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Art & Money – Site Sessions Talk – May 2017

This is a write up of a short talk I gave in May 2017 as part of Leila Johnston’s Site Sessions events. This is what I wanted to say but not sure if I actually did or not (until the video surfaces that is).

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Hello. My name is Aden and the title of my talk is not ‘make art note’ but I was in Amsterdam last week and this old warehouse was outside my hotel and it seemed fitting. My talk is actually called make banks open. I am going to talk to you today about banking regulation (sorry I will try and make it fun)…and hopefully how it will unleash art on the world of finance.

 

A little bit about me, I worked at HSBC for over 17 years i.e. 6258 days in total. I worked in a variety of technical roles and latterly in the innovation function (no sniggering HSBC customers) trying to make the bank better. I largely failed. But I still work in the industry but I am freelance now. I have unfinished business with banks.

 

I want to talk about 3 things in the next 10 minutes. How regulations are forcing the banks to be more open. How those changes are leading a lot of companies to believe they can solve the problems of our financial lives. And finally, thankfully a little bit about how these changes will let the art into banking, I hope.

 

In 2008 banks fucked the world. Over extended credit on massively complex and opaque financial instruments such a credit default swaps and mortgage backed securities brought the whole house of cards crashing down. Leading to massive government bailouts of the banks that were deemed systemically important to the worlds continued operation. This brought about mass austerity and can be blamed for a lot of societies ills today.

 

This crisis also fucked the banks, less so for certain but still caused them a lot of pain. Historically low interest rates rendered a lot of their old business models almost useless and they made enemies in very powerful places. The governments and the regulators. This should not have been possible and it should never happen again. A raft of huge regulatory programs were unleashed…

 

Now you may think this was too little too late….and you may be right but the changes that have been put in place have largely been about protecting consumers from the casino like attitudes of large banks, betting the house on fallacies. These regulations came in many shapes and size and with many weird names…two of the largest were…

 

Dodd-Frank a set of measures aimed at US banks (the ones that largely caused the disaster) to improve the transparency of the banks especially with regards to products like derivatives.

This also introduced the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, an agency designed to protect consumers from banks treating them unfairly….

This set of measures is currently under attack from the Tangerine Despot who hates its figure head Elizabeth Warren, the scourge of banks in the US. This is a disaster that will hopefully not come to pass.

 

The other large global set of measures are Basel III. These measures mean that banks have to hold a far higher percentage of actual liquid capital i.e. real money to avoid them over extending themselves again. Also a series of stress tests are undertaken at regular intervals to test the strength of banks all over the world to try and simulate similar crises to test their resilience now.

 

There is a new set of regulation that is coming to our shores soon. It is an EU wide piece of legislation AND I AM VERY EXCITED ABOUT IT.

….are you ready for this?

 

Boom. The Payments Service Directive 2: The revenge. Or PSD2 as it is more commonly known. It is, in my humble opinion, going to change the face of banking to a greater extent than anything I have seen in my adult lifetime (most of which has been spent working for banks).

 

Well my dear….let me tell you how and why it is so exciting.

 

There are a whole host of measures contained within the page turner of a document. Ultimately the ones that will impact us most are the following.

This set of regulations is an attack on the middle men of payments. Predominantly the big ones. Visa, Amex and Mastercard. When was the last time you did not buy anything without using those? This will introduce measures that will open up payments.

This will be achieved by the introduction of the snappily titled Payment Initiation Services and Account Information Services. New regulated entities that will be allowed to put in and take out money from your bank accounts directly in the case of the PIS. And for the AIS the ability to receive your transaction and balance data automatically in near real time.

And that is very exciting because it enables a lot of very interesting things to become reality.

 

Open Banking UK – doing great work to ensure the slow bureaucracy of Europe is not hampered by inertia, or lobbying from those affected etc. This is a shift that is happening across the world. Canada, Singapore, Australia and the US are all starting their own open banking programs and the tide is not going back out….

(Since I gave this talk the API specifications have now been published https://www.openbanking.org.uk/read-write-apis/)

 

These functions form around 90% of day to day banking functions for most people

If new regulated companies have access to these services they can be pseudo or neo banks and that means we should see some real innovation in the space which has been sorely lacking.

PSD2 is signed into European Law on the 12th of January 2018. The technical measures included need to be in place within 18 months of that law being in place. Which is a long time to wait but thankfully the Competition Markets Authority in the UK has stepped in and put some tighter timescales in place around the data part of these requirements. The first banking APIs for transaction data in the UK must be live by January next year…or else.

 

So the pipes are opening….what comes next? Efficiency dreams.

 

 

Throughout history the organisation of your finances has made people about as a happy as these two.  I am sure you have all been in similar situations where one person in the relationship weighs your money, while the other partner stares into space wishing they were dead. It is a dull affair for the majority of us. Either a chore of indifference or something that we blissfully ignore.

The Money Changer And His Wife by German painter Ludwing Von Langenmantel

 

 

There are some that love it of course. Accountants, Spreadsheet nerds, organised people that will pour over their finances and models for hours. Planning everything to the nth degree. You know, sociopaths.   For most that is out of reach both skill wise and desire wise. The stereotype I would like to lean on is that creative people are less organised / bothered by money? Anyway I hate managing money and I wish I was a spreadsheet nerd.

 

This is not helped by most internet banking interfaces. They may as well be bank statements sellotaped to a monitor for the purposes of making a point in presentations. This statement is from 2013. Nothing has really changed.

 

Little has improved since the desktop apps of the 90s that took money management to a fine art of budgets, bar graphs and pie charts. Their are lots of people who remember these so fondly.

 

Some banks have attempted to introduce money management features to banking. In the industry these are called PFM (Personal Financial Management). Does it really help you manage your money? Kind of I guess. Does it make you feel anything at all? Meh.

 

There are people that might be thinking but I have an app and it is perfectly acceptable. And I am sure it is lovely in a perfunctory kind of way. Most people have not seen what good really looks like.

 

In retail banking startups like Monzo are eyeing up current accounts and thinking they can build something better…something more loveable both from a using and viewing your money point of view but also as a compnay. Something that they describe as ‘the bank of the future’

 

And there are many, many others who are excited about being the bank of the future and what PSD2 brings to them as they can build better products, more quickly than the tardy old incumbent banks. So they see PSD2 as the second coming. They are right to think like that.

