Posts Tagged ‘ email ’

My email to Hoo haa Bar

Earlier this month, two young women tried to get into a venue on Melbourne’s Chapel Street by the name of Hoo haa Bar. They happened to be partners. They happened to be holding hands.

The women say that they were not permitted entry, and suspect their sexual orientation had more than a little something to do with it. Several witnesses support their claim.

Of course, it’s all “alleged” at this stage.

What’s not alleged is Hoo haa Bar’s Facebook-page response to the ensuing furore. It’s real and you can read it here.

I get confused, flustered, but ultimately excited when private enterprises show a willingness to respond to questions and criticism. And I feel like I have cola-activated Wizz Fizz in my underpantal region when they choose to play the woe-is-us victim.

This, combined with the fact that I recently found myself a  patron at this particular establishment, meant that the following email flowed as easily as hypocritical drivel out of Kyle Sandilands’ mouth:

Dear Hoo haa Management Team,

I’m writing to seek clarification on an incident that took place at your establishment earlier this year. In hindsight, and in light of recent events, I now consider the event in question to be enormously distressing.

On Saturday the 26th of May, I travelled to Prahran to attend the birthday party of a friend at Hoo haa Bar.

I was let in.

This is causing me great consternation and I desperately need to know why it took place.

The obvious answer, of course, is that I am now one of Melbourne’s A-list celebrities and should be granted access to every single establishment in the city. But this doesn’t really cut it, when you consider that I have earned my reputation as a bloggospherical deity by working almost exclusively as a semi-anonymous cyber vigilante. Despite the fact that most Australians know and adore me, very few know what I actually look like.

And what I look like is really at the crux of this matter.

Recently, it’s alleged, your door staff denied entry to two women on a Saturday night at around about 9pm. Their names are Kay Girardi and Ari Missikos. Now, the old saying that beauty is in the eye of the beholder generally holds true, but let’s be honest here: unless the Herald Sun has gone into a PhotoShopping frenzy and given Kay and Ari’s faces a complete digital reconstruction (and we are talking about a News Limited publication here, so I concede that anything’s possible), these were not unattractive people you told to bugger off.

And even if you wanted to mount a case that they had been given a couple of lashings with the proverbial ugly stick, everything is relative. Relatively speaking, these two women are smoulderingly, wickedly, incomprehensibly sexy hotties. Relative to what or to whom, you ask?

Relative to me.

While I may be the world’s most promising and precocious literary talent, this doesn’t change the fact that I am as ugly as sin. And I’m not talking about one of the spurious Catholic ones like “original sin” or one of the piss-weak Deadly ones like sloth or gluttony; I’m talking about the absolute shockers like wrath, Avada Kedavra and, by far the worst of all, vanity. (I absolutely abhor arrogance and conceit, and as the owner of a Chapel Street night club, you undoubtedly do too.)

I’m so unattractive, my wife employs a Perseus-style mirror-plated shield when conversing with me. I’m so unattractive, I’m reluctant to have children because I fear that if my son or daughter got my face genes, I’d be dragged to The Hague and charged with crimes against humanity. I’m so unattractive, when I sent an email to Ben Polis earlier this year implying that he looked like “a rodent with mange…a loathsome mouse-dog… a repellent maggot… a rosy-faced cretin… a small, podgy dipshit and an angry little gerbil [resembling] Jake King… a dead carp’s slowly disintegrating prolapsed anus and an unctuous, ulcerous semi-human” I feared that he would respond with “I know you are, but what am I?” and his case would be water-tight.

(Speaking of emails to famous people, last year I sent an email to the well-known human/dinosaur hybrid Margaret Court (she still hasn’t responded – RUDE!) and told her that a boy at school once described me as looking like a pig with Down’s syndrome. His jibe, though cruel, was excruciatingly accurate.)

What I’m getting at is that if you want to argue that the two women you didn’t allow into your alcohol-serving-sauna-with-very-loud-music are not aesthetically pleasing enough, you have to take into consideration me. Not as an arbitrary point of reference, but because just a few Saturday nights before you told them they weren’t what you were looking for, you told me I was!

Now maybe you’ll argue semantics: it wasn’t so much what they looked like as their look. Again, I’m the hurdle that will make that argument’s finishing line very hard for you to get to.

To be fair, I don’t know what Kay and Ari were wearing on the night in question. But you do. So perhaps you can tell me: was it a pair of off-white cargo pants purchased in the late 1990s, a blue and red Melbourne Football Club tie with an old-school AFL logo on it, an ill-fitting white Rivers shirt with uneven stripes or a beanie of a similar vintage? Did they at any point produce a multi-coloured, multi-textured wallet with a small cowrie shell embedded in it?

