b3ta.com user Axeman Jim
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» Customers from Hell

Do you ever wonder why your Council Tax is so high?
Not too long ago I worked for a Borough Council in London which I won't name. Through one career accident after another, I ended up being first the complaints officer for the Chief Executive's department, then resonsible for investigating all complaints that had become such a mess that the Chief Executive got involved (so-called "Stage 3" complaints) and writing to the complainant on the CE's behalf, to being the go-to guy for the Ombudsman, to being in charge of implementing a new IT system for complaints handling, to being in charge of the entire complaints policy for the entire Council.

So, basically, there's not much I don't know about complaining to Councils.

Let me tell you right now that complaint handling in local councils is excruciating, from the Council's point of view. Every complaint, no matter how trivial, must be investigated in full, and a full trail of paperwork kept, anything up to 3 times, and if it isn't resolved the third time around it goes to the Ombudsman, and you environmentalists out there really don't want to know how much paper that consumes.

But what's the problem? Isn't it good that we investigate all complaints properly?

No. Because 90% of complaints to councils come from twats and have no basis in reality. Maybe 5% of complaints are actually justified, the other 5% are worth asking but not actually the Council's fault, the rest come from one of the various species of subhumans outlined below:

**Twat #1: The Outraged Planning Appellant.**

Easily 50% of the complaints I dealt with had to do with planning, and they were all the same. Basically, if a decision by the planning committee doesn't go your way, and neither does the appeal, the only way you can get the decision reversed is by proving the Council didn't carry out the planning process properly in some way.

So that's what everyone, and I mean everyone, does. Some of the "errors" allegedly committed by the Council include:

* "Deliberately" posting planning notices to someone when they were on holiday (wtf? If we knew enough about you to know when you went out on holiday, we'd rub you the fuck out before you ever had a chance to bother us - we have binmen you know, so we know a thing or two about disposing of rubbish).

* Posting planning notices in too small a font for someone to read (the typeface is set by law, btw.)

* A complaint that our head of Planning had "waggled his finger" at an applicant thus clearly demonstrating bias. This nearly went to the Ombudsman, and I had to inform the complainant that the officer concerned had been "warned about his behaviour", which consisted of me phoning him up and both of us trying unsuccessfully not to giggle while I told him not to waggle his finger at residents ever again.

**Twat #2 - "I am the center of the universe"**

Some people are under the impression that the Council exists only to serve them and them alone. Practicality, legality and budget mean nothing, the Council *must* accede to their demands or they'll "Go to the Press, and the Ombudsman" (oooh, we're scared.)

* The woman who wanted a tree in someone else's garden cut down because the shade it created meant her roses weren't growing very well. The "offending tree" was four doors down.

* The woman who complained that our binmen were "handling her recycling box roughly" when they emptied it. It's our box, not yours, twatface, and we'll handle it how we like. If we break it, we'll replace it, so shut the fuck up.

* The man, who ended up going to the Ombudsman, who demanded that we make a compulsory purchase of the house next door (which would have cost easily a million quid) because its delapidated state was "lowering the tone of the road". I actually went to look at this house, and all I can say is that if that place was "delapidated", he's clearly never lived in the West Midlands.

**Twat #3: "I know my rights"**

* One man, on getting a perfectly legitimate ticket for driving in a bus lane, decided that he would wage war on the Council for something that was basically caused by his own stupidity. He demanded, through the Freedom of Information act, just about every statistic that existed about bus lane and parking fines, including whether any Council employees had been fined. When we refused the latter (due to that other "I know my rights" chestnut, the Data Protection Act), he went bezerk, submitting FoI requests demanding:

- The wages paid to every Council employee, month-by-month, for the last ten years
- The holiday destinations of all the Directors of the Council for the last five years "to see how deep the rot goes"
- A copy of the Council Tax bill of every Council Employee who lived in the borough "to see if they are different"

When we refused, he complained and sent in another batch of ludicrous FoI requests (including a copy of my employment contract, amongst other things). When we rejected his complaint he complained about that and made an abusive phone call to the Chief Executive's secretary. When we banned him from contacting us without a lawyer present he complained about that, when we refused to speak to him again he went to the Ombudsman.

Who told him, basically, to fuck off.

