THE RESPONSE: My email to Yarra Trams

You may have noticed by now that I believe sarcasm is the second highest form of wit (lavatory humour being the first). Today, however, I write without even the slightest hint of it.

You may remember a few weeks ago I posted an email I had sent to this mob:

If you didn’t catch it, you can read it here.

I write the emails I send to well-known people and organisations, imagining very different reception scenarios. In the case of the Jim Beam email, for instance, I imagined a chimpanzee being slightly surprised by the noise of the email chime, making a little noise of distress, then (inexpertly) pressing the delete button with his long index finger, just like he’d been taught to.

In the case of the email I once sent to Kyle Sandilands, I imagined Jackie O phonetically reading the email on a tablet computer out loud from the side of a pool in which Kyle was lolling, and giving up after the second paragraph (and the fifteenth time Kyle called her a “dumb, illiterate moll”).

In the case of the email I once sent to Margaret Court, I imagined Margaret herself hissing at the screen and then escaping into the night through the window in the form of a bat.

When I sent my email to Yarra Trams, I imagined an overworked 21 year-old on their ninety-eighth email of the day (at ten past nine in the morning) scanning my email, seeing the word ‘poo’ and bringing up the “excrement-fouled tram’ template.

I imagined wrong.

What I got was nothing short of genius. Not a template at all – a real letter written by a real person.  A talented person. A person I now want to meet and drink beer with and possibly give a little kiss to at the end of the evening (and I fully realise Sam may well be a man).

Why am I still speaking about it? It speaks for itself:

Dear Mr Rivett,

Thank you for what is, by far, the most entertainingly written feedback I have ever received. Your recount of events that occurred on the evening of 13 April 2012 was at once concerning and humorous.

While I have attempted to respond in a manner befitting the feedback we received, I do not wish to give you the impression that your observations and concerns have been disregarded or taken lightly.

When I read the first of the drunkard’s ramblings, I took his question to mean ‘Is it to be that we are engaged to be married?’ As I continued reading, I attempted to jam his square peg outbursts into my round hole understanding of his first question. I soon realised I couldn’t make any sense of it, but I feel better knowing that you were equally confused. Also, I agree that “screamed he” is perfectly acceptable under the circumstances.

Notwithstanding my concern for Mr Pelican’s disruptive behaviour, I would like to think Biff was bowling his baked goods from somewhere near the centre of a B-class tram towards either end – there is a hatch in the floor at each end just behind each of the driver’s cabins. While hitting the sides of the hatch would send the unsliced wholemeal delivery off towards point or square leg (or in real terms, and annoyingly for all parties concerned, getting lost between seats and the legs of other passengers), pitching the loaf on the front or rear edges of the hatch could certainly be regarded as landing it in a ‘good area’.

I also hope Biff Pelican’s name is not indicative of what he does in his spare time. But I digress.

Getting back to the crux of the matter, a call was indeed made by our driver to our Fleet Operations Centre (FOC), logged at approximately 6:35pm, alerting them to the behaviour being exhibited by Biff’s arch-nemesis. (Not “control room” or “HQ”, I’m afraid, but I hope this name still appeals to your Dick-Tracy-esque ideals). After attempting and failing to deter the drunkard with an announcement via the public address system, FOC contacted the police. Four times. After the fourth request to have police meet the tram, a Yarra Trams Response Unit (is that ‘Dick Tracy’ enough?) became available and was instructed to intercept the tram (ok, so Response Unit might not have hit the mark, but surely ‘intercept’ is a winner, no?). After our Response Unit arrived, our Fleet Operator received a call at 7:16pm from a Senior Sergeant of Fitzroy Police who advised that no other police were available to attend, and that as such, he was on his way himself. He arrived four minutes later at 7:20pm.

Please accept our apologies for what you and your wife experienced on our Route 86 tram. Just as your questions are based on the predication that the police could not have possibly taken so long to respond to our call for assistance (and the cause for delay must have been within Yarra Trams), our Fleet Operator also believed that police would be available to meet with the tram in a timely manner. Regrettably in this instance, there were no police officers available to attend to the tram until 7:20pm, which contributed to the negative experience of those customers onboard the first Route 86 tram.

I appreciate your good-natured approach to this incident, and I thank you again for taking the time to provide us with your wonderfully written feedback.

Spare a thought for the Yarra Trams Response Unit staff who drove the drunken man home.

Should you have any further queries or comments regarding this matter, please feel free to contact me directly via reply email, or by calling me on 9619 3311.