The reason I ask is that’s what I was wearing on that chilly, and dare-I-say-it, soon-to-be-infamous May night.

Plus, my hair was as shit as ever and my beard was poorly trimmed, to the point where if you poured three litres of liquid on to the crotch of my trousers and squinted, you could easily have mistaken me for Biff Pelican.

Apparently, your hired muscle told Ari and Kay that they might consider coming back on a Wednesday night when the venue was “more liberal” about who it gave the thumbs-up to. In my experience, however, your Saturday night at 9.00pm policy is more liberal than a hippies-only Swedish key party at a vibrator factory incorporating a swimming pool filled with champagne jelly and Enya playing in the background.

So what’s going on here? Why didn’t you tell me to go back to Thornbury and put on some more appropriate clothes? Why didn’t you tell me to come back another night, even though I was there for a friend’s birthday? Why didn’t you look me up and down, smirk and tell me with undisguised disdain “Not tonight, buddy”? Why did you let me in?

WHY?

WHAT DID I DO RIGHT?

WHY?

Thanking you in advance for your considered response and wishing you all the very best in your (sensible, in my opinion) public campaign to have consumers consider the potential impact of their actions upon innocent businesses before launching their vicious, inane and destructive personal opinions and experiences out into the social media universe,

Jonathan Rivett

I’m looking forward to Hoo haa’s response even more than I’m looking forward to The Shire on Channel 10.

Haught fact of the day:

Enya’s most famous song isn’t named ‘Sail Away’; it is in fact called ‘Orinoco Flow’.

Other emails I’ve sent:

I’ve hit pay dirt… again

Sometimes I receive messages in the spiced ham folder of my email that get me so excited I feel like I want to climb onto the tallest building in the suburb and shout my exhilaration to the world. I’m always reluctant to do that because I also feel like I could spontaneously combust at any moment and the tallest building in the suburb happens to be a school, and I wouldn’t want to scare the kiddies, or spatter them with charred human meat.

I think the closest I’ve ever come to climbing the bell tower at St Mary’s with post-email elation was after reading this little doozy. But today I received a piece of electronic correspondence that blew Jean Fafona’s effort out of the water. Some of that water happily sprayed onto me, putting out the fire that had started on both of my arms.

Here it is:

Dear partner,

I am James Francis from Florida USA I was the personal account officer of  late Libyan Leader Omar Muammar al Gaddafi for 25year, before his dead last year 2011 he ask me to transfer a very huge amount of money about $20m (Twenty Million US Dollars) to a Commercial Bank in Malaysia (Chase Bank) for a twenty five story’s building he wanted to buy in SARAWAK MALAYSIA without a beneficiary name  because of the nature of his country, Since after his death  no one has come for the claim of the money due to the fact that there was no beneficiary to the fund.

Now the Bank (Chase Bank) is asking me to present the beneficiary of the money that they need to transfer the money back to the owner since the account is dormant for a long time now.  After going through your profile and that of your company I believe you are the right person for this job since your company’s business correlates with a kind of business I would like to invest my own share of the money when is finally transferred.

But right now my healthy condition and security in my country I can’t transfer this fund to my personal account rather I want you to assist me to receive this fund” If you would assist me with this I will compensate you with 30% of the total sum and at the same time invest my own money in your company’s business. More details will be sending to you when I receive your interest response.

You are free to call me for more information.

Thanks & Best Regard
James Francis,
H/P: +1-732-659-5513
Email: jamesfrancis219@rocketmail.com

Here’s what I sent back when my arms stopped smouldering:

Dear partner (indeed!),

First, congratulations on getting to the silver anniversary under the Colonel. Fair effort, that.

Now, let’s get down to tin tacks: I like the sound of this deal for three reasons:

  1. It’s straightforward and makes perfect sense.
  2. You’ve obviously done your research.
  3. It dovetails nicely with a similar transaction I’ve been looking for a partner to help me complete.

When you say you’ve been through my profile, I presume you mean you’ve read my blog. (You and half the rest of the world!) Before I go on, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Now, be honest – is it the best thing you’ve ever read? A few people have told me it is, but I get the feeling they’re only saying it because they want something from me. It would be great to get the opinion of someone who has no ulterior motive.

In any case, I really believe that investing in my business is a financial decision you won’t regret. At the moment I make an annual profit of A$0. Your generous cash injection will ensure I can maintain the operation’s stability and I am extremely confident that I can continue to post similar profits into the foreseeable future.

