Friday, March 22, 2013

The Springfield Three

This is nothing to do with The Simpsons, so if that's how you ended up here, you can stop reading and look elsewhere.

I watched an American programme today on the ID channel, called "Disappeared". Perhaps unsurprisingly, it's a programme which charts - mainly - cases of people who have gone missing and never been found. So far, so normal.

Today's episode however, has bothered me a great deal since it was on. So much so that for the first time in over a year, I feel the urge to write something.

If you think the UK police are incompetent, please read this and be AMAZED by the ending.

Here's the background as much as I can guarantee.

It's Missouri, in 1992. There are two girls, Suzie Streeter, 19, and Stacy McCall, 18, who, after their graduation ceremony, go to a party. After the party ends, they intended to go to one place (a motel) but decide against it, preferring to stay at a friend's house. But this friend's house is full of her out-of-state relatives (who were there for the graduation ceremony) so Stacy goes home with Suzie, to the house of Suzie's mother, Sherrill Levitt.

Got that? Were supposed to go to place A, thought about going to place B, ended up at place C, which was Suzie Streeter's mother's house. Next morning, the two girls are due to meet up with the other friend (the one with out-of-state relatives) and go to a water park near the motel they were supposed to have stayed in but didn't. The friend waits for a phone call from them (this is in the days before mobile phones) but doesn't hear anything and worries that they've gone on without her. In order to check what is going on, she drives over to the Sherrill Levitt's house where they had spent the night.

Three cars are there (the girls had travelled separately in two cars, Sherrill Levitt also had a car), their three handbags are there, but the three people are not.

Police are eventually called when it becomes obvious that something untoward has gone on. Investigation starts.

Fast-forward 15 years, to 2007. A local newspaper publishes a sad anniversary piece about this unsolved disappearance. There's a mention in the report about the police receiving messages on their tip line about the three women being buried in the concrete flooring of a hospital's car park. The police don't believe this.

"Pffft, psychics" you can pretty much hear in the text.

It turns out that in 2006 (a year earlier) Kathee Baird, an investigative reporter, had heard rumours about the car park being the location of the bodies, and had hired a ground penetrating radar specialist to scan the car park. The specialist, Rick Norland, had previously worked on the World Trade Center site after the 9/11 attacks, when he was searching for bodies. Baird says she did not provide Norland with any information prior to him scanning the area.

Norland says his scans show three anomalies, roughly 3 feet below the surface of the cement. Two were side by side; the third was by itself. The anomalies were about 2 feet wide, and the soil changes were between 5 and 7 feet long.

"These anomalies are very consistent with what a gravesite would look like," Norland said. "The next thing would be to come back in and do positive identification by a core sample - drill down through there and poke a camera or some sort of device in there and examine what is there. That way you can determine what that anomaly is."

Both Baird and Norland took their findings to police (this is in 2006, remember).

"We talked to the police a couple times, and they are very sceptical of the equipment and what I did," Norland said. "The detectives said, 'I don't know what it is.' They were very adamant about not proceeding forward."

So adamant, that a year later, FIFTEEN YEARS into an investigation of the disappearance of three women, the police were essentially decrying the evidence that Baird and Norland had brought them as being equivalent to the ravings of "psychics".

And this, I will remind you, is THIS century, in the age of the internet, and probably a decade after anyone who ever watched Time Team in the UK was aware of ground penetrating radar.

"Still," I thought to myself, "it can't take that long to do a little reading up, can it?"

Fast-forward to 2011, and Investigation Discovery Channel make the "Disappeared" TV episode I'm sitting watching. At the end of the show, there's a news report which says the police and hospital administrators are about to have meetings about digging up the car park. And the show ends.

"So" I think, "they must have more information by now", and I have a look online.

I suggest you give it a go. There's a Wiki page on it, which links to a page written by Kathee Baird in 2009 prior to Stacy McCall's mother being interviewed on TV about the investigation. The comments underneath this article gave me some answers about whether the police have any information or people in custody.

No, no they haven't. Not only do they not have any more information, they haven't even gotten around to DIGGING UP THE CAR PARK.

Over a year since the programme was broadcast, nearly seven years since the area was scanned, the car park remains completely untouched!

I am at a loss to understand how. How can the police justify not digging a series of holes and sticking a camera into them? Just to prove it's not the area where the bodies are, at the very least. The families have been waiting for over 20 years for resolution, and it would take what, six hours? To clear up the hospital car park location, one way or the other, it would take them less than one working day.

