Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

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Tuesday, June 29, 2004
Loospeak. I found this wonderful example of bureaucratese on the Uttlesford District Council website. There I learned that:
Uttlesford District Council Officers commissioned the East of England Tourist Board to produce a Mystery Shopper Audit in 2003.

The aim of the audit is to provide information useful to those involved in destination management and it covers areas under the control or influence of the local authority that are important to the quality of the visitor experience (a visitor may be a tourist on holiday, a day tripper, or even a shopper).

However, the audit does not assess the quality of the actual tourism product, rather the standard of amenities and infrastructure that visitors can expect when they arrive.

Categories are determined by the size of the population: Great Dunmow, Stansted Mountfitchet and Thaxted were assessed under category A (towns with populations up to 7,500) whilst Saffron Walden was assessed under Category B (towns with a population size of between 7,500 and 15,000).

The audit involved four visits to Saffron Walden, Stansted Mountfitchet, Thaxted and Great Dunmow at weekends and during the week at different times in 2003 and they were carried out by an assessor acting as a visitor. During the visits facilities such as toilets, car parks and the shopping environment were “experienced” and the quality of the ambient and built environments assessed. The assessor was required to mark each town on a range of indicators, based around the core criteria and best practice guidelines. For each indicator scores were provided based on their presence, quality and their suitability to the surrounding environment.

Et in Arcadia ego... I too have "experienced" the ambience of the public toilets of many of these fair towns, though if you're in Saffron Walden you'd be better off with the private sector. (Top floor, ladies, opposite the café.) What are those scare quotes doing around the word "experienced"? Do they imply that the secret agent only claims to have experienced the actual loo / car park/ shopping environment (a claim that Uttlesford District Council can neither confirm nor deny at this time), or that something other than mere experience was going on but that UDC is too polite to say what? I pay council tax to these guys and I say I have a right to know.