Now to the money. US$20 million is certainly a very huge sum. But not as big as the sum I’ve been looking to transfer from an account in ULAANBAATAR, MONGOLIA for the last decade or so.

You see, my story sounds remarkably similar to yours.

I am, as you well know, Jonathan Rivett from Melbourne Australia. I was the financial adviser to the late Idi Amin. (We might have even bumped into each other at one of those Swiss alpine retreats Idi and the Colonel went on together, now I come to think of it. Do you have thick red hair and a small scar on your left cheek?) Before he died in 2003, the big fella asked me to mortgage Uganda and transfer the proceeds into a commercial bank in northern Asia. I said to Idi, I said, “Idi, you silly fat fuck, you can’t mortgage an entire country. Get serious, please.” (By the way, when I told that to Forest Whitaker while he was doing research for The Last King of Scotland, he laughed so hard he fell off the chair he was sitting on and thought he’d dislocated his shoulder, but it turned out to only be a minor subluxation and he was fine.) So Idi returned to the realms of possibility, did some  stock standard embezzling and told me to transfer the resulting US$97 million into a commercial bank in Mongolia (Khan Bank) for the purchase of a mountain.

Because of the nature of the toiletries industry at the time, he made the transfer into the account of his invisible friend, JimJam Jones, a gigantic talking prune with predilection for stamp collecting and brightly coloured bow ties. Now, JimJam Jones owned a concrete business operating out of Libya (you may even have purchased some concrete on behalf of the Colonel from him) and was away on business at the time of the transfer – Idi demanded that I make the transaction without informing JimJam. When JimJam discovered the money in his account (now holidaying in Cancun) he made the assumption that he had won the lottery, despite never having bought a ticket. He became reckless, decided to go waterskiing for the first time in his life, even though he was an invisible prune and didn’t have opposable digits, and was killed in a spectacular explosion involving an offshore oil rig (JimJam was smoking two cuban cigars as he skied). While this was all happening, Idi’s kidney’s were playing up; he died in Saudi Arabia not long after the last of JimJan’s delicious remains washed up on the beaches of Montego Bay, Jamaica. This meant that nobody was left to claim the money now lying dormant in a dead figment’s Mongolian account. Of course there was me, but everyone knows foreign banks only let you transfer large sums of money if you have a complete stranger into whose bank account you can make the transfer and, until today, I didn’t know any complete strangers. But now I do. His name is James Francis, and I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship. (By the way, I’m referring to you, not another James Francis.)

OK, so here’s the deal. I will give you 42.87 percent of the US97 million and will invest 12.43 percent  into your Miami pineapple growing business. All you need to do is send me a statement of your interest, followed by your bank account details, followed by your left hand.

You are free to email me for more information:

haughtfeelings@gmail.com

With a jiggly wiggly sense of anticipation and a yearning to trade despot stories, I remain faithfully yours,

Jonathan

PS: I once bench pressed a fully grown cow.

PPS: Who do you think will play Gaddafi if they make a movie about him? I think probably Fassbender.

Wouldn’t it be good if he replied?

Haught fact of the day:

Until recently, I thought Mongolia was like Siam and Abyssinia and Ceylon and was now called North China or South Russia. What a bogan, eh?

What’s happened to the Grape Men?

A lot of people have been enquiring as to the whereabouts of the Grape Men. I’ll write a full post about it later, but in short grape season is over for another year and their allotment of land no longer resonates with the word “putana” or the gentle stop and start and stop and start and stop and start of engines.

The #FreeAnnie campaign [VICTORY]

At the end of last month you might recall that I began the #FreeAnnie campaign. If you didn’t catch the post or if the details are a bit HB-pencil sketchy in your mind, you can find it here.

In the immortal words of Professor Farnsworth, “Who likes good news? Everyone? Then: ‘Good news, everyone’.

Annie sent me this message yesterday:

Haughty-Haught-Haught… Can I take a moment to thank you for your help? I’ve just received official notice that the robots who issued my infringement notice have been reprogrammed, rebooted and have come to their senses… (Or, at very least, the higher ups were not appreciating the #FreeAnnie campaign/ my incessant letters).

My infringement notice has been officially re-reviewed and Metro Trains’ plans for world domination (one $180 fine at a time) have been derailed!

Yep, #FreeAnnie led to free Annie. Well, that’s what I’m claiming.

So if you read and ‘liked’ the post, and particularly if you passed it on, used the #FreeAnnie hashtag on Twitter (@Jay3199 – magnificent!), talked about it with friends, gave a dirty look to a ticket inspector post-#FreeAnnie, or sent me any kind of correspondence re: the campaign, consider yourself a successful public transport activist.

