Posted by: Dr P | April 11, 2009

21

Do Brabantia bins make you angry? They do me. So much so that in March I wrote a rather angry letter to the company, expressing some of my discomfort with their products. Obviously this was a bit of a joke, but to my intense enjoyment, I got a reply. I now enclose abridged versions of the correspondence. I’ll start with – to paraphrase Eric Morecambe – the letter what we wrote:

“Dear Mr Kevin Clark MD,

It has recently been brought to my attention that Brabantia bins are retailing for upwards of 100 pounds sterling. Whilst this ceiling price is unnecessarily exorbitant, even your most basic waste receptacle commands a market value close to half that cost. My associates and I feel this is completely unwarranted for what is, after all, a bucket for putting crap in. Yes, it’s a very *nice* bucket, all shiny etc, but really, come on!

Further to this basic issue, we have also noted that some of the bins now feature dual compartments. This apparently is to enable your basic householder to separate rubbish into “recyclable” and – frankly – non-recyclable i.e. bury it in the ground where it will come back to haunt our grandchildren. As I said to my Mum last night … “just put a piece of cardboard down the middle”. I mean, who wants to pay a premium just to separate crap? You might as well just not put the recyclables in the bin directly, and that way you can DOUBLE the space available for the real waste. Is it rocket science? No! But you’re charging a ton for the privilege!?

If you feel I am being slightly combative, I actually feel much more strongly regarding your “lifetime guarantee”. In fact, it is NOT a lifetime guarantee – your small print (very small, incidentally) suggests that this guarantee is honoured for TEN YEARS. In these modern times, one wonders quite whose lifetime this is supposed to represent. A dog perhaps? If so, why not say “we now offer a bin whose satisfaction is guaranteed to last as long as your average labrador!”. Now THAT is a marketing tool. You could even have adverts featuring a fluffy puppy. If it works for toilet roll manufacturers … and indeed, there’s a tie-in, as unquestionably that percentage of toilet roll which isn’t flushed away will assuredly be deposited into a household waste receptacle such as your overpriced cans.

These three issues may seem less than significant to you, sitting there in your office, no doubt surrounded by any number of handy Brabantia dumping pots, all smug about your “touch top technology” and wondering how next to fleece an unsuspecting public (allegedly), but I have principles! I would rather spend TWELVE of your finest English pounds on a bin from Asda – and, by the way, they do red stainless steel ones WITH TOUCH TOP LIDS. Do you know about this?

I look forward to receiving a reply in due course, Mr Clark, and I hope you will be able to allay my concerns about your pricing structure and future product direction. If a response is not received, I shall have no option but to pursue this matter through higher channels, such as the WERG (which I am sure you’re aware is the Waste and Energy Research Group). I wish you good day.”

Now to the intense credit of the Brabantia folks, a Mr David Slater chose to respond – and good on him!

“Dear Dr Meehan,

Thank you for your enquiry on 31st March which I have received via our consumer information service.

Whilst you addressed the message to Kevin Clark MD, we have no one of that name in our employ, consequently your enquiry has been passed to me for comment.

Firstly may I express my appreciation that you have taken the time to provide us with your thoughts on this matter in such depth: Feedback from the marketplace is very important to us as our products are designed specifically to solve domestic problems and meet the needs of our consumers.

On the issue of price it is correct that a limited selection of our waste bin range does retail at prices in excess of 100. You will be aware however that UK legislation prohibits us from setting retail pricing – this is controlled exclusively by the retailer and as a result of the demand experienced within price elasticity models. We do not retail products ourselves and consequently we have no control over the actual prices charged.

It is also true that other waste management solutions are available at lower cost (including many manufactured by us) – It is perhaps pertinent to consider however that retailers are in business to make money and that if our higher-priced lines did not achieve a viable rate of sales then they would not be stocked. Ultimately the success of any product is determined by whether the consumer considers the value to outweigh the cost. Whilst you have made it clear that you do not, many UK consumers clearly think otherwise.

With regard to recycling our Twin Bin does indeed have a smaller compartment for food waste – we supply compostable liners to enable such items to be disposed of on a compost heap where they will fully biodegrade – I remain unconvinced that a cardboard division would work as effectively in this situation, but those consumers who wish to adopt such measures are, of course, not compelled to purchase one of our products.

Our other Waste Bins that assist with the waste separation regulations as enforced by local authority waste collection agencies are designed entirely to meet these needs within the home.

I am unaware of the term ‘lifetime guarantee’ being used in any of our literature – I would be grateful if you could let me know where you have seen this. Our products are covered by guarantees as long as ten years – we have many satisfied testimonials from consumers who have both experienced using our products problem-free for this time, and from those who have received replacements under the guarantee scheme.

