Thursday, 8 September 2011

I hate . . . Corporate Marketing

Flushing your money down the toiletIn the UK, water and drainage is provided by private companies with a total monopoly in their area. Unless you are happy to drill a well and build a cess pit, you have to use them, and pay whatever they decide to charge.

Let me tell you a little story or what happens when a company gets a monopoly.

Out local water firm decided to switch everyone to water meters. This, in itself, is not a problem. Water is a resource like any other, and measuring it ensures it's fair for everyone. There was no choice, and minimal disruption - the meters are generally installed on the stop tap, outside the property. What really bugs me is the way they went about telling everyone affected.

First, a letter, saying what they were planning, and when they were planning it. So far so good. But then we get another letter. An another, this time with a handy leaflet. It advertises a freephone number if you have questions. I'm fine. thanks. I under stand the difference between a fixed price and a meter.

Getting closer now - just a couple of weeks away from the upgrade. Surely everyone knows by now.

No. Another letter, this time with a stupid little pop-up cardboard cube with the same information again. It was well made. It was well designed. It looked expensive. And signs on every lamppost - probably 30 in a street with only five times that in properties.

Next we have door to door visits, a couple of very helpful people, calling at every house. They have lovely hi-vis vests. There are some big ads - half page - in the local paper too, just in case we missed the visits.

Now, the day of the big change. There's a little portable office appeared on a patch of grass. It's going to be staffed 12 hours a day for the next week, just in case we had questions not answered by the letters, leaflets, pop-up cubes, visits.

They actual upgrade comes a goes almost without anyone noticing. They did the whole street in a day - pretty impressively efficient. Unlike everything else.

What is really infuriating me is the cost of all this. I have no access to the costs, but I would not be surprised if the marketing campaign cost more than the upgrades. An I HAD TO PAY FOR IT. It's not as if we have a choice, or can switch to a budget supplier - monopolies can and will do what they think is best, especially if that means their communications director getting a healthy increase in budget.

So if you work for a big company with customers that cannot move think on this - I would far rather have 5% off my bills than pay for your latest pointless marketing campaign.


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