Words fail me.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

A Year Has Passed Since I Wrote My Note

As the line goes from the Police song "Message In A Bottle", but in this instance refers to how long it has been since I last posted anything.

It's been an odd year. But as it was 2011 that would make sense. This is 2012 so should be an even year.

I've now been diagnosed with Bi-Polar Effective Disorder. Manic Depression to you and me, but mine seems to have more emphasis on the depression than the mania. Still, after referrals, different medications and testing by various doctors, I am signed off from looking for work for the minute. I have new meds - the sixth different lot I've been prescribed - and they seem to be working so far.

I know I'm not cured and it's likely I never will be. I am more aware of when my depressive episodes are coming and some tricks to try and pull myself out of them.

I've come a long way, but there's still a longer distance to go.

I've been to Luxembourg twice, Botswana once and nowhere far too frequently.

I've had theories regarding how Geordie is actually the finest of all languages and that its importance in Modern English is sorely overlooked. Some of this still appears true now, but some seems quite fanciful in retrospect.

I've learned more about sewing machines than I thought I would ever know and it still isn't very much.

I've realised that my mother had some very good tips for life and some that were utterly insane. I am still learning which is which. I've also realised that she made words up. I'm not sure if she realised they were made up ("instricated" for example, meaning to have gotten yourself into a situation - physical or otherwise - from which you have difficulty getting out of because you and the situation have become one. I like to think of this as being a contraction of "intrinsically implicated", but suspect she was just a little bit mad.)

I've discovered the joy of an Ouma Rusk and where you can get them in the UK.

I've argued with Emirates airline, various banks, the DWP, my family and my demons. At the moment, I would consider my record to be less than convincing, but if I can manage to only win the one with my demons, that would be a fine result.

I've realised just how ill I actually am and that my depression is not my friend. It seems odd to say that, but up until very recently, I thought my depression was actually responsible for keeping me alive. Being too negative to attempt suicide (because I thought I would do it wrong and end up being paralysed from the neck down) seemed benevolent until I considered that the reason I was feeling suicidal in the first place was down to the same depression.

I hope I'm through the worst of it, but if this is just the eye of the storm, I'll be better prepared for the tail end of the hurricane when it comes.

You may struggle to understand what goes on in my head at times. Imagine what it feels like for me when I can't understand it either.

You may think I am ignoring you because I've not contacted you or haven't replied to a phone call, email or text. I'm not, I'm just having a major communication breakdown in general and can't stop the conversations in my head long enough to be able to speak to anyone clearly.

You may think I should just cheer up & snap out of it. So do I. Sadly, it's not quite that simple and will require medical and psychological intervention. Which is not easy for me as my illness has helped me build a huge distrust of psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and practitioners of CBT.

You may not be prepared to wait for me to be back to normal & this is fair enough. However, unless you were romantically attached to me or lived in the same house as me, what you consider to be me being normal is probably me being manic.

You may want to write your own note to me. I will try to reply. It may take me a while though.

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Monday, February 07, 2011

My Lucky Winning Streak Continues!

Ref No: UK/9420X2/68
Batch No: 074/05/ZY369

Dear Lucky Winner,

This is to inform you that your email address was selected for a cash
prize of 1,500,000.00 Great British Pounds) held on the 4TH OF FEBUARY
2011 in London Uk Lottery Email Draw.

Claims Agent Name: Mr Jack Smith


Provide the information below;
Mike Vilasma
Co-ordinator(Online Promo Programme)
Having checked the headers, this seemed to have been sent from Brazil. Still, £1.5m isn't to be sniffed at, so a reply was sent.

Hello Mr Smith,

Thank you for confirming my win. Before I send you any information, can you
explain to me why your mail was sent from Brazil?

And I'd like the money in cash or narcotics please.


Much to my surprise, I got a reply this very evening.

I got your email,must winner this year have been complaining of similar problem.
The problem is from our network provider. you said you need your money in cash
this means that the money will be delivered to you by diplomat.
Note you will be responsible for all the expanses to deliver it to you
Delightful work there fella! Not sure what my expanses have got to do with anything, and why I need a diplomat from Liverpool (do they even do diplomacy in Liverpool?). Still, it did give me a chance to reply.

Good evening to you!

Thank you for your response.

I live in London, so I don't think it would be necessary for a diplomat to deliver my £1.5m. If it's more convenient, I could pop up to Liverpool and meet you at the National Lottery Tower? According to my sat nav, the National Lottery Tower is just off Prescot Road, so if you'd like, I could buy us lunch in the Frankie & Benny's just down the road from there. It would be my treat, seeing as I'm a millionaire and everything!

