Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Magical rip-off season is upon us....

Well, when I say the magical rip-off season is upon us, there ain't nowt (double negative, incorrectly spelt - how hip is that?) magical about it and it tends to extend all year round in the UK anyway.

We've all read how mystically, the prices of even the most negatively-starred hotels in London have been drawn into the Olympic net by the likes of Thomas Cook, who are quite happy to put a package together whereby you receive two tickets to the backgammon quarter finals and a double shoebox, cleverly made up to resemble a hotel room, in some far-flung West London suburb, miles away from the Olympic action.

Had you made your own arrangements in time to get the event tickets, it would have cost £21.12 a ticket and £49 for the room, but thanks to the wonderful incentive package put together by Thomas Cook, you get both, plus a free breakkfast (a voucher to the fast-food emporium with clowns and yellow arches) for a mere £1700.

And they get away with it. Because they are official. In very much the same way as Robert Mugabe's acquisition of a nice little farm on the outskirts of Harare, one that wasn't his to begin with, is similarly official.

An acquanitance of mine, the broadcaster and all-round good entertaining egg Mike Harding, reports that the ferry companies plying their sick bags across the Irish Sea have come up with a new wheeze to justify the hike in their prices during out of school term travel time. By sheer coincidence, the price of diesel, that which drives the barges, vasty increases at these times, and they have to pass the price on to the customer. Yes.

But what I question - and I was a 'victim' of this on holiday in Menorca care of the former Going Places some years ago - is, that while the incredible "high season" rip-off, mark-up is put on all holiday prices (the law of supply, demand and ensuring the great British public is ripped off) during non-term time, the actual service you receive, in completely more congested holiday resorts, is actually far lower than it is during off-season, when there are fewer people around and prices are more normal.

Why do we put up with shoddier service at a more expensive price?

For example, if you wanted an extra pillow, you have a far better chance of getting it when on your £30 a night low-season holiday than you have when on your identical £55 high-season holiday!

And there's more of a chance off season that your hot food will be served hot, you'll get through airport controls far more quickly, and in fact, your holiday will be a far better experience all round.

At half the price!

Proof, if any is needed, that the buying public is intrinsically quite thick-skinned. Or just thick.

Monday, 28 May 2012

A strange week has gone by...

Well, I suppose it's a strange week that goes by every week really!

Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Libyan spy whom, it was claimed, was the Lockerbie bomber, passed away and was interred without any ceremony or speeches to mark his departure. Somewhat different to his arrival in Libya after having been released.

Meanwhile, back home in Blighty, Eugene Polley passed away at the ripe old age of 96. Also without too much pomp and ceremony. Yes, and who was Eugene Polley I hear you ask? Why he was Mr Founding Father Couch Potato of course!

Still no wiser? Well, Mr Polley launched the first wireless TV control way back in 1955, although he felt that despite some retrospective awards, he never received the credit he felt he was due. Such as a subscription to WeightWatchers.

Meanwhile, the good folk at the Levenson inquiry are hoping no one gets wind of the wonderful mad folk in the Middle East, in particular a civil plaintiff (?), Duwaim al-Muwazri, who feels that the death sentence isn't tough enough (can there actually be a tougher sentence!) for poor auld Hamad al-Naqi.

Hamad is a Sh'ite Muslim who had the temerity to allegedly use Twitter (Hamad claims his account was hacked) to insult not only the semi-despotic rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, but then to go on to besmirch the good name of prophet Muhammad.

Yep. It’s okay for Al Queda and all the other towel-headed lunatics to homicide bomb and murder innocent civilians in restaurants and on the streets - many of whom who are children - all in the prophet’s name, but don’t mention him on harmless, free-speech Twitter!

And then we read about the appalling use of a supermarket plastic bag in the hands of another pair of total nutters, the Ahmeds, who stand accused of murdering their 17-year-old daughter for refusing an arranged marriage and bringing ‘dishonour’ on the family. Sorry mates, you’ve brought total dishonour on the entire Muslim community of Warrington through murdering your own lovely daughter. What sort of care-home candidates are you at all? Lock, key and throw-away come to mind.

We also learn that some members of the Vatican, together with foreign diplomats, enjoyed the intimate company of a teenage girl very much against her will some years ago. Sadly, the girl, Emanuela Orlandi, who disappeared in Rome in 1983, lost her life to these perverts.

And finally, to finish off the week, a man in his 70’s came second-last in a songfest renowned for crooked voting and an appalling taste in patronising and twee presenters. Poor Englebert.

I suppose at least his flame didn't blow out, unlike the e-Bay torch, as it went through the Devonshire town of Great Torrington.

Yes, it’s been a strange old world this week.

Saturday, 26 May 2012

"Pre-"

I was looking through the Guardian this morning and noticed a position being advertised that I thought I'd take a closer look at. The first sentence, when clicking the link to apply was:

"If you are registered, please log in and we will pre-fill this form for you."

