28 February 2010

Well, you will no doubt be pleased to hear that we’ve had no more snow this week apart from the odd, occasional flurry at the beginning of the week. Now, instead, we have fields of mud and overflowing rivers. The dog particularly enjoys the “hosing down” ritual which now follows both our morning and afternoon walks and is especially delighted that she is not allowed into either lounge until she dries off. Sleeping in a damp coat on a cold, hardwood floor must be doggie heaven.

It’s been a somewhat busy week – I’ve actually done some work and earned a bit of money! I also attended a course in Northampton on Sales & Marketing on Wednesday run by a local organisation called Business Link. They are very supportive of new businesses and run a variety of workshops and seminars on various aspects of running your own business. Unfortunately, this particular course was not very inspiring or informative. It felt rather as if I were sitting in on a Grade 6 Business Studies lesson, i.e., did you know that when you work out what to charge for your goods or services you really ought to include your overheads? Also, you mustn’t forget to include an element of profit. Duh!

The other aspect of the course which was less than outstanding was the interminable “role playing” and “games” the tutor employed to get his message across. One such exercise involved coming up with a few descriptive terms to fit particular industries. The idea was to encourage us budding entrepreneurs to think of the “benefits” and “value” of the goods or services we were selling. When selling to potential customers you describe the benefits but you “sell” the value. Our group was given the task of coming up with some terms to describe the insurance industry so naturally, in a heartbeat, I offered “crooks”, “liars” and “cheats.” Not surprisingly this raised a few eyebrows – apparently the others were thinking of terms such as “security” and “peace of mind.” So, when questioned I explained our recent experiences with the insurance industry and said that our dealings with them left us feeling that their initial reaction to any claim is to reject it. Unfortunately, there was no one at the session who was intending to start their own insurance business so I succeeded in insulting no one. However, at the next break one of the course delegates came up to me to express his support of my position. He explained that he used to work for a well-known UK insurance company and confirmed to me what I had often felt – the company employs a fleet of people whose specific task is to work out ways of denying any claims which are submitted. Rather like the charming young lady who explained to me that our insurance policy does not cover damage caused by leaking pipes in spite of the policy saying it would cover damage caused by leaking pipes. Certainly, the lesson I’ve learned through all this is that one needs to be very hard-nosed and not take “No” for an answer.

A couple of amusing titbits this week. (Well, I found them amusing and/or interesting at any rate). Firstly, I was struck by the irony of the following from the Grand Rapids Press:

In February, the Board of Trustees of Saugatuck Township, Mich., scheduled a May referendum asking voters for an increase in the property tax in order to cover unanticipated new expenses. The budget overrun was due to the mounting costs of defending lawsuits by people and companies complaining that the Township’s property taxes are too high.

The following is from the BBC web site and, I have to confess, sounds somewhat familiar. If we’ve had it before, I apologise:

‘Most unfortunate names’ revealed

Imagine growing up as Annette Curtain or Tim Burr
What do you call some of the most unlucky people in Britain?

Justin Case, Barb Dwyer and Stan Still.

It sounds like a bad joke, but a study has revealed that there really are unfortunate people with those names in the UK.

Joining them on the list are Terry Bull, Paige Turner, Mary Christmas and Anna Sasin.

And just imagine having to introduce yourself to a crowd as Doug Hole or Hazel Nutt.

The names were uncovered by researchers from parenting group TheBabyWebsite.com after trawling through online telephone records.

Retired airman Stan Still, 76, from Cirencester, Gloucestershire, said his name had been “a blooming millstone around my neck my entire life”.

“When I was in the RAF my commanding officer used to shout, ‘Stan Still, get a move on’ and roll about laughing,” he said.

“It got hugely boring after a while.”

Pearl Button
Jo King
Barry Cade
Carrie Oakey
Priti Manek
Tim Burr

But 51-year-old Rose Bush, from Coventry, West Midlands, said she loved her name.

“I always get comments about it but they are always very positive,” she said.

Researchers also scoured phone records in the US and found some unlikely names there too.

Spare a thought for Anna Prentice, Annette Curtain and Bill Board the next time you sign your name.

A string of Americans also have very job-specific names, including Dr Leslie Doctor, Dr Thoulton Surgeon and Les Plack – a dentist in San Francisco.

A spokesman for TheBabyWebsite.com said: “When the parents of some of those people mentioned named their children, many probably didn’t even realise the implications at the time.

“Parents really do need to think carefully though when choosing names for their children.

“Their name will be with them for life and what may be quirky and fun for a toddler might be regretted terribly when that person becomes older or even a grandparent perhaps.”

And finally, finally, how about the Ryanair passenger who ate his winning lottery ticket because the cabin crew did not have 10,000 Euros in cash. Huh?

Angry Ryanair passenger eats his winning scratchcard
A Ryanair passenger who became enraged when he was told he could not claim a scratchcard prize on his flight ate his winning ticket.

The man was flying from Poland to the East Midlands on a Ryanair flight when he won 10,000 euros (£8,765) on a scratchcard he had purchased on board.

Ryanair confirmed he ate his ticket on 26 February after cabin staff refused to pay him the winnings immediately.

The airline said it could not reveal the winner’s identity.

Ryanair spokesman Stephen McNamara said the cabin crew and some passengers urged the man not to eat the ticket, but he stood up and ate it anyway.

Charity windfall
He said it appears the passenger acted out of frustration and anger.

Mr McNamara explained that all winners must be verified before the cash prizes are handed out.

He said the airline crew did not have the cash “kicking around the aircraft” and in any case the prize had to be collected directly from the scratchcard company.

“In the last two years Ryanair’s scratchcards have given away 10 cars, more than €300,000 in cash prizes and more than 100,000 flight vouchers,” he said.

Since the prize will now go unclaimed, the money will be donated to charity, he added.

The winning charity will be chosen from a list of five charities in a web vote.

Love to you all,