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Thursday, 29 November 2007

More on Denny - for marketing folk only

Before I start, this is not an attempt to sell you Denny Hatch. He doesn't need the money and he probably hasn't got the time.

I'm sure of the first because we are having lunch and he's taking a taxi. This means he must be rich, because nowadays London taxis are the most expensive in the world.

I'm not sure of the second, but I suspect he is far too busy for his own good

Anyhow, one of my partners tells me that besides Million Dollar Mailings, Denny's book Method Marketing is excellent.

And just as a footnote, Denny sent me a message about yesterday's entry, which reads:

Nobody knows how to write a letter any more. Nobody dares be emotional and let emotions hang out.

Maybe it's not politically correct to be emotional.

But non-emotional letters do not work. The rational, analytical approach is what goes into the circular or flier.

So if people write rational, analytical letters and the letters do not work, the logical extension of that thinking is that all letters do not work.

An old direct mail rule: A mailing with a letter will always outpull a mailing without a letter.

Certainly a premise worth testing in e-commerce.

Betcha the old rule works.

I can tell anyone who's interested that he's right as usual. For our clients we always try emotional approaches, whatever the medium - and since we have a success rate of well over 95%, (we have about one flop a year actually) they must work.

Enough boasting - but it's true

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

The astonishing Denny Hatch - again

I know quite a few of you are marketers, so I thought I might say a little more about Denny, whom I think I am having lunch with tomorrow.

First, if you haven’t looked at his blog, www.businesscommonsense.com, do so. He has had a most interesting life and always has something well worth reading.

I don’t really agree with him entirely in his comments about the Belgian Eurostar campaign – which must be the first time we have ever differed. He is worried about children’s reactions to a naughty poster.

Well, I have helped to bring up quite a few children. Eventually even the most backward child is going to learn the shocking facts about urinating, which is not on the same level of impropriety as killing people.

What’s more, I have always found kids at that age more intrigued or amused by bodily functions than maybe they are in Philadelphia, where Denny lives. Almost the first thing kids of a certain age start doing is telling each other naughty jokes about such things.

Come to think of it, when she was two my daughter, who is now twelve, used to spend a lot of time trying to catch sight of me in the toilet. Once or twice she succeeded, but she seems to have survived the experience without lasting scars.

Anyhow, back to Denny. Although I think I’m quite a hard worker, I am a sloth compared to him.

Years ago he started a newsletter called Who’s Mailing What which gave you a wonderful picture of that people were mailing in the U. S. I once rang up his wife and asked how many mailings he scrutinised each month. “Two to three thousand,” she replied.

Somebody here copied or adapted the idea and used the same name. Denny came over to try and stop him but was defeated by the intransigence of the courts here. No wonder he quotes in his latest blog, Shakespeare’s line, “First, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

With co-editor Axel Andersen Denny also put together an excellent compendium called Million Dollar Mailings of all the most successful mailings in the U.S. I often refer to it when stuck.

For some weird reason I have never fathomed (stupidity, maybe?) many on-line marketers seem to imagine their customers mutate when sitting in front of computer screens and don’t react to the same stimuli. They do. Only the medium changes; the customers don’t.

That is why a book like the one I mentioned is so valuable.

Which reminds me: yesterday I was the chairman of a little conference on e-mail marketing. The day was hilarious for several reasons.

First, there was a major excavation taking place next door, so for much of the morning you couldn’t hear. Second, the sound system was totally f***ed anyhow. Third, the suppliers in the audience outnumbered the clients three to one.

It reminded me of an old joke - “Whenever three Americans meet, they form a club, elect a chairman, secretary, and treasurer and start selling things to each other.”

Interestingly, the speakers kept saying, “It’s just direct marketing” – which pleased me, as for ten years I have been defining on–line as accelerated direct marketing. And they all talked about testing – which many “conventional” direct marketers seem to have forgotten about - which means they are definitely idiots.

What puzzled me, though, was that most of the e-mail examples were what I call internet leaflets – the equivalent of those old mail shots that used to come with no letter. I find the personal approach works much better – as in direct mail

Anyhow, the hotel gave us free drinks to compensate for the chaos. So that was pretty good.

Monday, 26 November 2007

What's happening on the King’s Road?

I’m seriously wondering if I should move. In the last 48 hours there have been two dangerous accidents within half a mile of where I live just off the King’s Road, Chelsea.