What is the current fixation with the prefix "pre". It is everywhere, turning perfectly reasonable statements into total and utter gibberish!

I would have thought that for one of our major quality newspapers, instead of "please log in and we will pre-fill this form for you" it would have been much more sensible to have something along the lines of "please log in and your details will be automatically filled in for you".

It is the rip-off Britain merchants who have embraced this particular prefix with a vengeance. They have nonsensically slapped it in front of the word "order" so that the moment an overpriced games console, war game for that console, phone, pair of designer trainers made in a Vietnamese sweat-shop, etc, is announced as on the way, large shelf-talkers and posters appear enabling the customer to "pre-order".

Oh come off it you total idiots! There is absolutely no such thing as pre-order! You either order something or you don't order something!

Just be honest and say "order now", or perhaps be brave enough to say "order now so we can bank your money and at least make some extra interest, although it's not a lot, safe in the knowledge that we've trapped you into buying our crap knowing full-well that the price will be reduced three weeks after you've taken delivery".

And then there's "pre-book". What? How can you pre-book? Either you book or you don't book. You'll still get charged an unethical, totally dishonest and translucent booking fee no matter what you do! Complete and utter garbage! Pre-book! Whoever thought of this totally stupid and meaningless statement needs to retake a GCSE in English. In grammatically-correct English, "pre-book" translates as "book before you book", which is utter nonsense.

If you've passed by any of the cash converting shops, you know, the ones who pay £40 for a Notebook PC in the grim hope they can sell it for £160. Well, all their goods are now either "pre-owned" or "pre-loved" (pre-loved? what utter and absolute nonsensical garbage is that now?).

Well I've got bad news for them all. Some very bad news in fact. These goods are neither "pre-owned" or "pre-loved"; they are just plain old second-hand or used. End of.

Or stolen, in the case of those shops located in the more dubious suburbs.

Right, I've just "pre-sh*tted" (that's "broken wind" in the "pre" brigade's language) prior to "pre-driving" (picking up my car keys from the table) and "pre-shopping" (putting my wallet in my pocket) in order to "pre-eat" (go supermarket food shopping).

Pah!

Friday, 25 May 2012

Cost, value and worth - becoming ever confused

Two words seem to be very misunderstood out in marketing land - "cost", "worth" and "value".

I have to smile when I see the advertisements, most noticeably from the phone providers or phone bucket shops, for the "New super-duper Acme phone" which includes "free acme headphones worth £199".

Er. No.

Sorry chaps.

The headphones are not in any way "worth" £199. That £199 would be the "cost" of them in rip-off Britain. Not their worth. They are actually "worth" about £25, if that!

Oh! And they're not "free". The price has been factored into your phone contract. Which would be a few quid less a month if it didn't include the "free" headphones. Those that are worth £25.

Supermarkets are increasingly coming under scrutiny for their special offers that have been discovered to be not all that special after all. The buy one for £2.50 or two for £4 type of thing, when they've not really been on sale for the required previous period of time at £2.50, and were in fact price-hiked from £1.85 prior to the offer anyway.

The management trot out the not-unbelievable excuse that they have thousands of items on sale at any one time and mistakes do happen.

Well, a well-organised and rather simple spreadsheet would take care of that! You list your products down the left of the spreadsheet. You then list the prices across the top of the spreadsheet with the statutory date range and relevant prices. You then place your spreadsheet within easy access on your content management system and hey presto! The perfect mechanism for all management to monitor your prices.

Simples, and hardly rocket science!

And talking of "simples", although not the one that accompanies that phrase, one insurance site is offering a staggering 1,000 Nectar points if you take out an insurance policy with them. So you pay your several thousand pounds to get your car insured against someone looking at it, and immediately run up and down the street in joy clutching your 1,000 Nectar points...........worth £5.

Almost as bad as taking out one of those coffin policies clearly marked "you may not get back the sums you have paid in premiums" where they give you an incredibly cheap and nasty flat-screen tv as an incentive. Some "experts" have worked out that it may be better just to plonk your £5 a week into an ISA. Or under your mattress.

And talking of coffin policies. If one of the main ones in the North West can afford to let one of the big four supermarkets sell their policies, wouldn't it be more equitable and honest to stop and offer their existing customers the commission they are paying the supermarket, as a reduction. Then customers might just "get back the sums they have paid in premiums".

It really is appalling that consumer watchdogs and programmes on television such as "Watchdog" and "Rip-Off Britain" have to constantly monitor companies on our behalf, if only to overcome their sheer greed cleverly disguised as administration errors.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Linguistics

I know I harp on about the unbelievably ridiculous over-usage of the words "leading" and "solutions", the former most noticeably in the recruitment world where every client of every recruitment organisations is a "leader" (hence the often less-than pecuniary rates these "leaders" offer for the job), the latter, sitting as a great excuse for a trade name, mainly because the company couldn't be bothered to be a little bit more creative.

