PR coup of the week (plus a preview of next week’s)

May 31, 2012

Hats off the PR people at managemycomplaints.com who managed to get at least one insurance trade magazine to publish a flimsily veiled advertisement for its (soft)wares this week on the back of the startling revelation that the FSA may fine firms who aren’t very good at handling customer complaints.

“Insurers and brokers could face severe fines and reputational damage,” the warning came this week, “if they do not comply with changing FSA complaints rules, technology company managemycomplaints has warned.”

mangemycompliants.com has conducted exhausting new research that conculsively demonstrates that exactly “nearly 94% of UK SMEs use spreadsheets or paper files to manage customer complaints and feedback, and that some have no system at all.”

Imagine that – using a spreadsheet (or paper files or no system at all) when there is a company out there (managemecomplains.com that offers a perfectly-tailored software solution to help firms manage their complaints optimally!

“Using spreadsheets might not be enough to prove that every stage of a complaint has been recorded,” warned managemypants.com head of marketing Andrew Eldred. Custom-tailoring his standard SME press release bespokely to the specific individual needs of insurance journalists, he noted that “Sectors like insurance are already undergoing more reviews by the FSA and it’s having an impact on these businesses. When the FSA is reformed [sic] the scrutiny will get even closer.”

“It’s going to cause some companies a problem,” Mr Earldredd predicted gloomily. Unless of course they use a dedicated web-enabled complaint-management solution (like that offered by managemyeggplants.com, for example) that is very quick and easy to set up (as there is nothing to install or download) and which is simple to use and yet very powerful and starts from just £55.

Inspired by the success of managemycodpiece.com Bankstone News now plans to issue a press release of its own to the national media highlighting the hazard of pistachio nut thumb nail injuries. It will probably go something like this:

Research carried out for Bankstone News has found that almost 94.6% of pistachio lovers have at some time suffered thumbnail damage or injury whilst prizing apart the shells of this popular savoury snack, with one in three sustaining nail tearage rating as “serious” or “quite literally horrific”.

Bankstone News’ head of ancillary product development Davey-Jane McManus comments: “These are deeply disturbing findings. Left unchecked, this epidemic of thumb injuries could quickly undermine the very fabric of British society in these economically uncertain times.

“A backlash against pistachios,” he added, “could potentially threaten the jobs of millions working in pistachio importing, processing, distribution and retailing up and down the country, as well as depriving ordinary hardworking people of the simple decent pleasure of munching on a handful of their favourite nuts.”

Happily there is a solution. Bankstone News is pleased to announce the launch of a revolutionary new thumb protection/nut access solution designed specifically for pistachio fans. The patent Mr Nutty’s ClawThimble™ thumb-mounted pistachio shell removal system enables even novice users to open even the most recalcitrant of shells simply and painlessly without the least risk of nail damage.

A surefire winner, we think you will agree.

Mr Nutty's much admired nut sacks

Mr Nutty with his much admired nut sacks.

May 30, 2012

Residents of Liverpool are threatening to boycott Insurance Times after the paper rashly administered the oxygen of publicity to grossly defamatory allegations contained within a so-called “study” trumped up by some outfit called the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

Not long ago, back in 2008 to be less imprecise, Liverpool rejoiced in the much sought after accolade of European Capital of Culture. Now the DWP’s metropolitan slander monkeys are attempting to besmirch that proud legacy with a new designation: Liverpool 2012: European Capital of Whiplash.

The DWP has incensed denizens of the Northwest Littoral with its snide insinuation that there issomething fishy about 1 in 50 Liverpudlians claiming for whiplash injury (twice the national average and 20 times the rate seen in some parts of Scotland).

Suggestions that the high local incidence of neck afflictions following motor accidents is something other than persistent bad luck, endured as usual with brave and silent stoicism by the local population, have made the DWP few friends in the birthplace of the Beatles (a popular musical quartet of the mid-twentieth century, Ed) and the home of Liverpool FC (not sure about this one, Ed).