There’s only one downside to Annie’s emancipation: the following email will never get put to practical use:

Dear Department of Transport,

In May, a commuter by the name of Annie [surname redacted] was booked by a Metro Trains Authorised Officer after she was unable to produce a valid ticket within an arbitrary period of time. Shortly after the ticket inspectors had left the carriage, Annie’s Metcard fell out of the book she was reading.

She wrote to you, detailing exactly what had happened and requesting that the $180 fare evasion fine be quashed. Instead of responding with the reasons why this was, or was not, possible, you chose to write her a letter listing the stock standard excuses fare evaders give you when hoping to have their fines overturned. It was like a David Letterman top 10, but with even more world-weariness and more than a small touch of the snide about it.

To me, this kind of response is incomprehensible, full stop. But when you add the fact that not one of the excuses had the vaguest relevance to Annie’s case, your effort goes from budgie-attacking-its-own-reflection silly to young-people-shrieking-for-no-apparent-reason-in-an-ad-for-bourbon farcical.

Imagine if all legal systems ran on the basis that the guilt of the accused should be determined by how fed up the accuser is with the defences offered by those previously accused of the same crime or misdemeanour.

Imagine if everyday life worked that way!

Think about what would happen if this strange new convention you seem to have created could be applied by those who use your rail network.

Dear Department of Transport,

Thank you for your questions regarding my non-payment of fares. 

You can probably understand that, as a commuter, I receive hundreds of excuses from Metro Trains and the Department of Transport every week. These include:

  • There was a signal fault
  • There was an ill passenger
  • There was a defective train
  • There was congestion at Flinders Street
  • One of the doors won’t open
  • One of the doors won’t close
  • Something about an overhead power line
  • One word: vandals
  • Melbourne is too small to make regular trains viable
  • There are too many new customers
  • There’s been a lack of investment (from both sides of politics)
  • We need more rolling stock
  • We need more stock that is propelled by electricity, in addition to having the capacity to roll
  • Overcrowding is slowing down trains
  • It was a very wet day
  • It was a very dry day
  • It was a very hot day
  • It was a very cold day
  • It was a mild day, but passengers were doing myki wrong
  • The system would run better without passengers
  • The system would run better without trains
  • The system would run better without the system
  • We were busy
  • We’re still getting the hang of this electrification of the network thing
  • We got distracted
  • It’s mostly your fault
  • The moon went behind a cloud
  • There was a gunman at the station
  • The dog ate our blueprint for improvement
  • Our performance statistics tell a different story
  • We thought we saw a wolf hiding in a bush and we got scared
  • Pardon our progress
  • One word: unions
  • There was a problem with the swirler thing that regulates the big machine that makes a noise like this: “brip brip”
  • Someone put an advertisement over the driver’s window and the train effectively became blind (on the plus side, we added to our monthly profit)
  • The on-board sundial was off kilter
  • Camels replaced trains at Clifton Hill and one of the camels bit some people
  • We’re moving backwards, but don’t worry, we wrote a poem about moving forwards
  • Research tells us people like sitting in the Jolimont Rail Yards for up to twenty-five minutes at a time
  • It’s the drivers’ fault
  • We thought we had enough trains, but we didn’t so we had to buy some old rattlers off a collector, who was mean and sold them to us at an exorbitant rate and now we don’t have any money left to improve the system
  • Our sextant was bent
  • A combination of factors, going forward, has meant that the system has become temporarily suboptimal across many of its key performance measures, going forward (but  we have got some good take outs from this situation and are implementing many of the learnings, going forward)
  • One word: jabberwocky
  • Our operations centre still uses computers that show chunky green text and possess 3 kilobytes of memory
  • We keep getting kerosene and paraffin mixed up
  • There are many many trains but only a few stations – you do the maths
  • A wil-o-the-whisp got into one of the engines
  • We thought we saw a wolf… again
  • Connex left the whole place in a mess
  • The Met left the whole place in a mess
  • The Indigenous people of what is now metropolitan Melbourne left the whole place in a mess
  • One word: wolves
  • Someone literally threw a spanner in the works
  • Well, hang on a second – could we at least finish our lunch?

In light of this, and having carefully read your submission, unfortunately, I cannot change my decision to ride on your trains for free at this time. 

Thank you for having me as your non-paying patron. 

Sincerely… etc


You can sniff and scoff at your customers’ “excuses” all you like, but let’s be honest, to any reasonable, fair-minded person,  “I didn’t have the correct coin change to pay for a fare that now costs $11.90” is far easier to accept than the circular logic of “Overcrowding is leading to late trains”.

