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Wednesday, May 15, 2002

Letter of Complaint

13 May 2002

Goodies Diner
11 Commercial road

Dear Sir or Madam
It is with regret I write to you to bring to your attention the unacceptably poor level of service received by the party I was with at your restaurant this weekend. On Saturday 11th of May 2002 a party of 16 had a reservation for 8.30pm under the name ‘Blaggs’ to celebrate an 18th Birthday before meeting more guests in the city center between 10 and 11 pm.

When we arrived the table was still occupied by the previous group booking. Upon the suggestion and brief apology of the waiter the group agreed to return quarter of an hour later. The local pubs were occupied mostly by football supporters which is quite intimidating for a young group of mostly females so we waited in the street for the table as it was a warm night. When we returned the table was still not vacated and we waited several more minutes to be seated. The cutlery was then set once we were already at the table.

The staff were unable to split the bill in anyway at all to make payment easier for the party, including charging drinks separately at the bar. It was suggested people keep an individual total on the napkins - but no pens or spare napkins were offered.

The group had to wait a considerable amount of time for the drinks order to be taken - the waitress doing this had appeared to have little knowledge of the drinks menu leading to some confusion over what type of drinks were being ordered. Only after the order had been taken did she (standing at one end of the table so inaudible to some members of the group) begin to tell the party about the Barcadi promotion running. She was interrupted by a call from another member of staff about food for another part being ready. The waitress could not decide whether to finish detailing the promotion or to go to deal with the other party. Whilst thinking aloud she said “I don’t care anyway, I can’t be bothered”. I find this an appalling attitude to display infront of customers.

After sometime the drinks began to arrive but the process took sometime. A Cherry Bomber was described as a Cherry Lollipop - two drinks of completely different shape and consistency - and went to the wrong person. Two of the other drinks did not arrive until after a different member of staff had been alerted. This waitress told us the drinks had been crossed off the bill.

There was also a considerable delay in the taking of the food order, and after this the menus were not removed from the table for over another ten minutes. No second drinks order was initiated by any of the staff. Which apart from being poor customer service, is terrible business sense.

Due to the delay in getting into the restaurant and the making the order few of the group decided to have starters. There were no more first courses ordered than would be for a regular sized table yet there was still a long wait for these to arrive. By ten o’clock, an hour and half after the original booking and by which time we hoped to be able to give the people we were meeting up with a firm time by which we would be finished the main courses were still not on the table.

When the food did turn up there was an extra chicken parmesan which no one had ordered. The waiter holding this took a rather abrupt tone asked if anyone had ordered a chicken anything and responded rudely to the reply. The meal did not belong to the party and all our meals did turn up.

When we finished eating the plates were not cleared away promptly, however when the waitress did arrive an asked if we would like to order desserts our initial reaction was to go ahead and go straight to the clubs to meet friends rather than to the pubs as originally planned. However the waitress was unable to take the desert order straight away due to the plates she was carrying and said she would return.

As had become familiar, she did not. By the time she did return we were running unacceptably late, and asked for the bill. This did arrive promptly - revealing much about your ethics as a restaurant. Not only was there no concession for our inconvenience - the service charge - which we were well aware of - had been added to the bill despite the your inability to seat us as the time booked and the lack of professional service during our visit. As we were paying cash and did not have any change amongst the group we had no choice but to pay the full bill despite our reservations in doing so.

Many restaurant supply customer care cards allowing customers to give both positive and negative feedback to help improve the quality of service they offer, yours I notice, did not.

The quality of food was acceptable, although nothing out of the ordinary and certainly not good enough to market the restaurant alone. There are several American themed restaurants in Southampton all of whom offer the similar or better quality and choice of food and similar prices, for example, Mustang Sally’s, TGI Friday’s, Old Orleans, Buffalo Bill’s and Frankie and Benny’s. These restaurants also offer a far better standard of service. Had it been possible to get a group of sixteen unbooked into one of these restaurants in the middle of a Saturday night and had we not paid a deposit, you may have not been able to be so complacency with your lax attitude to our group.
Your restaurant is used to catering for large parties - your website states you ‘specialise in them’ I would not choose the term special. I wonder if perhaps it had been a 30th Birthday rather than an 18th or Gemma’s parents had been dining with us, your level of service might have been better?


Wednesday, May 01, 2002

Essay on Bob the Builder

The social significance of the children’s programme "Bob the Builder"

Since ‘Bob the Builder’ first appeared on screens in 1999 it’s popularity and influence has spread from being a pre-schoolers TV show to an international phenomenon, likewise the popularity of Bob himself has gone sky high.

According to a friend of mine one of the original concepts behind the show was to encourage people to go into the building industry as the country lacks skilled labourers. I am doubtful this could have been the main tactic as it seems far too sensible. The army target insecure teenagers making career decisions in it’s hard hitting recruitment campaign. The NHS pretends to raise salaries. The Education department makes a pun about pianos. However the myth of a builders lifestyle is created through the portrayal of Bob and his job.

