Friday, September 28, 2007


"To be the Carrier of Choice through operational excellence and customer focus - delivering success through our people."

"City Link strive to deliver consistent performance, to constantly innovate customer solutions and through our partnering approach to business ensure the customer is our main focus."

On Friday, because I am very poor, I did some temporary work for City Link in Ashford. City Link is a nationwide private parcel service, the very kind of thing that has been set up in competition with Royal Mail Parcel Force. You may well be familiar with their vile yellow and green vans and articulated lorries scudding about your locality. I was working in their dispatch department. The above quotes are from their website and I can vouch from personal experience that it is all lies. Absolute total bollocks, the lot of it.

Let's examine a couple of these claims in a little more detail:

"...delivering success through our people."

I'm not sure that employing young English males is a total guarantee of success in any field unless there's some kind of kudos to be gained from your staff arseing about and calling everything that moves "gay". At 46, I was the oldest in the place . I made a joke with the kid who was "supervising" me that I possibly went to school with his father. On reflection, that was probably a rash assumption, I'd probably left when he started and my school attempted to instill in its pupils a certain range of values that would probably stick with any ex-pupil of my generation and be passed down to the next. I bet he went to The South. The only two people in the place who actually bothered to ask me my name and introduce themselves were the two Asian lads, who I think were probably ex-Gurkhas (there are quite a few in the area, Shorncliffe Barracks in Folkestone is the base of 2 Royal Gurkha Rifles and they can only claim full pension if they stay in the country once demobbed). The shift supervisor did bugger all except look mean and complain - not to anyone he was annoyed with but about them to other workers. Great man management skills. He certainly never introduced himself or informed me of what my task was. Basically, only one or two of them in the place could actually be bothered to give a toss. For the benefit of the search engines, the place was City Link, Ashford. Got that?

"operational excellence" and "constantly innovate customer solutions"

The depot collects parcels and letters in vans, unloads them and sorts them into wheeled cages that are then loaded onto an articulated lorry and driven to other locations. It really couldn't be simpler. There is nothing like the volume the Royal Mail have to deal with so they can exercise rather more diligence and care when handling goods. The diligent and careful procedure is this: A City Link van reverses into the warehouse. The driver then turns up the Prodigy album on his CD player to ear splitting volume and unloads the items onto the roller belt. These are then scanned by someone in a hoody and baseball cap who bounces everywhere swearing and whose method of coaxing the hand-held scanner into service after a malfunction is to clout it hard on the conveyor. Each label bears a large number denoting the route and each cage is for one or several routes. I was responsible for putting items into 12 cages covering approximately 20 routes. Instead of running to the conveyor and back to a cage all the time, somebody takes each item off the conveyor and places them on the floor for the sorter to collect. No, what he actually does is pick each item off the conveyor and fling it across the floor to each sorter, even the items marked "Fragile" and sealed with lots of tape with "fragile" written on it. Even the item which was quite obviously a flat screen computer monitor was unceremoniously dropped on the floor in front of me. Oversized items were placed next to the door for loading onto the truck separately. Brandishing a 6' tube which I guessed had probably come from the fishing tackle shop up the road, the young lad doing the dropping and throwing told me "This is what I usually do with these" and attempted to slide it the length of the warehouse under the cages. Naturally it didn't work as sliding cardboard tubes lengthways across a concrete floor is not an exact science, so he tried it several more times before giving up. The tube stayed stuck under a cage for the next hour or so until I spotted it and removed it, the ferrule of one of the rod sections it contained protruding through the broken cap. I effected a quick repair and carefully placed it by the door. Most of these activities were undertaken while a leather football was being kicked the length of the warehouse. At no time did the supervisor attempt to curtail any of this nonsense. The final act of the night was to retrieve a damaged and leaking parcel from beneath the conveyor. When it was opened it was found to contain 4 bottles, 2 still intact, of a new kind of alcopop. The 2 intact bottles appeared to get recycled.

