Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Armpit Of The World?

Some days are more challenging than others and the way you get treated by others can make a big difference. This was to be a challenging day!

I had taken my wife to Bristol airport to catch an Easy Jet to Pisa. It seems that all Easy Jet flights leave around the same time (about 7am) and so there was a vast queue to the check ins but it must be said that whilst the wait was not great staff were pleasant and helpful.

I waived my wife off, walked half a mile to the car park, paid vast amounts of money and left for the 35 mile journey home. Within 10 miles my phone rang and it seemed my wife had covered every base except checking to see when her passport ran out. Staff were very sympathetic and told my wife it happens every day and they would do everything to get her on the next available flight once her passport was valid.

We waited until 8am and were then advised by the Passport Office in Newport (S. Wales) that we could possibly get a passport that day but they could not guarantee an appointment and so off we set.

At the toll Bridge I offered my toll and was viewed suspiciously by the female collector. “Could I have a receipt, please?”
The change was given but no receipt.
“Could I have a receipt?”
“Try saying please” came the retort
“ I did.”

Anyway, I got the receipt and we carried on. We found a car park near Newport station and I had just enough change to pay the Pay and Display. At the Passport Office- a building where the word inspiration and design are unrelated, we were told that we could have an appointment at 12.30. The only place where we could wait was the Museum/Arts Centre. My wife heads in this direction and I return to the car park to ensure sufficient money is paid to avoid a ticket or clamping. I attempt to use my mobile phone to set up an account and pay the parking fee. Trust me, you need to take all the information from the board and then escape the rain and sit in your car to do this. I now have two accounts but failed at any point to pay for my car. Of course no human being is ever going to talk to you. Now concerned I rush back into Newport and find the nearest bank. I queue, then explain my predicament and ask if they could let me have some pound coins.
“Do you bank here?”
“Then I can’t help you, sorry.”
I run to another bank, explain my problem and mention that the previous bank has been less than helpful.
“We can’t help you either.”
My response is,
“You know there is precious little change of my ever changing to this or the other bank.”
I rush out and head for WHSmiths, buy something I don’t want for £1. 50, queue once again and pay.
“Could you let me have some pound coins sufficient for the day parking charge, please?”
The girl looks at me clearly furious, mutters something unpleasant and slams and boy do I mean slams a bag of pound coins down on the counter. Now everybody is looking at us wondering what on earth is going on. I receive my coins and leave saying,
“I take it customer care training is off the radar here.”
Not much of a response but by now I am desperate and I high tail it back to the car park and pay.

I find the Museum/Art Centre and join my wife at the cafe on the third floor. Not unpleasant and the views from the window affords the opportunity to see the architectural horror of Newport and compare it with the lovely countryside. The cafe has been stocked by a minimalist and is less than inspiring. But by now I need the loo. Unfortunately part of the loo is unavailable because, as the sign says, ‘closed due to vandalism.’ Oh well, I need to get to a computer to check my emails and this is the very place to do it, on the second floor, except I can’t find the second floor and the lift ignores my commands and only takes me to the first and third floors. EventuallyI discover that the second floor is a mezzanine floor only accessible from the first floor!

We make the 12.30 appointment where everybody is most pleasant and helpful - I did wonder if the security guard was actually going to join my wife in the passport photograph - and are then told to wait for up to 4 hours for the passport to actually be issued. We leave and find a policeman.
“Is there anywhere around here where we can eat and hang around for up to four hours?”
“ There’s nowhere round here that you two would want to stay frankly. This is the armpit of the world. The whole place is full of muggers and Romainian pickpockets. We are stretched to the limit and I’m stood here trying to spot people not wearing seatbelts! Not from the Welsh Tourist Board are you?”

Suddenly inspired we repair to The Celtic Manor Hotel, where in their vast bar/lounge we told to make ourselves at home, eat, drink and doze off whenever we want to. Indeed nothing was ever too much trouble and so I commend it to you all.

The following day my wife flew to Pisa without any problem but you know what? I don’t think I ever want to experience customer care in Newport ever again.

1 comment:

Owain said...

It's not so much "customer care in Newport" that's bad (as your Celtic Manor experience showed) but in truth customer care everywhere is equally bad.