I always thought that if you were a "leader" in your field, you should have some form of independently assessed qualification and quantification to prove it! I can understand President Nodinnajaket of Iran or President Mugabe each being described as "one of the world's leading fruitcakes", because we see their antics daily in the news.

But how can some drinks or ball-bearing manufacturer, or a law firm, actually receive the accolade of being described as "leading". Come on, get up to the mark and prove it then! How are you leading? Who says you are leading apart from yourselves? What is it you do that is so wonderful that you are leading? And what exactly are you leading? Is anyone actually following?

Then there's "solutions".  A word in the same club as admixture, amalgam, blend, combination, commixture, composite, composition, compound, dilutum, emulsion, intermixture, mix, mixture, solvent, suspension. Or, a "homogeneous mixture of two or more substances, which may be solids, liquids, gases, or a combination of these".

Yes, okay, I'm being pedantic, because "solution" also refers to "the act of solving a problem or question".

However, keep an eye out next time you travel along one of our wonderful motorways. You'll see Office Solutions, Kitchen Solutions, the firm favourite Logistic Solutions with its cousins Supply Chain Solutions and Transport Solutions, possibly a Garden Solutions, maybe a Food Supply Solutions, the odd Tour Solutions, plenty of Retail Solutions, in fact so may solutions that should there be a multi-vehicle pile-up involving these solution-branded vehicles, the threat would be that we might drown in all these solutions.

It was the same in the hawkish and more dishonest days of financial services selling some twenty years ago when you had firms aggressively selling you products you didn't want and couldn't really afford at a time when you didn't really want to be sold them. The sort of Milldon/Laurentian Life stuff, designed exclusively to help you.........make their directors rich. The type of stuff that saw the firm Allied Dunbar being affectionately known as Allied Crowbar.

Now, their sales people had the appalling habit of interjecting "basically" and "obviously" in between every second word, and these two terms remain to this day as the sure sign of a script being read out by someone who doesn't actually themselves believe in the product they are selling.

All these words - leading, solution, basically, obviously and more, are the business equivalent of the popular term "innit", which itself, if elongated into its correct constituent words, never makes sense when used by those attempting to make their English mother-tongue their second language - "Yes, I have to take time off for Aunt Maisy's funeral isn't it." or "I'll be back in a half hour because I have to take the dog for a walk, isn't it.

I really don't understand how these language abuses catch on! Although I suppose they are the verbal equivalent of wearing your peaked cap backwards, having your trouser crotch below your knees or having a tattoo on your midriff that when middle aged spread sets in, transforms the once delicate horse to some sort of bulging science-fiction creature that will scare the hell out of your fellow residents in the care home your kids throw you into.

All are as lacking in smartness as they are lacking in correctness. 

Fashionable, yes, but not even the slightest bit stylish.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Brand typecasting

I think I've discovered a new phenomenon about branding.

Typecasting!

For example, most females - and I'm not being sexist here, just quantitative through observance - driving a Mini or one of those ridiculous and unnecessary 4x4 juggernauts, tend to be blond. And always on their mobiles. In fact, I'm convinced the new Rage Rover Evqoues that have sprung up around our area are all being driven in turn by the same short, blond, telephone-obsessed woman.

Similarly, the young ladies with their jeans tucked into their genuine, or otherwise, Ugg boots, look like clones of each other, identical hair, far too much make-up, copy fashion bags hanging from their arms and interminable Blackberry clutched in their hands. (As an aside, I cannot understand why they have to nurse their phone, checking it every seven seconds - it is so simple to get it to make a sound when there's a message. I know back in the 70's/80's I never wandered around the house with the phone and handset glued to me 24/7!).

Then there's the great unwashed. Always in blue tracksuits (with perfunctory white stripes down the legs) and trainers, despite there being no intention on their part to take any form of exercise whatsoever, the exception being the lifting of chips out of their newspaper wrapping or a slow amble down to the pub to exchange their weekly shopping money for beer.

And then there are the 'cool dudes', with their cumbersome ape-like, swinging, bandy-legged walk, with a baseball cap either sideways or backwards on their head, a ridiculous cheap large, fake diamond ear-stud in each ear, and trouser crotch at, or below, their knees. Listening, and making us listen, because they are too ignorant to use earphones, to what sounds like building site noise backing someone shouting unintelligible vocalised garbage from their mobile phones.

And all of these people were the first to complain that they had to wear a school uniform, yet they look and act more identical than ever!

Then there's a hard core of men at an age when they seem to have forgotten they were teenagers over 50 years ago, but they insist on having ignorant football club tattoos and a, or several, gold curtain ring/s in one ear, appearing, to all intents and purposes, like complete numbskulls. Unless the earrings are to tether them to the kitchen sink for some washing up duties at home.

I think it has a lot to do with the fact that the chasm between fashion and style has widened to such an extent.

I saw a picture of the designer Karl Lagerfeld a short time back following his presentation of the Chanel collection. And what a mess he looked. Almost 70, ponytail, Harry Hill-style shirt with tie untidily and not fully done up, pair of jeans with cowboy boots and some sort of grey, tailed trench coat.