“DWP?” asked one local spokesman derisively, “never eared of them. They’re a disgrace to themselves and they’re not welcome here.” The tragically fragile necks of Maresyside residents, he insisted, “were not something to be mocked and scorned, but a cruel affliction nobly borne by a proud race of much maligned grafters and toilers.

Malcolm Starling of the ABI recklessly added oil to the flames this week by suggesting that the very high incidence of whiplash claims in the Liverpool area might have something to do with the very high incidence of “lawyers specialising in personal injuries cases” in the North West. Which is clearly as absurd as suggesting that a very high incidence of scantily clad women caused the recent fine weather.

But no such rational considerations appeared to hold Mr Starling back from alleging outrageously that “whiplash claims have gone up by a third in the past three years while the number of accidents has gone down” and implying that some people may “see whiplash injury claims as easy money waiting to be collected.”

Such reckless commentary from bodies like the DWP and the ABI – who surely ought to know better – risks playing into the hands of cynical haters who will seize on the fact that whiplash rhymes with moustache to heap further undeserved scorn on Liverpudlians and their unfortunate cervical afflictions.

May 25, 2012

Former doyenne of the fiercely rebellious King’s Road fashion counter culture that once spawned SEX, the Sex Pistols and dressing up as pirates, Dame Vivienne Westwood revealed this week that she is now an ardent monarchist.

So far has this much mellowed nation come since the turbulent days of 1977 that there is now general agreement that whilst God should indeed save the Queen, she is unequivocally a human being (and a very fine one at that, Your Maamship) and that far from enduring a “fascist regime” her realm flourishes under the benign stewardship of a enlightened generation of Old Etonian everymen with a unique flair for connecting with the concerns and aspirations of ordinary proles up and down the country.

Yellow insurance firm Uvavu sounded a note of caution however this week. Chaotic elements, it seems may yet rise up to mar this Summer’s Diamond Jubilee idyll of ripe old regnal celebration. Claims data from last year’s Royal Wedding and the Golden Jubilee ten years ago, Insurance Times this week reported, suggest we could be in for a veritable orgy of insurance claims chaos during the festivities in honour of our “Diamond Queen” (not to mention Euro 2012 and the London Olympics, both of which are sure to end in tears.)

There seems a very real chance the country will go up in flames as fire claims were up by a shocking 20% on both those previous occasions. So-called accidental damage claims, meanwhile were up 10% during each of these previous festivities. One customer, Insurance Times reports saw his £1,700 sofa go up in flames “after he knocked over his pipe while watching the Royal.” Which royal he was watching is not specified. Bankstone News’ nearly dropped its own pipe last year when its mouth fell open at the sight of Pippa Middleton – but we’re not sure if she counts as a proper royal.

One claim made to Uvavu saw the tragic demise of a policyholders “fence, shed, two bikes, garden table, two chairs and two sun loungers” engulfed in flames after a barbecue was left unattended for just one hour. Another claimant has received a call whilst out visiting friends informing him that his “fence, two bushes and a tree were on fire after a neighbour ‘s bonfire got out of control.” It is scenes like this that lie in store this summer, insurers fear.

Rival insurer More Th<n goes further in the finger of blame pointing stakes, accusing its customers of being a drunken rabble. Brits, More Th)n’s research suggests, “caused a staggering £617 million of fire damage to their properties while barbecuing when they’re drunk”, with “one in four sozzled every time they take charge of the charcoal” according to a report on website myfiancees.co.ck.”Boozed-up Brits,” the same report reports, “have been responsible for reducing 1.5 million gardens to cinders in the past two years.”

Mor3 Th{n predicts no fewer than 900,000 garden fires before the end of August, with manging director Janet Connor noting that: “As this research shows, it doesn’t take much for a pleasant barbecue to turn into a smoky disaster.” What it takes in 8 out of 10 cases, it seems is a man, preferably a drunken man.

