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Of banks and bins

So I went to the bank this morning. I wanted to change which branch I was associated with. You see, I was linked to a branch in a nearby small town, but little by little the branch was downsized - fewer people, less hours open - until eventually they just closed it and moved everybody to the sister branch which is a fair few miles away.
Plus, with the downsizing, the useful man that sorted out my two car loans was replaced by a woman who... let's say I previously described her as unhelpful and prone to wearing miniskirts smaller than some of the belts I've seen on Abba...
Now, there happens to be a branch of this bank in the town where I work. Since I'm there every single work day, and indeed usually put money into the automatic distributor at that branch (you can't pay money to people, it all goes into the machine now, to be dealt with whenever). Wouldn't it make sense, seeing as I'm frequently at that town, that if I needed to do something like pick up a new debit card or whatever, to go there?
So we (my mother and I) approached the girl behind the counter. A young temporary summer worker. If you understand French, you'll know exactly what I mean if I say "stagière". It seems that the bank would appear to prefer their client relations people to be young and pretty - eye candy. Actually having a clue about what she's doing would not appear to be a requirement.
Why? Well, sit down. Let me tell this story.

We explain what we want and why. Immediately she reaches for the phone to call... I don't know, somebody with a modicum of authority? intelligence? She repeats our demand in rapid-fire French, reading stuff off the screen. At this point I'm suspicious, but I say nothing.
Eventually she says to us "Why do you want to change your branch? Your advisor is blahblah." Huh? Mom and I look at each other. We have different advisors, for some reason. I know the name of miniskirt girl and it wasn't what was read out.
"Who?" was ask.
"Blahblah. Your account is here", comes the reply. She's looking at us with an expression of "you clueless Brit, stop messing with me".

Eventually I give in to the crashing weight of logic in my head. "Tell me the account name", I ask. "Yes, we have different advisors", my mother adds.
The girl turns the screen around and points to the bank information. It's an Italian sounding name. She lives in town. So being my usual level of tactful, I read the name out loudly.
"Hey! That's me!", said the previous client. "That's her", I helpfully added.

So let's see if I've gone this right. The client relations girl, when two different people approached her to ask a question either entirely failed to notice that the people in front of her had changed, or entirely failed to demand any sort of customer identification (you know, like swiping the debit card I helpfully placed right in front of you, you dozy bint!). My god, I wonder what would have happened if I'd been there to report my card as stolen, please cancel it immediately...

So, she was back on the phone and at one point was trying to suggest telling us that what branch it is doesn't really matter (in which case I would be happy to invoice her for petrol plus my time) but was told to just set up an appointment with somebody. Which she did. Although it took her two attempts to fill out this ridiculously complicated form for making appointments.
When I left the branch with the printed confirmation form, I added the rendezvous to my GMail calendar in about 40 seconds...


Because of a number of bogus excuses, the local rubbish collection is downsizing their pickups. We had a reasonable sized bin. This was replaced with a bin half the size (because there's only the two of us) akthough we were told we could keep the old bin as it was no longer required. So we left it up the top of the lane as usual planning to retire it at the end of the year when the new bins are to be used. What happens is we are having a "free year" where they will pick up as usual and tell you how much it would have cost you on a website someplace. Then, from 2019, they will only collect every two weeks. Actually they will collect weekly if you put your bin out, but the weekly collection will cost more. This is being done in order to save fuel, which is a bit of a bollocks excuse given they are driving right by to see if the bin is there (or not). Effectively with the smaller bin and the two weekly collection, we have had our rubbish collection capacity quartered. But, as is to be expected from public services, there will be no reduction in our taxes for the part we pay for the rubbish collection. No, if we want regular collection we are expected to pay more. What's worse, there appears to be no such thing as a municipal tip in France. There's a "dechètterie" (or however it is spelled) which is a recycling centre. There are big skips. One for plastics, one for building materials, one for cartons, one for metal objects... but let's say you're cleaning out the cupboards and you have fifty tins of out of date soup - what do you do with those? The official word would be "recycle the tins" with you being left to figure out what the hell to do with the contents.
My two observations on this are as follows: Firstly, this is going to lead to a lot of fly tipping. People are pretty good about recycling, but in recent years we have been expected to do more and more ourselves (with the cost remaining the same), but it'll reach a certain point where people can no longer be bothered with it all, and that'll be the point when they realise that doing what they've always done will cost them more. And secondly, if there was any sort of competition, any sort of private rubbish collection company, the current ones would crash and burn. I'm sure the high level managers are being paid well out of the less and less that is being done for the same amount of money. Oh, yes, I'm sure they would retort that running the rubbish trucks around uses X amount of fuel, makes Y amount of CO² emissions, blah blah. Well, you know what? The extra kilometrage hasn't snuck up on them. Sure, there are more houses around now, but this has been something that has been developing over years. In short, better management would have foreseen the changing trends and reacted to them.