 

The perceived path of all this is to beautiful place where we all have our own AI powered financial advisor. A digital private banker for the masses running our financial lives perfectly and removing all worry. That is the utopian dream of financial services…as a technologist I am intrigued as to how this utilitarian dream plays out…

 

But…it all feels a bit boring. More regulated industries making solutions they think fit in with what the mythical person of today (largely millennials) want from finance. That we want to be organised and efficient and that is the goal. It bores the arse off me.

 

What is not clear in these regulatory measures is can I have access to my own data to build my own things? In the UK it looks like this will be available for data. And this gives us some more interesting possibilities. If you can code then you can make. You can solve your own problems. Make niche solutions only you would use…but others may find useful. This has long been the source of real innovation.

 

And this is where I see real opportunities to let the art in. Because I don’t just want VC funded white men building the banks of the future. While they may well be perfectly designed to improve my white metropolitan elite life and reduce my flat white intake to save me money I want more…

 

Artistry in banking is largely limited to the notes we use. As I am sure you are all aware this is the bank note of the year for 2016. I will be honest I find it quite ugly and confusing.

 

This years hot favourite however is beautiful. I mean look at it. I want more if this but applied to the digital interfaces of money. And for that we need more artists.

 

 

I want interfaces designed by people like Stef and Giorgia. For 52 weeks in 2015 they set themselves a data recording challenge and then posted the results to each other. Their brilliant hand designed visualisation posted across the world every week a few years back are inspirational in many ways. A great book and now permanently installed at MoMA in new York.  What would banking services made by Stef and Giorgia look like?

 

What would Sheffields Own Universal Everything think finance should look like via their imagined new screens and interfaces? I don’t know but it would be nice.

You can see more of their work on this project at https://www.instagram.com/p/BTbfnz-Fq0I/ and https://vimeo.com/215164746

 

 

How about Manchester based artist Brendan Dawes with his algorithmic art. This is a piece of work he created last year in conjunction with dutch payments company Adyen to visualise payments

‘With this piece I asked myself what if you could peer inside this system and see payments being added to the network. Rather than create some kind of representation of networks I instead wanted to create a world where these delicate moments seemed to float down into the network and suggest they are almost delicate in nature. Each representation is constructed from various parts of the data — the shape is born from the transaction category / vertical whilst the texture is derived from the type of device that was used. The colour is then informed by where in the world the payment took place’ Lovely.

 

How about local pirates and purveyors of fine gadgetry pimoroni? What would they make from the mixture of transaction data and payment ability with their marvellous machines? The physical to digital and back to physical has not really been experimented with in financial services. I think this is a rich seam of wonder.

 

As James just said about his shop Makers, there are many ludicrously specific economies out there and I am hoping that the PSD2 regulations opening up access to more varied companies and individuals will lead to some ludicrously specific solutions that might be built for the few but actually end up being beneficial to the many….not in a Tory way obviously.

 

 

One piece of work from a few years ago that really stuck in my head was Heidi Hinders Money No Object. Heidi researched new ways to make museum donations more interactive. This image shows the handshake agreement, RFIDs contactless payment methods built into the gloves, there is also a hive five interaction, a tap dance payment where the payment method is built into shoes.

Using RFID to bring physical interactions to payments…here is the hug and pay. Bringing different gestures and human contact to payment.

You can watch a short documentary about the project there is also more written about it over here

and returning to currency this was also by Heidi…she took everyday coins and left them in petri dishes to see what delightful bacteria formed. A vice versa of where there is muck there is brass…either way I find it quite beautiful

 

This is what I want to see a lot more of. I want more poeple like those mentioned above building things to do with money. Thanks to the regulations forcing banks open and releasing new data and materials into the world to make with hopefully they can.

 

I will end with this quote from John Maeda on design and art. I want better and different questions than the ones currently being asked by banks of fintech firms. I want to see something truly different and I have a feeling art and artists have an important role to play in that. Thanks.

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Easyjet Expense Claim Clusterfuck

When a company fails to provide the service it has sold then there has to be recompense. There has to be resolution for the customer. There has to be a finality to the issue. This is a story of how Easyjet has failed miserably on all fronts.

This long post is my tale of woe so I have a record of this mess and that it may help with the resolution of this problem. I expect very few to read it but I hope that at least one employee of Easyjet does so, maybe their CEO, Dame Carolyn McCall or their Director of Communications Paul Moore.

This ripping yarn also tells of how a company makes life hard for itself with some basic communication failures, poor systems, dis-empowered staff, departmental silos and all round incompetence. Whether this is by design or by accident depends on your world view. I will be optimistic and imagine it is incompetence by accident rather than willful incompetence in the hope that people give up chasing what Easyjet owe.

Some people will read this and say why did he not take them to small claims court or use a service like resolver or write a letter to the CEO, the answer is it felt like harder / unknown work. In hindsight I should have pursued other avenues but here we are.

 

The weekend away

On March the 18th 2016 my good lady wife and I flew to Bilbao on our way to San Sebastian for the weekend for my pre 40th birthday treat. It was a great weekend, sampling the local food and drink, seeing the sights, consuming cultural delights and rubbing shoulders with the stars etc. etc. a great weekend was had.

 

The cancelled flight

The problems came when it was time to go home. We received a notification via the Easyjet app on Sunday morning warning of delays due to the French Air Traffic Controllers Strike. I was impressed they warned us and slightly worried. We did not fly out until much later that evening, around 21.30. Upon arrival at the airport our flight was delayed around 30 mins, we had arrived quite early as we feared the worst. This soon escalated, the delay was over two hours and things were not looking good. the flight was finally cancelled at around 8pm (If memory serves me / my tweet timestamps are good).

Then it began. A garbled announcement. Confusion in the airport. Mass exodus to a service desk. There then followed a period of around three hours queuing for us and we were relatively near the front. It was never really made clear what we were actually queuing for as there was zero communication with the queue, no one walking the line, no announcements of any note. Rumours circulated, angered passengers multiplied, the desk was overwhelmed. They made a real pigs ear of the communication to the queue. We were at the half way point when it started. Further back there were families with small children. I was unaware at the time but this communication ineptitude was a portent of things to come.

