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McHappiness

Ian Gilfillan has an excellent post on McDonalds as a corporation, and how we view it. He actually sums up my thoughts and experiences fairly well - the cognitive dissonance involved when you try to tell people how bad McDonalds is is unbelievable. I have spoken to people so many times who say "Man, I had McDonalds for lunch, and now I feel absolutely awful". And I've heard them say it so many times! But try to point out that that's completely unsurprising, and that McDonalds really, really is absolutely awful for you, and they just say "Yeah, but it tastes nice", and refuse to engage further.

People are a bit stupid, I think.

Virgin Money card in the bag

I got an SMS today.

If this surprises you, read this and this.

The SMS was from UTi couriers, telling me that they would be delivering my card today, and I should have proof of residence, proof of income (bank statements or payslip), and a copy of my ID. This led to a frantic search for my passport, which I could not find for a good half an hour. It turned up inside the bag that Tom used to wrap the bottle of Jack Daniels that he gave me for my 21st birthday in 2001. Obviously. (Okay, I can hear you all judging me, I've learned my lesson.) As it turns out, I have a copy of my ID anyway, so I didn't need it.

Anyway, the UTi chappie arrived, and I signed all sorts of bits of paper, and now I have my card. Remind me to put any other problems I have up on the Intartubes, too.

(I'd just like to add that, once the problem had actually been sorted out, Virgin Money were very efficient and apologetic and all that. So, good on them and stuff.)

Virgin Money reads my blog

I got a phonecall today.

If you missed yesterday's gripping read, go read it now.

So, ja, I got a phonecall today.

Unfortunately, I missed it, because I was in Pick'n'Pay getting lunch, but I got the voicemail afterwards:

Jonathan, this is (somebody) from Virgin Money, I've just been reading your blog, and I'm slightly embarrassed. Somebody will phone you this afternoon to sort it out and have your card delivered to you in Cape Town in the not too distant future. Have a good afternoon.
I would have really liked to talk to her (and find out why she'd been reading my blog).

Anyway, I just got another phonecall from Ntsoaki at Virgin Money, who was great, and she's going to reel the UTI people in and put a redirect order on the card, so that it actually gets to me this time. Unfortunately, I'm going to need my ID card to take possession of the credit card, and as I mentioned earlier, I lost it. I need an affidavit from Mr Policeman saying it's lost before I can use my passport or driver's license. So that's another mission to make.


There's a type of wasp called Sphex, or "the Digger Wasp", who lay their eggs in burrows in the ground. They then sting other insects, paralysing them, and leave the insects in the burrows, for the larva to feed on when they hatch. However, before they drag the paralysed insect into the nest, they nip back down into the burrow to check the place out, make sure it's all clean and tidy or something, and then go back outside and drag the insect down.

If, while the wasp is inside, inspecting its nest, you move the paralysed insect a few inches away from the hole, the wasp will come back up, have a look around, and see the insect some distance away, and go and fetch it. However, when it gets the insect back to the hole, it has to perform the next step in its pre-programmed dance: it has to go down and inspect the burrow again. If you keep moving the insect away every time it inspects the burrow, it will remain stuck in its preprogrammed loop forever, never noticing that anything is wrong.

We use the Sphex wasp in philosophy as an example of behaviour which seems sensible and rational (it's a good idea to check out the nest before dragging a paralysed insect into it backwards), but turns out to simply be a set of hard-coded rules. One hypothesis is that all human behaviour is like this - it seems rational and it seems like we have free will, but if you alter the parameters enough, it'll turn out that we're just obeying the physical rules of our nervous systems and vastly complex brain.

What's my point? The good people at UTI have a set of rules which they follow, which makes the whole system run smoothly, and it seems to be a pretty clever way of doing things. But if you break the system slightly, alter the parameters, and do something unexpected, the whole system gets stuck in a loop. In a way, I rather wish I hadn't told the Internet that they were stuck, and just let them run until the world wound down. Just to see, you know?

Update: Here's the end of the story.

Virgin Money and UTI: a study in inefficiency

On Wednesday the 16th of May, I was having a beer at Banana Jam while waiting for the railway boom to open, and messing about on my laptop, when Adrian pointed out the Virgin Money website. After idly checking it out, I filled in the application form and sent it off, to see what would happen - there are no fees, so it couldn't hurt. I don't really need another credit card, and don't plan to use it, but what the hell.

