I read recently that before long the bulk of this country's wealth is going to be in the hands of old people. As I am reasonably old myself and getting older by the minute, I have no complaint about this. All the same, people like me tend to feel disenchanted and disenfranchised. You probably do yourself, or you wouldn't be reading this. Young people ignore us, local authorities ignore us, businesses rip us off, overcharge us and then ignore us, and the government ignores everyone. What we want and what we think just doesn't count.
What we forget is the enormous power we could exercise if we chose. And I'm not talking about our wealth - I don't think my pension is going to worry the world's money-markets too much.
I'm talking about our ability to be bloody awkward.
The two great weapons we have are time and patience. Did we but realize it, we have the power to paralyse businesses, local authorities, government agencies and even the government itself if we would only get together and do it. And we don't have to get violent, lie down in the road, chain ourselves to anything (well, all right, if it turns you on ….) or even be unpleasant to anyone.
All we have to do is write letters and make telephone calls - lots and lots of them. Electricity company can't get your bill right? Write them a polite letter. When they haven't replied within a week (and they won't), write again complaining about the fact that they haven't replied. Next day, write again about your bill. Three or four days later, write again about the fact that they haven't replied. Then write again to complain that they haven't replied to your first complaint about them not replying … you get the idea. Once in a while, just to spice things up a bit, complain that they haven't replied to a letter which you didn't in fact post. They'll never know the difference. And keep a meticulous record of everything - dates, copies etc. They won't, you see, and being able to quote chapter and verse puts you firmly on the moral high ground.
If we all did this, on and on, whenever we didn't get what we wanted, these people just wouldn't be able to cope. They can barely cope as it is (that's why they never reply to your letters until you chase them - they're overworked and inefficient) so all we have to do is overload the system until it can't function. Political correctness, that bane of the lives of all commonsense people, works in our favour because it makes every organisation have a policy for dealing with complaints.
A couple of tips: I used to work in a large public organisation and the one thing that made us sit up and take notice was a registered letter or a recorded delivery letter. Those were always the ones that got answered. Since retiring I've sent letters by recorded delivery on many occasions when I was having a battle with someone in authority; it always elicits a response.
Secondly, this from my neighbour: when complaining by phone, ask for the person's telephone extension number. Then phone the next extension number up the chain - organisations nearly always number their extensions from the top down, so with patience you can gradually work your way up to the big cheese himself - only nine times out of ten you'll have got some action long before that.
Perhaps what we need is a new website where we can post our beefs together with the names and addresses of the guilty officials, and then we should all start writing and telephoning on each other's behalf. My old dad could start the ball rolling. He's nearly ninety and keeps getting threatening letters from the water board demanding more than five hundred pounds for water he hasn't had. Whenever he phones them up they look in the computer and say "No, you're fully paid up, you don't owe us anything", and the next day there's another final demand on the doormat.
Anyone got a few spare hours and a packet of envelopes?
either on this site or on the World Wide Web.
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