Negative Publicity

by Quinn

Leaving Borders bookshop on Saturday, I turned on my heel when the headline on the front page of the Evening News caught my eye, and reaching the newsstand I read

‘Cool Cash’ card confusion
Ciara Leeming
3/11/2007

A LOTTERY scratchcard has been withdrawn from sale by Camelot – because players couldn’t understand it.

The Cool Cash game – launched on Monday – was taken out of shops yesterday after some players failed to grasp whether or not they had won.

To qualify for a prize, users had to scratch away a window to reveal a temperature lower than the figure displayed on each card. As the game had a winter theme, the temperature was usually below freezing.

But the concept of comparing negative numbers proved too difficult for some. Camelot received dozens of complaints on the first day from players who could not understand how, for example, -5 is higher than -6.

With that, having read enough and with my misanthropy suitably sated, I left Borders and walked the short distance to my car, where after a brief bout of weeping I drove off and thought no more of it. My thanks, then, to Chris at qwghlm.co.uk who managed to read on further than I did; I now realise that things were even worse than I had feared.

Tina Farrell, from Levenshulme, called Camelot after failing to win with several cards.

The 23-year-old, who said she had left school without a maths GCSE, said: “On one of my cards it said I had to find temperatures lower than -8. The numbers I uncovered were -6 and -7 so I thought I had won, and so did the woman in the shop. But when she scanned the card the machine said I hadn’t.

“I phoned Camelot and they fobbed me off with some story that -6 is higher – not lower – than -8 but I’m not having it.

“I think Camelot are giving people the wrong impression – the card doesn’t say to look for a colder or warmer temperature, it says to look for a higher or lower number. Six is a lower number than 8. Imagine how many people have been misled.”

Where to start? As Chris says, the phrases “Camelot…fobbed me off” and “I’m not having it” leap out, as does the assertion that “people have been misled”; but that’s not all. That the shopkeeper was allegedly as equally baffled is a cause for concern, while the politician-like diversion of stating that “Six is a lower number than 8” – true, but in this case irrelevant – is almost impressive in its own way. Of course, in her defence it is said that Tina “left school without a maths GCSE”, but I’m pretty sure “numbers” are still covered in the national curriculum at some stage; it’s not as if Camelot were expecting people to do quadratic equations on the hoof.

Now it is worth saying at this juncture that we should be careful about what has been attributed to this poor unfortunate. Newspapers have been known to bend the truth at times and so we should perhaps be wary about relying on direct quotes that may well have been edited (or made grammatical); far better to stick to the facts as far as we know them. But one fact that is particularly nagging at me is that it appears that only the M.E.N. has covered the story, there’s nothing in the national press. Why? Could the answer lie in the fact that our interviewee is, in that immortal phrase, “from Levenshulme”? In which case I think we have reached the end. Here is someone so ignorant of the most basic mathematics (which is lamentable enough), who then compounds the offence by stubbornly refusing to accept and learn from her error, who though wholly in the wrong still complains to the company and is subsequently offended when pointed in the direction of a simple arithmetic truth, and who finally responds to this outrage and injustice by going to the papers!

If these were the actions of one solitary moron we could laugh it off; so why aren’t we laughing? It is enough surely that “Camelot received dozens of complaints on the first day” that the game came out; but that knot of dread we feel in the pit of our stomach is because we fear this is symptomatic of something much bigger, and much, much worse.

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