That whole process must have cost the Council tens of thousands of pounds. If you're reading this, you cunt, you know who you are. I know where you live, and what you do for a living, and the registration number of your car. I don't work for the Council any more, and I will be free, if I see you in the street, to tell you, in front of everyone, just the sort of cunt you are.

**Twat #4: "If I complain you can't touch me!"**

* One enterprising chap, who was about to have all his stuff taken away by bailiffs for not paying his Council Tax, wrote to me say that he was going to make a complaint about the bailiffs at some undetermined point in the future. Therefore, it would be some kind of breach of his rights if the bailiffs took his stuff while there was a complaint outstanding (which there wasn't, nor was there any indication of where there might be). Basically, he was asking us not to take his stuff until he said we could. Nice try, toilet-features.

**Twat #5: Total Lunatics**

What do sad, lonely, deranged or psychotic individuals do all day? They write letters to the Council complaining about whatever random insanity happens to be occuping their hallucinations at the time. Unlike most organisations, we can't just fling these in the bin, we have to investigate and reply to them *all*. How would you reply to some of these?

* The individual who wrote to us about speed humps, claiming that his life was in danger from Council "assassins" if he complained about them other than anonymously. This letter was written in purple crayon, in capital letters, with a full stop in between each word. (answer: because there was no return address, we classified it as a "comment").

* The woman who complained that the telephone mast on top of a Council-owned building was "projecting psionic radiation" that was interfering with her crystal healing business and giving her headaches - she said she could "feel the rays pumping into her mind." (Answer: a quick call to facilities revealed that the mast had been switched off for three years after the Council lost the contract with the phone company. I wrote her a letter explaining this and suggesting she see a doctor for her headaches).

* The old woman who was obsessed with regulations to do with graveyards and phoned up random Council officers ranting about death and God and hyperventilating, for anything up to two hours at a time. She called me a few times, quoting the bible at me and calling me, within the space of five minutes "an angel sent from heaven" and "an agent of satan." This went on for ELEVEN YEARS. (Answer, we called our Social Services people, saying we were "concerned for her health". They ended up having her sectioned.)

* A woman who sent in a letter claiming the Council was sending trolls to bump into her shopping trolley in Morrisons. She also appeared to think she was Gollum from the Lord of the Rings. (Answer: as the letter was addressed to the Leader of the Council, I classified it as a "question to a councillor" and forwarded it to his office. His secretary never spoke to me again.)

This all might be funny, but we worked out that a complaint that went all the way to the Ombudsman cost the taxpayer in excess of £25,000 in staff wages, lost work and not to mention piles of fucking paper. So, on behalf of taxpayers everywhere, may I present to you this handy flowchart for making a complaint to the Council:

1 Do you have a complaint?

if yes, go to 2. If no, wrong flowchart, moron.

2 Are you a twunt?

if yes, hammer a nail into your face and go to 1. If no, go to 3

3 - Write to us, nicely. We'll probably be able to put things right for you.

The moral? Don't fuck with the Council. We can paint double-yellow lines on your ass, then recycle it.
(Fri 5th Sep 2008, 17:58, More)

» Food sabotage

A little bit different this one
Let me introduce you to two of my one-time uni flatmates, in an abominable student house in a tumbledown suburb of Coventry.

First up, Dave. Dave was a very nice, very smart guy, but had serious issues connecting with reality. Apropos of nothing, he was a physics student. Dave was officially Coventry's second-best chess player (yes, there is a league of such things apparently), spectacularly disorganised and geekier that geek.

Oddly enough, the girls weren't exactly tripping over each other in a mad rush to get into his pants.

Second, may I introduce Joey. Joey fitted the stereotype of the pyromaniac chemistry student perfectly, and had to be banned from bringing his home-made napalm (styrofoam peanuts dissolved in petrol, if anyone's interested) into the flat. Joey also played chess as it happened, but what he lacked in skill he would make up for in attempting to psyche his opponent out by (amongst other things) painting his fingernails during his opponent's turn or wearing a chef's hat throughout the game, whilst remaining crosseyed and giggling to himself. Suffice it to say that Joey had something of a warped and evil sense of humour.

Dave, in a moment of uncharacteristic lucidity, had noticed that there were a large number of single, attractive girls in the Vegetarian Society, who were probably not interested in the usual macho men and might go instead for a geeky, slightly dazed-looking physicist/chess nerd. Only trouble was, of course, that Dave was not even vaguely a vegetarian, loving a good chicken curry as much as the rest of us.

