Don’t Thank Me

One of SouthWest Trains’ more regular tannoyances is the following piece of found poetry which has been dinned into my brain through constant repetition:

‘This is a Customer Announcement’ by S.W. Trains

You must buy a ticket
Before you get on one of our trains.
If you can not show a valid ticket when you are asked,
You may have to pay a penalty fare!
Thank you.

I’ve finally worked out exactly what it is that’s so irritating about this particular ditty. It’s not the fact that they introduced penalty fares a scarce three months after they first provided any way of buying a ticket at stations like Kew Bridge, although that does grate a bit. It’s not even the fact that it’s read out in the bullyingly cheerful tones of a nursery nurse announcing to her charges that it’s yummy broccoli for tea and everyone is going to eat it all up!, although that grates too. It’s not even the fact that it has got into my head like a brainworm and now I can’t shake it out. It’s the little ‘thank you’ at the end that really gets my goat.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate politeness, Lord knows I do. But this is not politeness, it’s completely meaningless. It’s a parody of politeness. Thank you for what? For listening? (I didn’t have much choice). For paying their penalty fares? (that’s a little presumptious of them). For not ripping their ever loving loudspeaker off the nearest lamp-post and throwing it under a passing Eurostar? (I would, but I can’t reach). It’s like those computer recorded announcements that say ‘I’m sorry for any inconvenience this may cause’, when there’s no ‘I’ to be sorry, and besides they imply they rather doubt the inconvenience.

The fact is, they drafted that little statement somewhere in SWT HQ, and then must have thought – hmm, that sounds a bit harsh, doesn’t it? We’re basically accusing our customers of stealing from us. How can we soften it up a little? I know, let’s stick an entirely meaningless and redundant ‘thank you’ on the end. And get a primary school teacher to read it out in a jolly patronising sort of tone. Yeah, that’ll work.

For once, I’m with the government on this one. You know those new no-smoking signs they’ve made us put up everywhere? There’s no mealy-mouthed ‘thank you for not smoking’ about those, is there? They say what they mean and don’t beat around the bush: It is illegal to smoke on these premises. SWT could do with a little more of that sort of clarity, and a little less talking down to its passengers. Or to this one, at least.


11 responses to “Don’t Thank Me

  1. You know what I HATE most about that announcement? Her silly posh voice. It all sounds so flat. And serene. Considering I am usually looking and smelling like a tinned fish when rammed into my SWT service, I am hardly the picture of serenity and don’t want to be reminded!! đŸ™‚

  2. Well at least on the really rammed trains they can’t get the inspectors through to administer the penalty fares …

  3. How about replacing it with,”Buy a ticket or we throw you under the next train, dude.”

  4. yep. That would do it.

    Could live without the ‘dude’ part though

  5. Let’s have more Found Poetry – I love it!

    I was introduced to the concept of Found Poetry by Radio 4’s Word of Mouth, presented by Michael Rosen. As chance would have it, a few weeks later I was reading a review of one of his books on Amazon –

    Carrying the Elephant by Michael Rosen

    Is a book of prose poems,
    Spanning decades,
    And seeing time open and close.

    Reading this book is to laugh
    And reading it to cry
    And reading to revisit language as language
    Is not for the bucks or the glory,
    But like to live as a human.


    The area is bigger than Mexico City.

    (I live in hope of discovering others)

  6. Jim, you’re in danger of raising the tone of this blog.

  7. Oh, OK then. I’ll confess to driving a BMW and to hating all cyclists as well as liking poetry.

    There, is that better? Back on topic…

  8. Much better thanks.

    ALL cyclists?

  9. I heard that announcement for the first time recently as i have not travelled on trains for ages. I happen to be travelling on my megabus £1 ticket and was sitting at the end carriage where all us cheapos were sent. i remember those days when u can buy ur ticket on board.

  10. yeah, I must work out how to get one of those £1 tickets one of these days

  11. Pingback: Tickets Please, Pretty Please « Disgruntled Commuter

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