Saturday, December 08, 2007

Professionals who perform like amateurs

I'm involved with a local dramatic society and it's pantomime season. We're strictly an amateur outfit, putting on shows for fun and entertainment, but we try to be professional in everything we do. Alas, this sometimes brings us into contact with professional organisations who perform more like stumbling amateurs. Honestly, sometimes you have to wonder how they stay in business.

For example, we decided to hire a backcloth for our show. I chose the cloth from a professional company, phoned in my order, confirmed it by email and our treasurer paid in advance and on time. Every detail was agreed: which cloth, to what address it should be delivered and on which two days it should be delivered. It was meant to arrive Thursday this week, but didn't. I phoned the professionals.

Yes, the cloth has been despatch, it will be with you today [Thursday] or tomorrow [Friday]. Fine. Fast forward to Friday - still no cloth. Phone the professionals, who in turn phoned the professional couriers they use to deliver theatrical cloths. The couriers say the cloth has been delivered, but not to my address. No, it went to the Biggar Little Theatre - a place that doesn't exist.

It was signed for by a man whose name I don't recognise. Oh, and it was left at reception - of a place that doesn't exist. I point out the fallacy in this, so the professional hire company call back the professional couriers. The story changes. Now it seems the cloth was left at a particular business at a particular address in town, where the couriers used to deliver our cloths five years ago.

Alas, this is another fallacy. The particular address has since been pulled down, and the business has moved to another location and changed hands. Fine. A series of phone calls by me uncovers the fact that the cloth went to a third address, arriving a week early and was signed for by a man with no connection by our amateur company. So the professional couriers have not covered themselves in glory.

After detective work, I track down the man with the cloth and he goes out of his way to deliver to my home - the place where it was meant to come in the first place. Fine. This morning I take the cloth to the venue and unroll it in preparation for hanging, because tomorrow [Sunday] is dress rehearsal day - the last chance to practise with the cloth in place before opening night.

Alas, the trifecta of cock-ups is complete. The professionals have sent us the wrong cloth. We asked for a ballroom cloth with a code ending in 99. They sent us a cloth depicting a terrace on the Med, with a code ending in 98. Congratulations, professionals! You delivered a cloth to the wrong address, on the wrong day - and it's the wrong cloth. I'm not sure if this could have gone worse.

Professionals? They don't deserve the name. Give me amateurs any day; at least they aspire to perform in a professional way.

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