The customer service in the Erith branch of Morrison's supermarket is going to the dogs - though it is not the fault of the staff; rather it is a new policy from central management. Recently, I spent less than ten minutes getting a few essentials, and then headed to the tills in order to pay and go home after a long and busy day. When I got to the checkouts, I found that none of the regular ones were staffed, and only the self service tills were available. I politely asked the supervisor if any conventional tills were available, and was told "It is only self service now - the standard tills shut at 8.00". Please bear in mind that it was around 8.15 pm, and the store stays open until 10 pm, and there were still many shoppers with large trolleys full of goods in the store. I put down my hand basket and walked out of the store empty handed in protest. If you do get to the store before 8 pm, you will usually find only one staffed till open. I am vehemently opposed to self service for a number of reasons; firstly it has been demonstrated that the average time to complete a supermarket self service transaction is up to three times as long as one carried out by a staffed till – and that is without allowing for system errors. Secondly, why would you have a dog and bark yourself? Quite often the checkout person adds to the whole retail experience, and can problem solve on the go. Elderly people, or customers with small children can also find self service stressful. On top of this, the supermarkets only introduce self service as they think it will reduce their staffing overheads. This has proved to be a false economy, as although the number of checkout staff is reduced, the number of supervisors and security operatives has to increase – who tend to be paid a higher rate than the checkout staff. This particular matter has caused Wilkinson’s to remove self service tills, as they discovered that the self service tills actually cost more by the time all the overhead costs were factored in; they were also finding the incidence of thefts and under age purchasing were on the rise. Self-service counters cost about £9,000 each, including installation, and manufacturer NCR estimates that they pay for themselves in about 15 months. A third more tills can be squeezed into a store and checkout staff can be deployed elsewhere. But the devices — and their frequent complaint of “unexpected item in bagging area” — are disliked by many shoppers, who argue that retailers are asking customers to do their work for them and that it reduces interaction with staff. NCR argues that the counters cut prices. “Staff can be redeployed to the shop floor, so it can actually improve service,” A claim that has since found to be incorrect in a very many cases. NCR believes that it is benefiting from modern social change, especially the growing convenience market. People are making more shopping trips, for fewer items — hence the spread of convenience outlets to meet demand — a phenomenon attributed by analysts to the breakdown in the nuclear family and traditional working patterns, along with societal changes brought by Covid lock down restrictions. NCR believes, moreover, that shoppers’ desire for healthy and fresh food and a growing desire to have cravings satisfied immediately have also driven the convenience boom. In my opinion, part of the whole shopping experience is the service and interaction with the staff - and as has been previously proved, the auto tills are not very secure. In fact, the whole chip and PIN security system is indeed threatened, as I have written about in the past. I refuse to do the supermarkets' work for them - and I detest these impersonal infringements on our shopping experience. Fairly recently, a report was published by the Criminology Department of the University of Leicester on self service checkout tills. The report found that installing self-service checkouts increases lost revenue by 122 percent. Some of it is accidental – people forget to scan items, or get confused by instructions; other times shoppers get so frustrated with self-service kiosks that they feel justified in not paying. But the report states that mostly people shoplift because the technology makes it so easy. Mobile phone scanning technology is just as vulnerable – the study found that at the end of a typical shopping trip, up to ten percent of items had not been scanned, leading to “shrinkage” (loss through wastage or theft) of about 3.9 percent of turnover. Unfortunately the technology makes it very difficult to prove that customers are deliberately stealing. One retailer admitted they almost never prosecute people. For that reason supermarkets are now introducing tagging systems so un-scanned items trigger alarms. Supermarkets such as Morrison’s in Erith have now expanded the number of self – service checkouts so that now half of all tills are of this type, as I found to my cost. Finding open, traditionally staffed checkouts are becoming a challenge to find. I have always wondered why you have to pay the same price for an item when it is purchased via a self – service till when compared to a traditional one – after all, you are doing work on behalf of the supermarket, and surely this should be reflected in a cheaper cost? If I wanted to operate a till, I would get a job at Morrison's.
