Saturday, 20 February 2010

Beware the silly horse, bearing (unwanted) gifts


Here’s the deal: I own a horse, you have a big stable. So you look after my black beauty and hire him out to make money, and I get a trot or a canter when I want one.
A fair arrangement? I think so.
Now let’s suppose, unexpectedly, you write to me and say, “we have made available, carefully selected to suit your lifestyle, a menagerie consisting of six goats, three rabbits, a brace of pheasants and a duck. All of these are potentially of great value to you, and therefore we now propose to charge you substantially for the stabling of your horse, which we will continue to hire out for our profit.”
At which point I reflect that I have no use for goats, rabbits are three-a-penny in the marketplace, pheasant is a delicacy I disdain, and I already sourced my own duck.
What should I do next?
Moving on, here’s a letter I received this month from Lloyds Bank, about an account I opened a few years before the start of the ultimate quarter of the last century (coy, moi?):
Dear Mr Wintle
Your gold account gives you access to a range of services worth up to £452 a year that can help you save time and money. Up until now you’ve been enjoying
[no, I haven’t] the extra benefits of your account without paying the standard [???] monthly fee, but as the costs of providing these services continue to rise we will now need to start charging you the standard [???] fee of £12 a month [or you could say, £144 a year]...
We’ve carefully designed your gold account to complement the way you live. In fact, every two minutes one of our added value account holders is rescued at the roadside thanks to the breakdown cover provided through their [sic] account [I have no car; don’t drive; but besides, who is this unhappy klutz whose car breaks down thirty times an hour? and why don't Lloyds save themslves time and money by supplying him or her with a vehicle that works?]. We’ve negotiated with some of the UK’s leading market brands to make sure you’re getting the best quality products and services, including...
Well, it’s a fistful of insurance policies, in fine, which I either don’t need or have already got elsewhere, plus an airmiles scheme “with 6.5% cash discount on holiday bookings”. Wow, gosh and golly.
I’d like to have been an eavesdropper at the brainstorm when this tosh was devised. There clearly wasn’t the collective mental firepower around the table to fool a five-year-old with the three card trick.
But it does occur to me to ask why they couldn’t have written something like this:
Dear Mr Wintle,
We screwed our business so badly with a lousy acquisition and shoddy lending policies that you and the rest of the UK’s taxpayers had to bail us out and now own 41 per cent of the company. We’re still on schedule to lose £-billions this year and we’ve got to pay the boss, Mr Eric Daniels, a fat bonus on top of his £1-million salary. Help! Can you spare us £144 a year?

(Answer? “No”.)
Footnotes - February 22, 18:20: the BBC just announced that Mr Daniels has agreed to forfeit his bonus of £2.3-million. February 26, 08:25: Channel Four reports that Lloyds has revealed pre-tax losses of £6.3bn for 2009, after taking a £24bn hit on bad debts.

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