These are indeed innovative customer solutions that City Link have developed. "It doesn't matter what your packet is, we'll treat everything the same - we'll attempt to deliberately break, damage or steal everything we handle - It can't get fairer than that."

I have a certain ethic that I abide by while working and since I have been doing agency work it's one that I find is continually being challenged. Everything I do, be it the most mundane, tiresome or mind-numbingly tedious, I do to the best of my abilities and with the intention of satisfying my employer. I want to leave knowing that they have been pleased with the work I've done and so far I have been asked back to every place that has taken me on or at the very least, been told that they would ask for me next time. City Link can go hang if they want me back; I couldn't possibly take money they've earned by being so cavalier with their clients' goods. I wouldn't give a toss if they went out of business tomorrow and the whole lot of them had to sign on. Apart from the Gurkha lads - they were helpful and hardworking and spoke better English. One also sensed they had the same reservations as I. I had to laugh at one point when fat English boy in excess of 6' greeted one of the ex-soldiers with some mock martial arts posing. Despite the fact that neither of the two Gurkhas was much taller than my 5'2" Mum and probably weighed around 8 stone, lardboy would have looked like roadkill within 10 seconds if it had got a bit moody.

What really upsets me is that people think I have a downer on a certain section of today's (largely male) youth (and by youth I mean under 25s). The last year really has been an eye-opener for me and to a very large extent I've been proven right in my suspicions that they're a bunch of lazy, witless bastards, incapable of doing anything with any degree of pride or intelligence. They are in the main unable to converse effectively with anyone other than their peers (whose only talent seems to be the ability to translate the constant swearing and other unintelligible noises into meaningful conversation) and even the one yesterday who did actually come across as vaguely intelligent manage to spoil the impression by uttering a sentence of such crass racism I thought that maybe he was being ironic. No, he wasn't.

This is my home town and I'm not proud.

9 Vegetable peelings:

Blogger Creweblog said...

Sounds like a grim day you had to endure. Will you be going back? Good to know how are parcels are treated, although having seen the state of some deliveries it's not hard to believe!

2:54 pm  
Blogger Dave said...

In the defence of youngsters, I have to say my kids aren't like that. Mind you they were 26 yesterday, so don't fall into your definition of youth, so that's OK.

By the way, I think you ought to know that I am sure (perhaps you could persuade Vicus to take a bet) that you will score at least one half century before the end of the series - Canada looks a likely shot.

2:56 pm  
Blogger Richard said...

Jules, no I won't be going back. Most definitely not.

Dave, I think City Link have a definite recruitment policy, operating the "pay peanuts, get monkeys" adage at it's most tellingly efficient. Only the desperate, very young or stupid work for that money, hence my presence there on Friday (desperate, I was desperate).

8:18 pm  
Blogger Phil said...

You're getting far too grumpy for your age. Perhaps things are particularly bad in your area - Unfortunately i doubt it. I'm lucky enough to live in a part of the world where that species of young male is largely restricted to the cities and larger towns and working in a school as I do I know what I'm talking about. Getting old in this country is a worrisome business.
Congratulations in the title - of your best!

6:48 am  
Blogger Rol Hirst said...

I'm truly horrified.

Nobody still listens to The Prodigy, do they?

11:37 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Phil, something happens when they leave school obviously. I think I'm going to live in a shed on Lundy.

Rol, yes, they do. Is Keith still starting fires?

6:31 pm  
Blogger Tennessee Jed said...

"Smack my bitch (package) up"

Now I know another definition of a tosser.
-one who tosses packages across warehouses.

9:52 am  
Blogger Richard said...

Jed, congratulations! Not particularly on the tosser thing because you worked that one out a few months back, but on making a Prodigy joke. Impressed.

7:14 pm  
Blogger ziggi said...

HA! I wish I'd known this before I attempted to be polite to them about the parcel I've been waiting for since 12th August. It's dead and buried isn't it? Bastards.

12:28 pm  

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