Monthly Archives: December 2006

The feel-good free-market part 1: DQ

When I was a boy (and old shep was a pup) everyone in the UK got given a free set of telephone directories. If the number you wanted wasn’t there, or opening and using a book was too much for you, then you could pick up the phone, dial a short, memorable, number (192) and ask them to look it up for you. This service was called “directory enquiries” (DQ for short) and was free.
“Ridiculous!” I hear you cry. “How can the customers benefit from the increased efficiency, competition driven low prices and customer choice afforded by the free market if it’s a free service?”
Well that’s a good point – if there’s only one number and it’s free to use then how can there be any improvement ?
So, the government came up with a simple but brilliant solution that has led to so much room for improvement it’s difficult to see anything else.
Nowadays, instead of an undemocratic single three digit number the consumer has a choice of dozens of six digit numbers, all of which cost a fucking fortune and most of which are subcontracted to overseas (Indian/Pakistani) call centres. The free market does it again.

However, one enterprising company (118118) have introduced a revolutionary new service – “FREE directory enquiries“. What a revolutionary idea! There are three catches:

  • You have to listen to adverts.
  • It uses voice recognition, which as I am always banging on about, does not work.
  • It doesn’t work.

Another free market triumph.
Here’s the BBC’s version.

DJ Santa on the Wheels of Steel

M&S managed to relaunch themselves by getting a bunch of models (including Twiggy) to dance around in their undies to a few rare grooves. Matalan followed suit with some slightly crapper tunes and Melanie Sykes in Twiggy’s place. Fair enough; Matalan is to Marks and Spencer as Mel Sykes is to Twiggy.
But now, Debenhams have pulled rank on both of them with their latest advertising campaign. It features a “state of the art” Santa who is thin (natch) and wears a red suit (bien sur), has trimmed his beard (yeah – I always thought that original beard was a bit too rrrrock), drives a motorised sleigh (reindeer are so passe), and is dancing to a def version of “Santa Baby” that sounds like it was produced by the DJ equivalent of Ronnie Hazelhurst. It’s impossible to describe how bad this tune is but if I told you it has someone saying “DJ Santa on the Wheels of Steel” over it, perhaps you’ll have some inkling of the enormous distance by which the mark was overshot.