Beefs by RLC membersBack to MiscellanyReturn to Front Page
Have things changed at all in the last 30 years?

a 30-year old letter from a frustrated customer to a useless bunch of civil servants

The Manager
National Insurance Contributions Agency

Dear Sir,

I have been waiting to pay Class 2 N.I. Contributions since becoming self-employed in January of this year.

An age ago, I filled in two forms and a direct debit, and returned same to my local DSS office. When I wrote to them last month to ask why no action had been taken, they told me. that my enquiry had been forwarded to you.

A month later, my latest statement for my business account shows that you have failed to activate the direct debit.

I find it baffling that a government department should be so reluctant take money from me, and I am considering getting in touch with the Guinness Book of Records. If you are incapable of organizing a direct debit, kindly send me a card so that I can stick stamps on it.

If I have not heard from you by the end of this month, I shall fax copies of my letters to your head office in London, so be warned. And if there is any nonsense about penalties for being several months in arrears with my N.I. contributions, the faxes will go to national newspapers.

Kindly take notice that I have made reasonable attempts to pay my N.I contributions, and I accept no responsibility for delays due to your inertia.

Yours, etc. Baaaaaa.

Why are they lying to us?

Dear Mr. Kellogg,
I started eating your Crunchy Nut cornflakes to top up my folic acid level -- 54% of the GDA from one bowlful. I was astounded by another "fact" on your nutritional information panel.

Accepting your Guideline Daily Amount quoted for calories -- 2,000 calories or 2 kilocalories -- I was astounded to read that a 30 gramme bowl of Crunchy Nut with milk provides 180 kcal, or 180,000 calories!!

Do you seriously expect your customers to believe that one bowl of cornflakes provides enough energy to keep them going for 90 days?

How on Earth did you get a claim like that past the Advertising Standards Authority?

Regards, Zxxxxx Xxxxxxxx.

3 February 2012

Thank you for your email regarding the nutritional information on Kellogg's Crunchy Nut.

Kellogg's uses the legally accepted method of expressing energy on food packaging; calories should be expressed in kcal units which differs to the technical scientific definition of the unit kcal. This method of expressing the unit of energy is common and consistent across all nutrition information on food packaging in the UK.

May I explain that the nutritional information on pack shows a 30g portion of Crunchy Nut, with semi-skimmed milk provides 180 Calories which is the same as 180 kcal (1 Calorie = 1 kcal).

Thank you again for contacting us.

Kind regards
Xxxxxxx Zxxxxxxx
Consumer Services Representative

Dear Xxxxxxx Zxxxxxxx,

Thank you for your reply, which confims my conclusion that your company is trying to mislead customers with deliberately wrong information. 1 calorie does not equal 1,000 kcal. In the metric system, putting a "k" in front of a unit multiplies it by 1,000; e.g. 1 kg (kilogramme) = 1,000 grammes, 1 km (kilometre) = 1,000 metres and 1 kcal (kilocalorie) = 1,000 calories -- NOT THE OTHER WAY AROUND. The same applies to the other unit of energy quoted on your company's packaging: 1 kJ (kiloJoule) = 1,000 Joules.

Your company's use of units might be "common and consistent across all nutrition information on food packaging in the UK" but telling customers that a 30 gramme bowl of cornflakes provides 180 kcal or 761 kJ of energy -- i.e. 180,000 calories or 761,000 Joules -- is plain wrong.

1 calorie is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 g of water by 1 deg.C at 15 deg.C. So supplying 75 calories boils 1 g of water by raising the temperature to 100 deg.C, supplying 75,000 calories boils 1 kg (1,000 g) of water, and supplying 180,000 calories (or 180 kcal) boils 2.4 kg of water

It is manifestly absurd to suggest that there is enough energy in a bowl of cornflakes to boil 4 pints of water.

Regards, Zxxxxx Xxxxxxxx.

Mislabelling of energy values on food products
sent to:

Dear Sirs,

Could you please tell me why food manufacturers are allowed to quote energy values in kilocalories and kiloJoules when the correct unit should be calories or Joules? As an example, I can cite the product information on Kellogg's "Crunchy Nut" cornflakes. It says on the panel that the Guideline Daily Amount of energy for a person is 2,000 calories. It also says that a 30 gramme bowl of cornflakes plus milk contains 180 "kcal"; i.e. 180 kilocalories or 180,000 calories.