Two weeks later, I was informed that I had been approved, and that my card would be delivered to me by a courier, and I should have some form of identification ready to receive it. A few days later, I got a phone call:

Hi, is that Mr JD Hitchcock? This is Nametag from UTI on behalf of Virgin Money. I have your card, and I'd like to make arrangements to deliver it to you tomorrow. Can I confirm that your address is in Fourways, Johannesburg?
When I filled in the form, they asked for my work's physical address, so I gave them the address of the head office in Johannesburg. Anyway, I corrected them, saying that I worked down in Cape Town, and they said:
Ah, okay, I see. I will make arrangements for the card to be couriered down to Cape Town, and we will contact you when it gets there so that we can deliver it to you.

A week later, I got a phone call:

Hi, is that Mr JD Hitchcock? This is Nametag from UTI on behalf of Virgin Money. I have your card, and I'd like to make arrangements to deliver it to you tomorrow. Can I confirm that your address is in Fourways, Johannesburg?
I explained that I was in Cape Town, not Johannesburg.
Ah, okay, I see. I will make arrangements for the card to be couriered down to Cape Town, and we will contact you when it gets there so that we can deliver it to you.

About a week later, I went up to Johannesburg for a week, to do some work at the head office up there. While I was there, I got a phone call:

Hi, is that Mr JD Hitchcock? This is Nametag from UTI on behalf of Virgin Money. I have your card, and I'd like to make arrangements to deliver it to you tomorrow.
Now I was feeling like an idiot, because after making a fuss about them getting it down to Cape Town for me, I was in Johannesburg when they wanted to deliver it. However, the call continued:
Can I confirm that your address is in Fourways, Johannesburg?
They cocked it up again. What a relief! However, as it turned out, my schedule and their schedule wouldn't allow them to deliver it to me while I was up there (I was on a course for much of my time), so I resorted to my old tactic of telling them that I was in Cape Town.
Ah, okay, I see. I will make arrangements for the card to be couriered down to Cape Town, and we will contact you when it gets there so that we can deliver it to you.
Cool, man.

About a week later, when I was safely back in Cape Town, I got a phone call:

Hi, is that Mr JD Hitchcock? This is Nametag from UTI on behalf of Virgin Money. I have your card, and I'd like to make arrangements to deliver it to you tomorrow. Can I confirm that your address is in Fourways, Johannesburg?
I explained that I was in Cape Town, not Johannesburg.
Ah, okay, I see. I will make arrangements for the card to be couriered down to Cape Town, and we will contact you when it gets there so that we can deliver it to you.

Look, I'm going to cut this story short. The fifth, sixth and seventh times, when they phoned to ask if they could drop my card off in Fourways, I explained that I was in Cape Town, and said that they had phoned me four/five/six times before, and that I had had exactly the same response from them each time. When I told them that this was the nth time they were phoning me, they started getting a bit embarrassed, and said they'd elevate it to their supervisors, so I thought that things might start happening.


Today, I received a phonecall:

Hi, is that Mr JD Hitchcock? This is Llewellyn from UTI on behalf of Virgin Money. I have your card, and I'd like to make arrangements to deliver it to you tomorrow. Can I confirm that your address is in Fourways, Johannesburg?
Now, I know I should have been keeping track of their names, and the dates, but I wasn't. I'm pretty sure that I've had this Llewellyn guy before, though. Also, from email/instant messaging logs, I have managed to nail down four previous dates that they've phoned me:
  • Wednesday, June 13
  • Thursday, June 21
  • Friday, June 29
  • Monday, July 9
So, today was the eighth time they phoned me. From now on, I shall keep a detailed record of my correspondence with them, and see how it goes.

Frankly, I don't actually want the card. I don't need more debt, it would just be a useful backup to have. So, I'm not at all annoyed that they haven't given it to me. I'm more faintly amused by how badly they're screwing it up. What could be happening is that every time the card gets to Cape Town, they check to see where it's supposed to go, find my work address, and send it back to Johannesburg. I don't know. I'm debating not telling them how many times they've phoned me, and just saying "no, Cape Town" each time, to see how long it takes them to sort it out. Maybe I need a hobby.

More details as events warrant.

Update: Here is the second installment, and here's the final chapter in the saga.

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