Middle son is off to Normandy today on a school trip. Given the weather forecasts, I was a little surprised at midnight last night to discover that the Port of Dover website hadn’t been updated since about 4pm.
I was even more surprised to find out at 6-00 this morning that it still hadn’t been updated. They were still telling me that “here in Dover it’s lovely and mild” or some such tosspot uselessness.
In fact the port website was updated just as I was going out, at 8:10 this morning:
“Here in Dover today, sea conditions in the Channel are rough, with a south-westerly gale, force 8, and the visibility is moderate to good.
“All sailings from the Eastern Docks with P&O Ferries and SeaFrance to Calais, Norfolkline to Dunkerque and LD Lines to Boulogne are currently running normally with space available, although delays are expected due to the adverse weather conditions.”
Nothing about how to find out about these adverse weather conditions.
When I got back from the school run at 8-45, I tried P&O’s own website, but it doesn’t seem to have occurred to them that people might want to find out if the ferries are actually running, and I couldn’t find anything at all useful. The “latest sailing updates” was last updated at 6am. These people seem to have an extraordinarily relaxed attitude to the concept of “latest”.
So I went back to the Port of Dover, where I found this:
“Passengers can get in touch with ferry operators using the following numbers:”
I had my breakfast and drank tea till I thought my blood pressure could take it, and I rang them. The first thing I got told was
“We are currently experiencing high call volumes.” Yeah, that would be because it’s very windy and your website is arsing useless.
“You will have to wait two minutes. Why not visit our website?” Because it’s arsing useless, that’s why.
Two minutes later: “You will have to wait two minutes. Don’t forget you can find out all about our services...online”
Oh yeah? It’s now 11:20 and the “latest sailing update” has still not been updated since 6am. Did I mention your website is arsing useless?
Two minutes later: “You will have to wait at least two minutes. We work harder to create a travel experience that you’ll remember for the right reasons.”
Bollocks. It’s 11:24 and I’m still waiting.
I finally got to speak to someone at 11:25 - She’s telling me there are delays of about twenty minutes as far as she knows, but the latest information she has was sent at 08:50 ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! She will ... go and ask someone. And this is supposed to be the information line?
So I wait. And wait. And listen to some psychopath’s choice of “soothing waiting music”. It’s fucking terrible. I can’t believe someone has selected this music for customers of a ferry company to listen to: It starts out reasonably enough, with
“Somewhere beyond the sea
Somewhere waitin’ for me
My lover stands on golden sands
And watches the ships that go sailin’.”
Which is fine, but it ends with :
“Happy we'll be beyond the sea
And never again I'll go sailing.
No more sailing…
So long sailing …
Bye, bye sailing... ”
So she eventually comes back and now she’s telling me there is a thirty minute delay, which she has got from some email somewhere. She has no live information and when I complained about that, she said it’s because I’ve been put through to the booking department! (I specifically rejected the “new booking” and “existing booking” options and went for the remaining option which was “all other”). I couldn’t get any sense out of her about who I’m supposed to ring about live running - I’m not entirely sure she understood the concept.
I eventually got out of her that the website is updated ONCE EVERY FOUR HOURS. I pointed out to her that I had waited - ON AN 0870 NUMBER - for over ten minutes, and that if they could actually be arsed to put some information on their website they would probably get rid of half of those calls. I told her all it needs is one sentence updating every twenty minutes, and that some companies actually use their websites to communicate with - hello? - their customers.
Not entirely sure she grasped that one, either. I just could not get any sense out of her about what number I’m supposed to ring for live information.
Look, it’s quite simple: that’s my son out there, OK, thirteen years old, first time abroad, in the middle - presumably - of the fucking English Channel in a force 8 south-westerly, and I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to want to know if the ferry has (a) sailed and (b) arrived safely. How hard can it be?