Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Bizarre Interview Request

Ms No Name writes with the following tale:
I applied for a job to a major UK philosophy department (top-10 in the UK). I was delighted to receive their invitation for an interview. The trouble is that the invitation came only 10 days before the interview (7 business days). I am a citizen of a non-EU country (not USA or Canada either) and thus require a visa every place I go, even for a short visit, even for 24 hours. Getting a UK visa requires collecting a slew of documents (normally takes me at least 3 days) and sending them off to the UK Consulate in a big city. Normally they return it with a visa in a week, but sometimes take longer. It was clear to me that 7 business days is not just cutting it short. It's impossible!

So I asked the department to interview me by video. I fully expected them to agree because I've had video interviews with other good UK departments in the past, no big deal. But this university said no. No chance. I pleaded - explained to them the situation, added my personal details (I have a toddler who would have to be left with a stranger babysitter for several days for this trip to happen). Nothing doing. The chair kindly and apologetically explained that they just do not interview by video. They gave no reason other than they just don't do it. They didn't offer to delay the interview either. Moreover they added they turned down other candidates just on that basis, that they could not arrive for an interview to the UK with 10 day notice.

Obviously I had to turn down the interview.

I am still baffled by the department's reasoning (don't they want the best person for this job? was I not a serious candidate to them?), but there is also the ethical question: did they have any obligation to give me a video interview? The more I think about it, the less sure I am...
Weird, right? I've never heard of anything like it. What say you, Smokers?

--Mr. Zero

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have to say that this is so bizarre that I am skeptical of the story.

Anonymous said...

Are you guys kidding?

What bizarro world are you living in where you find this strange?

This is *philosophy* job interviews we are talking about.

First of all, you should just go ahead and out this department.

Second of all, this is not at all surprising. Philosophical job interviews are full of social misfits and all around clowns.

Third of all, why are you surprised by this again? This is the same profession that has a smoker at their national conference and thinks that everyone generally must interview at the APA.

Our *profession* (not philosophy itself!) sucks.

Anonymous said...

I'm a grad student at a top-10 department in the UK and I don't believe for a second that we'd be set up (administratively or technically) to handle video interviews.

Anonymous said...

I am not surprised at all.

It's a cultural thing. You have to have spent some time in Britain to understand. Once you have, you will be used to hearing "It just isn't done" in reponse to many reasonable requests. British people love their rules and conventions; they can't make any exceptions no matter how good the reason, and if you ask why the dumb rule is in place in the first place, you get the "This is just how we do things here".

I'm an Oxbridge grad student, moved here from North America, and was pretty shocked when I first encountered this attitude.

Here's a totally random example of what I'm talking about; you encounter them almost daily when you live here:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/7003325.stm

Jaded Dissertator said...

Apologies to Ms. No Name for dragging my feet on posting her question. Thanks to Mr. Zero for posting it.

Ben said...

I know that Oxford (and probably Cambridge and no doubt others) is prepared to use Skype to interview prospective undergraduates.

Nonetheless, I was recently considering similar problems because I got interview offers from two UK departments for the same day. I think it's quite reasonable, however, to say that even if the interview part could be conducted via Skype it wouldn't really work for giving a teaching demonstration. And a large part of the hiring process is looking for a candidate who the panel would be willing to have as a colleague, which is hard to assess via video.

Most departments here seem to aim to give a bit more notice, but sometimes not much more than a week. I guess travel within the UK isn't as difficult as across the US, but obviously it raises difficulties if they are really serious about international candidates.

FemPhil said...

Given the time required for getting a visa, wouldn't this policy constitute discrimination against persons from particular countries of origin? Wouldn't such discrimination be worth reporting to the APA?

Anonymous said...

I'm (a) from North America, but currently employed in the UK, and (b) have a friend (from the US, and in academia but not philosophy) who recently had exactly this experience. I totally believe it.

