Thursday, August 24, 2006

From Pillar To Post

Several universities in Great Britain have caused a bit of a kerfuffle by announcing that more ‘traditional’ subjects are a better preparation for higher education. Cambridge has said students should study those subjects if they want to be ‘realistic’ applicants. Apparently Manchester University and the London School of Economics are saying the same thing: courses such as Media Studies, Health and Social Care, and Performing Arts are a bit ‘soft’ in the competition for places.

Of course, many traditional subjects are no longer taught at any level in the UK. Some are simply not of practical use to anyone. These include Latin, Colonial Administration and Anglican Theology. Others are out of step with 21st Century Britain. Amongst these are, Agriculture, English as a First Language and Parliamentary Democracy. It’s lucky that a few of the traditional subjects like Maths and Physics are still on offer. At least someone will be able to deal with PiP.

Pricing in Proportion (PiP) is the new system for determining the Royal Mail’s delivery charges. This exciting new plan is based on the weight and size of the item to be posted. For first class, it couldn’t be simpler. If something is up to 240 mm long, 165 mm wide, 5 mm thick, and weighs no more than 100 grams, it’s a letter. If it’s up to 353 mm long, 250 mm wide, 25mm thick and weighs up to 750 grams, it’s a large letter. If it’s either longer than 353 mm, wider than 250 mm, thicker than 25 mm, or weighs more than 750 grams, it’s a packet. (If it’s any bigger or heavier than that, it’s too bloody awkward and the unionised postal workers won’t shift it in any case, so bugger off, mate.)

The sharp consultant types at the Royal Mail say that the system works very well in countries like Germany and Singapore. It appears that they may have overlooked something however. Between emails and text messaging, the only people who still send letters are over 65 and they still think there are 12 pence to the shilling and that millimetres and grams are used by Huns and Johnny Foreigner. It could be argued that the sharp consultant types who thought this up are 7 mm thicker than the back of an axe.

The queues in the local sub-post office as the patient, overworked and friendly staff member (who was probably born in Bangalore) tries to explain the metric system to dear old Mrs Mavis Witter will make check-in at Heathrow look like a choreographed ballet.

Of course, PiP may be a real benefit to Heathrow Airport as well. All carry-on articles have to be contained in a single sized bag. If it’s up to 450 mm long, 350 mm wide and 160 mm deep, it’s a carry-on bag. If it’s bigger than that, it isn’t. All the complexity and frustration of checking in for a flight can be put in perspective.

British Airports Authority has an opportunity for a real public relations coup here. When some stroppy passenger complains about the new baggage rules there’s an obvious answer. Passengers will surely be more cooperative when they are reminded, ‘Oi, Sunshine! Have you tried posting a letter lately?’

3 Comments:

Blogger Ananke said...

Leave it to the government to mess up an already complicated system. ;-)

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