997; I hold the international callsign M1CXN. Currently I am only really active on the 2 metres VHF band. I am strongly contemplating upgrading my H.F antenna system and purchasing a new radio - possibly an Icom IC 7600 transceiver - though this rig is eye wateringly expensive. Still, my JRC NRD 345 H.F receiver has proved to be a great piece of kit, and my Sony ICF-2001D sounded like a lot of money, back in 1987 when I bought it, but it is still going strong, and providing daily service as my bedside radio / alarm clock nowadays.

The video below shows Hugh Flouch, chairman of Neighbourhoods Online, an umbrella organisation of which the Maggot Sandwich is a contributing member. He's giving a lecture about online communities, and how they can help towards the governments' idea for the "big society". See what you think, and respond below.

The next issue of the Maggot Sandwich is going to be a major landmark. It will be the 300th posting, and as such will be a special event; I am hoping to line up a guest or two to contribute to the regular weekly offering. Check things out next week.


  1. Brilliant idea for the market. Have you thought about touting it to the LFM that runs Blackheath market? (

  2. Hi Fat Controller - I sent the following message to Greenwich Council last night on this very topic:

    Hi Greenwich Council,

    I have some constructive suggestions as to ways to refurbish and breathe new life into Woolwich Covered Market, which should cost minimal amounts of money if implemented correctly.

    Currently the Covered Market is extremely run down, and suffers from a lack of use. It is a prime retail location if managed sensitively, and could add much to the local area. My suggestion would be to clear out the unoccupied pitches, consolidate the remaining units into one side of the market building, and then use people serving on community service orders to give the place a deep clean and a couple of coats of paint. The electrics and plumbing would need professional attention. Once this was completed, the market could be re - branded with local publicity as a Saturday farmers' market and artisan craft sales centre. Collectible record stalls and designer clothes outlets and similar could be encouraged.

    Directly opposite the Woolwich Covered Market you have a large and currently untapped consumer base of wealthy middle class professionals living in the Woolwich Royal Arsenal Development - the ideal customers for artisan foods and goods from a farmers' market. Currently few of the Royal Arsenal Development residents ever venture into Woolwich town centre, as it is widely perceived to be rife with crime, anti social behaviour and hard drug use. Something that would appeal to the well - heeled residents might act as a bit of positive public relations for the whole town, and maybe encourage them to spend time in the town centre - and spend their money there. Currently all they do is order goods online from the likes of Ocado (Waitrose online) and avoid the town centre altogether - it might also encourage local companies to invest in the area.

    Blackheath farmers' market does well, and a lively version in Woolwich could encourage customers to travel from around South East London - and Woolwich is a close enough proximity to London Bridge that visitors to Borough Market might take the short rail journey to Woolwich to sample it too.

    I think that the whole project could be trialled for between £5 and £10K, if offenders on community service were used for the cleaning and repainting works. The pitch fees would need to initially be minimal in order to encourage traders to try the venue, but I think within a few months the venture could easily become self sustaining. The biggest cost would be advertising and publicity, although many local publications would almost certainly cover this for free.

    Apologies if I have contacted the incorrect department - if so, could you please redirect my Email to the correct recipient?

    Your thoughts and feedback would be greatly appreciated.


    Hugh Neal.