Ben's observation is part of the story as to why this probably happened, but not (I suspect) all of it. Other parts are likely to include:

(1) Schools in the UK have "fairness" shoved so far up their asses that they can't do anything at all unless it's done exactly the same way for all candidates. Example: in interviews, at least at our school, all questions have to be decided in advance, so all candidates get asked the same questions in the interview. Another example: my friend was told he couldn't have a skype interview because that would be "unfair to the other candidates". (Ridiculous, but what they said.)

(2) Departments in the UK have much, much less power when it comes to job hires than their counterparts in the US. Schools have HR departments that call an awful lot of the shots. It may well be that the department here has no problem with the skype interview, but the HR department, for reasons that can only be described as "asinine", vetoed it.

(3) A lot (not all!) departments in the UK don't really understand the US philosophy job market, and are used to running job searches much more the way most corporations would run one. (Advertise for a job whenever you feel like it, expect that your candidates are by-and-large coming from not too far away, etc.) Departments that know what they're doing will make sure candidates have a month or more to prep for the interview, but those following "the way things have been done" probably just haven't stopped to think about it.

None of this is meant to deny that Ms No Name's story is a terrible tragedy; there's a lot of tragico-idiotic stuff that happens in UK universities, and this is definitely one of those cases. But just to offer a perspective on why it might have happened that goes beyond sheer ignorance and bile on the department's part.

Anonymous said...

I don't find this story bizarre, and for the following reason: if they really want you (i.e. if you're their first choice), then presumably they'll be reasonably accommodating. If you're not their first choice, or even near the top of their list, then an interviewee who can't make the interview is one less person to interview.

Anonymous said...

From my limited experience, UK instiutions seem more worried about whether you are already eligible to work in the UK.

I bet they aren't allowed to discriminate on that basis.

But this might be one sneaky way to eliminate potential foreigners who would be an immigration pain.

Anonymous said...

I work in the US but I'm not a US citizen. I was given less than 2 weeks to fly-out for an on-campus interviw in NZ a couple of years ago. Getting a visa ended up being so complicated that I hardly had time to prepare for the interview (usual job talk and teaching presentation) and I had to miss valuable interview time waiting at the Embassy. A waste of time for all involved.

Anonymous said...

There is also the issue that many UK depts, as far as I know, interview all candidates on the same day, at the end of which they meet and make an offer. So if you are not there for that one day, you're out. An idiotic way to proceed, I agree.

Anonymous said...

Three thoughts:

(a) What a load of bollocks. I'm very sorry to hear about Ms. No Name's misfortune.

(b) The link that Anon 9:51 posted was cut off for me. You can access the linked page here.

(c) I suppose we could all learn something from this. Namely, if you're applying to schools in the UK and would need a hard-to-get visa to visit them, see if you can arrange your visa in advance. You'd probably have to pay for it before you know whether you'll need it, but most of the money we spend in our job search is wasted anyway, right?
This is in no way meant as a criticism of Ms. No Name. It wouldn't have occurred to me to get a visa in advance, since it wouldn't have occurred to me that any department willing to fly me to the UK would have so little flexibility about timing. (Then again, my knowledge of the UK is more or less limited to the use of the word 'bollocks'.) Now we know.
Thanks for bringing this to our attention, Ms. No Name.

Anonymous said...

I live in the US, and a few years ago, I was offered a job intereview at a highly respected UK school. With about 2 weeks notice.

We don't need a travel visa traveling from US to UK, but my passport had just expired, which is needed. This meant I had to drive to the closest passport office to renew my passport in person. Hours away in another state.

Skype wasn't as ubiquitous a technology then as it is now, but I didn't get the sense that they would be flexible. The interview only lasted less than 30 minutes too. Seems like a waste of money to fly candidates out there, across the pond, for such a short meeting. But that's how they roll.

Anonymous said...

I was once invited for an interview at a UK university, only to be told that I had to pay for my own airfare from North America. I was so desperate for work that I agreed, but only after asking them point blank if I was filler on the short list, i.e., if they'd already made up their minds about who they were going to hire. No, no, came the reply, please come to the interview, your file is being taken veeeery seriously. So I went. When I arrived at the university, the first question I was asked -- not in interview, but nevertheless by a faculty member on the hiring committee -- was why I had bothered to come all that way. Amateurs. Anyway, I now have a tenured job at a North American research university.