The second was just at the bottom of our street this morning. Two cars and a motor bike were involved and one of cars caught fire – I don’t know if anyone was hurt.

The first was when I was walking down the road to meet friends. An old green Porsche hit a group of pedestrians. A poor 33-year-old woman has since died from serious head injuries, after being taken to hospital in the air ambulance. Three other people were hurt.

You can see some (very bad) pictures of the scene taken on my mobile, but you can’t see that the car managed to demolish a 250 year old wall and knock down some very solid iron railings, too. The driver is in his sixties, apparently, and there’s some speculation that he passed out before the accident.

What is almost incredible is that people manage to drive fast enough to cause accidents in an area which is always congested on Saturday afternoon and Monday morning.

Thursday, 22 November 2007

A better use of public money?

Being a founder member of Rent-a-Mouth, ready to spout off about anything and anything no matter how pig-ignorant I may be, I am rarely flummoxed.

But a kind correspondent just sent me something that really had me in a puzzlement. I won’t quote it all, just the bits that give you the gist.

Subject: Let's Pretend! London Metropolitan Archives' Fifth Annual LGBT History and Archives Conference

Back in 1988, Section 28 of the Local Government Act stated that a local authority was not permitted to "promote the teaching ... of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship."

The conference sets out to explore the experience of LGBT families and family life and how these important histories might be recorded for future generations.

9.30 am Welcome, Arrival and coffee

10 am Evlynn Sharp with LGBT writers - 'My Idea Of Family'
Kairos in Soho hosted a creative community event exploring the dynamics of LGBT family relationships across generations. Poems, words, ideas and art emerge. LGBT people's expressions of family show a commitment to share and learn from our realities. Along with participants who offer readings of their poems, Evlynn represents the highlights of 'My Idea Of Family' and interweaves with her own poetic reflections.

10.20 am Vanda Carter - Elephants in the Bedroom - Writing for children of LGBT families.

We dimly remembered the dreary photo-realism of "Jenny lives with Eric & Martin" in the Eighties and the media storm which followed its British publication.

We found a few picture books from America and Canada, published in the Nineties, sagging with the leaden weight of ISSUES and horrid illustrations reminiscent of local authority clip art.

We found hardly any books which showed, let alone celebrated, the existence and lives of same-sex parent families like us. There was almost nothing which we could bear to read to our children or felt that we could recommend to their nurseries and schools. So, we thought, something must be done...

11 am Matt Cook - 'Exiles from kin'? Gay men and the family This talk looks at how gay men came to be seen as 'exiles' from kin, disconnected from domestic life, but also suggests that their involvement in home and family has a long history, providing precedents for more recent 'families' of choice.

Noon Bernard and Terry Reed - 'The Work of GIRES'
Gender variance in children, adolescents or adults usually causes acute stress for other members of their families. The reactions of other family members often intensifies the stress that gender variant people already feel. Communication within the family is difficult. The Gender Identity Research and Education Society has supported over 200 such family members by providing information and running workshops.

Bernard and Terry Reed are the parents of a trans woman. As trustees of GIRES, they play leading roles in its education programmes and are the authors of much of its literature. They work with many government agencies in the development of policies to support transgender people.

12.45 pm David Fullman Equality & Diversity Officer, Age Concern Norwich 'Fulfilment and Fear' - The Ups and Downs of Growing Older

This presentation explores concepts of the family for aging LGBT people. As we get older we may all need extra support and help. But what happens when these structures fail? There will be time for questions at the end.

… and so on down to …

Regard The National Organisation of Disabled Lesbians, Gay Men, Bisexuals and Transgendered People. A forum session exploring issues around disabled LGBT people and ideas of family.

Enjoy an interlude with the London Gay Symphony Orchestra string quartet.

There are also free children's workshops.

I found myself floundering at all this, partly because I had no idea what LGBT is, till I realised it stood for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered.

Then I asked myself a few questions, like, why is some quasi-governmental body arranging this? Are there more important things to do with our money? Is this all ludicrous? Should there be children’s workshops – can’t they just play?

But there are lots of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered people. Perhaps not as many as some might like, but live and let live. And I think it is infinitely better to have loving gay parents than some of the “normal” ones we read about.

In a world besotted by silly workshops of one kind or another, maybe it’s good that kids are exposed to this – it will prepare them for some of the asinine things they’ll be asked to do when they get jobs and go on training days.

So in the end I rather surprised myself by thinking I rather approve (though I fear the day will prove desperately earnest, jargon-strewn and dull).

