Sunday, 3 October 2010

Open Studios, Day 1

WASPS Open Studios Weekend is in its 10th annual open studios event. Workshop and Artist Studio Provision Scotland - to give it its official name - is my landlord. The building I am in is one of the largest having 86 studios and over 100 artists working in the Hanson Street building which they keep trying to brand as WASPS Factory. Of course, it once was a tobacco factory, but I do not think anything being done in the building now is remotely like a factory - unless it relates to low wages.

Open Studios weekend is my annual opportunity to give the studio a deep clean. Possibly I get too involved in re-arranging equipment, benches, shelves, and storage, but I does make a difference as you can see from the entrance.

And from the back, near the kilns, it is a totally transformed place. People say it looks larger. I say I have just cleared up all the accumulated junk of the past year.

Bet even when I say that, I am proud of what has been achieved.

As I arrived today before the opening time, I noticed no one had done much about the front of the building. No one had cleared the weeds in the car park. No one had swept the area outside the entrance. And I had not pruned the clematis as I promised myself I would do - tomorrow - for the last month. So today I did some of these things. I also pruned the three varieties of clematis that grow outside the sliding door of my studio. I found the flowers with amazingly long stamens had transformed themselves after the petals fell into this intricate spiral of strands. I think something needs to be done with this image.

The day was interesting for the number of people I met and talked with. People interested in how I assemble leaded glass, who say with amazement "So, you do repairs too!!", people who admire the work on display, people who are interested in the techniques, or the tools, or the equipment, people who admit they are artists coming round to see how other people do something. All these people are interesting and entertaining, even the person who told a friend that "He is useless. He takes far too long to do a commission" and then went into the one space set aside as private.

The day is always stressful because you are meeting new people, responding to questions, trying to do several things at once all the time. Lunch was at 2:30 standing at a bench explaining to someone how the glass fits into the came, for example.

But the day was made more stressful, by finding out on Friday that the new point of sale credit card machine that I have had for 6 weeks was not working. Phoned the help line and after three times getting the message "We are receiving a high volume of calls today. Please leave your name and telephone number and we will contact you as soon as possible" I got a person who after taking a number of details from me informed me that my problem would be put to his team on Monday. He was a facilitator [!] taking details for others to work on at some other time. As I was trying to sort a problem with a - now disappeared - customer, I thought I was quite reasonable in saying "This is not acceptable! I need this sorted today. I have a big weekend coming up. I need to have this working now!" He conceded that it was very frustrating to be unable to sort the problem immediately, but if I really needed things sorted this weekend, I could phone on Saturday morning [! why not today?].

I duly phoned and left messages, until at 11:00 I got a person! Explained the problem. He has to contact the bank as - after all - he only represents the supplier of the machine, not the financial institution. After a 15minute wait while he phoned the bank, he tells me that the bank does not have my machine registered with my merchant number. So he can do nothing until Monday.

So I finally find a help number for the bank and they tell me "Yes, I can see from the computer that you are registered for this machine. Your machine reports a bad MAC? Well there is nothing I can do about that. It is the POS supplier's problem. You must contact them and they will arrange for a new MAC to be issued."

More left messages and on only the third call I got a person. After giving some details, he said "You are the person I talked to earlier today aren't you?" Yes, I am. These are the instructions I have received from the bank which now says I can recognise my merchant number and machine." He says he will have to contact the bank, but to avoid keeping me on the phone for a long time again, he will phone back. I wasn't sure that he actually would, but as I did have other things to do, I allowed the connection to be broken.

Amazingly, he did phone back a couple of hours later. Saying that the problem has been discovered. The bank has allocated two businesses to the same MAC. As the other business although newer than me is taking transactions and I am not, they will not cancel the other person's MAC to give it back to me. So, being very helpful, he promises to send me another machine to solve the problem. "You will have it on Tuesday." "How does that solve my problem today?" "I am sorry, this is the best I can do." It was as much as I could do to avoid swearing as I hung up the phone.

Now, most of the time there is a backup. However, the bank has failed to deliver this backup and associated documentation for almost 3 months. They state they have sent it out three times. It has never arrived. They can send me bills, and bank statements, but cannot deliver me the backup machine which would have overcome the crisis.

I think I have been too kind to the companies involved. The bank is Barclays and the POS company is Thyron. I don't have much respect for either just now. Their help lines are disrespectful in their approach to fielding phone calls "we will call you back". HAH. Never have they called me back from the more than 20 messages left at various times over the last four weeks. The bank does no follow up to find out if things have been received. The customer cannot do it, because they have no contact details. All I know is that the relevant department is in Northampton and that is not directly from the bank.

If you have got this far, you will know the long of it. The short of it is: It has been a stressful day.

Tomorrow should be better. No card machine and no worries about its absence.

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