Anonymous said...

Off topic, but I'm wondering if anyone else noticed the following.

It seems that there are departments that advertise one thing and then end up hiring someone who doesn't quite fit the advertsied position.

For exmaple, the University of Kentucky advertised the following in the JFP:

AOS: Epistemology, Philosophy of Science, or Philosophy of Language; AOC: Logic. Teaching duties will include a course on symbolic logic/metalogic that is required of students in the Ph.D. program.

Going by Leiter's blog, they ended up hiring people in 19th century, ethics, social & political, language/linguistics, and metaphysics.

WTF?

Anonymous said...

Ms No Name here...

Thank you all for posting my story and for your comments! It feels good to have someone share my puzzlement and confirm some intuitions.

Upon reflection it does seem that there is a good reason not to interview by video if one is asking for a teaching demonstration. No other reasons seem compelling to me. Is that right?

But it is clear that in this case the department had other reasons in addition. As Anon 12:29 rightly points out I just was not high enough on their list. Remember they did not even offer an extension!

As for discrimination (thanks FemPhil), yes it is particularly frustrating that they offered a ground floor interview in case I was in a wheelchair, but no accommodation for being a mother or having the wrong passport.

I have no plans to out the department nor to complain to anyone. Just for reasons of long term self-interest and because the ethical situation does not seem clear cut to me. And the chair sounded genuinely sorry...My empathy centers are lighting up.

But yes, the cultural differences between US and UK interview practices do seem substantive. And not in UK's favor!

In any case, no worries about me. I appreciate your support!

Anonymous said...

Ms. No Name: I think you're neglecting the reason given by "March 16 - 2:08pm." UK departments usually interview everyone on the same day, and make an offer by day's end. That could be the most important reason.

zombie said...

Without knowing what the reasons for the inflexibility were, I guess I'd say that was a few degrees more unreasonable than asking a couple dozen candidates to pay their own way to go to APA for a 30 minute interview where their chances of getting the job are probably worse than 1 in 20.

Speaking of odd, I got a PFO email yesterday that actually identified the person hired and said she had accepted the offer. While I suppose it would not take too much effort for me to look up who got hired for all the positions I applied for, this seemed a little like rubbing my nose in it. Especially since I never even got an interview.

Or maybe they were just helpfully pointing out to me that the sort of person they were looking for was HER and not my ilk.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth. In my institution all candidates must be treated equally--the format and questions must be the same. So if there is an internal candidate and the format is compressed video interview (which is increasingly used for semifinalists to cut costs), then that candidate is placed in an adjoining room and streamed to the same video monitor on which all candidates must be interviewed. Odd but fair.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 7:05 a.m. wrote:

"It seems that there are departments that advertise one thing and then end up hiring someone who doesn't quite fit the advertsied position."

I've noticed this too. Perhaps we could discuss this in another thread or continue with it here...?

GTChristie said...

Probably dont have the technology to begin with, couldnt use it if they did, dont want to learn, and that's just the way it is. LOL. Now for a short commercial: http://hypermoxie.blogspot.com/p/why-i-do.html It's blogged phi fiction, sci sendups and even some real phi ... (ie a genre that does not quite exist ... yet) I would love some phi people to look at? TX

Anonymous said...

I have to say that this is so bizarre that I am skeptical of the story.

(3) A lot (not all!) departments in the UK don't really understand the US philosophy job market,

there's a lot of tragico-idiotic stuff that happens in UK universities, and this is definitely one of those cases.

UK instiutions seem more worried about whether you are already eligible to work in the UK.

But it is clear that in this case the department had other reasons in addition. As Anon 12:29 rightly points out I just was not high enough on their list.

Just to comment on some of this:

1) Yes, British departments do things differently. In particular one thing they do is interview everyone on the same day. This day is frequently arranged in advance *and specified in the job advert*.