Ultimately the choice of solution and the choice of product is made by each consumer – those who feel that a 12 item from Asda will meet their needs and who are perhaps less concerned with the carbon miles used in the supply of these items, can make there own choice.

I am sorry that you feel so embittered about our business – however we have no control over the wider factors which seem to lie at the heart of your discontent. Local government legislation; completion law; retailer margin aspirations; and people’s desire to equip there homes with attractive, functional and efficient solutions to their daily needs, are a product of our society.

Should you wish to correspond further on this matter please do so directly at this email address.”

Result!

I’d been looking forward to this film for ages. If there’s one thing that gets me excited, it’s blackjack. And Kevin Spacey. If there are two things that get me excited, they’re blackjack and Kevin Spacey. And Vegas. If there are THREE things … you…(read more) get the idea. There’s a lot to get excited about in this film.

The film is actually the fourth in the “twentysomething” series after Jim Carrey’s “The Number 23”, the excellent “28 Days Later” and the rather less than excellent “28 Weeks Later”. In honour of that, here are some 21s which you, my devoted Facebook readership, might enjoy.

21 – the number of my facebook pics in which I am wearing a hat
21 – number of professional sportsmen dated by my collected friends (mainly Twinny)
21 – how many previous film reviews I’ve written
21 – number of photo albums I have (excluding the last 2)
21 – how old I was 15 years ago
21 – total number of books in the Famous Five series
21 – the age of KT Tunstall’s new biggest fan
21 – % increase in Eurostar passengers during 2007
21 – Aussie cricketer David Boon was voted number 21 in Shane Warne’s 50 top test cricketers, August 2007
21 – number of people killed in a recent plane crash in the Congo
21st Feb 2008, full moon
21.21 BST – the exact time it will be in 4 minutes (at time of writing)
21 – the average age a US soldier in Vietnam would have been 2 years after conscription – if he’d not
already been shot by the Viet Cong

(feel free to post your own)

OK, the premise. The film is actually based on a true story, which is told in the rather excellent book “Bringing Down the House” by Ben Mezerich. A MIT professor recruits a number of his brightest students and teaches them how to “beat the system” at blackjack – basically by counting cards and working out when the deck is “hot” and ripe for big bets to be placed. By following these methods, the kids win hundreds of thousands of dollars for themselves and their prof, but then of course it all starts to go wrong, as intra-team jealousies and the attention of the Vegas heavies makes it all go pear shaped.

I used to be a bit of an intellectual powerhouse. I think I was about 11 when that peaked – however one thing I have retained over the years is a quick mind for “sums” and maths, which is very handy when it comes to the excellent “who’s got the biggest brain” facebook game – bring it on Kate!! – and for working out darts scores very quickly. When I was 18 I wanted to see the world, to open up new avenues of adventure, live a glamorous lifestyle, and see where my burgeoning intellectual talents could take me … so I went to Warwick to study chemistry! What a mistaka da maka, as someone with a particularly poor Italian accent (eg a waiter in Frankie and Bennys) might say.

The central character, Ben “Campbell” is basically in the game to make 300,000 dollars in order to claim his place at Harvard Med school, but he is both seduced by the ease with which they make huge sums, and then his prof double crosses him out of his winnings, so he has to continue to play, thus making him and his team easy targets for the bounty hunting Fishburne. He also manages to pull the foxy girl on the team, which is clearly a big mistake, as she looks like Avril Lavigne after a bad night out.

While the book has obviously been over-dramatized for the big screen (the romance between two of the lead characters and the ulterior motives of Laurence Fishburne’s card-counter hunting heavy are additions to the screenplay), the true story is actually more sinister, with the kids hounded out of Vegas and most American gambling cities in the end. They did genuinely make enormous sums of money, however, and led to a huge uptake in new “safety” procedures at the casinos. The film also gives the rather misguided impression that anyone who can count up to about 17 and learn to cross their arms behind their backs can make a fortune – while this probably rules out most of the audience we saw the film with, it’s a slight simplification of the techniques employed!

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie; there’s been a host of gambling-themed movies in recent times, notably the “Oceans” series. While this flick doesn’t boast Brad Pitt eating food in every scene, it does have a memorably sinister performance from Spacey, it conveys the Vegas glamour and excesses well and it also features some of the worst disguises ever attempted – if the Vegas “eyes in the sky” can detect card counters a mile off, they’re surely going to spot a teenager with a stuck on moustache!

If the film was being rated out of 35 I’d give it 21, so by rote, it thus gets 3 stars out of 5! It provides a good night out as a bit of escapism, but I would recommend the book higher – it’s in Bury library, for any local readers!

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