Friday, 22 August 2014

Books and Customer service.

I took my library books back on Wednesday. They were overdue. I had had a couple of reminders via email, telling me the books were overdue. Just in case I still wasn't aware of it the librarian looked at me sadly and severely over the top of his glasses and told me they were late back. I apologised and invented a story of how I had had to dash off somewhere "urgentemente", forgetting all about my library books. 

This was partly true. I had been to Pontevedra for chess events and general socialising and tourism. My original intention was to take the books with me and either return them to the library in Ponters or phone up the Vigo branch and renew them. In the event, however, my suitcase was full and I really couldn't be bothered adding more weight to it. So I left them in Vigo and eventually returned them on Wednesday, as I have said already. 

The sad, severe librarian shook his head and told me I was "sancionada" until September 17th. He was sorry about it but that's the way the system works. In other words, I cannot take any more books out until that date, not a great hardship because, as I may have mentioned before, the cataloging system there drives me crazy. I need to pre-select some reading matter before I go again. A little research is needed and then I will cross my fingers that they have the books I am looking for. 

I neglected to tell the sad, severe librarian that in the UK they would have fined me: a smallish sum of money but a fine nonetheless. Maybe I had better not suggest that to them. In the meantime I shall return to my trusty kindle for reading matter. 

I wonder why it is that some people, when put into a position of small responsibility such as checking books in and out of a public library, feel that they can adopt a morally superior tone when dealing with their customers. 

Before going to the library I had seen a perfect example of excellent customer service from a young man at the Vodaphone shop in the town centre. The SIM card we had bought on Monday to give us access to the internet on our laptop was clearly not working. It connected to the Internet fine but then dropped the connection if you stayed online for more than two minutes. So we took it back to shop and explained the problem to the young man who had served us originally. He tried various things, all to no avail, until eventually he exchanged our SIM card for a new one and checked that it worked fine. Good stuff! 

 Oddly enough, all of this process - the purchase of the original SIM card and the replacement with a new one - required Phil to show his passport. Before the SIM card could be activated, the young man had to enter the passport number into the system. To The British this obsession with identification seems somewhat over the top. To the Spanish, our casual disregard for identification systems seems extremely lackadaisical. Different strokes for different folks, as they say! 

 Yesterday was GCSE results day in the UK. There has already been controversy as some schools protest that the goalposts have been shifted once again and it has been made harder for students to achieve pass grades in Maths and English. They keep on fiddling around with the grade boundaries, the marks at which certain grades are awarded, which change each year anyway, thus making it hard to predict how students will perform. Maybe on last year's criteria our granddaughter would have achieved A* for English instead of simply A. How strange to dismiss grade A as not quite good enough!! 

I have been reading a book about Australia and how the penal colonies were set up there. Interestingly enough, at one point the British government, desperately seeking a solution to the prison overcrowding problem, considered setting up a prison settlement in Madagascar. Had they done so, I wonder how much of that island's unique flora and fauna would have survived to be wondered at in the modern age. Perhaps a fortunate accident of history? 

The history of the settling of Australia incidentally gives some insight into the prison system of the 18th century. You had to pay when you went into prison and there were charges for all sorts of things, including food and bedding. A wealthy man going into prison, undoubtedly a minority, could have quite a comfortable time of it. A poor man risked dying of starvation. And of course, it was also a kind of finishing school for crooks, offering the possibility to learn the tricks of the trade from more hardened criminals. Mind you, that might still be true today! 

 On the subject of crooks and evil-doers, we still do not know what the afar was all about outside our flats the other afternoon. when Phil went out in the early evening there were lots of police around but no indication of what had gone on. An unimportant (to us anyway) little mystery of life.

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