(If the dept in question is the one I suspect it is, this was the case in this particular instance. I know, because I applied for the job, and made sure my passport was available on that day.)

2) A second thing they do is to decide to interview a certain number of indidivuals. If someone from the shortlist drops out, they will add someone from their reserve list. No doubt reserves sometimes get the job, but my guess is that they start out at a disadvantage.

3) A third thing they do - because they are legally required to do it - is check that everyone who is interviewed is in a position to work legally in the UK. Typically they do so by requiring interview candidates to bring documents which establsih this legal entitlement to the interview.

It strikes me as fairly unlikely that someone who needed to acquire a visa to enter the UK would be able to demosntrate that they were legally able to work there; and it also strikes me that someone who is rushing around at the last minute acquiring a visa is likely to be able to do that. And if this was a case of a reserve list candidiate filling a space on a
list at the last minute, I can imagine the department feeling somewhat impatient and unaccommodating about it.

Guess what: the British job market isn't the American market. And just as Brits who want to compete on the American job-market need to educate themselves about how things work there, the reverse is also true.

Looking at the appointments that the British universities on the Leiter reports have made this year (for example, Bristol and UCL),its not obvious to me that top UK departments should be especially desperate to appoint more people coming straight out of American PhD programs.

Finally, and for what it's worth, the one time that I had child-care issues related to an interview in Britain (six-month old daughter, partner with a job interview on the same day) the department in question arranged day care in the university creche to help out. And that was for a six-month VAP post.

In short, no doubt there are problematic work fairness issues in play in the UK. But reports of scarcely credible sexism deserve to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Anonymous said...

I'm British, did my PhD in at Oxbridge, but now working in the US. There are definitely a *lot* of differences between the US and UK job markets, but before getting in to that, I should note that I was interviewed for a job back in the UK about a year ago. The department (not philosophy, in this case) themselves suggested that I do a video interview. As it happened, I was in the country at the time, so I went in person. They offered this because they couldn't afford to fly me over: British universities are significantly underfunded compared to the US, as the bulk of their funding comes from the government; very few of them have substantial endowments or established alumni donation programs. (In fact, university funding has been cut even further in the past couple of weeks.) Thus, they're simply unable to offer to fly over interview candidates.

I am surprised, though, that they were unwilling to offer a Skype interview: like I say, I was offered one in the past, and missed out on another job several years ago, before Skype was widespread, to a candidate who did a telephone interview. In my experience, though, I've found US universities to be much better at the courtesies of the job application process - from the basics of acknowledging receipt and announcing results, to things like making candidates feel wanted (cold, impersonal letters announcing date and time of interview from British universities, compared to warm invitations expressing enthusiasm from US institutions).

It's definitely the case that the majority of UK institutions interview all candidates on the same day, and let you know either that evening or the following day. Apart from that, though, the whole process is a little less formalised than in the US - for example, there's no expectation to go to some APA equivalent and have preliminary interviews and smoker experiences. There's also nothing like JfP - which, for all its many flaws, at least puts some pressure on departments to get jobs posted by a certain time. In addition, I think the way UK degrees are structured puts a lot more restraints on who can be chosen - because most degrees (especially at Oxbridge) are centered around pre-existing courses taught by a group of academics often culminating in a final exam, departments tend to be looking for someone quite specific, able to fit in to a current syllabus, rather than necessarily contribute their own courses. Funding is another issue - there's just less of it, and how much departments get is determined by a couple of governmentally-administered metrics. And, as some people have pointed out, there's the eligibility to work issue - it's generally encouraged to appoint EU citizens. UK universities just don't have the resources to process work visas for large numbers of people - they have to be picky about how many people needing visas they employ.

None of that really explains why Ms No Name wasn't allowed a Skype interview, of course, even notwithstanding the same-day interview practice: it seems odd to me. But it's all worth bearing in mind for people applying to UK universities.

