Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stranded on an island again?

Another party weekend is upon us on Waiheke and Fullers have been putting up posters on the ferry "advising" party goers to return on the 8.15pm and 10.15pm ferries. The only proper response is a Tui ad.
But it shouldn't be rocket science, really. Why not run an all-night boat, say, every two hours, so party goers can relax and enjoy themselves in the knowledge they can get back home at some stage? Basic good customer service and what a ferry service should be there for, I would have thought.
Let's hope the Red Cross is ready this time with blankets and hot drinks for the stranded.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Stranded on an island (update 2)

The plot thickens (via TV3):

"It has emerged the skipper of a ferry that last weekend left over a hundred passengers stranded on Waiheke Island, had refused to return for them.
The passengers couldn't all fit onto Fullers' last sailing.
The company says it's looking into why the skipper ignored a manager's request for him to make another trip.
And he says Fullers is making sure visitors to the Island's annual food and wine festival today are well catered for."

The gossip I heard on the ferry home last night was that some of the crew on the last vessel that night refused to return to Waiheke to pick up the rest of the passengers because in a previous instance last year they were not paid by Fullers for the overtime they put in then. So, if true (if Fullers management reads this, please feel free to clarify the issue), the complete fault lies with Fullers management, and not with the crew in question. Nobody is obliged to work for free, surely.
And now instead of fixing Fullers problems, such as running all night boats during summer weekends when a lot is happening on Waiheke, Fullers' owner Infratil resorts to a more effective weapon against its customers: blackmail:

"Listed infrastructure investor Infratil could exit its $250 million bus and ferry services if radical transport proposals are pursued by local government.
Infratil director Tim Brown said the proposals would ultimately see the country's bus and ferry networks run by bureaucrats who would collect the fares and pay private operators a fee to provide the service.
They would also have the right to buy the business if it did not meet local authority targets."

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Stranded on an island

It's not often Waiheke Island makes the front page of the largest newspaper in New Zealand two days in a row. The last time was when the foot & mouth hoax hit.
But this weekend it was all fun and games, what with several - newspaper reports say 120, my fellow ferry commuters this morning said there were only about 20 - Fullers ferry ticket holders left stranded on the island side after a good night out at various functions, parties and weddings. The ferry company neglected to provide sufficient capacity to take back all passengers, to whom they happily sold tickets earlier in the day. Worse, Fullers didn't even send over another boat to pick up the castaways, as they were wont to do in earlier (more customer-friendly) times. Nope, they raked in their ticket cash and the ferry management said:

"When most of the people choose to come back on the last sailing it makes it a little difficult."

Well, bugger me, Fullers, I know you like that, but isn't providing passenger services what you are actually in business for?
Now a few people face charges for "breaking into" the wharf building, because they were cold and hungry during their 8 hour wait overnight. Well, duh! Our famous island hospitality has been severely dented by this incident. At least the wharf building should have provided shelter - isn't that what it was built for? Every ticket sold by the ferry company includes a "wharf tax" so technically speaking they didn't break in but gained access to what they had paid for.
On the second day after the incident, Auckland Regional Council leader Mike Lee waded into the issue calling the ferry company excuses "nonsense". Pity the ARC has little power over Fullers because they run the Waiheke service as a pure monopoly without local body subsidies, which means they are un-beholden to any conditions on service and quality delivery, timetabling and fare structures. A pure capitalist text book case of bugger the customer for all he's worth.
Despite all this fun and nonsense, there is really a serious issue involved. Our island is basically dependent on its 1,000 daily commuters and the hordes of tourists who visit irregularly. All have to use Fullers Ferries who happily gouge whatever dollars they can get out of us and you (you can come on another ferry service from a suburban part of town but this is impractical). And if this suddenly becomes uneconomic our whole island economy will be far more affected than any foot and mouth disease can throw at us.

Stranded on an island (update 1)

The Herald ran an editorial on the issue:

"This is not the normal culture of a business that runs a public service; it is not even the culture of state-owned service providers these days. Fullers' behaviour last Saturday night was a throw-back to the days when so-called public servants would close the counter on a queue of customers if the clock struck closing time."

Indeed, and even writing letters to Fullers results in patronising and nonsensical replies, but which you're not allowed to make public!