Uvavu household clams manager Ian Coulis, meanwhile admitted to a weird and not necessarily entirely wholesome fascination with all this combustible activity “We were intrigued,” he said, “to see the increase in the fire claims over the Royal Wedding and Golden Jubilee weekends.” “Enjoying time with lots of family and friends and catching up on DIY,” he warned, can both “lead to clumsy calamities.”

On the plus side, as the nation comes together as one to stay at home and gather round their flatscreen TVs watching other people partying and playing sports, car insurance claims look set to plummet – raising hopes of dramatically falling motor premiums as the summer progresses.

So at the end of the day it’s swings and roundabouts really, isn’t it.

May 25, 2012

An exceptionally enjoyable day was reportedly had by all at the Adrian Flux golf day on Wednesday this week. The whole thing was meticulously well-run, down to the laying on of improbably perfect weather for an event that ran like clockwork, of the expensive Swiss variety, which generally runs pretty well on the whole.

Bankstone’s Dickon Tysoe has been chuckling contentedly ever since over the freshly recollected delights of the meal he enjoyed noisily and enthusiastically at King’s Lynn’s charming Riverside Restaurant. This consisted, he appeared to be saying of Arbroath Smirkys, followed by Seed Baps, with an Orange Moose to finish. Fairly exotic, readers will probably agree.

Without wishing to introduce too flagrant a note of self-congratulation, it is gratifying none the less to report that Bankstone’s own Andrew “El Bandido” Jones ended up ranking as the third best individual, walking away, a little unsteadily, with a splendid laser-cut glass trophy and one of those new Sony handheld Vita thingys – so named because these enthralling devices can quite literally take the place of the user’s life.

So successful was the day that no-one present could possibly have wished to be anywhere else – with the possible partial exception of one Cris Jackson, who discovered on the day that his favourite band (lovely guy, shocking taste in music) The Stone Roses (tone deaf roses, more like, if you ask Bankstone News. Call that singing? You’re an embarrassment, Mate! Or was that Madness? etc…) were playing a free gig in a park half a mile from Jackson Towers in erstwhile UK Vodka Mecca Warrington.

Tysoe relates that Jackson bravely attempted to put a brave face on his disappointment by regaling fellow golfers with a succession of hilarious jokes and anecdotes. Decency forbids the repetition here of his many lurid tales on the general theme of unnatural erotic practices and extravagant sexual excess. To bulk up the tail end of this story a bit, we may at least have a stab at mangling his defty told tale of a visit to Ireland and the sampling of a local speciality.

A stranger to the darkly bitter delights of Ireland’s national stout, Jackson decided upon first visiting Dublin to order a pint of the stuff. “A pint of Guinness, My Man, and be quick about it,” he doubtless barked, little realising the strong Gaelic aversion to rapidity in matters of quaffage.

“Would you be wanting it long drawn or short drawn?” the barman enquired. Upon seeking an immediate explanation for this gobbledigook, Jackson learned that long drawn involved pouring a small amount of the velvety brew into a glass, allowing this to settle, adding a little more, letting that settle, and repeating the process again and again until at last the glass is full.

“Sure, your long drawn is the ancient way, traditional and best,” the barman assured Mr Jackson. Short drawn, he explained dismissively is the simple vulgar process of filling the glass once, allowing its contents to settle, then topping up. Determined to sample his pint at its best (and to ascertain whether it tasted any less foul in its native habitat – as reputedly it might – than it had back in the UK), CJ opted for the long drawn method.

The barman nodded approvingly, adding: “And would you be wanting a short drawn while you wait?”

May 24, 2012

There was further frustration last week for all those who are frankly sick and tired of being expected to drive on their own side of the road, when it emerged that the BMF are kicking up a fuss about a very sensible, and hopefully precedent-setting court decision last year which declared that to require lorry drivers – and hence, by logical extension, the rest of us – to remain on their own side of the road when cornering is to “impose an unacceptably high standard on the driver.”

This is quite obviously a very fair a just conclusion for Lord Justice Richards (presiding) to have arrived at. It is only a shame that he did not add that to expect drivers to remain under the drink drive limit at all times is to impose too high a standard of sobriety.