The metric system is now well understood in this country and people know that placing a "k" in front of a unit multiplies it by 1,000. Both the calorie and the Joule are rigidly defined, internationally recognized units of measurement. 1 calorie is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 g of water at 15 deg.C. by 1 deg.C Which means that:
75 calories is enough to boil 1 gramme of water (by raising its temperature to 100 deg.C);
75,000 calories will boil 1 kilogramme of water; and
180,000 calories will boil 2.4 kg of water.

Claiming that there is enough energy in a bowl of cornflakes to boil 4 pints of water is clearly deliberate deception. It has to be as fraudulent as advertising, say, floorboards for sale by the kilometre when the customer receives only metre lengths.

So how does Mr. Kellogg (and other food manufacturer) get away with it?

Regards, Zxxxxx Xxxxxxxx.

Dear Zxxxxx Xxxxxxxx,

Thank you for your email of 2 March to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asking why food manufacturers are allowed to give food energy values in kilojoules (kJ) and kilocalories (kcal). Your email has been passed to the Department of Health as it is responsible for policy on food nutrition labelling and I have been asked to reply.

Your email raises two main areas of concern: that food manufacturers use both kilojoules and kilocalories on labels, and that they use them interchangeably and incorrectly when giving information on Guideline Daily Amounts (GDAs).

It might be helpful to explain that food labelling regulations are set at European level. Until recently, nutrition labelling was voluntary, but, where companies chose to provide it, energy was required to be expressed in both kJ and Kcal. A new regulation on provision of food information to consumers (FIR) came into effect on 13 December 2011. The regulation is in its transitional stage for implementation: from 13 December 2014, all food nutrition labels should comply with the regulation. This regulation seeks to make nutrition information mandatory for all pre-packed food and it prescribes the format of this information. Again, the units prescribed by the FIR for energy are both kJ and kcal.

In addition, for the first time rules on GDAs or reference intakes have been set to regularise the informal, voluntary practices that have developed across the member states of the European Union. The regulations set agreed reference intakes and require that where they are provided per 100g/100mls the following statement accompany the information:

‘Reference intake of an average adult (8400kJ/200kcals)’

Enforcement of this legislation falls to local authority Trading Standards departments and in some areas environmental health departments. The introduction of this legislation will make it easier for them to address the issue of the inconsistent use of units of measure that you have identified.

I also note that you are concerned that food information given to consumers could be misleading in terms of how the food is prepared. The FIR (and the old food labelling regulations) stipulate that the amounts of nutrients declared on a label shall be of those of the food as sold. Where appropriate, the declared energy may relate to the food after preparation, provided sufficiently detailed preparation instructions are given.

Yours sincerely,

Eeeee Eeeeeeee
Customer Service Centre
Department of Health

Dear Eeeee Eeeeeeee,

Thank you for your reply to my query about energy values quoted by food manufacturers. My main area of concern remains the misuse of kiloJoules and kilocalories where Joules and calories are the correct units. 1 calorie is defined as the amount of heat required to raise the temperature of 1 g of water at 15 deg.C by 1 deg.C. Which means that if a bowl of cornflakes really does contain 180 kilocalories, as claimed on a Kelloggs packet, it could be used to boil 4 pints of water! Which is clearly absurd.

If EU regulations permit companies to use interchangeably, internationally defined units and their kilo-versions [i.e. the same unit multiplied by 1,000], then it follows that HM government will have no objections if I offer 10 kilogram bars of gold for sale and deliver 10 gram bars to customers after telling them that there is no difference between kilograms and grams under EU regulations.

Does HM government have any plans to try to bring the EU into contact with reality? Or have you given that up as a lost cause?

What use are TV channels which don't stick to the advertised schedule?

It's there in Radio Times, it's there in your daily newspaper, it's even on the digital box's electronic TV schedule. So, ESPN, what bloody use are you? What's the point of subscribing to your channels if you don't put your programmes on at the advertised time?