The reason I need my winnings in cash is due to me not having a bank account. I could probably borrow some money off someone to pay for me to get up to Liverpool, so please let me know whether that is suitable.

Hope to speak to you soon.

Fingers crossed, eh?


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

419 Email Of The Day
Hello My Dear

I am Mrs Jeanette Ogasu, please I need your help in this lucrative business that I am about to present to you, since after the death of my late husband Mr. Abraham Ogasu of Niger Delta Area of Nigeria, who was the paramount leader of the Niger Delta Developing Communities and during his time, he did governs with sense of humanity and peace.

I know we have not met before but I am contacting you with due sense of humanity responsibility and the few awareness that you will give it a mutual understanding. I am soliciting for an assistance to move a secured consignment (trunk box) with the sum $2.5 million United States Dollars to your country for investment. These funds is presently in a security company in United Kingdom for safety since on the 12-2-2009. The real content of the consignment was not declared as it was kept as Family Legacy by my late husband, I need you as partner to assist in transferring the fund and provide good investment plans for it.

The fund will be under your investment control for three years during which only the profit will be shared annually 70% for me and 30% for you annually. I am a Christian with the fear of GOD in any thing I am doing, so please I want us to build trust to each other. I will appreciate your urgent response as soon as possible for further directives on how to achieve this transaction successfully.

Thanks in anticipation of your response.
Best regards
Mrs. Jeanette Ogasu
Please reply through {}

Dear Mrs Ogasu,

Thank you for taking the time to contact me. Unfortunately your email seems to have come through to the wrong person as I too was the wife of Mr. Abraham Ogasu - but I am having trouble getting his personal safety deposit box *out* of the country.

Perhaps we could meet up to swap boxes? I believe the one I have is also filled with US$2.5million. Or cats. It could be anything to be honest, as it's the deposit box Mr Ogasu used to share with that nice Dr Shrodinger and I won't know what's in it unless I open it.

I have no interest of investing the money, but instead will spend the money on a fine selection of hats and scarily loud shirts.

If you can forward your bank details to me, I would appreciate this greatly.

Many thanks for your time

Mrs Odette Ogasu


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Amusing Myself With Moben Kitchens.

I've decided to email every company that irritates me. Not people, for the moment, but I may expand my remit as and when I run out of companies I dislike.

This week, Moben Kitchens are up. If you haven't seen their advert, here's the one they broadcast before Xmas.

Now listen carefully to the woman 12 seconds in who gives out the telephone number. Hear it? Listen again if you didn't, as the sound quality isn't as good as the broadcast version on TV.

Right, that should explain this mail to Moben.
Why, in your current adverts, do you use an actress who can't say the word "three" to be the person to give out your telephone number?

While it is entertaining to hear your number as "oh eight hundred four won fwee four won fwee" it is beginning to grate somewhat.

How badly did the other actresses say it so that you felt she would be the best?

Any information would be gratefully received. Plus if you'd like me to do the voice over, I am incredibly cheap, but I do sound Northern.
Oddly enough I've not had a reply yet.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Sainsbury's: The End Of The Love Affair.

Before we begin, I'd like to point out that I've been a loyal customer of Sainsbury's for about 15 years, maybe more. For the past few years my local branch has been Streatham Common, and up until mid-2010, I was delighted with the store. I'd even sent them an email telling them how much I enjoyed shopping there.

I used to be fairly happy with the prices that I paid, until last week when I noticed that some prices had increased by 15% or more pretty much overnight. Previous Friday, three cartons of 1 litre own brand juice were £2, by Tuesday this was £2.30. Previous Friday, Whiskas Katzini was 91p a pack, by Tuesday, £1.02. You'll see all of this in the email conversations below (if you can be bothered to read them) but thought you should be aware that I do pay attention to prices and can do math/maths.

So my first contact with Sainsbury's Customer Services (via their website form) was this;
We have been loyal customers of Sainsburys for over 10 years & have normally been very pleased with the prices charged. However, over the past three weeks, I have seen prices on items that I buy going up by over 15%.

While I did expect some prices to rise due to the increases in VAT & fuel duty, I am astounded that you can justify an increase of 11p on Katzini, 30p on three own-brand one litre juice cartons & over 10p on a loaf of instore bread.

When I asked about the increase in food prices, I was informed that this was due to "VAT increases" which is interesting as I was under the - perhaps misguided - impression that most of food was VAT free.