The fact that the lorry driver in question happened to collide with motorcyclist Robert Whiteford of Soham, Cambridgeshire whilst straying a tad into the opposite lane – as Jonathan Watt-Pringles defending QC for the lorry driver’s Lithuanian employers quite rightly argued – happened “for one reason and one reason only – because the claimant was driving [sic] right close [sic] to the centre” of the road.

The fact that Mr Whiteford lost a leg as a result of being allegedly too close to the white line denoting the limit of his side of the road is clearly unfortunate – but hardly grounds for over-severe censure of only-human lorry drivers.

Hopefully the BMF will see reason and abandon their misconceived campaign, leaving the rest of us to drive wherever we see fit without having to worry constantly about fuss-making motorcyclists getting in our way with their unstable insufficiently-wheeled machinery and fragile bodies.

May 24, 2012

Great Horton is one of the most charming and picturesque corners of the delightful West Yorkshire town of Bradford. Situated conveniently adjacent to the impressively efficient modern ring road, and encompassing lively and characterful communities like Pickles Hill, Horton Bank Bottom and the aptly named Paradise Green, Great Horton is also home to a 31-year-old man recently detained by Her Majesty’s Constabulary on suspicion of “ghost broking”.

Officers from the City of London’s Insurance Fraud Enforcement Division (IFED) (whose role – despite the confusing name – is not to make sure insurance fraud happens, but in fact the precise opposite) decided to get involved after disturbing reports reached their metropolitan ears that somewhere in the Bradford area there might be someone involved in some kind of insurance fraud.

Specifically, word on the street was that, bizarrely, “a man, 31” had been pretending to be an insurance broker in order to “offer drivers cheap premiums.”

“Insurance policies were obtained by providing the insurance company with forged documentation and false details in order to reduce the premiums,” the Bradford Telegraph and Argus and Enquirer and Citizen reported this week. “Victims were then charged more than the actual cost of the premium and made to pay a handling fee.” Imagine doing all that without even being a proper broker!

Detective Constable Steve Kelly, of the IFED, said the arrested man, 31, was suspected of committing “fraud by false representation relating to the inception of 47 motor insurance policies” and is now on bali while investigations continue. Who knew such things could go on in a sleepy little community like Great Horton?

Let this be a lesson, Kelly said: “In a short space of time [since its formation in January this year] IFED has sent out a clear message that insurance fraud in all its forms will not be tolerated, wherever it has been committed. IFED making an arrest in Bradford is evidence of how committed we are to changing this culture.”

If such things can happen in Bradford – on Bankstone News’ very doorstep, no less – it certainly makes you wonder. Makes us wonder, anyway.

May 18, 2012

At what has been generally acclaimed as possibly the biggest BIBA Conference ever, BIBA Secretary General Eric Gallbreath set a large and by no means completely empty auditorium alight as he read almost fluently from his podium-top notes, telling the rapt audience “Please visit us on the BIBA stand.”

Sharing the stage with a distractingly massive pack of multi-coloured plasticine, Gallbreath was in no mood for compromise, declaring war on mediocrity, denouncing all those who trade in half measures, and calling down a fatwa on the scourge of partial satisfaction.

Gallbreath, it seems, has had enough of seeing satisfied members lolling around the BIBA member pool. “My real challenge, my real challenge, however,” he said, “is to move the 42% of satisfied members to join those 54% who are very or extremely satisfied.” EG must surely be applauded for his ardent will to strive for extreme satisfaction with real urgency and vigour.

To help him get a firmer grasp on the whole satisfied member thing, Gallbreath has called in “consultants Deloitte” to do some very cool consulty type things that are sure to provide excellent value for BIBA members.

On the thorny question of the FSA’s unfair FSCS funding model, Gallbreath said firmly that “all options need to be considered.”