Typical example: A disgruntled subscriber switched on at 5:30 pm for the Tuesday replay of the Monday Night Football match only to find the match nearly over. It was down to the last 4 minutes of the 4th quarter. What sort of bloody useless "service" is that?

posted 2010/10/13

The Dumbing Down of Britain

Email to: The Editor of the Sunday Post (Scotland's favourite newspaper)

The Dumbing Down of Britain

Dear Editor,

The campaign against the dumbing down of absolutely everything isn't helped by the Sunday Post telling us we've already had 10 years of the "new millennium" [pp. 24/25, Sunday Post for 27th December 2009].

The first millennium of the current calendar ran from the year 1 AD to the year 1,000. The second millennium ran from 1001 to 2000, and the 3rd millennium started on 1st January 2001. Which means we've had only NINE years of the 3rd millennium at the end of the year 2009, i.e. a "nonade" instead of a decade, which should contain 10 years.

Surely that's not too complicated for people who have been through the much vaunted Scottish education system to grasp?

Back-Up Batteries for PCs

Why do computer motherboard manufacturers put the backup battery in the most inaccessible part of the board? So you have to fight your way past ribbon cables to the disk drives to get at the battery holder and once you've got your hand in there to remove the dead battery for replacement, you can't bloody see what you're doing and there are never any instructions for getting the dead battery out of the bloody socket.

Lloyds TSB Post Office deposit envelopes

These envelopes, used for sending cheques & paying in slips to the bank via a handy Post Office after Lloyds TSB has closed the local branch, are supposed to be self-sealing. But some bean-counting wise guy decided that he could save money by having the envelopes printed with two narrow bands of adhesive instead of two broad ones. Of course, the narrow bands were printed out of register, so when the bottom flap is folded up and the top one folded down, the two narrow strips of adhesive don't meet. Result, a Sellotape job.


Lloyds TSB Bank plc has abandoned the Trustcard VISA in favour of MasterCard, which means that customers have a new 16-digit number to learn, plus a new 3-digit security code, and the replacement credit card has to be 'activated' before use. A Romiley resident offers the following activation experience from November 2007:

"The woman at the call centre ran me through the usual routine of security information: my name, address, date of birth, mother's maiden name, and TSB bank account sort code and number. Then she said something in what I'd told her didn't check out and she was putting me on to a colleague. So I spent ages on hold; but on an 0800 number so I wasn't paying for it (except through my bank charges); before a bloke answered.
   "He didn't seem to know that I had been passed on to him or anything about the alleged discrepancy in the security information that I'd supplied. And he was happy to activate the card after asking a token couple of questions; far less than the woman had wanted.
   "All of which leaves me wondering if the long wait on hold is some sort of psychological ploy. Does Lloyds TSB think that someone who isn't entitled to have the card will crack during the long wait and ring off? And that only genuine cardholders will have the persistence to wait for attention?
   "I am now left wondering if the TSB's call centre is as useless as the one for British Gas, which guarantees to screw things up in a different way everytime you ring them. If the activation job was left to an idiot of the calibre employed by British Gas, a pound to a pinch of dogshit that it wasn't actually done, and I'm going to look a proper charlie when I try to use the MasterCard and it's refused by the TSB's system. Probably with a whole shopful of people looking on and wondering if anyone will be brave enough to try a citizen's arrest on the credit card thief."


{Date:} 02/03/2006
{CommentType:} Complaint
{Channel:} BBC One
{ProgrammeName:} North West Today

North West Today keeps going on about the IRA blowing up Manchester's city centre 10 years ago. But all they did was blow up part of Corporation Street, which was a long way from:
(1) the main shopping area in Piccadilly Gardens and the top end of Market Street,
(2) the town hall,
(3) the newspaper offices on Deansgate and just about everything else in the city of any significance.
Marks & Spencer was about the only casualty anyone had heard of.
The BBC should not be rewriting history to hype up its programmes about events such as the Manchester bombing.

Philip Turner.

Dear Mr Turner

Thank you for your e-mail regarding 'Northwest Today'.

I note you feel it is inappropriate of the News team to refer to the IRA bombing of Corporation Street in Manchester as the "Manchester bombing". The whole point of referring to the bombing in this way is to inform viewers that the team are talking about the IRA bomb that went off in Manchester as opposed to one of the other IRA bombings that occurred in other parts of the UK. The News team are aware that the IRA bomb did not destroy large sections of Manchester.

