July 2011


OK, because I said I would try to keep up with the blog, here’s that other thing about Asda and their automatic tills…

I was picking up some bits and pieces, just after tea, around 8pm, and the auto-till rejected my card. An assistant came over, and it was the usual thing, ‘could I pay any other way?’, which in this case meant cash, of which I didn’t carry much around on me.

Now, ten years back, this would have been pretty embarrassing for me, and I would have just counted my change and made a quick decision about what I should leave behind, just to put the situation behind me. What I did now was to not rush but instead take out my mobile and phone my wife to check the state of our account, and yes, she was adamant that we had more than enough to cover the purchase.

So I asked the assistant if my card might work with another till and she said no, it wouldn’t. All this time I’m putting the groceries back into the basket, so I can reswipe some of them and pay the cash. But I see an empty till, and the assistant has gone to assist someone else, so I think to myself, they’re not going to arrest me for this, so what the heck…

I use the other till, swipe everything, use the card, and it works just fine. I resist the urge to rub this fact in the assistant’s face as I leave…

This is worth mentioning because it’s the last five or six years of being forced to stand up to people in the community that I would not have said ‘boo’ to previously that has given me the confidence to stand up to commercial bureaucracy. Police officers, councillors, MPs, chairmen/women, people who park in front of schools… generally, the people who go through life thinking they are above criticism. People who know me should be aware that if they have problems getting answers from any of these people, they won’t get fobbed off if they ask for my support, and I won’t take the authority line at face value, because even technology fibs sometimes.

The Martin Luther line might sound a bit cheesy, but it accurately represents my position.

Next up (possibly); why the BBC’s attitude to social media has become a disgrace…

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Something I’ve meant to bring up, for about three weeks now, and I can’t allow the tardiness to continue, especially after advising someone else on the importance of regular updates, however little time there seems to be, is an incident in Asda, at the automatic check-outs. Actually, there are two incidents, very different in nature, that I want to talk about, but this is more of a public information announcement…

It was early evening, and these checkouts were busy enough for there to be small queues, one of which, the closest to the main doors, I was in. There are six auto-tills, three on either side, with less spacious ‘bagging areas’ than the two other sets that people queue for. The nearest till on the right had become available, and either the middle one had also become available, or it had just become apparent that no-one was using it. Hence, as the couple, a man and a woman, in front of me went to the first one, I went to the second.

Just befor I reached it, though, the man put a [pack?] of small bottles, around 8 or 10, possibly lager, beer or cider, on the flat area where my basket should have gone. I said ‘Excuse me’, and then ‘Excuse me’ again, after which I took the bottles off the flat area and placed it on their bagging area, without a word. This caused some difficulties for them, as I guess the bottles had not been scanned, and a assistant had to help them. I resisted the urge to offer some friendly advice to him about what the problem had been…

Now, am I just being overly suspicious, or was this a (not particularly clever, given it relied upon someone in my position not having a problem with being held up) way of trying to steal from the store? I would almost be inclined to say ‘watch out for this kind of thing’, but in all honesty you couldn’t really ignore it. It only has a real chance of working if the tills are being used much, and then the security cameras are probably being heavily scrutinised for funny business. Maybe when the tills are crowded is the only time one can get away with it, as slim as the possibility is even then.

So not exactly a major problem. Asda’s checkout software is probably a bigger issue, but I’ll come to that…

As anyone reading this will probably not know, the ‘Trust Centre’ will be holding an EGM, following failure to hold a quorate AGM some… let’s see… four months back. The normal procedure, that is to say, what the trust’s rules say, is that when an AGM is inquorate, another meeting is arranged for seven days later, and however many residents turn up, the meeting is judged to be quorate. Despite attempts to point this out, the chairwoman was of the view that such a meeting ‘might not be quorate’ and the secretary, Bren McInerney, refused to acknowledge the facts, so the emergency meeting is finally taking place tomorrow. As you would expect, this meeting would have to be heavily promoted, to ensure that there would be minimal risk that it ‘might not be quorate’. Not a bit of it. No posters, no mention on the charity’s web site news page (well, there hasn’t actually been any news on it since over a year ago, even when the partnership asked it to promote our own AGM), no notice on the trust’s entrance display, nothing.

The general concensus is that this means the managment committee have no interest in residents turning up, and therefore no interest in the trust surviving its present financial difficulties, and that they intend to dissolve the trust and sell the building. This would have serious consequences for, among others, the radio station founded by the chairwoman’s husband, so I’m quite sure a lot of thought has gone into this. What exactly the committee has in mind, though, we won’t know until tomorrow evening…