A [FAUX] RESPONSE: My email to Metro Trains

Last week I sent an email to Metro Trains.

I haven’t yet heard anything back from an official representative, but reader Veloaficionado has had an excellent stab at responding on their behalf:

Dear Mr Haught,

As a representative of Metro, I will take the opportunity to reply to your latest letter. At Metro, we pride ourselves on keeping abreast of all commentary on our performance, and although some may call this paranoid and in the vein of witch-huntery, Section G-37-B is very good at its job. The surveillance equipment they deploy is second to none, and the data encryption and database security employed is world class, deep within the reinforced concrete 3rd basement level where it is stored.

So rest assured that we are aware of your reputation and previous correspondence with other instrumentalities and businesses, and we wish to reassure you that we take your views of our performance very seriously.

However, we must take issue with absolutely everything that you say, even that we seem to employ public image management that is somewhat amateurish and implausible, or to you, it seems, laughable. We have spent a substantial amount of public money on such well-credentialed public relations advisors, who have offices in major European capitals and both the east and west coasts of the US.

We have to trim our expenses elsewhere, perforce. Only supplying paper cups to our employees for the purposes of expectoration, is, regrettably, one of these. In the “good old days”, of non-benchmarked performance, full public ownership and trains that always ran on time (with the greatest extent of track of any metropolitan transport system in the southern hemisphere in the late 1940s), even the most monosyllabic long-term employee of 25 and more years standing could look forward to a silver-chased, embossed leather personal foldable spittoon as recognition of years of arduous service standing in grey drizzle, exchanging glowers with passengers, sorry, customers.

The timetabling and punctuality issues that you refer to in your, quite frankly, spiky and provocative missive, are nothing out of the ordinary. The government makes us publish figures, and, well, we just go along with it. We keep getting paid as long as we do so, and so far, the arrangement seems to be working. What they actually mean is, well, in line with the average Australian approach to getting things done, that, it sort of works. A bit. Mostly. We try very hard to sell this to our French management team, who often fly over and drop in for a Lan-Choo and a Tim Tam, and I think that they are gradually getting their heads around it.

One thing I do take exception to in your communication, is that you appear to be a racist, of the blackest hue. Yes, many of our customer service frontline strike team are from an ESOL background, and are developing their English language skills on the job, however, you appear to be selectively applying this to certain instances. It is natural that when under threat they may retreat into their most familiar idiom, and appear to be of a sub-normal or infantile understanding, however they are perfectly suited to the tasks delegated to them. It is the customer service tasks that, repetitive as they are, are core to their reason for existence. However, even the most dedicated operatives will have lapses. It is unfortunate that you personally have seemed to happen on a relay of them having a bad day. It is also unfortunate that other passengers, sorry, customers have an identical experience at a similar time. We are working to get the customer/operative ‘bad hair day’ synchronicity ‘out of sequence’, but like a couple of dissimilar car blinker relays, they will always come back into sequence occasionally.

Apart from Singapore (which seems to be a whole society of anal-retentive obs-comp. weirdos) EVERY public transport system IN THE WHOLE WORLD has filthy toilets. It is a defining characteristic of the medium. I’m sure that you would feel uneasy in going into, for instance, the station conveniences at Narre Warren and NOT find cigarette burns on the toilet roll dispensers, and semen stains from mistimed and poorly aimed attempts at copulation or auto-erotic satisfaction. So just back off on the shit stains issue, OK? If in fact you did make mention of it. But if you didn’t, don’t. OK? Right. Remember, we know where you live, and we’re still enough part of the government (just) that we can have our contacts at the State Law and Order Unit come and pay you a visit at 4 in the morning. They won’t knock, and you may have to call a locksmith and a glazier afterwards, Don’t say you weren’t warned.

On a lighter note, we are happy to announce that we are “gettin’ down with da homies”, to coin a phrase, and have introduced an “app” for the new “smart-phones” to tell people where to go, and how to get there, using “public transport”. It seems to have provoked much discussion, and has raised the profile of our ‘brand’ enormously. People are still getting where they need to go, so it must be working.

An initiative we are working on is introducing the “smiles per hour” ratings for our stations and trains. A pink smiley face sign will be telling you that people smile at each other where we operate, and that this is the best, surest and even the only way to get through the privations, tribulations, vicissitudes and upheavals that is a natural correlative of traveling with other people that you have not chosen to travel with. We carry everyone, and all their phobias and inadequacies, including your own lack of forbearance and good humour, if you will permit me to say, and scrubbing vomit off 30 year carpet in Hitachi trains is not how most of our customer service associates would choose to spend their time, if they had their druthers.

So, in conclusion, sir – we know your name, we know your reputation, and we will be watching you very closely from now on. We are always open to suggestions as to how we can improve our service and product to the consumer. We have a comprehensive and compendious catalogue of suggestions, and we can cross-match every new whinge and whine with those previous going back to the 1970s. We are well aware of every problem inherited from the previous administration of the transport system in this city, and the cesspool of such, whilst not being drained, is at least being flushed through with complaints such as yours. One hopes that it is not so large, nor so misshapen, as to get stuck further on in the process of complaint management.

Yours, E. Wasserschiet

Complaints Management Division, Section G-2-B

Your Train People

This is a good time to thank everyone who’s emailed, messaged or commented on the blog (or the Facebook page), or reminded me I owe a cafe money, since I began having Haught Feelings a couple of months ago.

Keep the correspondence coming.

Haught fact of the day:

I once saw a banana drop onto the ground from the trouser leg of a man walking down Swanston Street. When he realised that several people had witnessed the event he ran away very fast. If it had been a cartoon – and it nearly was – he would have left a him-shaped cloud of dust.

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