Monday, February 21, 2011

Dear the Co-op

I’m writing to complain about your Morland Road, Lower Addiscombe Store in Croydon. The service there is appalling. I’ve lived in the area for over 12 months now, and I go to the store fairly regularly, although less and less often. The staff are lazy and slow, and do everything at their own convenience and I am sick and tired of standing waiting in lines because they simply don’t give a damn about the people they are there to serve.

Queues develop quickly at the store because the staff at the checkout do their work at their own leisurely pace. There response to growing queues is almost zero. They continue to operate at the same gradual pace. They may ring the bell for help, at which point a colleague may decide to wander over slowly, often continuing their work on the shop floor first, and them to assist them. They both then serve the customers at a pace they find comfortable, sometimes enjoying a casual chat. This behaviour seems to systematic of the whole staff; I visit the store at a variety of hours; the long queues and staff laziness persists regardless of who is present and what time of day it is.

There have been some improvements of late. Staff have found the energy to put your shopping in a bag occasionally, and at times when the queue reaches around the store, they’ve even dusted off the third till to use. Not that this causes them to move any quicker. This evening, as I stood waiting, one of them nudged the other to smirk “the queues past the end of the fridge”, his colleague laughed and shook his head, and on they went, doing their job with the minimal of effort. Urgency seems to be a term they are not familiar with.

After a long day at work, the last thing I want to do is to stand around waiting for people who can’t be bothered to make any effort. There are plenty of other stores around - the local Tesco always makes great efforts to keep queue time short - but I prefer to shop at the Co-Op because the food is better. But unless the quality of service improves, I shall simply go somewhere else. And no doubt the many people stuck in the queue behind me may be tempted to do the same thing.

Mr Nixon

Thank you for contacting the Co-operative Careline regarding your local store in Morland Road, Croydon.

As you would expect service is of paramount importance to us and any indication we have failed is treated very seriously. The Co-operative Group, as a national food retailer, takes great care in the training of our staff to ensure our customers receive the highest standard of service when shopping with us. I would like to take this opportunity to apologise sincerely for the service you received, and to advise that I have informed the Operations Manager regarding the issues you have raised with us. Please be assured that he will monitor the store, and take appropriate action where necessary.

Customer feedback is extremely important for us and I would like to thank you for taking the time and trouble to contact us about this matter as we do value all customer comments received, which assist us in making improvements.

If I can be of any further assistance, please do not hesitate to phone our freephone number 0800 --- ----


***** *****
Customer Relations
Co-operative Group Ltd

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Job Application Incompetence Or A Guide On How To Not Look Like A Moron

Something I always find totally exasperating is advertising a job vacancy. It ought not to be, I am normally advertising writing vacancies after all; I ought to be receiving plenty of examples of fine writing. At least in theory...

Rather sadly, the majority of applications I read are depressingly inept and incompetent. You would think with a job market so badly constrained that people might want to make the extra effort. But no, slap-dash, ill thought-out submissions is the norm.

It’s mostly the cover letters that are to blame. Hastily written, not proofed properly... Yet they are the most useful part of any application. The CV is a-standard, the same for every application. But the cover letter is the thing that they have written specially for you, aimed directly at this vacancy, yet few seem to spend any time on it whatsoever. Not that CVs always come off well. Many of these are poorly thought out too.

Here are the most egregious errors I have come across, presented for your amusement, horror or education. Quotes used are real, but altered to maintain confidentiality.

Beginning your application

Just because you’re applying online, doesn’t mean that you don’t have to still be formal. It’s Dear Sir/Madam, not Hi or Hello, Greetings or salutations. I’m not your buddy; you want something from me so damn well approach me respectfully.

What always shocks me (because it seems so inconceivably stupid), is just how many applications begin ‘To whom it may concern’. Now to me, the phrase “To whom it may concern” is the kind of message I write on a notice I leave on the car that’s in my parking space, or on the gate at the end of my drive for the person whose dog is fowling outside my house. It’s a blunt and rude way to begin a letter and will get your application turned down in an instant.

Get the job title right

Here’s the opening sentence from a recent application:

”I found your advertisement for the position of article writer on”

Shame that I’d advertised for a Senior Writer not an article writer.

And pay attention to how things are spelt. I mean this in reference to how site names and company names are spelt and presented on the page. The website’s not called Gum Tree, it’s Gumtree.

Read the advert properly

Here’s another cover note opening of dubious quality:

“As a former writing teacher who currently writes and edits a wide range of writing projects full-time, I have the experience and connections to satisfactorily complete your projects on time and on budget.”

“Proud of my reputation for consistent, high quality, and affordable writing, which adheres to strict deadlines, I look forward to learning more about how I can use my experience to help achieve your writing and editing needs.”

Did I mention budgets or costs in my ad? No I did not, so that’s a sure fire way to show that the applicant has simply dusted off an old letter and not tailored it properly to this vacancy. I feel sorry for their students.

And take note of the bloody location of the job. You’re not going to be much help if you live in the Phillipines or New Delhi when the vacancy is based in bloody South London!

CVs should be two sides long

I don’t need an epic retelling of your life; I don’t need to know which primary school you went to, and every job you’ve done since you were able to walk upright. Keep it short and concise. Two sides of A4 and no more.