Oh, and to Anon 9.51 Mar 16 - if you think Britain is culturally unique in adherence to petty rules, try being a foreigner dealing with US Immigration... Same things happen everywhere.

Anonymous said...

I am shocked that more people aren't echoing Anon, March 16, 2010 12:29 PM. It's a buyer's market, people. There is no *best* candidate for any given job. There are lots and lots of really great candidates, some easier to interview and hire than others, and institutions are going to minimize fuss and bother. It is puzzling why academics think that their "business" shouldn't function at least a little bit like other businesses (which is not to say that methods couldn't stand improving, but just that it is not so shocking that sometimes decisions are made based on more than the purest ethics and the best decision procedure.)

Anonymous said...

"It is puzzling why academics think that their "business" shouldn't function at least a little bit like other businesses . . . ."

Yep, let's all be capitalist scum together!

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:29 PM,

I am Anon 9.51 Mar 16. I do "think Britain is culturally unique in adherence to petty rules". I wasn't talking about immigration bureaucracy -- that's awful everywhere except maybe Canada.

Here's just one example: to open a checking account in the US, a foreigner just needs a passport and proof of address, which can be your lease or any bill or similar document.

Try doing that in Britain as a foreigner. I did try it, and I can tell you what it was like:

1. I went to bank X with what I thought was sufficient documentation. They told me that my lease was not considered proof of address; it had to be a utility bill.

2. I came back with a my utility contract, which had all the info they needed (I hadn't received a bill yet). Bank X told me, "I don't consider this as a bill. I consider this as a contract". It had to be a bill.

3. I came back with a bill. Bank X told me that it was not acceptable because the name didn't match the name on my passport. The utility company had misspelled my name, with *one letter* difference from my real name. They told me I had to correct this with the utility company, get a new bill, and come back.

4. I went to bank Y, which told me that the particular kind of bill I brought them was "not on our list of approved documents". (They didn't notice the misspelling.)

5. To cut a long story short, I was rejected by every bank in town. No matter what documentation I had, they always found something wrong with it. Finally I was able to get a no-frills checking account which, according to bank Z, "is something we normally only give to people with criminal records and unemployed people".

You encounter this kind of behavior over and over again at businesses, government offices, and at your own university, and you begin to think that maybe British people are unusually fond of rules. That's what I began to think. I've discussed these experiences with other foreign students, both Europeans and North Americans, and every one of them says they've had similar experiences and drawn similar conclusions. Here's another example:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/merseyside/7003325.stm

Notice (in the story) that Morrison's management didn't apologize and maintained that they were right to refuse to sell alcohol to the 75-year-old guy.

Anonymous said...

Ms No Name here again.

Anon March 19, 2010 9:04 AM

Your points are well taken. Some UK practices are unfair to people coming from the US and some US practices are unfair to people coming from the UK. UK unis have their own constraints and plenty of candidates who fit those constraints to choose from, so much so that it is sometimes reasonable not to accommodate those who don't. And there is certainly no trace of sexism in my story (no idea where you got that from).

But there is no arguing that the bureaucratic and cultural walls are thicker and taller in the UK. Having been a foreigner in both UK and US, I can attest, just like the other commentators, that for all the pains of US immigration, APA, smoker etc., it is vastly easier being an outsider in the US than UK.

Anon March 19, 2010 5:53 PM

Sorry to hear about the bank nightmare. I can just imagine how infuriatingly polite they all were throughout this story!

Anonymous said...

Anon 12:29 PM / Anon 9.51 Mar 16 - I'm sorry to hear you had such trouble with the bank. It sounds rather like the sort of experience I had getting a social security number when moving to the US, and then getting anything else at all without that. Or filling in healthcare related forms. Or doing taxes. Or dealing with university admin (taking about a year to reclaim some travel expenses for a guest speaker, because the form was never quite filled in right was a particular highlight). You mention an alcohol sale problem - I've never had my ID checked so repeatedly as here when trying to get into a bar. Pot, meet kettle: I think you two have much in common. I'm sure we could swap tales all day, but I'm sure neither of us wants to fall in to that trap of inferring general conclusions from anecdotal evidence. I don't see any particular difference, nor have I heard from friends with experience of both places, in bureaucratic attitudes in the UK and US.