Remember I said we could keep our original bin? Well, the Bin Gestapo came along and got rid of it last week. Gone. The end. I phoned the Mayor (who one phones when stuff happens in a tiny village) and he said that we were no longer allowed to use that bin, we had to use the new one. You know, the dinky bin that we were told would need to be used as of the start of next year. Not only that, but the Mayor advised us to not keep the bin at the top of the lane in case it gets stolen. Because, you know, this bin is somehow tied to us (RFID?) and if it is outside of somebody else's house we'd get billed for the pickups. This is despite our bin having a very visible locking mechanism.

So, this morning I sat on the back of the car on the boot ledge and held onto the bin as we went up the lane (about half a kilometre), and this evening I went and collected it by roping it to the back of my bike and cycling it back. It's okay now, but it'll be a right barrel of laughs doing that in the middle of winter.

You know you're rural when...



So a couple of months ago we had whacking great concrete poles installed along our driveway. These are for a new electricity line. Our current arrangement is three phase, running from a nearby farm as four bare conductors. It's a bit of a lightning magnet, the transformer has a tendency to blow up at random intervals, and what with punting 230V down the conductors, it is anything but by the time it reaches us. Having shoved a multimeter into the light fitting (don't ask), I have measured 190V when the kettle is on...

This week's fun, a different set of people came to suspend a thick bundle of twisted wires. It looks like there may be three or four wires there, but our electricity is supposed to be demoted to single phase? So now we have big wires from here to there. It'll be yet a different group of people fitting the step-down transformer and attaching to the house. Step down? Apparently the electricity in the wires will be at 400V, and the final pole mounted transformer will take that down the the required 230V. This is to counteract the losses due to the length of the cable. Probably also means that can get away with thinner cables.

Of course, I have to mention that the guy that installed the concrete poles, a jolly chap, managed to use a circular auger to punch a hole a metre and a half deep through gris (sort of like pre-slate), install a really big concrete pole, then backfill and cement to secure it into place within half a metre of a lovely yellow rose without so much as knocking a single petal off.
You can see what's coming, can't you? That crashing sound of inevitability.
These numpties, with a truck that has a caddy on an extending arm (so can go up to the top of the pole with the vehicle away from it) somehow managed to drive over the rose. A rather annoyed mom went and confronted them and the reply was basically "whatever, didn't see it". I had to bite my tongue (assisted by not knowing the best way to phrase it in French) from saying "if you can't see a big bright yellow rose - get off the f***ing road!". But, alas, there were four of them. The bloke in charge who was up in the caddy attaching the line (he's pictured above), and three lackeys wandering around carrying cables and just generally watching. I'm going to call it - stagières.


Stagières case you hadn't figured it out, the "stagière" is a lot like the "YTS grunt" from the '80s. They're there to learn their level of incompetence, and it is just generally accepted that if anything goes wrong, it's the stagière that did it. And, all to is.


McDonald's self-order machine speaks Japanese!

I lie.
It speaks Japanese sort of maybe. I could probably do about the same with Google Translate. Here's a screenshot of me choosing "no tomatoes" in my burger.
The kana is "iie" which means "No", though I rather suspect that "no" as in "no tomatoes" might be something else. As in Franch, it is "pas des tomates" and not "non tomates".

Of course, I'd have been dead impressed if the printed till receipt (that attempts to speak the chosen lingo - in English it says things like "Order payed" (sic!)) managed Japanese.
But I'm a geek. I would have been impressed. Instead, we get the entirely expected question marks. Well, I suppose that would be better than UTF-8-in-CP1252 gibberish:

Not that when you modify an order, such modifications are always paid payed attention to...

Oh, and before you say "maybe they didn't understand the question marks either", this one was done in French for a different product on a different day.


Of course, as a geek, it is always interesting to switch machines to other languages to see how half-assed a job they did of internationalising it. Our local supermarket automatic tills can speak French, English, and German. The German is the let down. I know Germans have a propensity for long sentences, especially all strung together as one word, but that's no excuse for half of the message disappearing behind an animated graphic. It's like somebody translated a bunch of message tags and nobody bothered to test it. But, it gets better. For this bit, they just didn't bother.



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GAVIN WRAITH, 29th July 2017, 12:05
Idiocy will always be with us. Also those who promote it, to enslave and maintain an advantage, and those who acquiesce in it to survive and retain a quiet life. Now that the inmates are running the asylum, expect to see more of it.
Rob, 13th August 2017, 04:45
I've noticed very lacklustre translations at our McDonalds self-order points, too... 
Daughter discovered something. If you order 99 of everything on the menu, and accept and confirm the order so that it asks you to pay, that is the point when it appears on the screens in the kitchen... Cancelling payment, and order, deletes it, but you can scare the kitchen staff quite nicely for a moment or two..
Rick, 13th August 2017, 19:13
Hey Rob - if your McDo machines are as useless as ours, doesn't that mean your daughter has to select something, and then press the '+' button ninety eight times? Repeat for everything else she adds... That shows quite some dedication in frightening the burger flippers. My hat off to her! 
Just out of interest, how much did that come to? 

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