A foray into the world of the invisible classes

22nd May 2012: I’m thrown into a new, until now undiscovered, by me at least, world. A broken femur leads to 3 days in hospital, a metal rod, three screws, and two crutches for (I’m told) between 2 and 4 months. And then I’m spat back out, to discover a world where two legs are most definitely better than four.

Let’s fast forward a bit to today. 27th Jun 2012. I’m still on two crutches. I have another month before my next X-Ray, which means at least another month on them, and I’ve learnt one hell of a lot about what it means to be on crutches, to become one of an invisible class of people – those with some kind of permanent, or as in my case, temporary, disability.

To be dependent on someone is one thing. To be unable to carry things in your hands, to need help with making your dinner because it takes forever to move a few steps across the kitchen with something from the fridge. To need someone to carry the rubbish downstairs, or to bring the shopping up. Even to do the shopping (I can only give thanks for online grocery shopping here). That’s all stuff that, for a fiercely independent person such as myself, is a bit of a pain in the backside. I can live with that though.

What I’m really struggling to come to terms with is the reaction of others around me. The bus driver this morning; he drove off before I’d sat down. I’m reliably told they have a motto “find a seat or I’ll find one for you”. That’s despicable. It’s my left leg that’s broken, and I did find the first seat on the right hand side of the bus so I could stretch in to the aisle. If that is genuinely what goes through a bus driver’s head, they don’t deserve their Olympic bonuses, let alone their normal salaries in my opinion. On the way to the tube station later on, it’s quite apparent that people almost walk closer to you when you have crutches, and don’t think to get out the way, leaving you to either bump into them, risking toppling over, or trying to side step, which believe it or not is nigh on impossible on two long sticks attached to your arms. My personal space invaded, and a complete lack of respect for the amount of space required to manoeuvre that I’ve never experienced before this accident. Don’t think this is a one-off either. This is normal day to day London.

The journey home this evening, and the debacle only gets worse. No one, I repeat no one, on the bus moved to let me sit down when I got on. No one moved when I asked to sit down. Still no one moved when I asked a second time, and when I demanded a seat the third time, one chap decided it was sufficient not to get up, but to apologise on behalf of the guy sitting in front of him with an empty seat next to him (which I couldn’t get at) saying he couldn’t speak English. SO WHY DIDN’T YOU GET THE FUCK UP INSTEAD, TWAT?!

Amazingly, it doesn’t end there. I get to the Overground station at Shepherds Bush, up the lift to the bridge, down the lift to the platform at the other side, and there’s a train at the platform. As I leave the lift, the driver looks at me, closes the doors and pulls the train out of the station. He looked at me, and chose to ignore that I was there.

I’m incensed enough by the way Londoners clearly treat each other to write this, in the hope that it eases my mind having written down my experiences. It’s atrocious that people can’t take a little time to look at what is going on around them and behave appropriately. I’ve had people barge straight into my leg without so much as an apology, or just stand on my feet, look at me and shrug their shoulders. If that happened and I was standing up, with no crutches, I’d have got an apology. Now? Nothing.

I hope someone senior at TFL reads this. I hope someone at each and every one of the bus companies that operate in London reads this. And I hope that those people that have behaved like rabid animals around myself, or around others with disabilities who need space and time to get around, read this. For everyone else, please take a moment to consider what you take for granted in this world, and what it would mean not to be able to do those things that you consider “normal”.

Customer service done right

I’ve been ranting a bit of the last few posts about my poor experience of customer service. Well it’s time to change the tone. on Friday, I had the best experience I think I’ve ever had, and just goes to show what you can do as a company if you put some effort into it.

First the lead-up; In making a cup of tea, one of the teabags splits. I don’t know if it was split before or after pouring water over it, but I noticed it when tea leaves started floating around the cup. I just thought I’d post a message to the Yorkshire Tea Facebook page and see what happened. I wasn’t really expecting anything, much less a whole swathe of other fans commenting on my message with words of wisdom. What I really wasn’t expecting though was a reply from Yorkshire Tea themselves within 45 minutes of me posting the message up, saying they were going to contact me directly through Facebook to try and resolve the issue.

Five minutes later, a message popped up in my inbox asking for an email address or phone number on which I could be contacted, so I replied and another ten minutes later I had an email from Taylor’s of Harrogate (the company who own the Yorkshire Tea brand) saying they’d like to replace the box of tea, and if I might have the details of the batch (I didn’t, but that didn’t seem to really be an issue). A couple of replies later and I am about to receive a new box of tea.

This all within the hour of posting a message on their Facebook wall. Now, for any company providing any level of customer service, that which I received from these guys has been exceptional. It also proves that if you put the whole infrastructure in place instead of trying to scrimp and save here and there on bits of the chain, it can really work wonders for you. I’ve told everyone about this episode, and they’re all as amazed as I am. But the word is spreading, and that makes Yorkshire Tea an ever stronger brand in the face of competition. I see that, because its the industry I work in, but I feel it’s fair play – they make a great product, and on top of that have astounding customer service when things do (and they do sometimes, for everyone) go wrong. It is far too easy, as can be seen by my previous posts, to think social media can be controlled without making sure that the rest of the company is aware of the consequences in this digital age of getting it wrong. It doesn’t work though so kudos has to be given to Taylor’s.

Update 09/02/2011: I’ve just had a package and an envelope through the post. The envelope had this in it:

On top of that, a box with a hand written note from the person who I dealt with at Taylors of Harrogate by email:

And of course a big box of Yorkshire Tea and the marmalade cake too:

I can’t explain how impressed I am with their customer service levels!