Monday, February 14, 2011

Clarkson on UKplc

Jeremy ClarksonJeremy Clarkson

Clarkson on UKplc

Now that Mr Cameron has decided to cut costs by abolishing the army, the navy, the air force, the NHS, all benefits to everyone, family allowance, every school in the land, road building and the Commonwealth, several people are going to lose their jobs.
There's no alternative. Britain used to be a player on the world stage, and now it isn't any more. We are poor, and we need to get used to the idea that we can't have plasma televisions when we are on the dole. Or aircraft carriers. Or anything. And that's an end of it.
In France and Greece, where similar steps are being taken to stave off a total collapse of the economy, a great many people have taken to the streets and spent some time throwing bits of street furniture at policemen. I should imagine this is extremely good fun, but ultimately, it's not terribly constructive. You just end up with streaming eyes.
Far better to take your redundancy money, and start a business. That's what I did back in the early Eighties when I realised I was completely unemployable. I forced myself to have an idea for a new company every day until eventually, while driving through Watlington, I suddenly hit upon the idea of opening a video shop. Luckily, I became very drunk that night and in the morning, couldn't for the life of me remember the business I'd chosen... and became a freelance motoring correspondent instead.
Back then, you could go to the council for grants to help you get started. Hammersmith and Fulham ratepayers actually bought all my headed notepaper, but I like to think that over the years, I've paid the tax-payer back.
I hope Mr Cameron does something similar today. I would like to see a government-backed, X-Factor-style, Dragon's Den scheme where people with good ideas and the drive of a V8 are rewarded with every possible shred of help. It takes balls to crawl from under the comfort blanket of a salary and take those first few tottery steps into the world of remortgaged houses and crappy holidays. But the rewards, if you make it, make every sacrifice worthwhile. You don't have to wear a suit, for a kick-off.
"But", you might think, "I am useless. I have no GSCEs. My thumbs don't oppose. I can't form a sentence. And I am as attractive as an open wound." For sure, this sort of list precludes you from being the governor of the Bank of England, or a male model. But it didn't stop John Prescott from becoming deputy prime minister. And it wouldn't stop you from being, say, a freelance tester for Slumberdown. That's one of the businesses I thought about years ago. Someone has to test mattresses to make sure they're comfy. Why shouldn't it be you? Beer needs testing too. And condoms.
But since this is a motoring website, I presume you would like to work in some way with cars. Well, we have forgotten how to make money from making cars in this country. So don't even think about making a supercar in your shed because it will be terrible, and we will laugh at it on TopGear. But don't be disheartened. You can still make money from motors, even if you're not actually making the motors themselves.

"Don�t even think about making a supercar in your shed because it will be terrible, and we will laugh at it on TopGear"
I recently took my Range Rover in for a service. Instead of making sure it was screwed together properly and changing the oil - which is what I'd expected them to do - they ruined it and sent it back, a day later than promised with a bill for six-hundred-and-something quid, and a note saying that they needed to order parts for all the jobs that needed doing.
As a result, I shall not be troubling Hartwell Land Rover of Oxford ever again. When it comes to servicing cars, my dog would make a better job. And that's where you come in.
It's not especially hard to change the oil, fit new spark plugs and new brake pads. I could do it. Except for the pads, obviously. And maybe the oil. I usually put it into the wrong place and drive along with a very smeary windscreen for a while. Or lots of smoke coming out of the exhaust. Spark plugs are tricky too.
But Richard Hammond could certainly do it, and he's an imbecile. James would be alright too, but obviously, you'd be without your car for about 16 years. And that takes me back to my original point. If you are even vaguely practical, you could tool around Oxfordshire, where there are many Range Rovers, and scoop up all the business that Hartwell doesn't seem to want.
It's not just Land Rover either. A few years ago, Mercedes decided that customer care was not important, and while they didn't actually send my car back with a dog turd under the seat, you could certainly tell they'd thought about it.
When my SL55 needed its first service, they made my wife use a payphone to call for a cab to get her home. Let me flesh that out for you a bit. I'd bought what was very nearly a �100,000 car, but they still thought it was OK to charge 10p to call for a taxi because they couldn't be bothered to find a crummy A Class to get my wife home.
Mercedes is now a lot better, but it still isn't good enough. Because when my current car needs attention, they pick it up, do the work, clean it and bring it home. But there are no flowers. There is no letter proclaiming that I have the brains of a God and buttocks like ostrich eggs.
That's all you'd have to do to steal all their business. Suck up to the customers when they come through the door. Offer them tea. Coffee. Your secretary. Anything you can think of. Flatter them. Tell the ladies that they are looking more beautiful with each passing day, and the gentlemen that you like Pringle jumpers very much as well. It costs you nothing, but will keep them coming back.
My mother recently asked her local Honda dealer to give her a call about replacing her Jazz. They forgot. So now she has a Golf instead. Which means there's an opening if you live in the Peterborough area. Go round to all the little old ladies in the area with a selection of Honda brochures, talk for a little while about rationing and how you wished you'd done national service - they love all that - and then flog them a car. It's easy-peasy-lemon-not-difficult.
It's not just sales and servicing where you can clean up. Many chauffeurs who patrol the city streets at night in clapped out old E-Class Mercs don't know where they are going and have smelly bottoms. Have a shower once in a while. Put a couple of glossy magazines in the back. Learn your way around the town and soon you will be working the hours that take your fancy and earning more than you did when you were the deputy outreach manager for Middlesbrough social services.
None of the jobs I've mentioned here require any qualifications, or even much in the way of spelling. You could be an ape and make a decent fist of it. Just so long as you are a nice ape.
Niceness is key. You don't need to be cheaper than the next guy, or better-looking, or faster. But if you're nice, customers will keep coming back. The money will keep rolling in. Taxes will be paid, and one day, when the country's all fixed, we might be able to build a little hospital or two.
This article was originally published in the Awards issue of Car Evolution magazine

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