Friday, 24 February 2017

The Lost Art Of Letter-Writing Vol. XXL

From: Blizzard 1 <>
Sent: 03 December 2016 10:53
To: Virgin Media
Subject: Alas and Alack!

Dear Virgin Media*,

*(I trust you will forgive the impersonal moniker; as is the way of these things, we do not know what person will be reading this.  Nevertheless, I will be delighted to make your (virtual) acquaintance)
I received, with thanks, your delivery – on Monday 28.11.16.  I am now enjoying the digital TV package.  Lovely stuff.  I ordered it on the phone, from Keith.  He was very helpful.This felicitous circumstance is not, however, the reason for my correspondence.  The issue at hand, I am afraid, is one of vexation.To whit: the aforementioned delivery was due to arrive on Saturday 26.11.16.  As Keith told on the phone.  As was confirmed by a text sent on Wednesday 23.11.16, which gave me a convenient ten-hour window of 8am-6pm for delivery on Saturday 26.11.16.  A subsequent text on Friday 25.11.16 helpfully reminded me that the delivery would be made on Saturday 26.11.16.
I spent the hours of 8am-6pm on Saturday 26.11.16 in eager anticipation.  I got up, earlier than usual for a Saturday, and attached a note to my gate to ask the courier to call me on arrival so that I could greet them at the gate.  The information contained in this note had already been kindly added by Keith when I ordered, but he explained that this did not mean that the message would be heeded, or even necessarily conveyed.  (Obviously, a company contracting a courier service has no way to guarantee a message going to the courier.)
By 3.30pm on Saturday 26.11.16, I was wondering if there was a way to find out if and when the delivery would arrive, so I called you, Virgin Media.  The helpful chap I spoke with (whose name escapes me) gave me a website address and a tracking number to enter to find out for myself.  Excellent customer service (Obviously, a company contracting a courier service has no way to contact the courier for information, and no inclination to try on a customer’s behalf). 
I must admit to a growing frustration at the courier: did they not realise the sacred trust that Virgin Media had placed in them, in securing their services to convey their property to me, a valued customer? 
Having checked the courier’s website, it seemed that the package had not been delivered to them. 
Of course, had the courier arrived at 5.59pm on Saturday 26.11.16, all would have been well, and I would have chuckled to myself, asking rhetorically “Isn’t it always the way?”
Alas, and Alack!  They did not.  At this point, my impatience turned towards you, Virgin Media.
I received no further communication from the courier or from you, Virgin Media, on the day in question (Saturday 26.11.16), having waited all day in my residence, with the feeling of a child on Christmas Eve – and the aspect of a hermit.
Imagine my surprise, then, on receiving a text on Monday 30.11.16, telling me that my delivery would arrive by 9pm on that day.  I am sure you will appreciate my confusion.  I had, for some regrettably unclear reason, believed the delivery would be completed on Saturday, 26.11.16. 
The next message I received informed me that the package had indeed been delivered – Hurrah!  However, having waited for 10 hours on the appointed day (Saturday 26.11.16), I admit to a little scepticism.  On arriving home on the evening of Monday 30.11.16, I found no delivery and no note referring to an alternative location (as is the usual way of these things).
Calling Virgin Media once again on Monday 30.11.16, not being in possession of the delivery, I explained to the person who answered (I regret that my growing frustration negated my usual regard for politeness, and I again failed to note the person’s name, for which I apologise), the issue was two-fold: Firstly, I wished to locate the delivery, and this I understood was my responsibility, which I accepted (obviously, a company contracting a courier service has no way to contact the courier for information, and no inclination to try on a customer’s behalf).
Secondly, and perhaps more pertinently to this mail, I was grasping for information on the phantom delivery from Saturday 26.11.16.  I sought closure, having endured since Saturday 26.11.16 a gnawing feeling of irresolution, an indistinct lack…I am not pre-disposed to a longing for resolution (life does not offer much in the way of resolution, does it, Virgin Media?  And entertainments that do have always seemed cheap and uninspiring to me), but it did seem important in this matter.
Your representative on the phone informed me, having checked with a supervisor, that there was simply no mechanism to deal with this, and that I would need to call the courier myself to re-arrange delivery, which I accepted (obviously, a company contracting a courier service has no way to contact said courier, or investigate any issues arising from mistakes).  The call handler confessed surprise at my request that Virgin Media answer for the delivery not taking place on the appointed day (Saturday 26.11.16, if memory serves).  I was at pains to make plain my central point: that delivery had been promised, but had not taken place, and the only available information pointed to either a mistake on your part (rather than the courier’s), or a breakdown in communication between yourself and your chosen courier.  This had inconvenienced me, your valued customer, through no fault of mine, and I believe this to be your problem to solve.
The first – and, admittedly, the more urgent – issue described above (the whereabouts of the package) was happily settled: the delivery had been received by a neighbour, who had kindly kept it for me.  All is well with this: a resolution, of sorts!
However, on the second issue……well, I do so hate to be a bother, but I own it did cause some considerable bother to me.  I do hope we can settle this to everyone’s satisfaction, and I look forward to your response. 
Yours, with breath (once again) duly baited,
Mr. Clayton Blizzard (Account # xxxxxxx)