On the other hand, Russia... now that place really is crazy!

Anonymous said...

The Morrisons example doesn't remotely show that Brits are any fonder of rules or enforcing them than Americans. After all, what seems so petty and pedantic in the example is just absolutely standard practice in the States; a great many places will simply refuse to serve *any* customer alcohol who cannot produce ID to prove they are over age. The example is only shocking because this is an issue on which UK stores are standardly *more* relaxed than their US counterparts; in the US it wouldn't even count as news.

Anonymous said...

"Yep, let's all be capitalist scum together!"

Right, because the job situation for academics under a Marxist system would be sooooo much better. Good grief.

snorkel said...

a great many places will simply refuse to serve *any* customer alcohol who cannot produce ID to prove they are over age.

That simply isn't true. I have *never* been carded anywhere in the US since I turned 35, not once. (And, yes, I am well over 35 now, and yes, I have bought an awful lot of booze since my 35th birthday.) In my city, if a man over 70 were refused at a liquor store because he wouldn't produce an ID, that would most definitely be news.

It may be true in Canada -- I've heard that it is, but I have no experience except in Montreal where the attitudes about selling alcohol were very relaxed.

Anonymous said...

Anon 9:51 March 16 here again.

Anon March 19, 2010 7:42 PM said:

"Having been a foreigner in both UK and US, I can attest, just like the other commentators, that for all the pains of US immigration, APA, smoker etc., it is vastly easier being an outsider in the US than UK."

I can attest to that too, having been a foreign student in both the US and UK. This is the whole point. I'm not comparing being a US citizen in the US with being a foreign student in the UK, but being a foreign student in both. They're vastly different experiences. Everyone else I know who has experienced both has confirmed this to me.

Sure, we are all drawing generalisations from anecdotal evidence. But if lots of people draw the same generalisation from different sets of anecdotal evidence, there just might be some truth to the generalisation.

Anon March 19, 2010 9:49 PM:

"It sounds rather like the sort of experience I had getting a social security number when moving to the US..."

Yes, there's lots of difficult bureaucracy in both countries, but you seem to be missing what's unique about the examples I gave. In the US and other countries I've lived in so far, businesses are eager to have customers. Here it seems that they're eager to turn customers away. I'd be very surprised if a US bank turned away a potential customer because their name was misspelled on a bill by one letter, or refused to accept a utility *contract* because their instructions say that proof of address has to be a utility *bill*. But in my city, *every single bank* turned me away because *every one of them* found some utterly petty reason to not accept the documents I showed them. Every foreign student I've asked has reported similar experiences.

The Morrison's example illustrates the same thing. There seems to be this culture of fanatical rule-enforcement in the private sector here that every foreign student I know here has noticed. Maybe we've all just had atypical experiences and there is no such culture, but I doubt it.

Also, in the US universities are eager to have students. Here, not so eager apparently. When I first arrived here, [Oxbridge college] basically treated me like a criminal -- not unlike the banks. First they told me to prove that I had sufficient funding for the entire course of my studies, or they wouldn't let me register as a student. When I produced proof of my scholarship, [Oxbridge college] responded that it wasn't enough to live on so, sorry, I can't be a student there. This is after I had actually moved to the UK and just a few days before the start of the term. I did manage to get in, but it was a quite a struggle.

Anonymous said...

Snorkel, just because you haven't been carded much since you turned 35 doesn't mean that it 'simply isn't true' that it's standard practice here to do so in many places, which is what I claimed. Maybe your state isn't as anal as most. Maybe you look wise beyond your years. Whatever. Still, I've seen countless professors over the age of 65 get carded in multiple different states. It happens all the time. Your city might be an exception, but who cares? The issue was UK vs. US, not UK vs. your city.