Terrible things happen on your trains every single day. Passengers punch other passengers. Inebriates vomit all over seats and down aisles. Smart-alec little heroes ride between carriages screaming abuse at anyone who looks at them from inside the train. Fat slobs somehow manage to take up four seats. People barge on before anyone else has had a chance to get off. And you’re going to fine a woman because she forgot she was using her Metcard as a bookmark and not even extend her the courtesy of explaining why?

You expect as a kind of birthright an epic benefit of the doubt from Melburnians. How about giving it back once in a while?

Sincerely,

Jonathan Rivett

Or will I just send it, anyway?

Haught fact of the day:

I only made up two of those Metro/Department of Transport excuses listed above.

THE RESPONSE: My email to Metro Trains

In May I sent an email to Metro Trains. It started out as an opportunity for the Big Blue M to test their complaint response writing skills against the new public transport (and possibly the world) standard. It ended as an angry diatribe, I’ll admit. For this reason, if Metro had erred slightly on the side of conservatism in their reply, I would have given them some latitude.

They didn’t, however, err on the side of conservatism so much as put every single egg they’ve ever owned into the conservative basket:

Dear Jonathan

We thank you for your extensive critique of our running of Melbourne’s train network.

Your commentary is appreciated and we will consider your suggestions along with others, as we continue to do all we can to ensure Melburnians get the train service they all deserve in one of the world’s great cities.

We’re not there yet, Jonathan, but if you’ll pardon our progress, we’re getting there.

You have outlined a number of general observations and experiences which we are keen to address and consider a meeting would be the most appropriate forum to discuss your concerns.

Please let us know of your preferred date and time. We look forward to meeting with you.

We do ask for your patience as we seek to transform Melbourne’s railway to accommodate what we promise will be a world class service.

Yours sincerely

Angela Marotta

Customer Relations Manager

Big tick for spelling ‘Melburnians’ right. Not so keen on the “pardon our progress” line. But let’s get to the good bit: the suggestion that we meet.

Why beat around the bush? They’re going to whack me, aren’t they?

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you very much for your prompt reply. Unfortunately we may not be able to accommodate your suggested meeting time of 2.30 pm. Can we instead organise to meet at 2.30 am at the abandoned warehouse beside the Mobil Oil Terminal in Yarraville? (It’s the one closest to the river.) 

The possibility of being killed execution style  is one reason not to accept their offer.

On the opposite side of the gangster scenario ledger, I have for a long time fantasised about reenacting the Joe Pesci “You think I’m funny?” scene from Goodfellas in a real-life situation:

Me: Anyway… so I’m sitting down with Sam Marshall, and we’ve both had a couple of drinks each, and he says to me, he says “I thought when I first came into the bar you actually would be wearing a white chiffon scarf.”

[The Metro Trains contingent laugh uproariously]

Young Metro Representative: [laughing, wiping a tear from his eye] You’re funny. You’re really funny.

Me: What do you mean I’m funny?

YMR: It’s funny. You know. That was a funny story. We love your blog. It’s funny. You’re a funny guy. [laughing forcedly]

Me: What do you mean? The way I talk? What?

YMR: It’s just, you know. You’re just funny, it’s… funny… the way you told that story and everything.

[everyone has stopped laughing]

Me: Funny how? What’s funny about it?

Older Metro Representative: Jonnie, no. You’ve got it all wrong.

Me: Hoh – whoa. He’s a big boy. He knows what he said. What did you say? Funny how? You mean…  let me understand this, because, you know, maybe it’s me… I’m a little fucked up maybe, but… I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I write my blog to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?

YMR: Just… you know, how you tell the story, you know… What?

Me:  No, no, I don’t know. You said it! How do I know? You said I’m funny. [running out of breath] How the fuck am I funny? What the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me. Tell me what’s funny!

Unlike Tommy DeVito, I probably wouldn’t ever admit I was joking, though.

Seriously though, they must think I’m funny. So funny that I have some kind of disproportionate societal influence, enough to warrant a formal brainwashing session.  And that’s what it will be – surely.

The alternative would be addressing, point-by-point, my email criticisms:

Metro Representative: “…OK – so if you’re happy with that explanation of why our staff member spent 90 seconds blasting the contents of his bronchial tubes into an empty coffee cup in preference to doing his job, we can move on to the possibility of having a fully-platinum train in operation before 2017…”

What on earth could they possibly tell me in person that they can’t tell me via email? “Going forward” is just as hollow out of a person’s mouth as it is on paper.