Even to those of us who are completely fashion unconscious, he looked a total mess. And the fact he's "Karl Lagerfeld" is no excuse.

Fashionable perhaps. Stylish, not even remotely.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The "Win a Million" free scratch card newspaper inserts

One of those three-panel "Win a Million" scratchcards fell out of my newspaper this morning.

Not a major or in anyway newsworthy event in itself, but I must admit my surprise. I didn't think anyone bothered with them anymore, or, to be a little more technical, I didn't think anyone was taken in by them anymore.

Firstly, it actually is printed on the bottom of each panel that "Every card has a set of 3 matching symbols, 2 matching symbols and no matching symbols".

Right, so you are going to 'win', half-win and not win respectively.

Then, while the prize list is somewhat impressive with 1x£1m, 1x£100k, 2x£20k, 3x£10k and other things like holidays, tablet PC's city breaks all the way down to 1000 "faux" fashion watches, 1000 salon  makeovers and 1000xVIP Thames cruises.

Now should I be stupid enough to spend the £1.53 a minute for the 6 minute phone call to claim my prize (that's almost a tenner, for those of you without calculators), I know that I would be in for either a salon makeover (I presume this means I have to go to a beauty salon and decorate it for the owner), a VIP trip on the Thames (eminently practical for someone living, say, in Inverness). Even more likely, I would win the 'fashion' watch, the type that comes in a wonderful presentation case (worth at least twice the value of the watch), complete with its £69.95 price tag printed on, you know, the type of watch you can buy on any city market stall for £3.99.

So how do these competitions survive? The gaming laws mean that should you actually read the prominently displayed terms and conditions, you are in essence on a hiding to nothing. They tell you that! Yes, someone, somewhere has to win the big prizes, but it's all done rather surreptitiously by phone or text, so you never really know.

Now the National Lottery claim that 5 people win every second on their scratchcards. Personally, I don't know how these 5 people can keep up with such a pace! Seriously though, 5 people per second, and also, I believe they say 2 billion winners to date.

Now does this include the people who buy a scratchcard for, say £2, and then just have their £2 returned as a 'win', because they are not winners in the sense of the word that the Lottery Chief Executive is a winner with her £1m-plus salary, plus bonus, plus pension, all at the expense of the hapless souls who think their next £5 spent on Lotto tickets will see them being able to put a deposit on Clarke Gable's old house in Hollywood at the weekend!

What I'm wondering is if a healthy proportion of all these winners have just simply received their money back, because then they are not really winners per se.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Right - have thrown down the gauntlet with a recruitment advertisement of my own

I’m in the market for a new job, so, with frustration/despondency having set in at the unbelievably high levels of quality recruitment I am witnessing daily (I know, sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, but according to the advertisements on the job boards, they are all "leading" companies, every last one of them, although I have been trying to find actual proof of their "leadership" for the past 20 years. Yes, "leading", possibly the worst and most abused word in recruitment land, apart from "solutions".)

I have taken the liberty of outlining the sort of job I DON’T want. If anyone can fit the bill to save me walking the streets with an advertising sandwich board over my shoulders, I will be eternally grateful.

attractive salary - well, as it's so low, it's extremely attractive to us
plus benefits - tea and biscuits are free and you get to keep any un-franked stamps you steam off incoming mail
Northern-based - Aberdeen-"ish"
pleasant rural surroundings - at our head office 48 miles outside the Aberdeen-ish location
good local facilities - the government haven't shut down the local Post Office.........yet
car scheme - you go to the local garage and buy a car. We've negotiated 25% discount, but due to location, the car costs 30% more than an equivalent one bought in Manchester, so you make a net gain of approximately minus 5%
non-contributory pension scheme - well, we certainly don't contribute to it
fantastic opportunity - we can't find any other shmucks idiotic enough to take the job
progressive company  - we never pay you on the same day each month
one of the UK's top........ - there are only 3 other UK companies daft enough to be in the same business
market leader....... - see previous point
impressive range of clients  – three "everything a pound" stores in Birkenhead, Scunthorpe and Dunstable respectively, a Chinese Takeaway in the Midlands, and a ball-bearing manufacturer in Devon
knowledge of Windows useful - because our window cleaner left three weeks ago
IT literate - well we don't know how to work the blasted computers, do we?
educated to degree level - we have to say this to look good, and anyway, we want some numpty who knows nothing about business but at least is educated and cheap
one of the UK's fastest growing.......... we keep increasing the prices of our products
some international travel - we have two foreign offices, one in Tehran, the other in northern Alaska
highly respected organisation - bankrolled by the Mafia
mustn't be a clock watcher - we expect a 10 hour day from you so our directors can enjoy their golf uninterrupted
must be a team player - we like to challenge the local radio station to 5-a-side football when business is slow
must be a self-starter - we haven't actually got a clue yet about what we want you to do
you will manage a team of 4 - the tea lady, toilet attendant, security guard and Youth Trainee
your contribution will be acknowledged - the MD will thank you each time you lend him a fiver when the petty cash tin is empty
OTE £45,000 - your basic is £11,000; however, you might well achieve £45,000, after 20 years’ service that is. Meanwhile, your starting salary is definitely £11,000
performance-related bonus - depends on how good you are at Karaoke
generous holiday scheme - we own a two-bed chalet at Butlins in Skegness which you can use free of charge during the Winter
previous applicants need not apply - we had only 2 applicants last time - one a serial rapist, the other a child molester
apply to our retained consultants - seeing as we haven't a clue ourselves
who will claim  “my client is a market leader” because we were the ones who were stupid enough to forget to put “no agencies” at the bottom of our advertisement in the Guardian
who will shortlist suitable candidates - they won’t have a clue either
a second language would be an advantage - the accountant who does the wages speaks only Portuguese
good prospects - you're bound to want to leave in a couple of years to go to a proper and better-paid job

