Off to a show or a sports event this weekend? Have fun buying the ticket?
I bet you didn’t.
Even if the process went smoothly (and if you have a disability like me there’s a depressingly high chance that it won’t have) you might very well have blown a blood vessel at the extra charges you’ll have been asked to pay.
Ticketing companies. They rival even Ryanair for the cynically innovative ways they have developed for squeezing every last drop of extra revenue out of their long suffering customers.
One that I recently used had the cheek to charge £1.50 on top of the price of the actual ticket, and the booking fee, and the cancellation insurance policy it “strongly recommend”, for an e-ticket to print out myself.
That’s right, £1.50 for sending a PDF via email, an essentially automated process that costs next to nothing to complete, by contrast to sending a physical ticket through the post, for which a charge is justifiable.
I have to admit to feeling a certain reluctant admiration for a rip-off that blatant, in the same way that fraud cops will sometimes express a certain grudging respect when they talk about the really clever cons they’ve uncovered through the course of their work.
At this point some people might be saying yeah, yeah, first world problem, though, innit. But it’s bigger than just having to put up with getting scalped every time you want to go to an event.
The sort of behaviour indulged in by ticketing companies, or Ryanair, with its plane load of extra charges that the old Office of Fair Trading was once moved to describe as “puerile”, is depressingly common in modern Britain.
Gigantic corporations play a hugely important role in modern life. Often the services they provide are essential, or all but essential, and they play a large, and still growing, role in the state.
Banks, insurers, contractors, mobile phone companies, broadband providers, energy suppliers, airlines, bus companies, and yes, ticketing agents; when they’re not ripping us off, either as customers, or as taxpayers, they’re having us run around like hamsters on wheels.
You’ve got an issue? Try to complain and you will be directed to a contact form on the internet that will elicit an automatic response saying the company will respond within a couple of days. After that time, you’ll typically receive a medium-polite email that will tell you to get lost.
So you’ll want to speak to someone.
If you do some detective work you might be lucky enough to happen upon one of those 08 whatever number things that will charge you a small fortune to listen to some tinned music you don’t even like as a disembodied voice explains that your call is important. Which it is, because it’s a way for the company to milk you some more.
Then you’ll be confronted with an automated phone menu, none of the options on which are appropriate to you.
Modern communications – the internet, email, electronic phone systems – they’ve been turned into a wall behind which companies hide from their customers, an impenetrable barrier to prevent them ever having to converse with the people they’re legging over.
If you eventually get to speak to someone, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get anywhere because on the other end of the phone will be some poor schmo who has no ability or authority to deal with anything, much less your issue.
Did you read the terms and conditions? Of course you didn’t. You ticked the box because you had to, even though it outlined in dense legalese that the company you were dealing with was under no obligation to actually provide the service for which you paid it.
By now, if you’re not popping some more blood vessels by nodding so much, you’re probably asking where I’m going with this.
So let me explain: There have been a lot of reasons put forward for the political craziness we are watching unfolding before our eyes here, in the US and in other parts of the world. They include economic disruption and insecurity, changing social roles, even complacency – born of the fact that the wars we fight these days are thousands of miles away from where we live.
But I wonder if part of the reason is because modern life, thanks to these companies, and the indulgence they receive from politicians, has led to the build-up of a throbbing ball of frustration, a river of negative emotion like the one in the New York of Ghostbusters II.
This has left people with an overwhelming desire to break things and, as such, they have resorted to voting for nasty and destructive people and concepts that promise to do that.
Of course, it isn’t going to help. The Donald Trumps and Brexiteers of this world, and their analogues and fellow travellers in other countries, surely will break things. But they’ll hurt their voters even more by doing so. They are the political equivalent of a ticketing agent, a Ryanair, a bank or just an 0844 phone line with an automatic message that says “screw you”.
They will ultimately engender even more frustration and angst and unhappiness.
What’s scary is that when they’ve done that, their voters might just start to break things on the streets. Along with their opponents.
Anyone got a call centre I can hide in when that happens?
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