Photos are tacky

There’s a recent trend of people putting photos on their CVs, which, frankly, is pointless. What on earth does what you look like matter? I’ve seen pictures which made the applicant look like an adolescent super villain, and an applicant look a good ten years younger than they were. This is not helping your application. Worse still, if you’re a girl, adding a photo of yourself glammed up completely undermines any credibility you might have. Not every guy will hire you because you’re hot. Women certainly won’t!

Arrogance will get you nowhere

“This looks like an interesting position. I think I might be able to help you.”

Oh really? You might be able to help me? Well God bless you sir, please come along and give me aid in my time of need...

I am offering you a chance to work for me. I help you – you do not help me! Facts impress, not idle boasting.

Don’t be a poet

“Whilst I was overseas I enjoyed the stimulation that every new day within such a different culture offered me and the difficulty and sense of accomplishment that learning Arabic afforded me.”

And how will that help you to write ecommerce copy for me? Any writer worth his salt can smell bullsh*t a mile away.

Don’t sabotage yourself

Check out this bit of application copy:

“My English Literature with Creative Writing university degree has helped to perfect and assist in the development of my fluency of writing, accuracy in typing both oral material and written documents, writing to deadlines and researching relevant material both under the constraints of deadlines and also under the pressure of managing other projects running simultaneously.”

Paying attention to sentence length or repetition seems not have been part of this course. 55 words in one sentence, seriously? Still, it’s not as bad as this travesty. Is this person being sarcastic about being a teamplayer?:

"I'm writing to see if the position is still available. I have extensive experience writing for publication and deadline.My CV contains a full publications list at the end. I have experience writing copy, I am a good "team player", am highly organised and have strong editorial experience both in terms of academic work and in terms of editing and proofing for publication. "

Check properly before sending

Mistakes never look good, but in an application for a writing position, they are unforgivable. Here are some selected clangers:

"I believe I am greatly suited for this position as I have gained over 5 years experience at working in various different customer focust roles."

"I've attached my CV as requested and dome of my writing."

"To whom is may concerned."

And my personal favourite:

"I am a journalist, looking for a challenging career change and this opportunity looked ideal."

Was it some kind of sub-conscious foresight that made them put the opportunity in the past-tense?

Saturday, February 05, 2011

January 2011 Film Highlights

Vist the blog damn it!

Rare Exports (2010) Onni Tommila, Tommi Korpela, Per Christian Ellefsen, Ville Virtanen. Dir: Jalmari Helander

Archaeologists dig up the frozen body of Santa, who soon unleashes his wrath against the naughty. Terrific dark horror comedy with a wickedly funny anti-festive premise. It’s also visually splendid, boasting some suspenseful direction and moody scenic cinematography. An absolute hoot from start to finish.


The Green Hornet (2011) Seth Rogan, Jo, Cameron Diaz, Christophe Waltz. Dir: Michel Gondry

A spoilt rich layabout teams up with a fighting genius to become a new crime fighting hero. A shaky script, some good laughs, but the side-kick is more likeable and engaging than the hero. The plot doesn’t kick in until very late and Gondry is not in his element.


Ghost Ship (1943) Richard Dix. Russell Wade, Edith Barrett, Ben Bard. Dir: Mark Robson

A new ship’s officer starts suspecting that the Captain is unhinged and possibly dangerous. A tense, moody film that doesn’t quite have the chance to develop its character’s decline in its brief running time. But it retains a strong sense of mystery and atmosphere found only in the best noirs.


Catfish (2010) Dir: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman.

A photographer develops a multi-layered online relationship with a child artist and family, but eventually smells a rat. Documentary unveiling of an elaborate deception, which may or may not have happened. Moments certainly raise doubts, but the pay-off is worth it. A troubling film about a prevalent modern phenomenon.


Night and the City (1950) Richard Widmark, Googie Withers, Francis L. Sullivan, Gene Tierney, Herbert Lom. Dir: Jules Dassin.

A small time tout finally finds a scheme to make him rich, but quickly makes dangerous enemies. Absolutely terrific film noir strikingly filmed in post war London. Unremittingly bleak and full of fascinating seedy characters; it’s tautly paced with always a hint of danger in the air.


Van Helsing (2004) Hugh Jackman, Kate Beckinsale, Richard Roxburgh, David Wenham. Dir: Steven Sommers.

The vampire hunter goes after Dracula, Frankenstein and the Wolf Man. Uses a coda of ‘more is more’ inevitably resulting in a loud, gaudy, stupid mess. The script is appalling, the dialogue: groan-inducing, acting: wooden, and the plot: hole-ridden. An insult to Universal’s monster legacy. Beckinsale’s corset – the only highlight.


Arsene Lupin (2005) Romain Duris, Kristin Scott Thomas, Pascal Greggory, Eva Green. Dir: Jean-Paul Salomé

A master thief with a troubled past seeks an ancient treasure with a seemingly immortal women. Stuffs so much into two hours that it never stands still for a moment, making it difficult for you to feel for the characters, or be really impacted by the drama. And it has so much potential...


Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989) William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Laurence Luckinbill, James Doohan. Dir: William Shatner

A cult leader and his followers hijack Enterprise and take it on mission to find God. Why anyone thought they could satisfactorily realise such an abstract concept is anyone’s guess. There’s too much jokiness too, but at least Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley get plenty of screen time together.