I'm not disputing the wider point, btw. My impression is that however much nightmarish stupidity one faces as a Brit in the States in terms of immigration laws and the like, it's much worse in the other direction. But there are plenty of non-sucky examples that illustrate the point. Morrison's enforcing a rule that would also be enforced by every liquor store and supermarket with 10 hours drive of here doesn't show shit.

zombie said...

Snorkel, I am over 40. I was carded last year in the US when I bought beer in a grocery store. I was carded last year when I ordered a drink in a restaurant. While I would like to flatter myself that I only look 19, I am pretty sure that's not the case. In some stores/restaurants/bars in the US, they card EVERYBODY. In fact, in the grocery stores I frequented, cashiers could not sell alcohol to anyone, even with ID, without a manager's approval. It might seem silly, but it does mean that they are absolutely egalitarian and indiscriminate in carding people.

Now, here in Canada, I have not been carded buying liquor. But when I went to the public library to get a library card, I had to produce my passport AND my social insurance card as proof of address. My 7 year old kid doesn't have her own library card because I refuse to take her birth certificate to the library to prove that she was born. Don't get me started on the idiocy of some Canadian immigration bureaucrats. On the other hand, they could not make it any easier to get health insurance here. You pretty much just have to call up and ask for it. Go figure.

I haven't had the pleasure of dealing with UK bureaucrats, but this has been quite the illuminating discussion.

juniorperson said...

I wonder how much the behavior of British banks is driven by (fairly recent) Government-imposed regulations?

I know that when I opened my bank accounts in the 1990s in the UK they were relaxed to the point of negligence about discovering who I really was. My brother's pet cat even had an account at the Midland Bank as they were giving away ten pounds per new account, and didn't discriminate on the grounds of species.... And I know at least one of my friends had his account under the name of his favourite food ("Toast"), and collected his statements from a puzzled but friendly local bakery.

Maybe we need *more* "capitalist scum" running things, and less Government "protection"? ;)

Anonymous said...

This is me, the source of the bank story, commenting again.

juniorperson said:

"I wonder how much the behavior of British banks is driven by (fairly recent) Government-imposed regulations? "

I don't know, but let me just emphasize again that the examples I gave are the tip of a very large iceberg. The behavior I described I've encountered not just at banks but at businesses across the board. Here is another example:

In the town where I live, it's all but impossible to rent an apartment without going through a "letting agency", a big company that manages lots of property and rents it out. The letting agencies around here gave me pretty much exactly the same treatment as the banks: I have to have written, official proof of everything, and when I produce the documents they ask for, they find some utterly petty reason to reject them. I won't bore you with the details, but here's one amusing example:

Agency X asked me to provide proof of income. I produced proof of my scholarship. They said they couldn't accept it because it didn't specify exactly how frequently and how much I was paid, and that is required. So I went back an acquired proof of exactly how much and how frequently I get paid. They said they couldn't accept it because my scholarship is paid bimonthly, and I must provide proof that I have a *monthly* income to rent an apartment. It just couldn't be done, even though my income was quite a bit higher than the minumum they required, because they had a form that required proof of "monthly income". You gotta do exactly what the form says. Went to another agency, had the same experience, though they had a slightly different, but equally absurd, reason for rejecting my documents.

I had to go to 3 different agencies before I was able to get an apartment. Never had anything like this experience in the US.

Anonymous said...

I second all the negative things said here. The UK is a terrible place to work. US people definitely shouldn't apply for jobs here, especially not at good departments in London, and in my AOS...

Anonymous said...

March 21, 2010 10:26 AM,

I know you're being facetious, but the fact is that KCL is a good department in London, and taking a job offer from there seems like a really bad idea (if you have any choice!). You don't want to be handed a pink slip at the peak of your career.

Jaded Dissertator said...

In interest of full disclosure, I deleted a comment from someone impersonating Ms. No Name allegedly outing the department under question and another comment responding to her.

And I'm only going to say this once:

KNOCK THAT FUCKING SHIT OFF.

Additionally, at the request of Ms. No Name, I am closing the thread.