We were hoping that we were queuing for over night accommodation and to be booked on the next flight back to Manchester. Downside being was that the next flight back to Manchester was not until Friday. We used the Easyjet app to look at available alternatives. There was a flight to Stansted the following evening which we booked ourselves onto.

We continued to queue for accommodation and when we finally made it to the desk we were told there were no other flights home. Nothing from nearby alternatives like Santander either until Wednesday at the earliest. Our two children were being looked after by my parents thankfully. My wife was due in work Tuesday and I had job interviews in London that day too. They put us up in a hotel in Bilbao, we got on a coach and after a short wait were ferried to the hotel. Quite a nice hotel too.

Our flight to Stansted was was around 9 the following evening. This meant we had a day in Bilbao sampling the local food and drink, seeing the sights, consuming cultural delights and buying clean underwear.

Jump to airport arrival time and our flight already had a 30 minute delay when we arrived and a strange sense of Deja Vu swept over us as the delay climbed again and reached the two hour mark once again. Thankfully however a plane did arrive at around 11.30

 

 

We flew to Stansted, arrived around 1am, stayed in the hotel we had booked (a dour Holiday Inn express) as there was no easy / affordable way to get us to Manchester to collect the car and then get me back to London the following day. We had decided to get the train from Stansted to London, I would stay there my wife would then travel to Manchester from Euston, collect the car, pay the excess parking and drive on home to see our children. And that was the end of our journey. A bit of a pain and quite a bit of cash shelled out because of that pain. Around £350. My wife had also missed a shift at work and she could not take it as holiday so we were out of pocket too. All in it cost us around £550.

 

The attempt to claim expenses

After getting back home, I did not get the job I had gone to London for, I gathered up all our receipts and tried to work out how were were going to claim for it. Lots of people has said we would be due some compensation but our excitement on that front was quickly dampened as it turns out that French Air Traffic Control Strikes are extraordinary circumstances even though there have been over 40 strike days over the last seven years.

To claim for the expenses I needed to submit photos of all receipts, along with an itemised list of all expenditure. The form states that ‘We aim to review all claims within 21 days.’ which is reassuring. I had to submit it via this form which as you can tell by looking at it was designed with just this very task in mind. The ability to upload BMP files is a nice touch especially with that 10mb attachment limit.

 

easyjet-claim-form

 

I submitted the receipts on the 4th of April. I received a case ID & confirmation and all seemed well. I then got an email saying the receipts had not uploaded correctly. I then emailed them over again, twice. Still no confirmation of receipt. I then tried to call and contact via any means available. Clearly I did not get much joy

 

A pattern of communication being one way was established early. I called and chased to try and get an understanding of whether my expenses were actually received and on their systems. I was promised answers and call backs and none came. I was quite/very angry/frustrated throughout.

Then on the 25th I snapped and called Easyjet for an update. I also took to Twitter to whine because that is what we do in 2016 to make us feel better and because we are all entitled shits etc.

 

While I was busy whining I actually missed an email. It was a great email.

 

Dear Aden Davies,

Thank you for contacting easyJet.

I can confirm that I have assess your receipts for you.We will not refund for the not itemize receipts. We will be refunding you the following:

Food:94.34 GBP

Transport:678 GBP

Total Amount:772.32

It will be refund as a cheque once you confirm that these amounts are correct.

We look forward to be hearing from you soon.
Get in! They were willing to not only cover my expenses but to pay and extra £200 to cover the pain of this last month. What nice people they are behind all those frustrating process.

 

I got a follow up email from another department the day after, the 26th of April….

 

Dear Aden,

Thank you for contacting easyJet.

I am sorry to hear about any inconveniences caused regarding the flight being cancelled.

I can confirm that I have issued a cheque of 772.32 GBP which you will receive within 14 working days, please note that the voucher is valid for 6 months.

Thank you for choosing to fly with easyJet.

 

Now the mention of a voucher worried me and I asked and it apparently it was nothing to worry about. In 14 days time this unpleasantness would all be over. I even apologised publicly to Easyjet.

 

 

I should not have wasted my metaphorical breath on an apology because 14 days came and went with no cheque in sight.

Then I got another email.

 

Dear Mr Davies,

Thank you for your response.
Some of the receipts which you have sent are just credit card slip and are invalid as we need the actual itemised merchant receipts.
As per our policy we do not reimburse for car park and underwear.
Please reply with itemised copies for the credit card slips without corresponding store receipts.
We look forward to your response.

 

Then on May 12th

 

Dear Aden,

Thanks for reaching out. We´ve just checked your profile and we can confirm with you that your cheque has been issued on the 10th of May and it will take 14 days to reach your address.

 

What happened to the cheque that ‘I can confirm that I have issued a cheque of 772.32 GBP’ on the 26th of April? Why was a cheque issued on the 10th of May? Why was it issued if one had already been issued? What exactly does the word issued mean when issued by Easyjet customer service staff?

I received this Twitter DM on the 27th of May.

Thanks for getting in touch with us.
As I can see in my records there were no problems with your cheques.
Could you please confirm your postal address again, before I escalate your case?
Our finance department authorized 2 cheques for you, one for 165 GBP and one for 92.68 EUR.
Thanks in advance for your reply!
Enjoy your day

 

They had actually been posted to my old address that somehow Easyjet had on file from old bookings. Somewhere between April the 26th and May the 27th we went from my expense claim repayment going from £772.37 to £165 and 92.68 Euros. No cheques for any of those values have ever arrived at my house, I have no way of knowing if they arrived at the old house either (it has only been 4 years since I lived there). This was the first time I had been asked to confirm my address. As you can imagine I was not best pleased.

I then made the first of my empty / powerless threats.

I never followed up on it of course.

It is just born out of frustration. There is no recourse in this situation. There is no ombudsman. I had no means of escalation and felt entirely powerless. I wanted access to my file history. The company must have a log/several logs across several systems of all interactions with me. I wanted to see this picture. I wanted to understand how such a screw up could happen.

 

Nope. Then on the 6th of June another rubbish email.