Sunday, 13 May 2012

The "wunnerful" game. Not.

Although old enough to know better (in fact, really, really old enough to know better), I do enjoy a foray onto Facebook. For all we older ones may deride it, I have found that particular site has put me back in touch with people who simply dropped out of my life thirty years ago.

In fairness, they tended to drop out because I was brought up in Dublin (Ireland, for those of you lacking in geographical knowledge), but now live in Yorkshire (England, for those of you still lacking in geographical knowledge). And it happened well before the internet age. Or at least at the time when Tim Berners-Lee was busy inventing t’internet. .

Anyway, to cut a long story short, an old female friend from Dublin (we lived at 25, they at 37) made a Facebook statement that she was doing a simple survey asking her friends whether they either knew, or give two hoots, about whatever happened with various football teams today, with today being Sunday 13th May.

Myself, I am so au-fait with football that I didn't even know some major teams were playing today, although I do remember a neighbour saying he was washing his car early so he could sit down and watch the motor racing and the match, so I now assume “the match” was something important on the football calendar. Unless the motor racing featured a fight between Bernie Ecclestone’s two wonderful daughters, in particular, the extremely erudite Petra, who, in celebration of her eruditeness, is, I believe, named after a Blue Peter Dog.

Regarding football, I really cannot see what all the fuss is about, following a bunch of spitting, over-acting, overpaid and over here lager-louts, with their fortune-paying sheepish fans. These fans are happy to part with a hard-earned £60 in exchange for a £2 shirt made in Vietnam by some half-blind teenager working 25 hours a day for $6 a week, in order to then advertise drinks and betting companies on the front of it!

Are the fans really that stupid that they are happy to pay to advertise these multimillion corporations on extremely nasty and cheap shirts?

Surely the drinks, betting companies and even the teams themselves should be paying the fans a fee for advertising their brands on their chests, backs or both?

Or at the very least, provide them with the nasty, cheap football shirt replica for free!

Crikey, I wish I could get someone to pay me to provide me with free advertising (if you get my drift)! In fact, this could be the very secret weapon to preserve all those small local daily newspapers that are either going weekly, or going to the wall!

Then, to add insult to strange behaviour, the football fans worry about the teams and their players like a country-wide commune of therapists. Again, on Facebook, I see acres of screen print from otherwise quite intelligent people worrying and fretting about some unintelligent potato head, who, kicking a pig's bladder around a field for a few hours a week, earns in that one week what it takes 8 NHS nurses in the UK, or 8 poor sods in Afghanistan being shot at by moronic weird-beards, to earn in a year!

Football certainly does not in any way contribute to the fabric of my or my family's well-being, neither does it ease my worries.

So while its proponents have to worry about where their next tax fiddle is coming from, or where to crash their £80,000 sports car next, I, frankly, do not give even the slightest toss about it!

Ok. So call me a grumpy old man.

But do the fans not realise they are being taken for a ride, scrimping and saving as they do from their often, just-above minimum wage occupations, to support these multi-millionaires?

Or is it just that the world has gone completely mad?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

So many "leaders", yet so few followers.

A selection from an average day's job postings where either the recritment agency's mystical "my client" is a "leader" or they themselves are the world's "leading" recruitment consultantancy.

You really couldn't make it up!

The gauntlet is thrown down for you to prove it!

Assistant Highways Engineers. Blackburn, North West. Agency: Vertical Recruitment Limited. Our client a leading construction consultancy has a requirement for an Assistant level Civil Engineer to work on a range of local projects around the East Lancashire and Greater Manchester region.

Communications Executive. Sheffield, South Yorkshire. Agency: Randstad Managed Services. An exciting opportunity has arisen for a Communications Executive to join a leading organisation based in Sheffield.

Head of Business to Business. Leicester, Leicestershire. Agency: CCI Personnel. Our Client is the ‘premier photographic retailer’ throughout the UK with over 200 Stores.

Business Development Manager. Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Agency: Spring Personnel. Our client, a leading national Law firm are looking for an experienced Business Development Manager to join them in a senior position within their corporate practice group. It is essential you have experience with a Law or Professional Services firm.