If it is a waste of money, it’s far less so than the millions squandered by politicians on “summits” which achieve the square root of f**k-all.

Rather than pay for the Mayor of London to sod off to India on a jaunt costing £740,000 and achieving little in return, let’s have a constant flow of events for every kind of oddity you can imagine.

How about my own personal favourite pressure group, Gay Whales against Racism? Don’t they need a few quid?

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Denny Hatch

For those who have asked, www.businesscommonsense.com is Denny Hatch's website. Denny is one of most perceptive commentators on the American business scene in my view, partly because he is one of the few who really understand marketing.

Why should this matter? Because marketing has an immense influence on all our lives, yet very few understand it - including most practitioners, which explains why the average tenure of a marketing director here and in the U.S. is well under two years.

That's long enough to get a fancy office, change everything whether it needs it or not - and get found out or if lucky promoted or transferred before the chickens come home to roost.

Anyhow, Denny showed me what he has drafted about the posters I discussed two days ago, but his point of view is not mine. We rarely disagree, so when we meet next week for lunch we can have a mashed potato fight.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Outrage? Unfair? Rubbish!

On Friday one of the gossip-riddled rags that purports to be a newspaper in London ran a story complaining bitterly about a poster campaign for Eurostar. They think it represents English football fans in the wrong light.

You can see the poster at the top. A typical English football suppporter pissing in a cup of tea - with two others, featuring rather poor look-alikes of Hitchcock, Major, Thatcher and Bliar. I'm sorry the pictures are a bit crap; they're taken on my mobile, and I have no photographic skill anyhow.

Anyhow, the posters were all on giant cubes and each had something going on round the corner, for reasons I will now explain.

If you don’t speak French or Flemish, the copy says London is just round the corner, plus how long it takes to get there by the fast new Eurostar train. I think this is an excellent campaign as it makes the point in a surprising and relevant way.

What’s more, it’s in a good place – the Gare Du Midi – where you have plenty of time to see it. That’s because this quintessentially modern railway station is one of the worst signposted in the world. You can spend 20 minutes just looking for a toilet –and I did. In fact one of the security guys told me “This station can drive you mad.” The architect probably won an award for it.

If you compare this campaign with the one running in London, it is an instructive and striking demonstration of the difference between good and bad advertising.

Good advertising talks about benefits. Bad advertising talks about features.

The London campaign squanders full pages on the stunningly dull line “Hello to 186 m.p.h.” and even more ill-advised double page spreads showing pictures of St.Pancras Station. Features of the service, not benefits.

I heartily congratulate the agency responsible on conning a gullible, spendthrift client into pissing away all that cash to tell people about something they have all seen on TV and in the press ad nauseam – and my hearty commiserations to the shareholders.

But let’s get back to pissing away.

This is not a perfect poster - it aims to satisfy the ego of the people who created it - but it’s still pretty good, and here’s why

There is one really famous thing in Brussels. It is called the Mannequin Pisse - a statue of a little boy doing just that. There is also one famous thing about England. We drink a lot of tea. And there is one really famous thing about English football fans. Too many are violent, drunken thugs.

Now where do you think our brave boys have demonstrated these qualities most memorably? Why, in Brussels a few years ago during a match between Liverpool and Juventus, when quite a few people died.

And if the cap fits, wear it.

Drayton, you idiot! It's Michael, not Tony

I was lying in bed last night wondering what is my worst quality.

This works much better than counting sheep as there is a limitless catalogue to select from.

Anyhow, in business I decided it is a close run between sloth and sloppy inattention to detail.

That's why I renamed the head of Ryanair Tony when his name is Michael. Either way, it's a good story, and thank you to Michael Rhodes, who pointed this out.

I also got a message from Denny Hatch (see his splendid blog, by the way) who is going to write about the very same subject as me - the ad campaign I saw at the railway station in Brussels.

I'm worried lest he has a different opinion to me: he is almost invariably right about things to do with marketing - but let's see.

Sunday, 18 November 2007

A thought for O'Leary

Last week my partner and I went to Brussels for a meeting. Not wishing to remortgage the flat so as to pay to go by Eurostar or go on a posh airline, we went on Ryanair.

If you don’t live here you may not know Ryanair. It’s the airline everyone loves to hate but travels on because it’s so damn cheap. Their boss, Tony O’Leary is famous for his cavalier approach to passengers.

