Sunday, 10 January 2016

The sincerity of computers

"Dear Mr Wenham,..." (sic) So begins an undated letter to me about renewing my blue badge, or as the letter prefers, my Blue Badge. Its ending has been puzzling me.
"Yours sincerely
 Oxfordshire County Council" (sic).

Can a county council really be sincere, I wonder, writing to me about my old blue badge, telling me to cut it up and post it back to them? I suspect not. When I was first eligible for a blue badge, I received a letter from a polite young, I imagine, lady, whose name I still recall. She could be and, I'm sure, was sincere. However, there's no longer any name anywhere in sight on the letter. So what am I to conclude?

My conclusion, as a former RSA Basic Clerical Skills moderator, is this: that the polite and literate Ms Cundy has been replaced by semi-literate automated computer software. Clearly the letter is generated from a database (possibly programmed by the said Ms Cundy before her removal). And some oaf has created a standard letter format with inconsistencies of punctuation (decide whether you will use commas or not in the address and signing-zoff lines) and the most inappropriate of signing-off phrases.

So now, I receive a letter from a machine which tells me it is sincere. Harrumph! In the words of Victor Meldrew, I don't believe it. What next? xxx at the bottom? A series of emoticons? Leave out the pretence at sincerity, please. That would be at least honest. Or how about employing another young person who needs a job?