Planning Marketing Manager. Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Agency: Timothy James Consulting. My client is one of the UK's leading multi-channel home shopping retailers. Due to rapid growth there is a new vacancy for a strategic Planning Marketing Manager to assist in the development and be responsible for the implementation of the marketing strategy and plan for one of their major transactional websites and shopping channels.

Policy Officer. City of London. Agency: Hudson. Working for a leading professional body as a policy officer for a 3 month contract based in London this is an immediate start.

Senior Bid Coordinator. Leeds. Agency: Apex Engineering Solutions ltd. My client is one of the UK's leading environmental, health and safety and risk management service companies. Employing over 500 people, across 4 divisions operating out of an expansive national office / depot network and work with blue-chip clients across a wide range of public and private UK industrial sectors.

Marketing Development Manager. Agency: Mercuri Urval. Milton Keynes. Realise your potential with an international market leader. Ingenuity, inventiveness and compassion for others: the solid foundation which continues to evolve into new ways to make life better for people around the world through skin health and hygiene solutions.

Senior Estimator (Restoration & Repair). Lancashire, North West. Agency: Building Careers UK. Our client is a regional leading specialist contractor undertaking the repair, strengthening and refurbishment of civil structures and buildings throughout the UK.

Brand Strategy Manager. London. Agency: Jarlett de Grouchy. A leading brand strategy agency is currently seeking talent to play an integral part of the Brand Development/strategy team

Business development manager. London. Agency: Lewis Bear. Business Development Manager **Leading International Law Firm*. Our client a leading international law firm with over 25 offices globally have an opportunity to work in this established Business Development team with primary responsibility for the insurance group in addition to other areas, working with partners and senior management to assist with the development of a portfolio of key client and industry accounts with reference to London office strategy.

ABOVE JOB ALSO PLACED BY:-

Business Development Executive LEADING [this is the title they used, taking the word “leading” to a new level of crassness]. London. Agency: Resources Group. Business Development Executive - LEADING TECHNOLOGY LAW FIRM This recognised firm boasts a high quality client base, acting for lead organisations across the technology sector.

Planner / Senior Planner (Construction). Manchester, North West. Agency: Building Careers UK. We are looking for a Planner to work for a leading building contractor within the Greater Manchester area.

CCVP 3rd Line Support Engineer. Manchester. Agency: JAM Recruitment Ltd. My client is a Cisco Silver Partner and a UK leader in providing advanced Unified Communications expertise, integration skills and mentorship to IT resellers. My client does not have direct relationships with end-user customers, but works with its partners to achieve their business objectives.

Senior Ecologist. Manchester, Greater Manchester. Agency: Peritus Green. Our client a leading UK multidisciplinary consultancy, now have an exciting opportunity for a top level senior or principal consultant to come and join there (sic) existing team.

Administration Assistant. Manchester. Agency: Project People. An opportunity exists for an Administration Assistant to join a leading telecommunications company in Manchester.

Call Centre Agent - Debt Management. Carrington, Greater Manchester. Agency: Bamford Contract Services Ltd. Our Client is a dynamic Debt Management company, recognised as one of the leading brands in the UK, with the most efficient and cost effective systems, employing the best people, using bespoke technology and providing excellent service to its customers.

Experienced Buyer External Brands. West Yorkshire. Agency: Huntress. A leading retailer, based in West Yorkshire, are currently seeking an experienced Buyer to join their team.

Senior PR and Communications. Leeds, Yorkshire. Agency: Better Placed, the Marketing People. A large and diverse organisation our client are a leading business within the construction industry.

MEANWHILE

Special Educational Needs Recruitment Consultant. SHEFFIELD. Agency: Fox Search Ltd. This position is for a Special Educational Needs Recruitment Consultant (SEN) to join a leading Teacher recruitment agency based in the Sheffield area.

HOWEVER

Manpower is one of the world's leading employment services organisations with 50 years (sic) experience in the UK within staffing and recruitment.

BUT AGAIN

Michael Page International has grown over the last three decades to become one of the world's leading recruitment companies, specialising in selection across a broad range of sectors and job types.

AND AGAIN

As a leading recruitment consultancy, Venn Group .. . . 

AND ONCE MORE

Marketing and Communications Executive. Nottingham. Agency: Thorn Baker Ltd. Thorn Baker are one of the UK's leading independent Recruitment Agencies with offices nationwide. Providing temporary and permanent staff to a variety of sectors we operate in a very competitive and challenging industry.

AH! BUT DON’T FORGET

Account Director - Medical Communications Agency. Cheshire. Agency: ID Search & Selection. A leading medical communications agency have an opportunity for an Account Director to join its team in either London or Cheshire.

(This is just the tip of the iceberg! More than one out of every three job postings is either by an alleged "leading" recruitment consultancy or for an alleged "leading" company/organisation)

Monday, 7 May 2012

Become a limited company!