Dear Aden,

Thank you for contacting easyJet.

I have checked your booking and 2 cheques have been issued on 04 March 2016, one with the value of 165 GBP and the second cheque to the value of 92.68 EUR. The cheque will take 21 working days to reach you and is valid for 6 months. The hotel will not be refunded as we have checked our flight time and the flight arrived at 22:00 on the 21 March 2016.

Some of the receipts which you have sent us are just credit card slip and are invalid as we need the actual itemized merchant receipts. We also do not pay for purchase of personal items.

This email again mentioned these random two cheques and was just nonsense. The flight was late by around 90 minutes in the end. The fact that we had flown to Stansted 24 hours after our supposed flight to Manchester which is over 200 miles away and where our car was seems completely lost on this representative.

After more gnashing of teeth, futile messages and empty responses I finally called and spoke to someone who actually gave a damn. Leanne was her name and she was shocked at the state of my case. She actually told me she was going upstairs to speak to the team involved, the most effort anyone had put in so far. She reassured me it had been escalated and that the team it had been passed too would resolve it quickly as they were empowered to do so….

 

 

They didn’t. I never heard a thing until a crap email on the 4th of July, I thought it was independence day not incompetence day.

 

Dear Mr Davies,

Please accept my apologies for the situation regarding the refund that was due to you.

As it has been an error of process I have escalated it up to my Team Leader and as soon as he gets back to me which will be in the next few days I would get back to you.

Once again I am sorry that for all the inconvenience and hope that it does not deter you from future use with easyJet.

 

More escalation! Whoopdefuckingdoo.

I did receive a call in July, although I missed it but they left a message where I think I was promised the full amount. Nothing transpired.

I had run out of steam. Also I had to go on my honeymoon. Nothing really happened for a month or so and then all of a sudden it was August. I was rested, suntanned, fatter, skinter and ready to try again.

Then I called. it must not have gone well

 

 

A day later a Twitter rep got in touch. We exchanged some DM’s. August saw a lot of DM’s exhanged. It was a fucking shambles of a display. It started badly and went down hill from there.

 

easyjet-aug-dm-1

 

This turned out to be absolute bullshit. Not only was this random figure of 534 euros plucked seemingly out of thin air but it was also the first and only time the ability to pay me back electronically was mentioned.

I was livid at this point. I called sometime in August and properly did that annoying thing of just demanding to speak to someone more senior. I got up to some mid level nobody and basically kept him captive on the phone until he made some sort of promise of resolution and put it in an email so I had it in writing. They were still banging on about the two cheques for £165 and 92 euros and that they needed to be cancelled. FFS.

 

Dear Aden,

Thank you for contacting easyJet.

I do sincerely apologise about all frustrations and inconveniences you have incurred.
I have sent the details to our Finance Team so that they may cancel the cheque and as soon as I receive a response, I will be able to contact you with the next steps. The reason this cheque is being cancelled is because the address was incorrect and has to now be reprocessed.
The time frame I was advised is 3 days, how ever I confirm that I advised you of 48 hours. Once they respond to me, I will be able to contact you.
Your case number is 101435698.
Thank you for your patience.

 


I was a bit of a twat to this man and I am sorry for that but I was completely despondent. My pitiful pleas of ‘What would you do in my situation’ ‘I have no idea what on earth else to do’ were futile at best. I then spoke to someone and demanded a breakdown of the situation. I wanted an explanation of where these random figures had come from. Basically what the hell was going on.

 

Dear Aden,

Thank you for contacting easyJet.

Please be advised that the receipts below was received from you to be reimbursed. 

  • 79 Gbp for hotel (valid)
  • 14.72 Euro for meals (valid)
  • 26.10 Eur for taxi (valid)
  • 3 Euro x2 bus (valid)
  • 40 Gbp for parking (valid)
  • 26.30 Euro meals (valid)
  • 14.50 Euro meals (valid)
  • 81.40 Gbp train (valid)
  • 2.12 Euro hotel (valid) 
Please note that the following receipts is not legible:
  • abello stansted express (the amount looks like it could be 38 gbp)
Please note that the following receipts is not considered valid, as we need itemized receipts in the claim for reimbursement. The following receipts are c/c copies which we cannot accept: 
  • 36.70 Euro- bilbao tezenis  copia de recibo (personal items) 
  • 32 Gbp -BBVA
  • 8.50 Gbp – elavon?
Kindly note that the following receipt will not be reimbursed as we do not reimburse alcoholic beverages:
  • 2.32 Euro beer
Also please note that our finance deparment has authorized to reimburse you the amount of Euro 534.27.
Having checked your booking I can confirm that a cheque was processed more than once but was declined because of the incorrect amount processed. 
Also please note that when the cheque was declined the second time it was because the following receipts was already processed and authorized in the form of a cheque on 04 May ’16:
  • 165 Gbp for transport and
  • 94.34 Gbp for meals 
Should you need any further information about your claim please contact our contact centre on 0330 365 5000.
I wish you a good day and look forward to your reply. 

The figure of 534 euros has never been explained to me but this email I got again referred to the previous two cheques seems to suggest that they thought I had been paid the £165 and 92 euros and that the 535 euros would cover the rest to get close to the mythical £772.37. This was never clarified. Also refusing to buy me one beer after all this shit is just plain rude.

 

I also wrote a little ditty in August about Easyjet. to the tune of the old Spiderman theme tune. I think I may have been on the verge of some sort of breakdown.

August came and went with more pointless exchanges, into September where things got progressively worse my temper included. I think I had been quite polite up until this point considering the incompetence on display. A call around the 23rd of September after being told to wait a few more days, and then ten more days and never ever getting anything back but always having to chase and I had again reached a point of fury.

I don’t even remember what the screw up was. My DM’s or email reveal nothing either.

 

 

If you are not familiar with the work of Ian then you should be. He was good enough to provide me with some top notch swearing.

 

 

It was the high point in this clusterfuck.

Strangely though it was a less abusive term that got me told off. This bizarre DM exchange happened around this time.

 

easyjet-aug-dm-3

 

I am sorry for calling the service rep an idiot. Apparently my case had also been closed. Nope. Me sticking the boot in on Stefani over her DM incompetence was uncalled for but felt good at the time, I mean I can’t even spell not correctly. Sorry Stefani.