Last Monday marked an important anniversary in British radio history. it was the 37th anniversary of the start of regular broadcasts from offshore radio station Laser 558, which first started regular transmissions on the 24th May 1984. Laser 558, the offshore radio station that for a brief period between 1984 and 1986 became the most popular music radio station in the UK. Laser was known for its fast paced format “you are never more than a minute away from music”, and exclusively employed American DJ’s, including some, like Charlie Wolf, who went on to become household names. It all sounded very glamorous, and nothing like any rather more staid British radio station of the period. Most listeners believed the story that the station was crewed and operated exclusively by Americans, and supplied from mainland Europe, and therefore operating completely legally. The reality was that whilst the broadcasters were all US citizens, the station and the supplies all came covertly from the UK – the main supply point was Herne Bay. The Laser ship was called the M.V Communicator, which you can see a in the photo above - click on it for a larger version – it was a converted hydrographic survey vessel originally names the Guardline Tracker. The work to convert the ship to a marine broadcasting station was carried out in Port Everglades in Florida, USA – if you ever see a rerun of the Miami Vice episode “Phil the Shill” (the one that guest starred Phil Collins) there is a long aerial tracking shot of Crockett and Tubbs driving through Port Everglades in Florida – and the M.V Communicator can clearly be seen whilst it was being converted to a radio ship. When Laser 558 first came on air from the North Sea, the station tried using a novel wire antenna suspended from a helium balloon. Whoever thought of this idea clearly had no concept of the weather frequently experienced in the area. The strong, gusty and changeable winds soon destroyed the balloon antenna, and a conventional tower array was built to replace it. Laser quickly picked up a massive following in both the UK and Europe. It had a strong, loud signal on Medium Wave, it played far more music that BBC Radio One, and operated a format of top 40 pop and familiar oldies, played back to back. The sound was slick and very professional, and soon listeners started to defect from local radio and BBC national stations to Laser. At this point the government became worried – they could not let this upstart pirate take all of their precious listeners from the BBC and ILR stations.
A ship called the Dioptric Surveyor was dispatched by the Department of Trade and Industry Radio Investigation Service to monitor both Laser 558 and Radio Caroline, in what became known as the “Eurosiege”. It was soon apparent that Laser, rather than Caroline was the real target. This was mainly due to the constant on air jibes and arch comments made by Laser DJ’s – most notably by Charlie Wolf, the station motor mouth - he is the chap with the baseball cap and moustache in the photo above - click on it for a larger view. Soon a spoof record was released called ”I Spy for the DTI” by the Moronic Surveyors (actually the Laser DJ’s) which got heavy play on Laser, and got into the lower reaches of the charts, despite being banned by BBC Radio One. In contrast, Radio Caroline continued in their policy of not annoying the authorities, and they carried on pretty much unmolested. Eventually a mixture of running low on supplies, bad weather (the Communicator was not an ideal ship for the North Sea and its heavy swell – it rolled terribly, unlike the Radio Caroline ship the M.V Ross Revenge – a massive, former ice breaking trawler which was solid as a rock in rough seas) and a lack of advertising revenue caused the crew to bring the ship in, under escort from the DTI. The other reason for the failure of Laser was its management, which was pretty financially incompetent, and also a few suppliers that managed to con a large amount of cash out of the station for very little in return. The whole project lasted only around eighteen months, but it did shake up UK radio, which up until that time was legally restricted as to the amount of music it was allowed to play. The “needle time” rules dictated that fifty percent of broadcasting time had to be dedicated to speech; this was later relaxed when it was found that the audiences for Laser 558 were primarily attracted by the stations policy of “never more than a minute from music”. In contrast Radio Caroline continued at sea for another six years, which was when my own involvement happened. Back when Laser and Caroline were both broadcasting to Northern Europe, I was still at school – I recall many occasions when there would be scuffles in the 6th form common room when some pupils wanted to listen to Laser on the ancient radiogram we had, whilst I wanted to listen to Caroline. Strangely I cannot recall anyone wanting to listen to BBC Radio One at the time. I think that just about says it all. Comments to me at email@example.com.
