Every Little Counts?

Walk round certain supermarkets at the moment and you’d need a spreadsheet open on your trolley to work out the various multibuy options. The whole point seems to cover the store in bargain and money off and multisave stickers to try and give the impression that prices are being cut. The wine department is especially bad for this — with all the 3 for £10 on certain bottles and very similar shelf labels advertising half-price on wines (that are usually worth nowhere near the full price) — so shoppers probably end up with 2 of the £10 offer wines and one half price. It’s all become so complex than even the supermarkets themselves appear to have got confused. Here’s a shelf sticker spotted today at a well known store. Do the math, as the Americans say.

What a bargain!
What a bargain!

Only a few days to go to get this one…and it’s Vaseline Shower Gel, not any other of their products.

Weirdest Album of the Year

Among the myriad things that Charlie doesn’t like are (in general) Bob Dylan’s music and discussing anything related to Christmas until we’ve had Guy Fawkes night (and preferably not until we’ve opened our advent calendars). But the new album released by Bob Dylan seems so bizarre that it’s worth a mention at the end of October. The reviewer in The Independent referred to it as “a… musical atrocity committed in the names of Christmas and charity;” and “downright weird”. I heard something from it on the radio and it sounded a complete joke — like someone doing their worst impression of Bob Dylan’s appalling singing voice and setting it to the most unlikely material — such as ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’. I read another review in Time magazine that said it should be viewed in the context of Dylan paying homage to what most Americans of his age regarded as vernacular folk music — the easy listening crooners of the 40s and 50s, such as Bing Crosby and early 60s. It’s also possible that some of the stick the album is getting is from the miltant Dawkins types — one wonders whether Dylan would have been treated with reverence had he sung songs based on another religious tradition. Whatever, I might buy it for the novelty value and to enjoy inflicting it on over-jolly people over the festive period.

Skinflint Airways

Further evidence that current BA management is continuing to lose the plot comes thick and fast. Most recently was their ‘Enhanced Seating Policy’ — http://www.britishairways.com/travel/flightops/public/en_gb?p_faqid=3863 . This raises the prospect of people travelling together, like families, having to pay extortionate prices to sit together on one of BA’s flights. Charter airlines like Thomson have been making a tidy profit on this particular wheeze for a few years now (in practice it’s pretty unlikely that groups of passengers would be seated apart anyway unless this was done deliberately by the airline). BA are planning to charge £50 to book an exit row seat (a tax on tall people, perhaps?) and £10 per person per sector in Pig class — which would work out at £80 for a return for a family of 4. The irony is, of course, that if air travel was a remotely pleasurable experience then passengers wouldn’t be scrabbling around on the Internet to try and bag themselves the best seats of a bad lot.

And how much does it cost BA to bring in this technology? Hardly anything. The facility to prebook seats has been around since about 1985-6 on BA’s reservation system, having been bought from KLM in the mid-90s. What may have cost a little is adding a bit of code in to siphon money for the privelege out of customers’ credit card accounts.

What this shows is that BA’s bonkers management seems to be dominated by the sort of penny-pinching, marginal revenue obsessed idiots who have no clue about maintaining the brand value of a full-service airline. It’s only a few weeks since food was phased out on most Euro traveller flights. Now they’ve gone further down the low-cost airline route. This might make sense if BA had the remotest hope of competing with the likes of Ryanair and Easy Jet on costs but with a ‘mature’ workforce and operating out of high-cost hubs like Heathrow then this is pie-in-the-sky.

As with upmarket retailers like John Lewis, BA must compete by convincing customers that it represents value and, while it won’t be the cheapest, it will provide the best service.

Whenever companies introduce something like this that means poorer service and higher prices, it’s funny how they always say it’s in response to ‘customer demand’. I have a theory there is a special focus group for hire of masochistic individuals who make their living from telling market researchers ‘Sure I’d like to pay more to the company and get less for it.’  Probably the only company who wouldn’t make use of this resource would be Ryanair, whose strategy BA seems to be increasingly trying to ape.