More emails followed saying cheques for 534 euros had been ‘issued’. Even though I said I did not accept that amount. The cheques never arrived anyway because issued means something other than ‘supply someone with something’ in the land of Easyjet.

Then I think I rang up again. I spoke to someone who informed me the amount had become £534, this was around about the time that the currencies were pretty much on par. At this point I would have accepted 534 guineas…or gummi bears. I was done. They issued yet another cheque and told me to wait 14 days.

Have a guess what happened folks?

…I snapped yet again. No way I was settling for £534. Pay me the £772.37 promised way back on the 26th of April. I am in for the long haul now. Fuck you, pay me.

 

easyjet-dm-oct-screwup

 

 

More angry calls, DM’s, public tweets etc. Only this time it worked…kind of…

 

Dear Aden,

Thank you very much for your patience through this entire matter.

I confirm I have processed a cheque of 772.32 GBP to the new postal address you have provided me with. This will 14-21 working days to be delivered to you.

We hope the inconvenience caused does not affect your choice to fly with us in future.

 

and a follow up DM

easyjet-oct-dm-1
Yes sorted! My credit card could be paid!

I was happy.

But cautious.

 

And rightly so because I have still not received that cheque. Over 30 working days after it was promised.

I have never received so much as a tracking number for the posting of this or any of the other cheques.

I have only once been offered a means of electronic payment in the year of 2016.

On the 30th of November I received this message

 

 

An email was sent to another team! Escalation in action five days after I was promised a call. The team will contact me soon. I believe soon maybe an acronym rather than an actual word. Sometime Or Other, Never. Once I again I am trapped. I refuse to call to have someone else go ‘Wow there is a lot if entries here, can you just go on hold for 20 minutes while I try and digest this shitstorm and then formulate the least efficient method to get back to you (circa 10-30 days) and give you another empty promise containing the words ‘soon’ ‘as possible’ ‘shortly’ ‘urgently’ and other weasel words that are not an actual date and time because you know…

 

Heaven forfend I should be given wrong expectations.

 

And this is where we are on the 30th of November 2016. 255 days after I flew back into Stansted on the 21st of March 2016. 250 days since I first submitted my receipts. 218 days since the 26th of April when I was informed a cheque for £772.37 was issued (apparently to the wrong address) that never arrived. 44 days since the 17th of October when I was told a cheque for that amount had been issued and sent to the correct address and would arrive within 30 days.

 

Here are a few other numbers

26 – emails exchanged
117 – Direct Messages exchanged on twitter. You can see them all here (I have edited address details etc. you can still feel my exasperation though)
5,100 – Words in those Direct Messages
153 – Public tweets, to from and about @easyjet. You can see them all here.
6,200 – Words in those public tweets
nn – Countless phone calls. Unfortunately I do not know how many as frustratingly I don’t have itemised billing with EE. I can clearly remember 4 calls that were all over an hour. I would guess I have called somewhere between 10-20 times.
3 – number of calls back I have had back from Easyjet if memory serves. 4 if you include the one where they left a message.
0 – Number of letters from Easyjet. Absolutely nothing on paper which strikes me as odd.
16 – the number of different case numbers I have had (that I know of)
31 – Number of times the word escalate or escalated was used in emails and DMs and tweets. I think it actually just means passed to another department.
742 – estimated amounts I have sworn during this farce.
5 – Hours spent writing this post, which adds another 3,000 words to the total.
4,000 – words in this post
15,000 – roughly the amount of words used so far. As way of context Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors is only 14,710 words long. Someone call Alanis Morisette.

0 – pounds paid of my expense claim from Easyjet as of the 30th of November 2016.

 

But wait! A call from out of the blue/orange

At 10.21am on the 30th of November I received a call from Easyjet, from someone empowered to resolve my case. They said that the figure they had in their records was for £534. I laughed. She did not take that kindly. I have been requested to provide details of the messages where I was promised £772 (even though they have access but don’t want to go through all the other messages) and to provide my account details to help speed the resolution of this matter (a glimmer of a cheque free future). Annoying my phone decided to reboot itself mid call. To their credit Easyjet called straight back

 

 

I have taken the decision to publish this story anyway even if it jeopardises that process as I have invested so many hours in its writing and in its wider creation.

 

UPDATE: I FINALLY GOT PAID!!!!

 

 

How could Easyjet fix this? Assuming they want to that is…

Pay me £772.37 obviously. Beyond that though this issue is not really about me (although I have just written 3,000 all about my pain). I suspect there are hundreds in similar situations from both the strike in March but just through general flight cancellations and delays.

I could write another few thousand words on this bit alone. I am also available for consultancy, my day rate is £772.37. I will freely share three key themes though.

 

Ownership

After things had started to go wrong in May this should have been truly escalated and consolidated into a single case, given to a specific team, assigned a single global reference number. that would have given me a sense that my case was important, that it has been escalated and that there was an owner of it. A named individual would have been even better. This is an unlikely scenario but 8 months in and all this effort on my part and cost on your part and maybe you should give it a try.

The other side of ownership is allowing staff to actually take ownership of problems. The UKs most recommended bank, first direct, (I should mention used to work for them briefly) are the most loved mainly because of their telephone service. What underpins this is the ownership taken on calls by the first person who answers to have that call resolved satisfactorily, even if it is passed to another department. There were a few notable people I spoke with at Easyjet who were genuinely shocked by the hassle I had been through and I believe they really wanted to help but everything was against them. Departmental and operational silos and awful IT systems.

 

Shitty systems

Both the computerised versions and the operational versions. Throughout these annoying interactions I could see the seams of the organisation. I heard phrases like ‘only the email team can see emails’ or ‘all we can do through Social Media is ask for updates’ which just show up the silos for what they are.

Onto the IT systems. Spend some money on a messaging system. Allow a customer to talk to you through that channel. Make it responsive, make it good. Allow people to see a full thread of the conversation over time.

Better yet get your shit together. Why more companies don’t make a record of contact history available to a customer is a mystery. Show the customer what you did and when. Call times, emails sent, tweets, live chat conversations, receipts submitted, people spoken to or at least some sort of number that identifies them. Give a high level overview of what happened / is happening, Make it transparent so that people can see progress. Notifications like this can avoid people calling back in. We know that human to human conversation is expensive.