The news seems to have broken regarding upwards of 2,000 public servants who are currently pretending they are limited companies in order to save on their tax and national insurance obligations.

In fairness, they, like you or I, are keen to avoid paying a penny more than they have to into a system that seems to be awash with money when it comes to supporting infidel-hating middle-eastern clerics, with their benefits, mobility and legal aid payments, as well as illegal immigrants who continue to live in paid-for Chelsea properties having already defrauded the taxpayer of more than £30,000 to date.

These public servants are ostensibly no more a limited company than you or I. And what is more galling is the fact that their salary is far more than yours or mine to begin with, any reference to this legalised con aside.

I have never decried people making a fortune, provided it is worked for genuinely and honestly. However, there is only so much money you need for a very comfortable existence.

It is ironic that some of the extremely wealthy entertainment stars, awash with so much money that they don't know what to do with it, apart from taking time off from their hectic socialising to tell us to donate to Africa's poor, are some of the country's greatest tax evaders.

They set up offshore directorates and pay themselves incredible tax incentivised "fees" or even "loans" to avoid their duty to HMRC. Even many of Simon Cowell's relatively talentless protégées, having sucked the public's purses dry through premium rate telephone rip-offs to get them where they are today, register themselves abroad.

Then there are the companies such as Google, ebay and Amazon, who the last thing they are short of is money, who operate from offshore tax-havens simply to avoid paying their fair share of tax.

And that is what it is. Legal or otherwise. An avoidance of paying their fair share of tax.

By all means, ensure your company is tax-efficient.

But if your profits are running into hundreds and hundreds of millions, why do you have to "defraud" HM Government?

Just "be a man", remain in the UK and pay your way, like your humble minimum wage employees have to.

And as for the legally fiddling public service employees and their non-existent limited companies.

You should just simply be ashamed of yourselves.

Especially if you are a tax collector calling the kettle black!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Research into management - it seems British managers, by and large, are useless

My good friends at the CIPD (Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development), that astute body of people who I wouldn't leave in charge of a Happy Meal order at that popular fast food outlet (perhaps they should ask permission to use the clown as their mascot), have come up with some silly season research (a few months early, of course, in pursuit of getting into the May bank holiday media when journalists will seize upon any old drivel to get away from the office early) that suggests British managers are out of touch with their staff and generally deluded about their own worth.

Yes, great stuff from those who are meant to head-up the wild, wacky and totally dysfunctional world of HR.

They went on to say that managers consistently have a more grandiose view of their own effectiveness than do those who work for them.

Well, ten out of ten for stating the blasted obvious, as anyone working on the shop floor, in an office, on a production line, in a shop, call centre or on the minimum wage or slightly above will testify to! And none more so that the Royal Mail, where, if you ask any postie struggling in the rain to complete his/her now over-extended rounds will tell you, his/her sorting office will be knee deep in the useless buggers, hands forever in pockets or drinking tea.

It's all part of the invasive uselessness of HR in this country, which, I know I go on about ad nauseum, but no one seems to do anything about it.

Abysmal recruitment practices are rife, with the overall dishonesty in recruitment advertisements ("My client" when it's plainly not their client, "leading" when all the others say similar, "phishing" activities that lead job seekers on when said agency has not even been employed by the company to recruit on their behalf etc).

Then there's the actual lauding of the HR seniors themselves in companies, totally unjustified, many sitting on senior management teams (often a bunch of equally gormless gnomes, who take a far greater salary than the real workers, all in relation to the value they add to the business - but that's another story) because their prime function seems to be solely as professionally inefficient office administrators who only come into their own when it's a happy-slappy team-building day (ugh!), where they get the opportunity to place coloured squares on the floor for staff to jump up and down on and pretend they are trees.

I speak from practical and quite bitter experience of some of the worst HR practices ever. The three companies in the past I have worked for where there was no HR input whatsoever (rare today), were the best jobs in my career. The managers rolled their sleeves up and threw their lot in when required; they never asked you to do something they weren't prepared to do themselves; they knew what day it was; they were managers who actually added value to the business.

So, perhaps before simply deriding useless management, perhaps ask why they are so useless. And for heaven's sake, only question it if you know you can do better.

Which sadly, is nearly always the case anyway.

It really is time all this Americanised HR drivel was done away with, and genuine, hardworking and respected Personnel Managers were reintroduced. Personnel Managers who shuffle less pieces of paper from in-tray to out-tray. Personnel Managers who know what their staff do. And Personnel Managers who are willing and able to undertake direct recruitment of staff by virtue of the knowledge of their workers' function in the business, rather than simply leave it to the moribund "My clients" and "leaders" brigade.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Why do they spam?

A sensible question asked by any sensible email account holder.

Why do complete strangers from the other side of the world send you nonsense you don't want at a time when you're not the least bit interested in it?

Generally to try and make money from you - illegally.