Maybe this is where I need to get creative:

Dear Angela,

Thank you very much for the invitation to meet in person. Do you mind if I bring along a couple of people I know who are just as disappointed with your service as I am? If that’s sounds fair to you, are you aware of any venues in Melbourne that seat 4 million people?

or

Dear Angela,

Yes, a meeting is undoubtedly the best way to discuss my numerous concerns. And by meeting I mean a televised debate simulcast across every single TV station in Australia, including the ABC and SBS, and all the digital ones, except that one that shows people having their fortunes told. 

or

Dear Angela,

I would very much like to meet to discuss my criticisms. Although perhaps “discuss” is the wrong word. How would you feel about addressing my concerns as part of a stage musical with your CEO as the leading lady? It doesn’t have to be original

“Trains were on time when old hacks were retired
When inspectors were kind
And our carriages  inviting
Trains were on time when profits weren’t required
And the world was a ride
And the ride was exciting
Trains were on time
Then it all went wrong

We dreamed a dream of trains on time.
When hope was high
And life worth living
We dreamed of stations in the sky
We dreamed of punters more forgiving…”

or

Dear Angela,

A meeting sounds like a fine idea. Can we do it like the Sooty Show where if I don’t like one of your explanations I squirt you in the face with a water pistol or dramatically slam my face into a full bowl of cereal, spraying you with milk? 

But let’s be honest, I’m not going to meet with them. What would be the point? What new information will I get? Are they withholding important  information from the public which they only release to smart-alec bloggers? And if (hilariously) they are – is it going to be honest and insightful stuff? Is it going to answer not only my mostly flippant questions, but also the serious questions raised by people who know the system inside out, including Metro’s own drivers (some of whom are making astonishing claims about the dishonest practices and policies carried out by their employers)?

But my main concern – my main concern by far – is that if I organised a time to meet, I would then need to catch a train to get to that meeting. And the last thing I’d want to do is turn up late to such an important appointment.

Haught Feelings would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.

The #FreeAnnie campaign

If you think the way Melbourne’s train system operates has to change, get involved in the #FreeAnnie campaign.

Haught fact of the day:

According to IMBD, the “You think I’m funny?” scene from Goodfellas came out of a real life experience Joe Pesci had had when he was much younger. The director, Martin Scorsese, allowed Pesci and Ray Liotta to improvise the scene without telling the numerous other actors involved what would happen.

The #FreeAnnie campaign

As The Age reported this week Metro Trains has, over the last year, gone into a fine dispensing frenzy.

One of the people they’ve nabbed during this period of sustained blame-shifting and misdirection is a Haught reader by the name of Annie.

Last week she wrote to me about her recent experience on a Metro train and her subsequent correspondence with the Department of Transport.

Her emails were charming, vivid and compelling. (They also included brazen raunch; during one paragraph I fainted.)

It seems that some overzealous Metro Trains Authorised Officers, followed by the Department of Transport, have got the delightful Annie mixed up with a  fare-evading black squiggle non-entity, as represented in this advertising campaign.

From her emails alone I can tell that Annie is not a scribble-based
organism. And if she is, she’s probably a vibrantly coloured one. Annie, told me in her emails to me that “I never forget to buy a ticket because it matters to me to have a healthy transport system – and the only way Melbourne’s shitty system will improve is through use and investment by the people (fares).”

With this in mind, have a read of Annie’s case:

  • Annie is on the train minding her business, reading high-quality Australian future fiction
  • Annie is interrupted by Metro Train Authorised Officers, who ask for her ticket
  • Annie can’t immediately find her Metcard and begins to search her oversized bag
  • The Authorised Officers put a very short time limit on the search, as if they’re game show hosts and Annie is a nervous contestant
  • When the time limit has elapsed, one of the Officers says “Bzzz” and the other one gets out a pencil, licks it like they did in the old days, and starts writing an infringement notice
  • As the Officers walk away, Annie makes an apologetic, I’m-not-a-black-squiggle face at some of the scowling busy-body passengers around her, composes herself,  then reopens her book and sees the Metcard fall out from inside the jacket – but it’s too late: the Officers have moved onto the next carriage
  • Several days laterAnnie receives a $180 fine

Pretty straightforward, is it not?

You’d think if Annie simply wrote a polite email to the Department of Transport explaining what had happened and providing the ticket as proof of her innocence, common sense would prevail and the fine would be quashed.

But no.

Not only was her appeal fruitless, the response email was a catalogue of irrelevant drivel. Rather than explaining to Annie why the fine would be upheld, the letter veered off onto a bewildering tangent,  listing the most common excuses the Department receives from those wishing to have their fare evasion fine overturned:

“I was running for the train”, “the queue was too long”, “I did not know it was a coin only machine”, “I was going to validate at the end of my trip”, “I forgot”, “I did not understand the zones or system”, “I only had a $20 note”.