I was, and will continue to, attack you on all fronts. Communicate via any and all means just to try and get an answer. You should either drive me to the most efficient channel for me or better yet be able to tie those threads together. Look at systems like the ones provided by the likes of Lithium. I know customer service costs money but I am sure shit customer service costs more.  You just need to think about it from a different perspective rather than the lowest common denominator one you seem to have today.

I must also give special mention to your expenses claim form. For Gods sake please spend a few grand on a decent service designer and a developer or two and build a better form.

Also what the hell is this screen? It is part of the booking details screen.

wtf-easyjet

It feels like it has some glimmer of useful information i.e. the payments seem to match some of those promised. Fix this to cater for these kinds of situations. Show what has been ‘issued’ or approved for payment. Then show details of say posting said payment. It is not rocket science.

A special mention to your phone line. It takes over 90 seconds before you are presented with an option. I found that choosing cancel a flight (a fee incurring service) got me through to a person the quickest by far. Also stop using Human by The Killers as your hold music. Your service has very little human about it, I did want to kill though after being subjected to it.

 

And stop sending cheques….well start sending them but you know what I mean, it is 2016. Many forms of electronic payments are available.

 

Give a fuck

the amount of empathy shown by the vast majority of staff I have interacted with has been sparse to say the least and in the main cut and pasted. My grumpiness may not have helped but you drove me to this (mostly). The lack of caring about people started in the queue at Bilbao airport and has not ended since. I imagine you have a lot of these claims and many disgruntled customers because airlines are tricky businesses to run. Flying machines all over the globe is not easy. Customer service in comparison though is. If you give a fuck about it.

 

Ultimately this situation could have been avoided if enough people at Easyjet gave a fuck. I could have avoided a lot of sress and hassle. As it is though my stress and hassle is not over as I have still not been paid. I still have to chase empty promises, vague weasel words brought about by a lack of owenrship, shitty systems and the fact that you clearly don’t give a fuck about me or I imagine the hundreds of others in similar situations as mine right now.

Banks: We are so digital it hurts.

You need to be a digital bank! We are a digital bank! We are investing loads of money in digital! We are transforming to be digital! Digital, digital, digital. We profess how digital we will be at our annual investor days and our annual results days both attended by our most important people, our institutional investors. Shareholders love digital. We must be digital for the investors. We must show how digital we are by including lots of digital things in our 380 page, one star open data rated PDF that we publish on our world wide website and print out and send to our shareholders.

The experts have been telling us for years. Digital or die! You must have a digital strategy, a digital team a digital mindset and digital DNA other wise you are digital dinosaurs, digitally decrepit, digitally doomed. Digital superstars will eat your lunch (the only meal they ever seem interested in), they have mastered the digitalness of the information superhighway and the mobile phones of all the millennials and they are going to digitally disrupt our non digital banks and our non digital cheques and our non digital cash and our non digital call centres and our non digital branches and our non digital fax machines for ID verification. We are in the eye of the digital storm, we are knee deep in digital primordial soup waiting to pounce on the digital Cambrian explosion of innovation and digitalness. Experts you are in for a shock, we are digitally ready to do digital battle in the digital trenches on the shores of the digital dystopia.

Our middle aged rich white male dominated think machines are ready for digital. They have been in banking for decades and they have seen it all, they have conquered it all and they have the hubris to prove it. digital hubris, digital hubs, digital spaces, our offices are ready for digital, we have sofas, and open spaces and chill out rooms and breakout spaces and actual maternity pay and walls filled with post it notes (in the digital team office at least). We allow beards and we are burning our ties, on Fridays, and we are on fleek, digitally fleek, digitally fleet. We are agile, pure agile, agile all the way. Not wagile, not scrumfall just agile, every project agile.

Our annual planning cycle is so agile that the several months each year it takes squabbling about it is agile personified, squabbles = user stories. Annual planning is a digital epic. Every year we iterate. Iterate to disintermediate, iterate to operate, digitally operate, digital operations, developer operations, Devops, we are DevOps, we put the DO and the Spe(e)d in DevOps and the. Our digital infrastructures are so ready for digital that we can do releases every second, every minute, every hour, proven by our record of digitally recovering from our non-digital outages that regularly happen but that we iterate our fixes to in real time provisioning and fault resolution orchestration.These changes are in the clouds before before they have even formed. Our clouds are so digital they are higher than clouds, stratosphere systems, serverless yet stateless, temperature controlled, hot and cold. Our service are hot. Our micro serviced, dockered, 12 factor developmental, fully automated push button provisioning and release allows us to ship COBOL to the Z-Series at speeds those so called digital folk cannot even imagine.

Imagination, imagineering, engineering for digital. We know our aaS from our ELK, oh. We are building a Bank as a Platform for Misselling as a Service. We had APIs before they were cool. We had so many APIs we called them P2P (point to point) before P2P meant something way less cool about peers. We are peerless. We are fearless. Our APIs, They are pronounced A-Piss because the take a piss over our competitors, And we wash them off with SOAP, we tell them to take a REST because they are wasting their digital time trying to catch up with our digital APIs. They cannot compete with our platforms, our ecosystems because we have done it before. We have created the ecosystems that brought you CHAPS, BACS, Faster Payments, Direct Debits and PAYM. We are the platform players, the ecosystem slayers, the adaptive middleware layers. We apply ourselves digitally to our Application Programming Interfaces, while your so called APIs are disgraces. JSON? more like ONONE.

On one. We are all one. We collaborate digitally and ephemerally we are the realtime realists bringing digital to the CSV customer lists. Lotus Notes was Slack before Slack even existed, we are digitally literate in a digitally blind world. We are digital braille. We feel the bumps of digital and we turn touch enabled digital signals into pure digital gold. Gold standard UI, User Interface, Users in there face, experiences they can almost taste. Agile User Interfaces, User Experience agility, Design first, design with the customer at the heart of everything we do, design thinking, service design, service benign. Conway’s Law has been disproved, we con in ways that leave us moved. Empathetic > pathetic. We are customer centric, our centricity is our authenticity. Centric, tantric, digitally tantric, channeling energy into our beautiful creations. Our mindfulness comes from creating digital mindsets. We hackathon daily, we are so digital we don’t call them hackathons, we call them digital disruption dynanism days, because we are so digital and IT security said the word hack had too many negative connotations.