Dear Virgin Media,
I include my previous message to you, for which I am yet to receive a reply;
why don’t you reply to me? 
Correspondence is not a one-way street. 
And it shouldn’t be a dead-end, either. 
Or a cul-de-sac. 
Anyway, never mind, that’s not the reason I write.
My reason to write concerns subjects that have long been on my mind:
Political rhetoric, freedom of speech and the power of words.
(“A word after a word after a word is power.”  Margaret Atwood)
I like you, Virgin Media.
Your adverts with Usain Bolt were amusing,
And it’s interesting to me how your brand was built
Pretty much out of nothing, and then sold to you for lots of money.
It’s a classic post-modern story.
I don’t know if you are familiar, Virgin Media,
With the genocide in Rwanda in 1994….?
If you are not, I would strongly recommend that you read up on the matter,
There is plenty of material available – I have read God Sleeps In Rwanda,
Which is a good start that might break your heart,
But is also honest and insightful – and uplifting, in a way.
Anyway, in case you don’t already know, Rwandan state radio did plenty to incite violence
By demonising the minority ethnic group in the country – They are the Tutsi,
Who had previously been the elite,
(Favoured by colonialists, which is significant).
So, those radio broadcasts, and other extremist media outlets
Referred to Tutsi as “cockroaches”, among other inflammatory language.
This was to dehumanise Tutsi people,
To render them inherently less valuable than others.
It worked. 
And around 800000 people were killed –
In a very short period –
Most with machetes and small arms –
Many by people who knew their victims personally –
They were killed with small weapons, not words
But words had an effect on those who did the killing. 
An article in The Sun a couple of years ago
Referred to “migrants” as “cockroaches”, in startlingly similar terms
To that genocidal propaganda.
And the author, and the editor, must have known
That at least some of the people they dismissed as less than human
Were fleeing war and persecution,
(And were therefore not even really “migrants”, let alone “cockroaches”),
Perhaps even fleeing a war supported in the most bloodthirsty terms
By the very same paper.
It might be unreasonable to suggest divestment based on one article,
From two years ago,
However offensive it may have been to humans everywhere.
But that article follows a pattern of demonization and dehumanisation
That people have responded to – as you will know, Virgin Media,
From demographic research, delivered by your marketing department,
Discourse is affected by all sorts of opinions,
Across a broad spectrum.
When a national newspaper with a massive readership
Prints this type of shit…and therefore endorses the implied values that go with it…
To use language I know you will understand:
Are those values you want associated with your brand?
Like, denouncing the judiciary for saying something they disagree with,
Using “gay” as a term of abuse, and all their many, varied, nefarious crimes against language;
Well, if it’s just to annoy writing types like me…
That can be done quite easily
Without resorting to the language of genocide.
But the columnist who wrote that piece seems to thrive on the publicity,
And attention,
That deadline-driven hatred generates.
And a newspaper owned by a billionaire, which is not only unresponsive to criticisms like mine,
But also seek to make some political and commercial gains* from the controversy
(*Would that there were a line between the two, Virgin Media….)
Which also generates further column-inched comment and drives clickbait toward it.
This is how people make a living in media these days, isn’t it, Virgin Media?
And money always makes people pay attention.
So, my point is:
Given that you advertise in a paper responsible for printing hate speech
Of the kind that would be actionable in some places, which if
It were directed against a specific racial, ethnic or religious group would definitely be,
Given that you pay, indirectly, for that publication, and that
You have a choice where to advertise, who to do business with, and
To whom to give your money…
It’s not fair of me, is it, Virgin Media,
To expect you to deal with this?
(Why you and not any/every other company who does the same thing?)
It’s not fair for me
To say –
Unless, of course, you want to be part of society,
Since that’s where your money is made.
And since advertising is a large part of the business of a company like yours,
Maybe you could think about that. 
Maybe we can decide, collectively, that we’re against inciting hatred,
As a sort of minimum standard for mass communication.
Without denying anyone’s freedom of speech, we
Decide that perhaps we have some responsibility
To use our freedom of speech wisely
As an opportunity to criticise, and disagree
Without hate speech,
Without echoing genocidal propaganda,
Without the need for the kind of wind-up shit
That most of us grew out of in our teens…
Or maybe I can decide to switch to a media company that will respond to my concerns.
Because I also have a choice where to advertise, who to do business with, and
To whom to give my money.
God, this is so preachy, so self-satisfied, so didactic, isn’t it, Virgin Media?!
But I know you care what your customers think,
Because you’re always asking.
So I’m telling.
In the spirit of commercial friendship:
What do you intend to do about it?
Who even are you, Virgin Media?
Your Customer (for now),
Clayton Blizzard

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