Next year’s BIBA conference is in London (or perhaps slightly to the right of it), which is good because it allows delegates to disperse quickly into the sprawling polycentric metropolis to the west rather than hanging around to bump into one another with frustrating regularity as one inevitably does in a place like 2012 host city Manchester City city.

May 18, 2012

At what has been generally acclaimed as possibly the biggest BIBA Conference ever, BIBA Secretary General Eric Gallbreath set a large and by no means completely empty auditorium alight as he read almost fluently from his podium-top notes, telling the rapt audience “Please visit us on the BIBA stand.”

Sharing the stage with a distractingly massive pack of multi-coloured plasticine, Gallbreath was in no mood for compromise, declaring war on mediocrity, denouncing all those who trade in half measures, and calling down a fatwa on the scourge of partial satisfaction.

Gallbreath, it seems, has had enough of seeing satisfied members lolling around the BIBA member pool. “My real challenge, my real challenge, however,” he said, “is to move the 42% of satisfied members to join those 54% who are very or extremely satisfied.” EG must surely be applauded for his ardent will to strive for extreme satisfaction with real urgency and vigour.

To help him get a firmer grasp on the whole satisfied member thing, Gallbreath has called in “consultants Deloitte” to do some very cool consulty type things that are sure to provide excellent value for BIBA members.

On the thorny question of the FSA’s unfair FSCS funding model, Gallbreath said firmly that “all options need to be considered.”

Next year’s BIBA conference is in London (or perhaps slightly to the right of it), which is good because it allows delegates to disperse quickly into the sprawling polycentric metropolis to the west rather than hanging around to bump into one another with frustrating regularity as one inevitably does in a place like 2012 host city Manchester City city.

May 18, 2012

Motor insurers may wish to reconsider offering cover to people who suffer from hay fever during the summer months. Alarming new research from insurance firm More Th<n found that the allergy-afflicted (i.e. 13% of all UKlanders) can spend as long as 60 seconds with their eyes shut during a 45 minute drive – making them the third most dangerous creatures on the planet after white sharks and tapirs.

Hay fever people may think they can make themselves safe by dosing up on tablets. But – warns Mo^e Th<n – that’s nonsense because the pills will probably make you drowsy or something, so don’t even think about doing that. Obvs.

In fact, according to The Sun’s report “a huge 63 per cent admitted having had a small accident or a near miss as a result of taking hayfever medication.”

Now Mor< Th1n are warning that grass has been growing dangerously well this year and a spell of hot weather could unleash the mother of all pollen emissions, swamping the land with potentially lethal sneezing agents. Hay fever victims are being urged to surrender their driving licences and stay indoors indefinitely.

May 18, 2012

On Tuesday this week Bankstone honcho Dickon Tysoe and faithful sidekick Davy-Jane McManus completed a full day’s round-Yorkshire sightseeing in the former’s sporty Fiat Panda under the pretext of scoping out the route for this year’s charity monkeybiking extravaganza, Medieval Monkeys 2012.

Tysoe and Panda

There’s good news and bad news. The bad news is the pair had to endure the vilest of all lunchtime vileness having been reduced by desperate hunger to having recourse to fare variously described as Gammon Egg and Chips and a Cheese and Pickle Sandwich (how could that go wrong?! *) at the Downe Arms on the A170 between Pickering and Scarborough.

More importantly, the good news is that this year’s route (which now detours through the scenic Dalby Forest to avoid the aforementioned Downe Arms) is the BEST EVER MM ROUTE, consisting entirely of outrageously scenic scenicity and roads that might have been custom built for the all-round touring satisfaction of middle-aged men riding tiny motorbikes whilst decked out in medieval garb.

Which medievally relevant locations does this peerless itenary encompass, you may wonder. We’re just getting to that…

It begins on the morning of Saturday 7th July amidst the faded former milltown desolation that is Brighouse, but quickly puts such unpleasantness behind it as it speeds towards first stop Skipton Castle.

Castle Gates, Skipton

Next up is new stop Barden Tower, a majestic ruined hunting lodge nestled in the delightful Wharfe Valley near Bolton Abbey.