Nevertheless, I acknowledge you feel the the way the bombing is referred to, by 'Northwest Today', gives the impression that it was on a larger scale than it actually was. Please be assured your comments have been registered on our audience log which is made available to the BBC Northwest News Editors and senior BBC management across the BBC.

Finally, I have attached an invitation, from our Head of Customer Services, asking you to participate in our customer survey. We would welcome your views on our service.

Thank you again for contacting the BBC.


Tony Brown
BBC Information
__________________________________________________ - World Wide Wonderland

Dear Mr. Brown,

Your reply misses my point completely. I DID NOT object to references to 'The Manchester Bombing'.
What I did object to is NorthWest Today's mislead statement that "The centre of Manchester was blown to bits" It wasn't.
My point is that the IRA bomb went off in Corporation Street, which was a relative backwater 10 years ago. Yes, there has been a lot of rebuilding since and the City of Manchester may have refocussed itself in this area in the 21st Century. But the IRA bomb didn't blow up what was the centre of the city 10 years ago, and saying that it did, as NorthWest Today kept doing to hype up a programme about the bombing, is wrong and distorts history.

NorthWest Today may want people to believe that the centre of Manchester was blown to bits - but it wasn't. That's my point and the source of my complaint.

I trust this further explanation will be helpful.

Philip Turner.

Thank you for contacting BBC Information. To use the licence fee more efficiently, our online email system now uses pre-formatted webforms. This email address inbox is therefore no longer monitored.

If you want to contact us, or reply to us, please resend your message in the format provided by one of our online webforms. All are available at; please choose which one applies best to you.

Also available at are answers to common questions about our programmes, history, policies and structure, BBC Governors, complaints and documents such as our Annual Report and other reports and publications.

Alternatively you can telephone us on 08700 100 222 to comment, give your appreciation, make an enquiry, or register a complaint.

Talk to yourself, mate, because the BBC isn't taking any notice of your complaints – mainly because the people being paid licence-payers' cash to handle them are incapable of reading and understanding what you tell them.


How long does it take for the ASA to leap into action? Do they, in fact, leap? Or do they move at a pace which make a snail look like a candidate for a speedcam? Judge for yourself as we report the progress of a complain about false advertising laid against the Daily Mail.

bogus Jungle BookThe Mail's crime is illustrated in the picture (left). The newspaper's front cover promoted a series of children's books with what looks like either a 400-500 page book containing Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book and a whole lot of other stuff, or an edition of The Jungle Book printed on very high quality paper.
   What the consumers actually got is The Jungle Book as a 160 page slim volume printed on very thin paper, which is placed on the newspaper page for comparison. Clearly, the paper's graphic artist was just sticking front cover pictures on a standard book picture with no regard for the look of the actual product. Clearly, this ads up to false advertising.

After a trip to the ASA's website to lodge a protest, the complainant received the following in an email:

Advertising Standards Authority - Complaint Acknowledgement
Fri, 10 Oct 2003 12:41:57 +0100
Thank you for submitting your complaint to the Advertising Standards Authority. We have passed your complaint to our Complaints team. A Complaints Handler will assess your complaint and will reply in full as soon as possible.
Please quote this reference number in any correspondence: A03-11374

The complainant is now waiting - with decidedly unbated breath - for another communication.

And that communication came from a Mr. Andrew Frost, who is a Complaint Handler, in a letter dated 31st October, 2003. His opinion was that the complaint was unjustified because a book is a book is a book. As long as the consumer gets some sort of an edition of the book in question, the advertisement can show a larger, better quality edition of the book without offending the ASA.
   Which seems to be an open invitation for someone to advertise a Mini for sale using a picture of a Rolls-Royce – and if the customer complains, telling him, with the ASA's blessing: "We promised you a car, and a car is what you got."


