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Archive for February, 2011|Monthly archive page

Innocent Photographer Held by Over-zealous Security Guards

In Broken Britain, Government, State of the Nation, Uncategorized on 24 February 2011 at 10:28

A letter sent by Simon St Clare to the Milton Keynes Citizen

I am a keen photographer and I regularly travel to CMK to watch films in Cineworld in Xscape. In the afternoon on Monday 7 Feb prior to watching a film I was ‘arrested’ by two of the Xscape security staff for taking photos of the outside of the building. I had just spent a while taking photos of the derelict part of The Food Hall and then I strolled over to Xscape where I took a few photos of part of the Xscape building. I had only been there for two minutes when I was approached by a security guard. He questioned me on my actions and I think he asked me to leave the area. I refused to leave the area and said I had the right to take photos in a public place. I thought it was reasonable to assume I was in a public place and my normal rights still applied.

A second security guard approached us and he stood behind me – which I thought was strange. I was then told that Xscape was a privately-owned building and I needed special permission to photograph it. They said it was both illegal and against Xscape company policy for the building to be photographed without permission. They then threatened to call the police if I did not leave the area. I thought it was reasonable to assume I was outdoors in a public place and any specifics regarding a company policy did not apply – afterall it wasn’t as if I was inside the building or in a nightclub or restaurant. I invited the security to call the police as I suspected they were being over-zealous and I hoped the police would confirm this and put them in their place.

We stood there outside in the cold waiting for the police to come along to let us know who’s right or wrong. After a couple of minutes I wanted to walk away (my plan was to go to see a film in Cineworld) but both guards stepped forwards and placed their hands on my arms. They told me I couldn’t go until the police arrived. I asked them if they would restrain me if I tried to go and they said they would.

Just after that I noticed one of the guards was not wearing an SIA  (Security Industry Authority) badge –I thought a badge number was meant to be on display so that it was easier for them to be held accountable. I asked the guard if he had an SIA badge and he replied “Who are you to ask me that?”. he then said something along the lines of ‘A f***ing judge or a magistrate can ask me that but you can’t.

The image Mr St Clare took at Milton Keynes

I estimate it took the police ten to fifteen minutes to arrive. When they came they asked me some questions, took my details and then let me go. They were very polite and reasonable, they said I had done nothing wrong and that Xscape should have some signs on prominent display if they wanted to prevent photography outside the building. They recommended I complain to the Xscape management about the situation.

A few minutes after the police had left I spoke to the manager of the Xscape security to complain about the situation-specifically about the guard who swore at me and although he apologised, one of the things he said was to the extent of : some of their staff are direct in the way that they speak and deal with situations -they are, therefore, more suited to working later in the day when there are rowdy drunk people to be dealt with. On this occasion, he explained, one member of staff had ended up working earlier in the day than usual.

I’ve taken many photos in public places around MK and I never take photos that invade privacy. I have found that security guards often want photographers to go away –even if they have the right to take photos in a certain area. I accept that if I am approached and questioned by the police when I am near a shopping centre their intention is to protect the public. When I was approached by these guards I could not understand how what I was doing could be seen as wrong or illegal. From the moment they approached me I felt as though they were on the offensive, they were not polite and they treated me like a suspected criminal instead of treating me like a customer of the Xscape building.

Related article that appeared on Amateur Photographer web page

Follow up article on Amateur Photographer web page

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Timeless Memories of Goa

In Hotels, Uncategorized on 13 February 2011 at 18:54

Holidays evoke all sorts of wonderful memories and over lunch today my wife and I were having some laughs about a first magical trip to Goa in 1993.

Having duly arrived on Boxing Day after a gruelling charter flight from Gatwick it seemed to take hours before we were eventually shunted, tired and weary, through the immigration sheds at Dabolim airport to be ‘processed’. As we waited in the car park amidst grazing cattle we could have had stepped onto the set of some bizarre television sitcom.

It was here that we met Daren and Tina, a couple from Berkshire who were as bemused as we were by the activities surrounding us. White suited, buttonholed holiday reps clutching clipboards looked totally out of place as they rushed about like headless chickens to shunt their clients on to a fleet of buses.  We were with a different tour company and our rep was late arriving so we sat on the kerb watching local families cramming, nine or ten at a time into Ambassador taxis. As it turned out Daren and Tina were heading for the same hotel, the Penta by name but not to be confused with the chain of the same name. Eventually the four of us boarded an ageing bus but turned down the offer to put our bags on the roof for fear they would drop off somewhere en-route.

Next day, having acclimatised to the regular power cuts and a mysterious trickle of water that appeared in our bathroom ceiling that created a hole, we bumped into Daren and Tina relaxing by the pool. We struck up a conversation, swapped information about the peculiarities of our rooms and laughed at discovering that the restaurant windows contained no glass and the bar had ran out of drinks. We hit it off and have remained firm friends ever since, although we still do not know if it was something we said that caused them to later emigrate to Brisbane!

It was one of those holidays when all you want to do is absolutely nothing. The balmy days spent around the swimming pool were interrupted only by the four o’clock water polo match between the Brits and the locals and, because I cannot swim, confined me to the shallow end. This enabled us to forge acquaintances with a mixed band of other guests who, like us, did nothing but sit around with our heads buried in a book while we drank warm Kings beer or slept.