The famous private shed at Barden Tower

From there the cavalcade rides on to Ripley Castle near Harrogate, whose name derives from its notoriously unevenly constructed walls.

A charming vista

Then it’s off east again – via a sumptuous roadside repast courtesy of the estimable Mrs Tysoe, revered purveyor of coffee and flapjacks to previous monkeybiking charity expeditions – towards the precarious ruins of Sheriff Hutton Castle – location for the famous “lady with some dogs” scene in the MM2011 video on YouTube – where the owners have kindly laid on further (tea time) refreshments and a reception party of local notables and where the monkeybikers will be joined by one of Yorkshire Air Ambulance’s distinctive Yellow Helicopters (provided it is not busy doing its day job of rushing injured persons to hospital).

The famous Lady with some Dogs scene

Replete with tea and cakes, the entourage now remounts and turns North to take in the winding sylvan delights of Dalby forest – the finest imaginable way to reach overnight stop Scarborough whilst bypassing the dread Downe Arms, an establishment whose sparse lunchtime clientele appears to consist almost exclusively of paunchily malodorous snooker-playing trolls.

The gorse is in bloom above Dalby Forest

Taking care to avoid the misleadingly named Grand Hotel, which is probably where the trolls go on holiday, the party will then retire to their various hostelries around the seaside fleshpot that is Scarborough to gird themselves afresh for the evening’s delights – last year it was watching the Haye–Klitschko ‘battle of broken toe’ fiasco in a giant circular Disco Weatherspoons, or something – so pretty much anything could happen.

The dismal Grand Hotel, Scarborough

Scraping their sore-headed selves up from whatever flat surface they’ve collapsed upon the night before, the intrepid riders will start out bright and early on Sunday 8th July with a refreshingly brisk salty-aired zip up the coast to picturesque Whitby Abbey home (briefly) to suave eastern european type Dracula.

Put me down at once!

Turning inland the party next re-enters the North Yorks Moors Nat Park, heading west towards Rosedale Abbey where the staggering spectacle of the famed spiral staircase awaits.

The "famous" spiral staircase - all that remains of Rosedale Abbey

Up on to the moors again now – via gradients of such savage ferocity that no mere monkey bike could ever hope to overcome them without its rider getting off and pushing it the remaining 800 feet up to the next downhill or level bit – then down to Helmsley Castle on the southern fringes of the NYMs.

Gandalf at the Battle of Helmsley

Then just round the corner lies next stop Rievaulx Abbey – so incompletely raised to the ground during the dissolution of the monasteries that Henry VIII should have had somebody’s head for it.

The finest view of Rievaulx Abbey (centre) available from the car park

The finest view of Rievaulx Abbey (centre) available from the car park

Next up Tysoe’s planned a descent from the high moors more scenicly winding and precipitous than on any previous outing as a prelude to the long haul over to hospitable Knaresborough Castle and its surrounding pleasure grounds high above the River Nidd.

An unspoiled Knaresborough Castle and the Nidd

After that it’s all the way back to Brighouse and the final stop at BLD’s gaff by the station.

A minor obstacle (foot-deep ford)

All in all there’s barely a duff 100m on the entire route – and if that doesn’t please all concerned then there’s really no pleasing them.

You know you want this!

Feeling inspired? It’s not too late to enter your team (i.e. volunteer one or more people – yourself, perhaps – to ride a monkeybike round Yorkshire for charity – rather than anything pervy or improper). Simply contact Dickon Tysoe and he’ll sort everything out – including the bike if you haven’t already got one.

An "open road"

* Recipe for inedible cheese and pickle sandwich. Serve pre-grated week-old orange catering cheese between dry so-called brown bread, cut into triangles and serve with a ramikin of rancid pickle on the side and a handful of soggy oven chips, blackened on the outside, soggily uncooked in the middle: the perfect accompaniment to a flat acrid pint pulled from filth-clogged stinking pipes.

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