What the Department of Transport appear to be doing is not only dismissing perfectly legitimate claims, but responding to these claims with about as much tact, professionalism and intelligence as the “Computer says no” woman from Little Britain.

Imagine if this approach to justice was conventional in the wider legal system.

Judge: “The prosecution’s case was flimsy and there is no substantial evidence to suggest that the defendant killed his mother. The defendant is obviously a model citizen and numerous people have, under oath, declared that they were with him in Melbourne at the time his mother was murdered in Brisbane. Here are some of the reasons convicted murderers have previously given this court for taking the lives of close family members: “I was acting in self defence”, “I slipped… repeatedly”, “I forgot that murder was a crime”, “I don’t know my own strength”, “I set fire to the house believing it was vacant”. I find the defendant guilty and sentence him to 35 years in prison.”

Now, I concede that I don’t know Annie personally. I concede that she may be telling fibs. I concede that she could have somehow acquired a Metcard valid in exactly the right time period and zone after being legitimately booked for fare evasion, and sent it to the Department of Transport as dodgy proof of her innocence.

That seems about as unlikely as Metro’s performance statistics, though.

Low blow? Yeah, well, here’s the problem: if Metro and the Government want to adhere to a policy of cynicism, mistrust and never giving the benefit of the doubt, they have to understand that two can play at that game.

If the best they can do when justifying individual fines is let out a great big sigh about how weary they are of bad excuses, they might want to think about tightening up their own material.

“Due to a signal fault…”, “due to an ill passenger…”, “due to congestion on the network…”, “due to a defective train…”, “due to an unprecedented surge in passenger numbers…”, “due to chronic underinvestment in the system…”

Are those ad nauseum excuses somehow less tiresome than the ones detailed in the letter Annie received?

If you can detect a little bit of hypocrisy here, and think a $180 fine for not producing a ticket hiding inside a book is excessive, start talking about it.

How good would it be if we could get #FreeAnnie trending on Twitter. How good would it be if we caused such a stir on Facebook that the Department of Transport were forced to withdraw their arrogant dismissal of her letter? How good would it be if, by sharing, commenting and discussing we made some change – however small – to the way train passengers are treated in Melbourne?

Want to give it a crack?

UPDATE:

The campaign worked!

Well, Annie has been freed and there was a campaign. And the campaign came before Annie’s fine was waived, so…

Read all about it here.

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.

My email to Metro Trains

I wrote a letter to Metro Trains.

Exciting times.

Dear Metro Trains,

My name is Jonathan Rivett. You might know me – I’m kind of a big deal.  (I have many leather-bound books, and my apartment smells of rich mahogany.)

If you’e not familiar with my work, here’s a quick summary. A couple of weeks ago I became very, very famous when I posted on my blog an email exchange between me and Yarra Trams.

I sent them my account of a tram trip my wife and I had endured during which a drunk man abused passengers in a theatrical baritone. I felt that Yarra Trams had been less than truthful with their insistence that the police had been called once this man’s antics had gone from entertaining to distressing and wanted to know the real story. It was an immensely humorous and exquisitely worded piece of correspondence.

Instead of coming back with a hollow, supermarket-bought reply email, Yarra Trams responded in kind. I posted their brilliant email on my blog. The radio station 3AW found it, then The Age got wind of it and the rest is history.

Anyway, long story short: I thought I’d give you a chance to better your bitter public transport rivals.

Now, you may be thinking: ‘What a contrivance! He’s going to make up some spurious claim just so he can demand a thoughtful reply email.’

In fact, I have a back catalogue of unsent Metro Trains complaints that, if put down on paper, scrunched into a ball and launched into space, would quickly begin orbiting the sun and become our solar system’s fourth largest planet.

The hardest part about writing this email will be choosing which of the sixty-five billion incidents I should mention.

Here are some from Flinders Street alone:

Not long ago a Metro customer service rep couldn’t help several passengers frustrated by a faulty myki barrier because he was too busy clearing phlegm from his throat – for one and a half minutes. He finally got around to dispensing his wisdom once the offending green stuff had been deposited in his cardboard coffee cup, which remained in his hand as he told the commuters that they were “doing it all wrong”.

Another time, a woman approached a platform attendant to clarify when a train was coming and, presumably because she was “of Asian appearance” (as they’d say on Crime Stoppers), got this response before she could even start the question: “No. No. Me no help. Me very busy – have many many work to do.  Thank you. Good bye.” The woman walked away and uttered a sotto voce “Bugger this” (in a bit of a Queensland twang), at which point the Metro representative turned around and warned “Mind your language, missy.”