Hackathon, smackdownathon more like. Our cyber intelligence teams repel threats daily, like swatting digital flies round digital turds. We see the threats while they are just ‘threa’. We read the digital signs for digital whines complaining about the weakness in our digital spines. We send them packing back to script kiddy land and DDOSville because we are secure, digitally secure, digitally protected for the digital future. We are the only ones Lulzing about our sec. No one is anonymous to us. We have digital eyes that stop those who digitally pry.

We are digitally secure and digitally mature. We know our customers feel secure because we are secure. We are touch ID enabled, biometrics are no longer fabled, we will scan you face, track your digital trace, we geolocate to authenticate, we scan your voice to open the gate, we don’t care if our logons really grate because we are great at keeping you safe.

You are our customers, we don’t do KYC we do KOC, we take the our from the your, we are the future, future not yore, we know our customers inside out. Honest Mr Regulator we do. We are so digital we kept track of all our customers over the years. Our digital identity processes must quell your fears. We will open accounts with a selfie, we will ensure our digital records are healthy, we ensure our favourite customers are wealthy, rich in money and rich in data, data we mine using Machine Learned Artificial Intelligences to Deep Learn the sweet burn of money in their pocket. Propensity to buy is what makes us high.

Higher plane, digital nirvana we have reached through our digitally connected workforce. Talking to our customers wherever they are, only 95% of our staff do we bar, for social media is a risk and brand damage explosions are brisk. We are trained to Tweet to show we are fleet and customers expectations we digitally meet, not because we have failed in other less digital channels. We don’t need to get better at the Internet, we are the Internet, the interchange net. We kept books before Facebook had a The, we were ephemeral in our conversations years before Snapchat deleted messages. We used to call it shredding. Now we digitally shred the superhighway.

Our surfboards are 5.5″ in size and they are where we run our daily lives. We are bank, we are mobile, we are the handheld branch there for you 24/7 in high res digital retina screen joy. Banking is no longer a place you go it is handheld thing that still says no. We are mobile first, we are customer first, we are API first, we are shareholder return first. Everything is first, our thirst for mobile shows our digital desires, our lack of wires. We are geolcating offers to augment your digital experience of the high street as you journey towards our branches to have an advisory meet. We are touch screen enabled for the swipe right generation. We were the first Tinder because our mobile interfaces are so hot that you need to swipe left and view full desktop mode occasionally just to cool down. Back to the browser because you exclaimed wowser, no way this journey can be completed on a screen so beautifully designed. Your heart would not cope, our servers would go up in smoke.

Smoking hot customer facing innovations. Frictionless not frictionmess, we are digitally slick, digitally sick, interactions with our customers make them stick, seamlessly pay, seamlessly play, seams never show as long as you interact during the day. We are digital payments innovators, mobile acceptance creators, we tokenise before your eyes, HCE yeah you know me, constantly piloting NFC. We had Apple Pay on opening day, Android Pay will show the way, their halo effect will save the day. We know our R3CEV from our EMV, we are smart contacts, smart contracts, our legacy code base will never contract. Distributed and decentralised, branches were that way before Craig Steven Wright’s lies. We are cryptographically current, we are algorithmically proved, we are on the blockchain, on the side chain, open ledgers since the 1800s, proof of work since our Lotus Notes calendars were jam packed full of digital meetings. We are digital because we gave some of our advisors in limited pilot branches tablets. Tablets is what customers need to take after seeing staff with their digital slate. Opening accounts in front of your face, real time credit decisions take place, digital interactions progress amongst the marble lined edifice. Walking customers through our digital application processes built for the web on iPads in branches proves we are omnichannel.

We are the O Mi! of Omni. We talk to our customers at a different level, our email addresses were AI years ago, DO NOT RESPOND passes the Turing Test with flying colours. We know conversations are markets, we listen first then broadcast later, two way dialogue broadcast, we talk, you buy. We talk the digital lingo, we are realtime in letter form, we are asynchronous in secure browser messaging, we are non-customer identifying on social media. All those channels to channel your aggressions. To lose your questions. To add to the digital exhaust.

Exhaust, exhausting, human interaction is too boring. We are AI first. We put the rhythm into the Algos. We make the market dance to our robo tune. We are high speed, high frequency, micro interactions via micro waves and under the waves. Digital bleeps while people sleep, having their pension pot traded from under their feet. We move markets, move needles, move faster than the speed of light, through microwaves and lightwaves and regulator waves, Oh hi Mr Regulatory yes of course we are not manipulating a thing, all done my machine these days mate. We are digital by design, we are the matrix.

The matrix of data. We are data first, data driven, from our silos fresh data insights are digitally riven. We dip or toes in our data lakes, Hadoop clusters make sense from waste, they crunch the data looking for fakes, and keep us compliant for all our sakes. We are big data, small data, realtime data, historic data, uncleansed data, data owners, data onus, we will never share with customers what the data shows us. We are open data, open to those senior enough to see, open for compliance checks, our spreadsheets are all up to date, our digital macros clearly state, the position of our digital bank, CSVs help us maintain our number one rank. Rank, rate, denigrate, our customers we will never hate, our digitalness makes us secure in our fate.

We are fintech, insurtech, regtech, bank tech, pay cheque. We are systemically important not systematically impotent. We are the the trendwatchers, the taste makers, the startup fakers. We are investing in partnerships to make us even more digital, we don’t acquihire we acquihigher. We are accelerating the Unicorns to breakneck speed. Their horns will not penetrate us for we do not bleed. We are digitally unbundling the bundled accounts that we bungled, we are digitally rebundling the unbundled to provide fun filled digital experience for the unfulfilled, underbanked, financially excluded who are rich enough to bank with us. Roboadvisors are here to surprise us, with algo run investments that run day today as long as market threats stay away. We are not afraid of Uberisation, uppity start ups are no match for regulation. Rules to keep us in line, rules that strangle startups until the end of time. Ever more regulation to run our banks, not because we have not innovated but because we innovated so much they had to slow us down. Governments bend to our digital will. We are protectedfromonhightech.