Middle-aged Tom, brown as a berry, had arrived from England and decided not to leave.  The only time he stirred was to make up the numbers in the polo game. This was soon joined by Adrian Mole a young lad holidaying in Goa with his parents who we assumed was about 14-years of age – or if he really had been the creation of Sue Townsend was really 13½. Mole was assigned the job of ball fetcher shouting “I’ll go Tom” every time the ball sailed out of play irrespective of whether it was Tom’s turn to muster the energy to fetch it. Mole became the subject of much jocularity as did Levine, a henpecked Jewish husband in his mid-fifties who claimed to be a mature student. Levine became our entertainment as we watched while eating breakfast in the windowless restaurant as he attempted to organise towels and sun beds for his lazy wife to occupy on the far side of the pool. He would meticulously spend half an hour carefully positioning the loungers ahead of his wife’s arrival but never ever got things right. After being chastised publicly for not placing the loungers just-so he would sulk away to the games room returning an hour later to complain to anyone prepared to listen that he had once again been short changed for a soft drink. At breakfast one day poor Levine was at breaking point when he sat out our table to eat his Kosher bacon. Pouring his heart out, we feared we were about to hear his confession to murdering his wife, but she appeared and he shuffled away from our table like a lost soul to resume his daily sun bed arranging duty. That evening he came second in the weekly quiz at Zee Bops – the beach bar where we spent our evenings. He won a ‘willy warmer’ but he was far from pleased. Levine really hadn’t enjoyed his holiday.

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Orange takes the biscuit for dreadful customer service

In Business, Customer Service, Email providers, Orange, Telecoms on 11 February 2011 at 15:42

I am at the end of my tether with Orange. Over the last few days I have been unable to receive any emails on my Broadband setup and I understand others are experiencing the same problem. This is the latest in a whole catalogue of complaints I have made to Orange over faults with their system over the last six months but it is difficult to move my service provider because I have to change so many resources including my Blackberry that are used to promote my email address. Last year the system kept emptying my inbox of all mail and then in their wisdom Orange has told me that I am on a ‘pay as I go’ account and, despite a week-long exchange of emails, this still has not been resolved.

Calling the help line is a thorough waste of time and effort and I can feel my blood pressure rising.  If you call from a landline or mobile it can be expensive to boot just to get Orange to provide the service I am paying for. The call centre … guess what … is in India and without being accused of causing a racial issue, I have found that many of the operatives are extremely difficult to understand. Although I have been aware of other subscribers that are experiencing the same email problems, nobody at Orange is prepared to admit that anything is wrong. I have been told they will take 3-5 days to investigate the problem that they are not admitting exists, and when I explain that having no emails is like losing a limb they merely repeat over and over ‘that they will investigate in the next 3-5 days’ as if it is their mantra. Yesterday I was prompted to ask whether I was actually talking to a person or robot, but the call centre operative missed the point and now, as we roll into the third day I am receiving spasmodic batches of emails during parts of the morning, things come to a grinding halt during the afternoon.  Now that the weekend is here I guess I will not even get this barrage of day-old correspondence.

I have resorted to writing several emails a day to customer support (now that is a joke!) using my msn connection but it takes the a day or more for Orange to respond and then all they will tell me is that they either have no record of my account (I had inherited Orange after Freeserve was taken over) or the engineers will be looking into the problem. As the same person never deals with an issue, for much of the time you have to go over what you have said previously.  I have written several letters to their CEO who hides behind his customer relations team, who delight in saying that the CEO does not read customer letters. Well he bloody well should as he might discover just how diabolical his company’s customer service is.

It is all extremely unsatisfactory and frustrating and in the end I guess I will have no alternative but to change service provider with all the inherent problems that will entail.

If anyone out there can recommend a reliable email provider please let me know.

The Joys of Barter

In Bartercard, Business, Food & Drink, Hotels, International Trade, Networking, Trading, Uncategorized on 5 February 2011 at 12:41

Bartering has been around ever since man began trading and despite an in-bred scepticism in the UK it can be a much more satisfying way of doing business especially when money is tight. I enjoy bartering and use it extensively to obtain goods and services that I need. It is a particularly useful way of doing business during periods when cash trade is scarce or you have excess capacity or stock that you want to shift. With the advent of the internet, most countries now have an organised barter trading system and mega businesses, even governments are not averse to trading in this way. I once worked for a client in the construction industry who regularly took payment for their projects in Nigeria with tankers of crude oil in place of hard cash, that was later sold on to one of the major oil companies.

Communities have grown using the bartering system with various levels of success on a local level, but by far the most successful bartering organisation is Bartercard, an international trading portal that operates in six countries and has 75,000 trading members. Bartercard simplifies the trading process by matching the requirements of members to appropriate suppliers of products and services that they require. Payment is conducted using Trade pounds, thus when I make a sale the payment for my services will be credited to my account enabling me to spend on anything I need to buy from other member businesses. This means when I want to eat out, stay at a hotel, buy items that I need – even pay for my private dental treatment, I pay using Trade Pounds instead of spending cash. Bartercard makes its money by charging fees on every transaction, but these are tiny compared to the equivalent cash spend you might otherwise make. It is a great way of doing business and it is all ‘above board’ – with members paying tax and collecting VAT on transactions in the normal way. Being a Bartercard member also acts as a social networking forum that forges firm friendships and working relationships with other businesses.

The only downsides are that you cannot buy fuel, or use Bartercard to buy food in the supermarkets, but it is something the major companies should consider. The reserved nature of the Brits still casts a suspicion over anything innovative that can really help their businesses. But it really is time that all businesses woke up to the benefits Bartercard has to offer as an alternative to paying for everything using cash.

Further links:

Recession tips for business

Bartercard testimonials

Bartercard’s latest investment