Bob always looks very clean and tidy, unlike real builders, hanging about in dusty building sites all day. The dangerous side of the building industry is not shown. In real life many builders receive injuries or are killed at work.

Bob also promotes a positive image of builders to the community competing against the stereotypical white van man who walks about with his beer belly and builders bum showing, over charges people, drinks a lot of tea and spends the day leering at women in the street or in ‘The Sun’.

This positive portrayal helps encourage the belief in working hard and receiving rewards for it. In Bobland Bob is popular because he fixes things and he is seen with many friends at work , in real life Bob is popular too , so it is an illustration of how hard work pays off, the Protestant work ethic. But looking at other economic issues drawn on in "Bob the Builder" the domination of the ruling classes can not be read so easily. Bob comes from the fictional region ‘Bobland’. This would suggest that Bob or his ancestors had some sort of feudal power over the people and property on the land. Maybe he is working because he wants to feel a part of society and not because he has financial need to. Money is not seen changing hand so perhaps Bob’s fixings are just maintenance on his land, he is just over interested in DIY. On a lesser scale Bob is the owner of his own business and therefore be receiving a large proportion of the profit from his work and not truly represent the working class.

The work ethic is encouraged again through the final line in "Can we fix it?" Where Bob suggest "We be better get some work done ". This suggests that construction is real work and careers in the entertainment industry are not worthwhile. This directly links to my friends theory of the reasons for production, but contradicts how the producers of the show live their own lives. They maybe trying to preserve their own careers from the impact of the next generation by discouraging young people from the art and entertainment industry. Although this hypocritical stance has long existed, for example in the Beatles ‘Ob la di Ob la da’ the protagonists work hard all day then perform with a pub band at night and have no ambition to take this further.

The success of ‘Bob the Builder’s’ pop music is also a significant insight into society. The single knocked bad boy American rapper Eminiem off the number one spot. The single ‘Stan’ was a critically acclaimed different direction for Eminiem and featured until then unknown British singer Dido who then became hot property. A novelty act knocking a serious artist off number one is always notable but perhaps slightly more acceptable at Christmas. Past examples include the Spice Girls knocking off a proper boyband. The whole concept of ‘Christmas number one’ is almost uniquely British although worryingly many American artists release whole festive albums, and this includes the bands they export such as N sync. Bob’s record had to be purchased by a wide cross section of the population when single sales peak at Christmas. Not only would it have been a stocking filler for the shows target audience of the under seven’s but would also appear in the CD collections of teenagers and adults. Bob is said to have become a gay icon although this is denied by sources in the queer press.

Novelty records have always existed but the crossover between children’s television programmes and the music charts has grown. This invasion of the charts is one of a variety of spin-offs from the television programme. Toys, soft furnishings, books and stage shows have also come out of the ‘Bob the Builder’ marketing suite.

The cross over of characters from shows into adult popular culture is also on the increase. Not only do ‘grown-ups’ idolise watch during there own youth but they also become attached to modern characters - often regardless of whether or not they have children or the age of there children (Despite his popularity Bob can still cause embarrassment to some tweenagers who do not yet appreciate what there seniors see in Bob) The appeal of Bob is a combination of several factors. The irony appeal is unavoidable, but beyond the fact that Bob is an imaginary man who breaks stereotypical images of a builder, there is the appeal to the ‘inner child’. Whether the ‘inner child’ actually exists or not is besides the point if the individual believes they have one this child is used as an excuse for indulging in unsophisticated or inappropriate behaviour. Perhaps this reflects the demand of the modern world and how in response many people shrink away from them at the first opportunity. A third reason for Bob’s popularity is that he has become acceptable because mainstream TV stars have endorsed him and so he can be taken seriously. Neil Morrisey who voices Bob had a successful career before doing children’s Television work. ‘Bob The builder’ has also featured a convincing Chris Evans increasing its cross over appeal. A similar techniques to the portrayal of celebrities in the American cartoon ‘the Simpsons’.

The name ‘Bob’ in itself is significant when looking at the impact of the show. The programme has no doubt perpetuated the Bobism movement. Bob has become such a cultural norm that it has effectively become a new third person pronoun. Bob is becoming more gender neutral. The name Bob has effectively replaced Joe Bloggs as the universal reference for the man in the street.

No doubt part of the reason the builder was named such is the alliterative properties of the name, but choosing ‘Bob’ also connoted friendliness and informality. Making Bob friendly is important to his spiralling popularity as the modern world often lack personalisation.

A final point to consider when looking at ‘ Bob the Builder’ is it’s representation of women, in the character of Wendy. Wendy plays an active role in the business and multitasks showing women to be capable and committed. However her name Wendy has immediate connotations of ‘Wendy house’ so the stereotype of women belonging in the home is not fully broken.

Overall I will conclude that the social significance of ‘Bob the Builder’ is vastly underestimated by the population. This programme both reflects and influences popular culture and as it as targeted at young children it could have a life long impact on socialisation of the future generations. ‘Bob the Builder’ does use its power sensibly in some respects but there is also evidence of cultural domination by the ruling classes, and when this programme is marketed abroad, cultural transmission.