Thousands of people have fallen for the legend of the long-life light bulb, which costs ten times as much as a normal light bulb but which drinks 20% of the juice and, the manufacturers promise, last 5 to 15 times longer. Thousands of people have spent a small fortune to buy half a dozen of these wonders, expecting not to have to buy another light bulb again. They have installed the wonders and watched them die months, or sometimes weeks, later. So what do you do then?
   Working from the theory that emails and on-line comment forms often get better results than letters and phone calls, an RLC member went to the General Electric Company's website when one of their 15W [75W equivalent], 'long life' light bulbs failed. The packaging promised a life of 5,000 hours -- presumably of switched-on life. The bulb, at the top landing of a staircase, had failed after 6 months of normal evening and night use between November and May. In fact, it had been in place for 4,900 and some hours, but not switched on all the time, of course.
   The light bulb was found not to be working on 2003/06/04, the complaint was submitted on June 5th, and on June 10th, an incredibly light box arrived at the RLC member's home. It contained a letter dated 2003/06/06 and a replacement light bulb. So the moral of the tale seems to be: buy from reputable firms, complain if the products don't work and hope that a reputable firm will be concerned about its reputation, as GE Lighting clearly is.

Customer Relations Team / First North Western / Admail 3281 / FREEPOST NWW 3483A / Manchester M60 5RP

Travelling from: New Mills Central
Travelling to: Romiley
Train time: 18:02 (@ New Mills)
Ticket type & no.: Cheap Day Rtn 57399
Date of Travel or incident: 2003/05/08


I arrived at the station well before 6 p.m. The signal turned green, the train was announced -- and nothing!

The signal went red again, other trains were announced, and we travellers stuck on the platform at New Mills heard not one bloody word about our train.

When I asked about the train at Romiley, the man in the ticket office had not been told that it had broken down, been cancelled, been kidnapped by aliens, or whatever.

So what did happen to the train?

And why didn't someone at Manchester realize that your passengers wanted to know why they had to wait a further 50 minutes for the next one?

Hell of a way to run a railroad, First North Western!

  -- received 2003/05/08

The delay was due to a points failure (infrastructure) and the train was diverted via Stockport -- i.e. it went nowhere near New Mill Central station. First North Western found that 'the severity of the sudden disruption' made it 'difficult to communicate up-to-date information as quickly as we would have liked'.

Under the terms of the Passengers Charter (no apostrophe supplied), the traveller is entitled to a voucher to the value of at least 40% of the fare paid if delayed for an hour or more. The customer in question received a voucher for £1.00, which is compensation at a rate of 43.5% of the ticket cost.

Chaos Theory's classic example is founded on a misconception.

A butterfly flapping its wings in China can't cause a tornado half-way round the world. The event is purely localized and too heavily damped by its environment to have any effect more than a few inches away from the origin. The notion of a butterfly triggering a tornado, or another severe weather phenomenon, is as unlikely as a belief that the positions of the planets affect the lives of people living on Earth.
   Why's that?
   Because the notion of distant interactions implies a sequence of non-elastic collisions, which can transfer energy over great distances in ways which can generate large events. But such non-elastic collisions occur only in a purely mathematical environment, such as a computer programme.
   In fact, the energy released by the flapping butterfly wing is transferred only to local air molecules, which collide with other air molecules and dissipate the extra energy as heat. A very small volume of gas becomes ever so slightly warmer than its surroundings and the energy is lost in the usual random interchanges of objects in motion.

A mere Couple Of Days after the election and Tony Blair gives himself a 47K pay rise while continuing to award to his Cronies, jobs with Fat Salaries paid out of the Public Purse. Then, a few weeks later, his gang votes itself a 4K Pay Rise before disappearing off on holiday for 3 Months. Out with the Bogus Piety, in with Grab, Grab, Grab.
Clearly, Blair does not expect to Fool The People a third time and he has decided to Line His Pockets and plant as many Favours as he can before he gets Ditched. But did we really expect any better of him? Harold Wilson Mark II is Flaunting his true colours.

When was Corporation Street ever the city-centre of Manchester? This urban myth seems to be trotted out every time a part of the IRA-bomb-blasted zone is re-opened. Probably by London-based journalists who've never been Up North in their life. The latest repetition was in the Daily Mail of 22/08/2000 at the beginning of an article about the restoration of the Corn Exchange building and we seem to be stuck with the notion now.