Kind regards,

Sam Marshall
Customer Relations Officer

I am tempted to call Sam as offered, but know I would get shy and giggly and have to hang up quickly.

I can’t believe Yarra Trams received an email that ended with “…if you could respond as entertainingly as I have complained, I would be most grateful” and didn’t put it in the “arrogant fuckwit” outbox AND had a crack at responding entertainingly AND consummately nailed it AND found a balance between humour and facts AND satisfied pretty much every one of my concerns.

Brilliant.

If Jim Beam want to know how to make something go viral they can put aside their  incomprehensible, cacophonous clusterfuck of an ad and take a leaf out of Yarra Trams’ book. Confound expectations, ignore corporate cliches, respond to cricket references with cricket references.

If you don’t recommend, refer, repost or retweet another of my posts ever in your life, do it to this one and give Yarra Trams the widespread adulation they deserve.

Haught fact of the day:

I once sent an email to Gasp Jeans’ Prahran store and within a few months it had closed down. Coincidence?

Yes.

Grape Men quote of the day:

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…”

“It’s fuckin’ April, you stupid fuck!”

“…tooooys in every store…”

“Eh, you hear this fuck?

“…but the prettiest sight to see…”

“I think he has pretty good voice, actually.”

“… is the hobby that will be…”

“Hobby? You silly fuck. It’s holly. Holly.”

“…on your oooown front door.”

“Leave the man alone. He got voice of angel.”

“But he doesn’t even know the fuckin’ words. Why would there be a hobby on your front door? It’s not even… a thing. It’s a fuckin’ abstract fuckin’ noun. And it’s fuckin’ April. AND HE’S FUCKIN’ WEARING SLIPPERS!”

“You are grump. You are grump man.”

___________________

Who are the Grape Men?

Find out here.
___________________

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  1. That is great! Yarra Trams 1, Metro 0

      • Haught Blog
      • May 1st, 2012

      Thinking of giving Metro the chance to equalise. What do you reckon?

        • Laura
        • May 2nd, 2012

        Please do

    • Dave
    • May 1st, 2012

    Comedy gold.

    I had an almost identical situation a few years back – was on hold to 000 for over 20 minutes. The only reason our version of the unhinged bloke wasn’t hitting anyone seemed to be the efforts of me and another guy ‘tag teaming’ his attention, and away from all the other people he was targeting with racist comments and threats.

    The tram was met in the end by Yarra Trams staff, who instead of asking passengers to disembark, locked us in the tram with the guy!
    Yarra Trams later advised we could have gotten off the tram if we had asked, but that certainly wasn’t how it was made out to the passengers.
    Eventually unhinged man got tired of the game and disembarked voluntarily to wander off into the night.
    Advised 000 that their assistance was no longer required after close to half an hour… at least the operator was apologetic they hadn’t been able to get to the police…

  2. This is just gold. GOLD.

    • Jay
    • May 1st, 2012

    i used to work with sam at a previous place of employment, and he is indeed a fine individual, and definitely one worthy of having a beer or 5 with! 🙂

      • iamjase
      • May 1st, 2012

      I can confirm this as well! Top bloke!

        • rasqash
        • May 1st, 2012

        Likewise, I have worked and drank with Sam before (on different occasions) and he is to be placed in the “Top Bloke” basket. Seriously good mofo.

      • Wishing hewasSamsfriend
      • May 2nd, 2012

      I wish Sam was my friend..

    • mathew
    • May 1st, 2012

    is i work in the industry i regret to inform you that sam is a guy!! however i had never known that he could write something like that

    • iamjase
    • May 1st, 2012

    Like Jay, I used to work with Sam as well and can confirm that he is a top bloke as well!

  3. ‘Yarra trams’ spelt backwards is ‘smart array’. Not a coincidence.

      • Tom
      • May 2nd, 2012

      Yeah. I’ve never understood why this wasn’t the central part of their marketing campaign. It’s not often that a company has a positive catch phrase as an anadrome to their actual name.

    • Stuart Dobson
    • May 1st, 2012

    I was wondering why the outbound no.59 has absolutely no relevance to the published timetables, perhaps I will compose a similar piece of feedback in the hope of a sane response.

  4. This makes me happy for so many reasons. Both of you are wonderful.

    • Susanne
    • May 1st, 2012

    Wow, great response!

    • LizzieBee
    • May 1st, 2012

    Fantastic response from Sam! I felt like buying (apparently HIM) a drink after reading this letter too. Best customer feedback response from a transport company I’ve ever read.
    (I once was at a Yarra Trams stop standing between a very hostile person and a younger girl, who was very upset, and just watched the cops drive by. The conductors on the next tram were MUCH better about responding to the situation.)

