The case for a free market in consumer terrorism…

I was reminded of this when I received a cold call a few minutes ago and told the imbecile on the other end to fuck right off.

The Nameless Libertarian is irritated by some information campaign being run by Notwork Fail, aimed at preventing the travelling public from swearing at their otherwise cloth eared employees.

For those of you lucky enough not to be in the know about this one, I’m talking about a Network Rail poster campaign. There’s an example up by one of the entrances in Victoria station. It depicts a young man having a mug shot taken – presumably he has just been arrested. His placard says “Say Cheesed Off”. The inference is that he was arrested for swearing at some Network Rail drone.

See, there is a big difference between punching someone, calling someone a fucking cunt and pointing out that a situation is fucking ridiculous and you are pissed off about it. The latter comment is true; you are threatening no-one, you are insulting no-one. Yes, you it is arguably better to phrase your words more carefully and you probably don’t *need* to swear. But anyone who commutes in London will know just how frustrating it is to have to force yourself into some rancid fuck’s armpit on a delayed train because the fucking rail system still can’t sort itself out. Sometimes – the recent collapse of the London transport system because of a couple of flakes of snow, for example – the situation is fucking ridiculous, and you are well within your rights to say that you are pissed off.

He (I assume He) concludes:

Working in a customer service position is always difficult. You are exposed to the public, and they can sometimes be frustrated, irrational, angry and insulting. But guess what? It is part of your job to deal with that. I know, I’ve been in the situation and dealt with it. I worked in retail for years. So if you are a customer service bod, and you encounter someone who tells you they are fucked off, swallow your negative response and listen to them. Once you have heard their problem, try to help them. That is your job.

Quite right. Now – the free market part. The corollary to the ‘invisible hand’ is to give them the ‘invisible finger’.

As the nameless one says, frank and open feedback from customers is an essential part of the cycle of quality assurance. There are a number of aspects to the feedback mechanism. One of these is staff happiness and satisfaction. If staff are getting frequently harassed, it’s probably because the customer experience is poor, frustrating, overpriced and/or not as advertised.

In such circumstances, the staff will become dissatisfied, disillusioned, become difficult to manage and make daft pay demands or get the union involved. Recruitment will become more difficult and costly.

In these circumstances, then,  management can either (i) improve the customer experience in order to improve the way their staff are treated, or (ii) pay their staff a compensation package that offsets the poor working environment. The latter is unlikely to succeed as a strategy – particularly in unionised environments.

Of course, there is the third way, which is the one chosen by Notwork Fail. Prosecute people.

Well I say we should continue to let the ‘invisible finger’ have its influence on the marketplace.



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