Nonetheless, Dave joined the Veggie Society (I'm guessing they didn't search his pockets for meat products at the sign-up stall - Christ alone knows what they would have found) and, to everyone's shock, got to know one of the girls quite well.

Joey, meanwhile, was participating in another one of his "experiments". Following the outstanding success of his "shave his beard into a Hitler moustache and walk around campus with a severe side parting" experiment (he managed 3 hours before someone said something), his latest project was to build a candle out of a jar, a piece of string, and an ample supply of burger and sausage fat obtained from the pan under our grill.

Joey's experiment was a success, the candle worked very well. However, the candle also emitted a stench of sausages and general sliminess that caused us, once again, to ban Joey from lighting the damn thing in the house.

One day, word got round that Dave had reached first base with this girl and was bringing her back to the flat that evening. Joey, ever the crusader for truth and warrior against hypocrisy (that's what he said, anyway), took the sausage candle, lit it, and hid it in Dave's cupboard.

The smell of sausages was so strong we could smell it outside the front door. Dave and the girl appeared, went into Dave's bedroom, and we heard raised voices. The girl left after about three minutes, and we never saw her again. Dave didn't actually seem too upset. Maybe this happened to him a lot. Maybe he hadn't even noticed (it certainly found him almost a week to discover the melted, reeking remains of the candle).

So yes, food sabotage. But sometimes it's not the food you sabotage.
(Thu 18th Sep 2008, 16:41, More)

» I Quit!

A long, but satisfying revenge.
Revenge is best served cold.

About 6 months ago I met my manager from the call-centre job from hell I did about 5 years back. She made a point of never speaking to me directly, always telling my supervisor what to say to me despite being three feet away from me, as if making eye contact with me was beneath her station. She referred to me as 'the temp' and never bothered to hide her complete contempt for me.

I could have called her names or whatever, but I simply asked whether she was still in the same job as before.

She was.

I said what I now did for a living, as a company director earning nearly twice what she does.

She asked me for a job.

I said no.

And that, my friends, is a million percent more satisfying than all the rants, all the vandalism, all the theft in the world put together.
(Sat 24th May 2008, 0:12, More)

» Public Transport Trauma

Chavs. Buses. Phones. R n'B.
I think you can see where this is going.

However, I have been in a position to exact revenge on these scumbags on two occasions.

1 - Bus 65, Kingston-Ealing. Two teenage girls start their ridiculous tinny warbling from their stupid walkie talkies.

"Please turn that off" say I.
"Fuck off" say they.
"I don't want to listen to that" say I.
"It's a free country, innit? You can't stop us" say they.

In my bag, I have the following:

*An MP3 player full of the latest rockin thrash metal sounds.
*A pair of battery powered speakers.
*Balls of steel.

Cue, as a starter, "Army of Me" by Chimaria, a fine, rousing tune if ever there was one. Especially when turned up to 11.

"Turn that shit off" say they.
"Free country, innit?" say I.

After about 5 minutes (during which the deafening musical selection had changed to the soothing tones of "I will be heard" by Hatebreed) they turned off their phones. So did I.

2 - Bus 418, Kingston-Epsom

Similar scenario, this time 4 girls about 13 years of age.

This time, however, my armament was different, comprising:

*An acoustic guitar.
*Two mates.
*Three skinfuls of beer, shared out between us.

It's amazing how long three pissed blokes can keep up a rousing chorus of "I've got a song that'll get on your nerves." And as we were all musicians, we did the harmonies, and the secret second verse, which goes "We've got a song that'll piss off some chavs."

So if you're on a bus in South-West London, some chav is playing shitty music from their phone, and no-one else can help, maybe you can hire:

Axeman Jim and his weapons of sonic doom.
(Thu 29th May 2008, 17:07, More)

» Workplace Boredom

Sandwich Joy
The formula:

1 - Work out exactly how much you earn, per second (this should pass a depressing 15 minutes or so, and look like work, with spreadsheets and stuff).

2 - Purchase a sandwich.

3 - Consume said sandwich at your desk in such a period of time that your post-tax income in the sandwich-consumption period was exactly the same as the cost of the sandwich.

4 - Free sandwich!

5 - Repeat.
(Thu 8th Jan 2009, 12:25, More)
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