    • Andy
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Fantastic stuff. Further to your GASP comment, this must not be a coincidence, as I recently complained to the ‘Hoon Hotline’ about a neighbour/driver who I saw nearly hit some kids crossing the road, and his house was raided a week later and he was taken in for drugs/weapons trafficking. Complaint forms must have a sliding scale sometimes…

    • DanielDP
    • May 2nd, 2012

    couldn’t invent this stuff !…

    I’ll now get back to writing my email to Telstra tech support.

      • Mac
      • May 2nd, 2012

      You won’t have to be inventive to come with something equally as sordid when you’re dealing with Telstra Tech Support.
      I’ll wager you won’t get anything as witty as a Mr Marshall reply, either.

    • Mac
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Mr. Rivett, Mr. Marshall, wonderful.
    Simply wonderful.
    Thank you, both.

  5. Verry happy, to laugh while reading lol 🙂

    • Peta
    • May 2nd, 2012

    i love reading anything with the word “clusterfuck” in it!> well done.

    • Jacinta
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Now this is the stuff that I find entertaining…no big budget, no big names…

  6. HAHA so that’s the secret to getting a free ride home? Act like a potential violent drunk, Yarra Trams will not bother calling the police as they’re either not rostered on, at the footy or asleep in a speed camera car somewhere, and they’ll turn up, stop the tram, then promptly drive you home.

    I’d have loved it when the Yarra Tram employee asked Biff where he lived, the response was “Geelong my fine fellow, tally ho!”.

    • Yiota
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Well, that’s a fine “how do you do”!
    I wrote to Yarra Yrams in Feb specifically about the #8 route but I’m still waiting for a response. Would you kindly use your proven written prowess to ask Sam for a reply? Sam sounds reasonable with a great sense of humour, surely he/she’d be able to set things straight and give me something to work with? Tell Sam to look for the rant starting with “I am disgusted with this service” which then goes on to describe passengers as “skittles”, its the letter that where I’ve likened Yarra Trams inspectors to “vultures” who “travel in packs”.
    Thanking you in advance!

    • jimbo
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Has anybody ever recieved an answer to a questin from a Council….They have a lot too Hide

    • bee from the suburbs
    • May 2nd, 2012

    By jee I am gonna take me a ride on that tram route.

    • Brian Fairman
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Too many literate folk, spare a thought for those with English as their second language. The explanations are comic genius but the Route 86 experience is confronting for most. I read with interest the account and response from my Jakarta home, no PT to speak of just ‘macet’ (traffic jams) and began to wonder the wisdom of returning to Melbourne and fortunately (or unfortunately) having to rely on Route 86 to go to work. Makes you want to get the bike out and show off the lycra…..at least I know the bike route from Preston to the CBD wont have ‘OLD spin bowlers’ throwing wobblies.

      • Floyd
      • May 2nd, 2012

      I used to ride the 86 daily for years when I lived in North Fitzroy, with regular travel to St Kilda. Gentrification of the inner suburbs from St Kilda to Fitroy to Preston in the last decade or so suggests that the ‘confrontations’ on the 86 are not as great as what one would regularly experience in the late 80s & in the 90s, especially after conductors were withdrawn. Sam’s response is wonderful and gives one hope when it comes to perceptions of privatised PT. However, one can’t help think that this whole saga would have been better managed, or indeed avoided, had a conductor been on the tram. In the past, most conductors had the people skills to deal with such annoying characters and diffuse situations. No need for Response Unit staff or waiting around for the police. A conductor also would have been able to bat that loaf for 4!

      As for Jakarta, it has had BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) since 2004. Currently there are 11 lines, the worlds 2nd largest BRT network, with 4 more routes in the works. Still no metro line in Jakarta (until 2017) and traffic is still a nightmare but with respect it is incorrect to say that there is no PT in Jakarta.

    • alexander
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Thank you, that was just the most fabulous story and great to see someone taking the time to respond in the most appropriate manner.

    • Steve C
    • May 2nd, 2012

    In relation to the unavailability of Police, you are aware that, if you ring back a few minutes later and state that their presence in no longer required because you have shot, stabbed, thrown from a moving tram, or otherwise inflicted grievous injury on the said offender, you will have all the Police you need in a very short time.

      • kylie
      • May 2nd, 2012

      You so funny hahaha

    • kylie
    • May 2nd, 2012

    I had a really really bad day today. You should both blush at the thought that you moved me, made me smile and change the nature of my day. I thank you.