Isn't it reassuring if you buy something and they tell you: If you have any problems, ring the helpline number? Well, it's reassuring only until you do ring the helpline number and find that it's permanently engaged, like PC Advisor magazine's. Which makes it rather difficult to tell them that a program on one of the cover CDs doesn't work.

Don't you just wish a half-hour BBC programme could be 30 minutes long, like they used to be? Wouldn't it be great if the Beeb would cut out all those tedious adverts? What's it going to take to make the Beeb grasp that we don't want to be told what's on forty-five minutes from now or a week on Friday? A few (or maybe a lot of) assassinations? Can they really be totally unaware that their entire audience is yelling, "Get on with it, you bastards!" when they're wasting our time and money on their adverts instead of showing the programme that the viewers switched on for?

Wouldn't it be nice if they could re-introduce the death penalty for parking on the pavement? Maybe not for ordinary motorists. A spot fine of £250 to pay for the damage caused to the fabric of the pavement would be appropriate for them. But for anyone who parks a large van or a monster truck on the pavement, forcing long-suffering pedestrians to risk their life on the roadway, no lingering death is slow enough.

We were told that the International Space Station would be "as bright as Venus" when it got its new solar panels. So why isn't it?
   We had Venus, Jupiter and Saturn all in view during the ISS's 4:30 p.m. pass over Romiley on Xmas day. The ISS was about as bright as Saturn and not noticeably brighter than it was before the new solar panel array was strapped on.
   So what's going on? Why were people lying to us about its brightness? Or was it just a question of media 'science' correspondents with no qualifications in that area - you know who you are, guys - bodging something together just for the sake of putting the adverts a bit farther apart?

American Express cardReceived within a week of so of the date (1st July, 1996) on the letter
Try The American Express Card free for one year

Dear Sir,

Now, with this exclusive offer, there is another great reason to apply for the American Express Card. You can get the Card free for one full year.

What's more, you'll be automatically enrolled in the Membership Rewards Programme for that year.* This means the annual Membership Rewards fee of £23.50 (incl. VAT), as well as the £37.50 annual Card fee, will be waived for your first year of Membership.

Plus, to make it easy for you to enjoy the benefits of being a Cardmember, we have dramatically simplified our application procedures. There are no lengthy forms to complete - as you will see from the enclosed Signature Only application form, all you need do is sign your name.

On seeing the section in bold above, the prospective AmEx member signed his name and posted off the form without supplying any further information. But instead of his American Express card, he got a letter containing this extract:

Thank you for applying for the American Express Card.

Unfortunately, I am unable to continue processing your application as you have not provided us with details of your annual income and/or the details of a professional person other than your banker (eg accountant) whom we may contact regarding your income.

Please provide the information requested in the space below and return this letter in the pre-paid envelope provided, or phone us on (01273) 696933 quoting the reference number above. Alternatively, you can fax the information on (01273) 620118. This will of course speed things up still further.

Thank you for your assistance.

Yours sincerely,

Puzzled by this response, the non-AmEx member wrote back:

Dear Sirs,

In your letter to me, you told me:

"as you will see from the enclosed Signature Only application form, all you need to do is sign your name."

I found this rather hard to believe, so I thought I'd find out if you were telling the truth in your letter. Your requests for further information demonstrate that I needed to do more than just sign my name.

Which leaves me wondering why you sent me a letter containing misleading information in the first place...

Back from American Express came a reply including:

Thank you for applying for the American Express Card.

As I indicated in my previous correspondence, unfortunately I am unable to continue processing your application as you have not provided us with details of your annual income and/or the details of a professional person other than your banker (eg accountant) whom we may contact regarding your income.

Please provide the information requested in the space below and return this letter in the pre-paid envelope provided, or phone us on (01273) 696933 quoting the reference number above. Alternatively, you can fax the information on (01273) 620118. This will of course speed things up still further.

Thank you for your assistance.

Which proves that American Express didn't get the point, probably because they don't read letters from their potential customers. Needless to say, this particular potential customer didn't like being lied to in the original mailing and he did not become an AmEx card-holder.

Back to MiscellanyBack to Front Page

 back to topCreated for Romiley Literary Circle by HTSP Web Division. © RLC, 2012.