As regular readers may be aware, I am a keen student of the Law of Unintended Consequences. One of these issues seems to have occurred in multiple locations around Greater London. A venture to reduce air and noise pollution in residential areas, which you would think would meet with universal approval from local residents and emergency services alike; instead the reception of the scheme has been so negative that in a couple of London boroughs, the scheme has been scrapped after a very short period. The Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme aims to provide dedicated cycle lanes, and to restrict or completely block entry to motor vehicles in certain residential areas. As has been reported in the London Evening Standard - "Last month more than 2,000 people marched on Ealing’s town hall in protest at the traffic restrictions. Over the weekend the local authority relented and announced the end of a trial neighbourhood at West Ealing South — and vowed that it would give residents “the final say” on future schemes. Campaign group One Ealing said the council had “divided our community by installing CCTV cameras, bollards and placing planters in an unsafe and undemocratic manner”. It added: “We are all for cleaner air, but not at the expense of the residents and schools on the main roads.” Harrow council has announced the removal of its TfL “Streetspace” cycle lanes, which were set up during lockdown in the borough. Councillors cited a “clear” lack of support for the changes. Drivers across London are now also being warned by residents about the “cash cow” traffic cameras set up to police the schemes. Residents in Parsons Mead, Croydon, staged a protest over the weekend calling on the local council to scrap its new traffic restrictions, saying signs banning vehicles were unclear". These actions have not just been restricted to wealthy West London boroughs. The Evening Standard report continues:- "In Lewisham, a dementia support worker was given three £130 tickets for accidentally driving into a low traffic neighbourhood near her home and has alerted hundreds of motorists they were about to be fined for entering the zone. Figures obtained under freedom of information laws have revealed motorists have paid 250,000 fines totalling £14 million for driving into the cycle-friendly LTNs in just 10 of London’s 32 boroughs. They include the Lee Green low traffic neighbourhood in Lewisham, which has generated £3.7 million in fines since it opened last summer". The London Borough of Bexley has to my knowledge not undertaken a scheme of this type. Bearing in mind the large amounts of cash the Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes can seemingly generate, this surprises me somewhat. The bottom line seems to me that it is imperative to reduce air pollution throughout Greater London and beyond. Draconian travel restrictions (as many residents appear to view the Low Traffic Neighbourhood schemes) may not be the answer. Perhaps there is an alternative?
Another transport related article. Reader and regular contributor on Electric Vehicle (EV) technology and policy, Miles spotted the new EV charging station currently under construction in Woolwich. The station is equipped with a small array of solar panels on the roof, as you can see in the photo above - click on it for a larger view. The design of the charging station is interesting, but it would appear that the solar panel array is far too small to really contribute much to charging any vehicles that use the station once it actually enters service - the power will mainly come from a very robust mains supply. Miles writes:- "All said, the array on that station won't deliver a huge amount of power. I count roughly 30 panels, if I'm generous I'd say they were about 200 watts a piece - but they are see through so that leads me to believe they may only be capable of say around 100 watts peak. They are also in the wrong orientation (should be ideally 30 degrees inclination, south facing). My guess is you'd be lucky to get 3 kW out of the system. Considering there's 8 rapid chargers capable of at least 50 kW for a potential combined draw of 400 kW - I suspect the panels are for aesthetics , or dare I say it, green washing. Obviously that's all beer mat mathematics however. Still quite a posh setup I must say. Shame it's form over function however". Miles uses the phrase "green washing"; I have found several definitions of the term online, and this one seems to give the most succinct explanation:- "Green washing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company's products are more environmentally sound. Green washing is considered an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company's products are environmentally friendly. For example, companies involved in green washing behaviour might make claims that their products are from recycled materials or have energy-saving benefits. Although some of the environmental claims might be partly true, companies engaged in green washing typically exaggerate their claims or the benefits in an attempt to mislead consumers. The term originated in the 1960's when the hotel industry devised one of the most blatant examples of green washing. They placed notices in hotel rooms asking guests to reuse their towels to save the environment. The hotels enjoyed the benefit of lower laundry costs. More recently, some of the world's biggest carbon emitters, such as conventional energy companies, have attempted to rebrand themselves as champions of the environment. Products are green washed through a process of renaming, rebranding, or repackaging them. Green washed products might convey the idea that they're more natural, wholesome, or free of chemicals than competing brands. Companies have engaged in green washing via press releases and commercials touting their clean energy or pollution reduction efforts. In reality, the company may not be making a meaningful commitment to green initiatives. In short, companies that make unsubstantiated claims that their products are environmentally safe or provide some green benefit are involved in green washing.