Research has shown that it is now nigh on impossible to calculate the number of Nigerian Oil Ministers, their surviving relatives, their lawyers or the sheer volume of millions of dollars on offer via the now infamous Nigerian 419 advance fee fraud - where you receive a charming "Dear Beneficiary" email from a grand sounding person at an impressive address and via an impressive but fake email address.

Those of you who receive these emails into you Outlook programme via Microsoft Connector will immediately notice that while the email purports to come from some grand-sounding group of financial lawyers, the return email address is usually a free account - yahoo.com.jp or similar. And some of the scammers have no less than three email addresses in their one email, asking that you reply to their "private email address".

Research has also shown that we all receive an average of five emails a day asking for our log on details from banks we don't actually have an account with - however some people do have accounts at these banks. Again, if you use Outlook, the 'verification' address for the claimed Barclays Bank verification page will be something quite fanciful like www.rearingotgo.com.

So to revisit the question again. Why?

The simple answer is that if the spammers send a million emails to random addresses, the chances are that a few dozen will fill in the details. And hey presto! Money or identity gone.

I received a rather impressive note from HMRC advising me that I was due a tax return of £235. A spammer using an intelligent sum for a change, instead of the usual huge $25 million lottery prize fund award on offer from a lottery I didn't enter. On this occasion the spammer was totally careless, on two counts. Firstly, he revealed his cc list of hundreds of Hotmail names similar to my own. And secondly, I was able to track back through to the www address given for the 'claim form'.

Drilling down through the layers at the URL, I discovered his repository for those taken in, and was shocked to see the details of 7 people lodged there - full names, addresses, mobile numbers, dates of birth, passwords, mothers' maiden names, favourite colours, sort codes, account numbers, long card numbers and most horrifically, the three number security codes on the obverse of the card.

I immediately texted all the mobile numbers with the news, and one young girl in Scotland, a student, later called me back with the news that she stopped her account just as her unofficial 'doppelganger' in Holland was seeking authorisation for two business class tickets from Amsterdam to the USA. The happy ending here is that the IP was traced and the internet café-owner was able to identify the thief who is now awaiting deportation to Nigeria.

So the main message here is, make sure you have adequate spam protection and don't reply to anything asking for your personal details unless you have complete verification. Financial institutions and other websites where you have password protection, will NEVER ask you via email for your personal or log in details, and banks certainly won't ask you for your three number security code..

And if an offer looks too good to refuse, it undoubtedly will be.

So refuse it.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Pirate Bay threatened with closure - doesn't affect me

Swedish file sharing website The Pirate Bay is now under threat following legal action by the British Phonographic Industry last December. They alleged that the website "infringes copyright on a massive scale” regarding the sharing of computer games, software, films and music.

Point taken, and one can't for one minute deny that copyright is being infringed on quite a massive scale, not just on Pirate Bay, but all around the internet. However, with due respect to the originators of the shared files, I have never used Pirate Bay myself, except perhaps on very odd occasions for software, films and music.

I never use Pirate Bay for software, because I prefer to pay an outlandish price for another seemingly pointless update to Microsoft Office that neither improves my speed nor productivity.

And I am quite happy to part with hard earned cash to a company that has already earned a fortune from me - and others - with their updates over the years. And as for the recent update of PhotoShop to CS6, bringing with it a complete set of features I will never use, all at a really good value £800, (having paid a not dissimilar amount for PhotoShop CS5 a year or so ago), represents such good value for money that it would never even enter my head to attempt to download it illegally, even with a tool developed by a hacker to bypass the input of serial numbers. Not a chance! Similarly, I can’t wait for Windows 8, because it would totally fix my unbroken Windows 7, which in turn had totally fixed my unbroken XP.

Now I never illegally download films, because I prefer to fight for a parking space and then pay over the odds for a filthy seat, with a rip-off booking fee in a smelly cinema, with people all around rattling their completely over-priced packets of popcorn, crisps and sweets. And I simply adore the way my feet stick floor as I walk to my seat, and the delicate bouquet of stale urine, the lack of hot water and the broken hand drying machine that greets you in the gents is one not to be missed.

I also admire the way people use their phones during a crucial part of the film, thus ruining my own enjoyment, because I prefer to listen to their “innits”, “crucials” and “knowarrameans” rather than watch the exciting cgi effects on screen or listen to Daniel Craig’s carefully worded script.

And as for music. Never touch it from a file sharing site. Ever. Because I really do prefer to pay up to 30% more on iTunes UK than our cousins over the pond pay on iTunes USA. And the thought of not paying £9 for U2’s latest offering, the profit from which they hide away off-shore, as they languish in the Sunday Times rich list, well frankly, it leaves me cold.

And as for computer games. I'm not a keen player, unless it involves simple things like using only the cursor keys and space bar, and anyway, if I did, I'd much rather pay £49 for the latest £1's worth of shoot 'em up game rather than download it illegally.

So apologies, but the shutting down of Pirate Bay will essentially have absolutely no impact at all on my daily life.

However, if they do catch up on Demonoid………………………………..