This is quite the opposite of the famous maxim “the customer is always right” and closer to “the customers are all arseholes, so screw them – as vigorously and as often as possible.” Of course the truth is that the customers are cheap arseholes, like me, and his novel marketing approach - cram 'em in and sell more seats - has resulted in them becoming Europe’s biggest airline.

It has to be said that he is not the first to have this approach but he is by far the most aggressive.

One reason they’re so damn cheap is that they fly to airfields that are miles and miles away from whatever city you are supposed to arrive in. This means in the case of Brussels, the little town of Charleroi.

Ryanair brings so much business to such spots that O’Leary, a superb negotiator, gets some amazing subsidies. I heard a lovely story about this from my host in Brussels. It seems that O’Leary went to negotiate some years ago with some bureaucrats in Brussels and was extremely rude to one of them, who was fairly junior at the time.

He ended a brief conversation by saying, “I don’t want to waste time with you. Fuck off.”

More recently he had to discuss the arrangements he had with Charleroi, and came for a meeting, again in Brussels. And guess who was dealing with it? The very same man, who greeted him (I imagine with some glee) with pretty much the same words.


Now that we have a shortage of decent heroes, far too often we worship people whose only talent is for making money - or very often, just for sliming their way to the top of large firms. Many of those I have met have been dull buggers with one-track minds.

But the O’Leary story reminds me of something.

In one of my periods of financial drought I worked for a while in the swimming pool business. I did the advertising and marketing and sold national franchises for a very funny New Yorker called Sammy Gold.

Sammy had the rare distinction of having cost the Mafia a lot of money and lived to tell the tale. Besides being a superb salesman, he had lots of good advice. One example I have never forgotten: Never end up in such bad terms with someone that you can’t do business with them again.

My next piece will be about an excellent ad campaign I saw in Brussels which upset some idiots in Britain who can't stand the truth.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Health and safety warning

When you get to my age you have to keep a close eye on your health.

I think I go to no end of trouble - breathe on a mirror every morning to see if I'm still alive and so on - but my beloved is a bit sceptical about my casual approach.

That is why I am once again having a complete health check tomorrow - which takes a couple of hours and costs far too much money.

It also calls for me to supply faecal samples, suspended in a little plastic capsule of water.

I couldn't believe what I read on the side of the bottle this morning, though. It said "Do not drink contents of bottle".

Well, I like a drink as much as anyone - but really!

The people who write most of these warnings on packages clearly have shit for brains.

Ah! This explains it: mutant ninja chimps are in charge

I am too damn cheap to buy the papers, which is a waste of time anyhow - yesterday the Sun’s front page said CHELSY QUITS BRITAIN.

If you are a normal person you may not give a toss who Chelsy is or a flying f””k whether she’s here or on Mars. You are, however reasonably entitled to wonder why her parents couldn’t spell Chelsea, so I will enlighten you on both points.

She is a tart the buffoonish Prince Harry has been charvering (assuming someone has told him how to do it) and her parents are South African. Got that?

The Independent had a more interesting front page. It had a big close-up of a chimpanzee's face, with a caption in case anyone confused it with a) Harry or b) Gordon Brown. (Clue: it looked a) more intelligent and b) kinder - and honest).

Anyhow, it seems scientists have been cloning some of the upper primates, and a few of them are worried about the results.

Sorry, chaps, you're a bit too late. The buggers are already taking over. The West End pullulates with them every night. They clutter up the pubs; they vomit on the pavements; they sell each other drugs. Many are in parliament, obviously. And they're everywhere. I went to Wigan a while back and the streets were crawling with them.

I met a marketing director in Wigan who was definitely one. So clearly whilst the really useless ones are safely corralled in the cabinet office, quite a few of the others have proper jobs. Unfortunately, though, there is a real problem facing businesses that employ these mutants. They can’t read.

I know this because my partner’s sister went to a job interview on Sunday at a firm called ROC. They do recruitment for Selfridges and Harrods. They had asked for her CV, in which she said she had no retail experience, but thought she could do the job.

They kept her hanging around for 3 hours (cloned primates can’t tell the time and have no social skills - ever seen a chimp scratching its arse?) Then when she finally got seen, the unusually stupid ill-mannered mutant ninja bitch who interviewed her said: “Sorry, you’ve got no retail experience.”

Oddly enough this firm says on their website that one of their objectives is to "Treat other people as you would want to be treated." Obviously they all like sitting around for hours just to be buggered about.