According to a new study recently published by think tank The Runnymeade Trust, The London Borough of Bexley is one of the least gentrified boroughs in Greater London. Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Newham experienced the most gentrification of any of the London boroughs between the years 2010 and 2016, the new study found. “Gentrification is broadly defined as a process in which poor neighbourhoods are transformed by the entrance of middle-class occupants who trigger a ‘socioeconomic uplift’ in the surrounding area,” the report said. However, the phenomenon led to the displacement of working class residents as well as black and ethnic minorities in the capital in the 2010s, it added. Havering, Bexley and Bromley were the London boroughs to least be affected by gentrification in the past decade. Key workers - including teachers and transport workers - are among those most likely to be pushed further out of the city as a result of gentrification. Feedback and comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Now for the weekly local safety and security updates from Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch Association. Firstly a special message: Chairman's report - From Grant Murrell, Neighbourhood Watch Office. "We Need Your Help. As you will be aware, our current Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch office needs to relocate while its existing office undergoes refurbishment. Therefore we must vacate our existing office by Tuesday 15th June at the latest. As you can imagine we are very keen to continue serving you with a seamless service just as we have done since Bexley Borough Neighbourhood Watch began all those years ago. In the interim, while we can work virtually, we would be ideally suited to office space, and are therefore in need of both office and or some storage space. Ideally, it would certainly make logistical sense if they would be in the same place, yet this is not a necessity. This is likely to be a short term solution yet longer-term solutions are also an option. So do you know someone who has office space, can think of a shop or office that you or we could ask? All ideas welcome and greatly appreciated. For further details or to send ideas, please contact The Neighbourhood Watch Office by emailing us at email@example.com". A special announcement regarding a successful outcome of a recent investigation:- "Police in Bexley say they have "put a stop" to a long string of criminal damage on cars after two males were arrested and charged this week. The pair allegedly went on a streak of violent episodes, damaging cars overnight in the Bexleyheath area. But after repeat attacks, local residents started tracking the suspects, and after capturing a silver Citroen driving around suspiciously, police were brought in and they managed to stop the car and arrest its owners. William Parish, 21, and Liam Reynolds, 18, have now been charged with a combined total of 21 counts of criminal damage". The ward reports are still very much lacking; it has been mooted that the weekly reports may instead only be published monthly, which I personally consider to be a very bad move indeed. Here are this week's reports, such as they are. Barnehurst ward - no report this week. Belvedere ward:- "The team offered free Catalytic Converter marking at Asda car park in Belvedere from 10 am on Friday 28th May 2021". Bexleyheath ward:- "On Friday 21/5/21 07:00 Theft From Motor Vehicle in Warren Road. On Thursday 20/5/21 between 22:45 and 00:00 Criminal Damage in Broadway. On Friday 21/5/21 1740 Criminal Damage in Swanbridge Road. On Sunday 23/5/21 01:10 Criminal Damage in Broadway. On Tuesday 25/5/21 between 07:00 and 16:30 Theft From Motor Vehicle in Broadway. On Tuesday 25/5/21 between 06:10 and 17:00 Burglary in Grace Avenue". Crayford ward:- "I’m really pleased to say that there have been no burglaries in Crayford this week. A white van was broken into and tools were stolen on Monday 24th May by Church Hill". Erith ward - no report this week. Northumberland Heath ward - no report this week. Slade Green and Northend ward - no report this week. Thamesmead East ward - no report this week. West Heath ward:- "No burglaries reported to us over the last few days. One theft of number plates from a vehicle parked in First Avenue on Saturday 22/05/2021 20:00 hours. Theft of a motor vehicle in Totnes Road between Sunday 23/05/2021 20:30 hours and Monday 24/05/2021 05:40 hours".
The end video this week is a news report from back in 1984; it features archive footage taken onboard the M.V Communicator, and interviews with DJ's and staff of Laser 558. Even 37 years on, it is plainly evident how much more slick and polished the Laser radio presenters were than many of their counterparts on BBC Radio One. It is no wonder that Laser stole such a large proportion of listeners away from the BBC and Independent Local Radio at that time - and why the authorities were so scared of the massively popular station. Memories and comments to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.