I once witnessed one of your platform announcers become so angry when a commuter ignored their advice to “stand clear – the train is now departing” that they began to repeat the instruction into the microphone. The fourth time was loud, the fifth time was very loud and then it just got silly and people on the platform had to begin covering their ears. During the eighth “STAND CLEAR”, his voice cracked and from then on it sounded like he was doing an unsophisticated Will Ferrell impression. By the twelfth and final one (the one where I thought I saw blood come out of his ear), the person he was screaming at had long since boarded the train, which was at that point leaving the station.

These are just some of the more picturesque examples that come to mind. The problem with this email, I think, will be the lack of bowled bread loaf and Biff Pelican references for you to play off. And there’s a good reason for that – the bizarre behaviour of drunken passengers pales into complete insignificance when put side by side with your customer service.

Everyone understands that you have infrastructure problems that aren’t of your making. What few of us understand is your unfailing commitment to terrible, terrible communication and your unstinting lack of respect for the punters, the people who hand over their hard-earned to keep you afloat.

Why do customer service people stand in front of barriers at Caulfield Station during peak hour so that one or two are effectively out of use?

Why do your express trains regularly stop at all stations and vice-versa?

Why is sitting like a stale bottle of piss between the MCG and Federation Square now the most time-consuming (involuntary) pastime in Melbourne?

Why do you persist with this “It’s all the customers’ fault” mentality?

Why do you have so many of your surliest and most bitter employees in ‘customer facing’ roles?

Why do the numerous Twitter accounts pretending to be your company offer more insightful and timely information than the actual Metro account?

Why do you bother retaining the Metro Promise section on your website when every single bullet-point is farcical?

What you can expect from Metro:

  • Clean, comfortable, safe and punctual rail travel
Why not just add trains made entirely of platinum, sleepers made of unicorn horns and new stations in the sky?
  • Clear signage and increasing levels of real-time information updates
When you say “real time information updates” are you talking about when platform announcers make hilarious low-ball guesses at how late a train is going to be?
  • Proactive plans and actions to ensure your safety
Proactive actions? I don’t even know what that means.
  • We will bring stations to life, for everyone everyday
What, like in The NeverEnding Story when that mountain starts talking?
  • We actively encourage feedback, listen to customer views and act on them
Are you regretting this one yet?
  • We collaborate with other public transport operators to deliver seamless tram, bus and train service links
I’ve noticed one or two seams, I have to admit.
  • Regular sweeping and cleaning of stations and convenience facilities
Is a convenience facility another name for a dunny? If so, when you say “regular”, what are we talking – bicentennially?
  • Reconfigured train carriages to make peak travel more comfortable
Show me a person who finds peak hour train travel comfortable and I’ll show you a person with a fetish for claustrophobia.
  • We stand behind our promises.
If I were you, I’d stand behind solid things, not abstract ones, because a lot of people want to throw things at you.

As for those stats that you publish on the percentage of late trains and cancelled services – please! If you’re going to fudge figures, you either have to go the full Saddam Hussein or try for a more subtle – and potentially believable – deception; say 12% for “Punctuality” and 65% for “Delivery”. At the moment, with your 92s and 97s, you’re in no man’s land. Either make us laugh at your outrageous braggadocio or make us cock our heads and think “I guess it’s possible.”

Do your senior management group ever travel on the train during peak hour, and if they do, what in buggery do they make of the shambles that is their network? Do they laugh? Do they weep? Do they delude themselves into believing everything’s fine? Do they not really care as long as they keep getting subsidised by the government?

One thing they talk about a lot is improvement. They told us we’d notice it the moment Metro took over from Connex. When we noticed the opposite, they told us to be patient. When still no improvement came, they told us it was definitely coming. If you only answer one question in my email, it’s this: when? When can we expect to see this improvement? When are we getting the “world-class” system you promised? When can taking a train be a pleasant experience for Melburnians?

That just about brings my email to an end. And now the whole of Australia – and much of the world – waits with bated breath to see what you come back with.

If you can’t go all Sam Marshall on my arse, my advice would be to at least avoid corporate weasel words and keep the  passive voice to a minimum.

With much sincerity, some anticipation and very little  hope,

Jonathan Rivett

My feedback has successfully been submitted and my case number is 2012/80818.

Haught fact of the day:

The talking mountain in The NeverEnding Story was in fact a Rockbiter named Pyornkrachzark.
Other emails I’ve sent:
 __________________