If I were Harrods or Selfridges I’d get down to the zoo pronto and see if a few giraffes might be better at the job.

Don't go poaching anyone at the chairman's office in John Lewis, though: his assistant can't read either.

But I will come to that soon.

Friday, 9 November 2007

Half-wit communications strikes again!

If you aren't British you may not be familiar with the name Amy Winehouse, but she has similar problems to Britney Spears - too much too soon - but maybe hers are even more serious.

She can't dance like Britney, but on the other hand she has shown an astounding ability to consume vast amounts of drugs. She looks like one of the Ronettes - beehive hairdo, slutty face (but unfortunately no figure), too much make-up, doesn't seem to wash too much - just one of an endless parade of white singers who have done well because they sound as though they might be black and as a result make more money than they should. Janis Joplin was her prototype, I imagine.

Anyhow, enough of the music criticism. She lives with a guy who says he is called Blake Fielder-Civil - though I wonder, seriously, is that a real name? I suspect he's really called Bert Sidebottom; but anyhow he also consumes vast amounts of drugs, presumably on her money as he has no talent we have heard of.

This morning my day was lightened when I read a piece in the London morning freesheet, the Metro , describing the latest loony antics of this prize pair of twits. In it the radiant Amy - talking about what the writer, with ineffable gift for cliche, called her "drug abuse shame" - revealed she thought she was going to die last August when she was raced to a London hospital following a reported binges on ecstasy and cocaine.

Then - and this is what made my day - someone at Metro with a sense of the ludicrous dropped in one of these quizzes for morons: "Do you think Amy is good role model? Tell us on metro.co.uk."

I believe on Monday they're thinking of running a similar piece on Adolf Hitler.

By the way, now that I've got you in the mood for the bizarre, the picture at the top is of me dressed as Dumbledore for a seminar I was doing yesterday in Durham for The Pru. Unlike Amy, I have NO shame.

Monday, 5 November 2007

This week’s great read

What a wonderful day! My business worries are over. Someone has e-mailed me about a book that “provides readers with proven business intelligence from C-Level executives (Chairman, CEO, CFO, CMO, Partner) from the world's most respected companies nationwide.”

I like the conjunction of “world’s” and “nationwide” – a sort of unconscious giveaway, really. You know it's all going to be drivel from that point on.

But gosh, what must it feel like to be a “C” level person, not just a sad little scribbler? And there was more! “Each chapter is comparable to an essay/thought leadership piece and is a future-oriented look at where an industry, profession or topic is headed and the most important issues for the future.”

How could anyone who writes like that produce an essay? The subjects of the various reports gave me a good insight into what to expect. For instance, “Setting and Reaching Benchmarks" and "Using Internal Metrics to Benchmark Performance" not forgetting "Maximizing Performance with Effective Benchmarking" and "The Importance of Analytics in Today's Complex Organizations".

I was a little disappointed to see no use of the words “vision” and “mission” – but there was good stuff about leadership and strategy, so that’s alright. Anyhow, if I had any doubts about what was in store they were quelled when I read that “Through an exhaustive selection process, each author was hand-picked by the Inside the Minds editorial board to author a chapter for this book”.

I have never for the life of me understood why jargon-constipated people “author” things when they can write them. God knows, writing is hard enough. But then I have never understood why people buy books like this when a sympathetic, understanding doctor will prescribe sleeping pills.

What I have noticed, though, is that people who use this sort of language are almost invariably useless at doing anything. As Winston Churchill noted, "Big men use little words."

Another thing I have noticed is that very often this year's "thought-leader" is next year's overpaid drone who's been found out and is scuttling off with his or her massive, utterly undeserved pension, plus compensation for loss of office and so on, having lost millions for shareholders and lots of jobs for the poor bloody O-level workers.

Do I look as though I'm 17?

I have clearly discovered the secret of eternal life.

Last Saturday an idiot in the Kings Road Tesco, where I went to buy some cooking plonk, greeted me at the check out with this astounding request:

"Can I have proof of identity?"

"Don't be ridiculous," I responded. "Do I look as though I'm under 18?"

To this the witless buffoon said, in all seriousness, "Just don't forget it next time."

Do you suppose these people are instructed, once hired, to leave their brains outside the door when they come to work? I see quite a few signs that this is true - and not just at Tesco.