("VAT increases" was, by the way, also offered as the explanation at our local Streatham store for why there were four different prices of the same product on display in the vegetable section. I would include a picture of this, but there's no way of attaching it on your website.)

I asked the customer services department in Streatham Common if it was to them I should complain about the prices, but they tell me it is a national pricing decision and I should contact head office, hence this email. Can you please tell me why some of your prices have gone up by such a large amount? Are you trying to con the consumer into thinking that the price rise is due to VAT increases?

This is disgraceful behaviour by a supermarket which is currently advertising that there are 974 price cuts around the store. Can you send me a list of the products that have been reduced in price and their availability, as the majority of red shelf edge labels seem to refer to products that are not on the shelf.

Any response would be welcomed.
Okay, so my first mistake was that "any response" would be welcomed. I realise now that I should have been more specific. I'll save you the auto-responder thanking me for my feedback, and skip to the first reply I got from a human.
Thanks for your email about our recent price rises

We’re committed to offering great quality food at fair prices which is sourced with integrity. We regularly review our prices to make sure we offer value for money whilst remaining competitive. Although we try to keep our pricing as fair as possible sometime prices can go up as well as down.

There are lots of factors which can affect pricing, from rising costs of raw materials, to the production and packaging and even transportation. Whilst we try to absorb these increases for as long as possible, sometimes we eventually have to put the price up. I can’t be anymore specific why some of our products have become dearer, but I do hope that you’ll still find your overall cost of shopping at Sainsbury’s is good value.

I’m grateful to you for taking the time to contact us as your feedback helps us to improve our products and services. We look forward to seeing you again soon.
Maybe it's just me, but I was hoping for more of an actual reply to the points I'd raised than what felt like a cut & paste job of standard answers. So I replied to them.
Thanks for sending me a reply, of sorts.

As I mentioned in my email, I understand that VAT and fuel duty increases affect prices. I am also open to the idea that raw material costs have gone up and that this could affect prices in the future (such as the floods in Australia causing flour prices to increase worldwide due to the likely shortage). What I still don't understand is why some of your prices have gone up by more than 12% in a week.

If you were absorbing increases in costs over a long period of time, and now need to increase prices, can I suggest a phased increase, rather than suddenly lumping 12% on? As a shopper, if you put something up by 2p a week over 5 weeks, I'm less likely to notice and/or feel ripped off than by you suddenly pushing the price up by 10p overnight without any warning/explanation - while simultaneously seeing advertising designed to give me the impression that you have cut prices throughout the store.

Your methodology seems flawed, as you are now making me think my shopping is no longer good value as I am acutely aware that the prices have just shot up by 10-12%. Couple this with your instore customer service staff trying vainly to pass off every price rise as being due to the VAT increases - on items not even within the remit of VAT - and the whole shopping experience feels like a rip-off. You have essentially done the exact opposite of what you have set out to achieve.

I also note that despite me asking for a list of your 900+ half-price items (surely just a cut & paste from somewhere) and my comments about their apparent lack of availability in our local store, you have chosen to not respond to this part of my query. Could you possibly respond to it this time?

While I'm here, could you also confirm whether there are 100s or 1000s of products that have been reduced in price as your website shows both numbers on the same page. I've attached a screenshot so you can see what I'm talking about. (Click on the photo to embiggen)
And I've also attached a photo which shows the multiple prices on display for the same product that I mentioned in the previous email but couldn't attach via your website. (Click on the photo to embiggen)
Having previously commended the Streatham Common store, I was hoping that my comments in the previous mail regarding the price increases, the lack of staff knowledge about why the prices have increased, the lack of availability of your half-price items etc would possibly be mentioned in your reply. Or that you had passed them on to the store manager. I'm sorry that you didn't feel it necessary to do so.

Something I'd also intended including in the original email, but coincides nicely with my feelings of being ripped off, are when you keep prices on certain items the same, but reduce the amount of product. You used to do a circular goat cheese tart with six pieces of cheese on it. This then was reincarnated as a rectangular goat cheese tart with five pieces of cheese for exactly the same price. You used to do a fairly priced bag of basic brocolli. The bag shape changed, the amount of stalk increased and the amount of useable brocolli reduced. Price remained the same. The number of spring onions in a bunch went down. Price remained the same.

I noticed these things at the time and felt like Sainsbury's was trying to deceive me, but didn't bother mailing you. I'm beginning to suspect that I shouldn't have bothered mailing you this time either and should just take my business elsewhere.