    • TMR
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Just a thought – at the risk of being a killjoy, it might be considerate to remove Sam’s full phone number, given that this is a freely-available public site. I only mention that because I just accidentally rang it and then hung up as soon as it was answered 7 or 8 times in a row.

    • la Bec
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Fickle I most definitely am, but surely at least one of these fine letter-writing boys might be….
    *gulp

    unmarried?

    • Tony
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Im moving to Nth Fitzroy……Love a suburb with a “B” class tram in it and a bit of “biffo”.

    • trinityne
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Bravo, bravo. This is great.
    Well done Sam

    • Blackwall
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Awesome, simply awesome. These memoirs are an important service to humanity.

    • chris
    • May 2nd, 2012

    I think you are both wankers. Imagine the witty exchanges you will have together. You can even touch each others penii at the same time.

      • Subvert the Dominant Paradigm
      • May 2nd, 2012

      I think the plural is “penus”

    • stigmonde
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Great email and gentle riposte! Though I am actually more stunned that “Fruity Lexia” comes in bottles, I always thought it was only to be presented in cask form. That said you should catch the 426 bus from Marrickville to Newtown (Sydney), quite a journey on offer there though I imagine if you complained you might not get as witty/pithy a response.

    • Hawkins
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Knowing that Yarra Trams is there to employ literature graduates is a most comforting thing. That they are there to provide a public transport service is another.

  7. Genius. I’d be shy and giggly talking to Sam Marshall too.

    • Unit
    • May 2nd, 2012

    Now all we need is a customer relations-off (it’s a thing now) between Sam Marshall and Chris King (of Sainsbury’s Tiger Bread fame).

    • SteveWombat
    • May 2nd, 2012

    I remember many many years ago, some brilliant CONDUCTORS on Melbourne trams, who squirted passing cars with water pistols, and slipped plastic spiders into the change.
    Now that we no longer have conductors, it seems like the wit in the organisation has migrated to customer relations.

    Go Sam!

    • the melbourne local
    • May 3rd, 2012

    Brilliant.

    I’ve posted links to this post and your original letter on my blog (http://themelbournelocal.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/read-and-laugh-and-laugh-some-more/).

    If I still worked in publishing I’d be bugging my boss to give you a book deal, Jonathan. Your writing is absolute gold.

    • linda
    • May 3rd, 2012

    Dear Messrs Rivett and Marshall,
    You have engaged us all. Well done sirs.

  8. Brilliant, just brilliant.

  9. Meh…been done before…a cross between that Marieke Hardy idiot and Danny Katz. At least he has a couple of chops…

    I know it’s hard but just try to leave the pseudo intellectual sarcasm and reverie from your lost youth mixed with the oh so drol Chardonnay socialist cliches and get an original voice.

    If you care about incidental writing that is.

    This blog just feels soooo…formulaic and redone. Cliche on cliche. Zzzzzzz.

    • Nice that the intellectual cliche police were able put in an appearance. Sadly the sense of humour squad were unable to attend.

    • Janie
    • May 3rd, 2012

    So much better a story than mine of the two racist men on the 86 talking about how a particular Asian woman was hot and would make an awesome mail order bride. Loudly. In front of her. When I remonstrated with them they told me I was just upset because I was old and not hot and they weren’t complimenting me. Those two were drinking beer.

  10. Heart My Trams.
    Oh 86 passengers you never cease to entertain.
    Book deals all ’round!

    • Gerard
    • May 3rd, 2012

    Please alert me when the beer drinking episode is to take place.
    I would be most pleased to attend.
    If only to spectate such a wonderful conversation.

      • Jen
      • May 3rd, 2012

      And me!! I came across this story in The Age and as a user of the 86 tram, was actually laughing out loud in work today. Gold.

    • Mac
    • May 4th, 2012

    +1

    Gerard :
    Please alert me when the beer drinking episode is to take place.
    I would be most pleased to attend.
    If only to spectate such a wonderful conversation.

    • Kelly
    • May 5th, 2012

    I’ve missed out, the number 19 tram had only one interesting incident in four years of travel and it’s not even worth telling. I think we should start a campaign to give Sam a raise.

    • VMC
    • May 7th, 2012

    This is pure, raw comedy, I could read this it all day. People who can so skillfully turn the mundane and serious into tears of laughter and uncontrollable cackling should be thanked and given a peck on the cheek. So, thank you Rivett and Marshall, you are GOLD.

  11. Oh. God. Brilliant. X

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