You, dear reader, probably don't read all the comments that appear beneath these pieces. That's why I'm reproducing a funny story from Archie Clifford, who recently tried and failed to extract some service - or at least dawning gleams of commercial intelligence - from the loonies at PC World.

'I wanted to buy a snazzy new laptop which they were selling for £999.

I found it on their site online, but it said it was only available for pick up in store, no home delivery option. Strange, I thought, but I was willing to go and pick it up from the local store so that was okay.

However, when I tried to order it online to pick up in my local (Norwich) store, I got a message telling me the nearest store I could pick it up from was Cambridge, over 70 miles away.

I thought there must be some mistake, so I called PC world and explained that, as I was offering to put almost a thousand quid's worth of business their way, and as we were almost 10 years into the 21st Century, with all the advantages of the modern communications infrastructure, was it not possible for them to somehow get the laptop to Norwich, where I lived.

The conversation went something like this:

"Sorry sir, we have none of that particular item in stock in Norwich."

"I know, that's why I called. To see if you could deliver one there."

"I'm sorry sir, that's not company policy."

"Perhaps you should make it company policy."


"I don't mind if you don't deliver it to my home, if you could just transfer one to your Norwich superstore, I could pick it up. I'll even pay for the courier to transfer it for you."

"Sorry sir, that's not company policy?"

"Why not?"


"Have you ever heard of the concept of customer service?"

Then she parroted the manual back at me. I asked to speak to her manager, and got the same tripe. I asked to be put through to their complaints department, and had a soul-destroying conversation with a very abrupt young man who seemed about fifteen years of age, and wasn't taking any shit.

I pointed out to him that I wanted to spend almost a grand with PC world, by ordering one of their laptops, and all I wanted was for them to get it to somewhere near where I lived, and not have to drive half way across the world to pick it up. Was that too much to ask?

Astonishingly, for someone in a 'complaints' department, where you would expect a rather more diplomatically trained staff to work, he was actually quite rude and dismissive, and when I said I had no alternative but to take my £900 elsewhere, his response was along the lines of, "whatever".

I went into my local Norwich pc world to see if I could get the manager there to swing something for me, as I really wanted this laptop and it wasn't available anywhere else.

Guess what. You know when you don't want to be hassled in a store and every assistant in the store makes a bee line for you and asks you if you need anything? And when you DO need assistance, you can't find anyone for love nor money?

Well this was worse. I couldn't find the manager so I stood waiting near this member of staff who I thought was talking to a customer. It turned out to be his girlfriend as, after 5 minutes, he started kissing and hugging her, in the store, while I stood by waiting, about 5 yards away. I even waved to get his attention, but he was obviously on to far too good a thing to let work get in the way.

So I walked out in disgust,and will spend my money elsewhere.

It makes you wonder how these companies make any money.


All this reminds me of the instructions that excellent U.S. store Nordstrom gives its employees: "Use your best judgment at all times."

Which reminds me: I was in Macy's in New York last week. Their approach is quite different as far as I can make out.

They just hire as few sales assistants as possible, and when they do fail to tell them where anything is, so the sustomer has to hunt things down.

In that way they eliminate all service problems: customers have to do all the work. I bet their pilfering problems are immense, though.

Friday, 2 November 2007

In awe of this stupidity

Anyone out there who can tell me how this makes anything even vaguely resembling sense?

My colleagues and I are organising a conference in Brussels (which means they’re actually organising it and I’m asking irrelevant questions).

Anyhow, my PA Iane – aka The Brazilian Bombshell – is checking out hotels and this is what happens when she talks to one which I will call for the sake of argument The Stanhope. They quote a ludicrous rate per delegate so Iane says, “But I’ve seen a much lower rate for you on Expedia.”

The lady at the other end – get this – says, “Oh, if that’s the case, why don’t you book through them?”

No, you didn’t read wrong, friends. Rather than match the Expedia price, she is willing to let us book through them and pay commission. So the hotel screws itself twice.

I just take my hat off to that. It’s almost as stupid as the way Peter Jones in Chelsea handle customers.

This will be the subject of a forthcoming piece I guarantee will give you a few laughs.

It will tell how everyone we’ve dealt with since February from the Chairman down in a vain attempt to get a pair of curtains made has been – with two helpful exceptions – either dilatory, rude, incompetent, smug, dozy, unable to read, thick, bossy or just plain useless.

Interestingly, the Chairman is called “Charlie”. Very appropriate - as you will see -if you know what that name implies to most English people.