Hightech, Hi-Tec, running things digitally, digital processes allow us to be more efficient, we are lean, we are mean, on high staffing numbers we are not keen. Our efficiency is destined to reach a point, where human interaction is no longer needed. Machines have learnt, shareholders have earnt, wet signatures have been burnt, human capital has been rightsized, now dishing up nutritious fries. Surprise, delight, delight with surprise. Digital experiences deliver so much joy, redundancies will feel like bliss, return on equity targets we will not miss.

Miss. We don’t miss. We target, we zero in, we are zeros and ones. We are different, we are digitally different, we are digitally differentiatied from our digital laggard counterparts. Our legacy no longer lags, it is heritage now. We built the digital systems that have run for decades, moving money in batch form, overnight processing was the norm, we have shifted to real time because Monday to Friday 9.30 – 3.30 is branch realtime. It is the real time. Our systems take real time to evergreen and real time wipe away clean. Wipe the plate clean, our spaghetti architecture has been slurped up, and coated in a cloud native sauce with DevOps meatballs and iterative garlic bread. Start again the experts cry, you are not ready for the mobile wave of disruption, but they are wrong and we have proved that we are. We plugged our mobile apps into ATMs infrastructures. An invention from the 60s, built on proper standards and APIs before these experts were even born. We have always been digital and we always will be. People are sick and tired of experts, they are bored of them.

The board all have iPads, they work digitally, they think digitally, they have ever more digits added to their pay cheques digitally. Their digital iPads keep them on the digital pulse of the digital world. Filled by underlings with perfectly formatted two page, Times New Roman board papers, digital dashboards to show realtime the numbers their managers below want them to see. They get the digital world now. They see digital is the only way. They are digital, We are digital. Fintech ain’t shit. Digital banking is already here. Digitally deal with it losers.

Futuristic Film Money

I made a little Tumblr to capture all the futuristic methods of currency, money usage, devices related to money, new forms of credit/insurance etc. in films and TV, as some sort of design inspiration / excuse to make something. It is also some sort of lens / output device that might make me focus on films for a specific reason / tune my view. You can find the site at https://futuristicfilmmoney.tumblr.com/

https://futuristicfilmmoney.tumblr.com/post/149715545984/the-6th-day-2000-arnie-awakes-in-a-daze-in-the

Please do send in submissions of any kind. I have added a few things so far and I have a list of about 25 things more to add. All help greatly appreciated and I will pay you in Aden Bucks.

YouTube Family Failings

Today while my six year old son was watching a video from his favourite Youtuber DanTDM midway through the video an advert for French beer Kronenbourg 1664 was shown. I was not pleased his viewing was interrupted (when did YouTube start doing ads midway through videos?) as it meant he whined at me, I was even less pleased it was for beer when he is six years old. The UK has very strong regulations around the advertising of alcohol. For a company that is telling everyone it is going to be AI first then I hope they get a hell of a lot smarter before they go fully aware.

Now he was logged in on my account because he can’t have his own account until he is 13 apparently. Either way I don’t think beer advertising is right for Dan’s young audience. My son could/should have been using the awful (one for another post) YouTube Kids app but I do not believe you can access DanTDM through that very poor app. There is so much scope for Google to do far better with this but they seem reluctant / incapable. Clearly their business model is advertising but there are surely ways to advertise to children in far better ways.

I also have a three year old who likes watching YouTube videos too but he has an uncanny side view explore method which means he rapidly gets from watching Super Mario playthroughs to the ten hottest porn star alive. He has obviously been using mummies logon. Visual browsing needs some really smart thinking to stop it getting out of hand.

The boys also watch YouTube through our TV. It can be logged on as me also and safe search can be enabled but still plenty of swearing and violence gets through.

I think the whole aspect of family control over digital services has really not been thought out/done well by many if any companies. I have recently been looking at setting my son a Windows 10 laptop up and they seem to have some good family account controls in place. More on that as I test them. Back to Google though….
What I want from YouTube (and a few other VOD providers and other digital services)

I want a way to allow my children to have their own identities. Why can’t they have logons? They have their own viewing habits and algortimic suggestions then. I want to be able to send video to them. A watch later from Mum & Dad type feature. Why can’t I set my TV to have YouTube levels of access for day time vs night time? or just a kids vs adults feature. Easy to switch between on multiple devices (not easy at all)

I want a multitude of ways to control and analyse those logons. Whitelisted channels. Restricted search terms. Viewing time. Searches. Allow the trust to level up with age or at my decision point e.g. unlock mild violence / swearing as they approach teens. Difficult to design and implement but seemingly just ignoring it is a disgrace.

I want to have sight of what they see. I want to know what adverts they see too. this would be a great feature to add to the Google Dashboard. I would love to be able to whitelist & blacklist advertisers / categories (I am happy for them to see LEGO adverts all day long, Lelly Kelly not so much). How about asking me when I am watching if adverts/advertisers would be suitable for my children. Some people may balk at this but I would prefer them to see adverts transparency over an ability for them to use a service safely.

I have a lot of ideas around this area but this post is a grumpy hot take so I will return to them another day (unless anyone wants to hire me to work on the design of some).
Conclusion

Clearly marketing to children is a very tricky area and there are regulations that make giving children digital identities problematic. I think we need to see services designed to challenge these regulations but also show the potential of services like YouTube as they are used by an ever younger demographic. The challenge of digital identity for adults is complex enough, for children it feels even more challenging.

I don’t want YouTube to do my parenting for me but I want my children to be able to use it as safely as possible without me having to watch through every thing they want to watch first.

There is so much potential in making YouTube an even more amazing service for children. I want them to be suggested new trailers for suitable films, highlight new youtubers who have been approved or recommended by other families as let’s say swearing free. I want them to be able to search for animals or game play throughs or cartoons or NASA videos or whatever rabbit hole they want to tumble down knowing they are going to view something that is appropriate for their age, for their parents and to be advertised to appropriately.

PS I hated Kronenbourg 1664 before this shambles. It tastes like someone has tried to filter piss through a dog blanket.