Any comments or further information you can provide would be appreciated.
Which may seem harsh, but I was feeling like I was being brushed off. And I hate feeling like I'm being brushed off by companies that I actually like. Again, I'll save you the auto-response and go straight to the next mail I sent them, which includes their email to me. The bits in italic are their mail.
I have replied to this mail within the "reply" you sent me.

Thanks for your email. I’m sorry our response wasn’t satisfactory.

I'm beginning to expect it, to be honest. Which saddens me, as I try to make the mail I send to you very clear and do expect some level of actual answers in any response I receive.

I’ve passed your request for the list of products which are on sale at half price to our marketing team. I will email this to you as soon as I get it.

You know what, I suspect there's going to be no point as I can't actually see myself visiting Sainsbury's ever again.

The advert one the website states there are 100s of great offers at the moment, which there are. The statement of bringing you low prices on 1000s of products every week is basically stating we have many products at prices.

Well thanks for reading through what you'd written and checking it made sense before you bothered sending it. Surely all your products are "at prices", not just many of them? As you could see from the picture I attached last time, part of the problem is discovering just which of the prices on display are actually the correct one for the product. Did you see the picture I sent? I'm assuming that you didn't, or are ignoring it, as you haven't made mention of it in the reply.

Your comments on colleagues not being aware of prices increasing and stock availability have been fed back to the Streatham Common store. They will monitor the situation and ensure colleagues are fully trained in areas needed. Our colleagues won’t always be aware why some items have increased and may have to find out.

Yeah, or they could do what they've done repeatedly to me and just make up an answer and claim it's due to VAT. Thank you for passing my comments on to the store, although I won't be back in there to see if there's any improvement. Could you also mention to them that leaving out of date vegetables in the section right beneath the price label, while having the in date version of the same vegetable just a couple of feet further down isn't acceptable either? Could you also ask them why there's less people on the cigarette kiosk on a Saturday than there is on a Wednesday afternoon?

It's not just Streatham Common store I have issues with, I've tried shopping in the Wandsworth/Vauxhall branch and the one on Purley Way as I honestly did enjoy shopping at Sainsbury's. It made no difference, the problems seem endemic: no-one who works for you seems to care about the shop anymore. I personally think that there will be more customers who feel that if the staff don't care, then why should they - the customer - pay more for their products, get smaller portions, and "mis-informed" by staff when they could be getting the same level of service at Asda.

Hopefully you won't lose too many other shoppers or your shareholders - for whom you must need to increase your prices to maintain your profits - are going to get seriously unhappy when people stop shopping at Sainsbury's altogether. I cannot be the only shopper to complain about you increasing prices by over 15%, and I cannot be the only person who has contacted you and been unhappy at the non-reply I've had back. Is there anyone in charge of your Customer Service department? Do they know what mails are coming in and going out?

Our products are constantly reviewed and sometimes changed to try and improve them.

With the Basic brocolli you made the package smaller, the product worse and kept the price the same. With the tart I also mentioned in the previous email, you decreased the amount of goats cheese and kept the price the same. The only improvement made is in the profit margin as you've reduced the cost of manufacture. If you'd like to inform me of any products where you've increased the size of the portion, or added costlier ingredients without increasing the sale price, please enlighten me as I must have missed them.

We try our best to supply high quality products at fair prices whilst still remaining competitive.

You might want to try a bit harder then, as I can do a comparable shop for less at Waitrose. Would you like a copy of my receipt?

We would never intentionally deceive our customers and want you to be able to take advantage of the vast amount of products we have.

I'll ignore the non-sequitur in that sentence, but point out that by not telling the consumer that the product they're paying the same price for is now smaller than it used to be isn't exactly going to inspire trust and confidence, is it? Particularly when a fellow shopper points it out to them as I did the last time I was in Sainsbury's. I may well start doing it online as well, just to reach out and connect with as many people as possible.

We appreciate your patience.

What patience are you appreciating? Do you appreciate my sense of humour, my attire or my ability to juggle, none of which have been evident either?

If you'd like to get someone who can string a few words together that make sense, and maybe sit them next to someone who can answer any of my queries from any of my emails, please do reply. If that's beyond you, then please don't bother.
So that's where it stands. I'm waiting to see if I get a reply, but I'm not holding my breath.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Clear And Helpful Pricing Of Sainsbury's

In case you can't see it well enough there are three separate prices for the same product (loose cauliflower) varying from £1.39 to £1.49.

I mentioned this to Customer Services instore and was told that it might have been due to VAT changes. I pointed out that fresh vegetables were VAT exempt, and left.

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