84. Planning

Last weekend was a special one for me.  I had arranged for my fiancé and me to spend the time in a fancy hotel on the Dubai seafront.  For reasons I won’t trouble you with (both my free time and the Jewellers opening hours always seemed to clash) it was also when I would give her the ring.  As you can imagine I wanted the occasion to be special, I wanted her to remember it.  So I planned – or manipulated – the day so that she would be ready when I needed her to be without her knowing what the plan was.  It all went perfectly, and since the ring finally went on her finger we are yet to have a conversation, she just stares at it the whole time and only responds to questions with an impassive hum.

Anyway the point is that I had to plan the entire operation, I had to liaise with the restaurant, the florist and of course, the sunset.  It was all down to me to ensure that everything was in order.  In a similar way I am responsible for a lot of organising at work.  If we have a special event on it is up to me to make sure that I have enough staff on duty to cope with it, that we have what hardware we need, that the staff are briefed on what needs to be done and when and so on.  There is a lot to consider and without such planning things would just catch fire and explode.

Planning is a fundamental part of life.  Those who opt to fly by the seat of their pants without looking at the facts first will, invariably, fail.  Look at the recent London Olympics, did that just sort of happen?  Ok there was a bit of a balls-up with G4S security but that got sorted.  No, that event took years of planning and mass organisation on a Herculean scale.

The same is true for the upcoming Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix in November.  The organisers must ensure that the parking situation is managed and staffed, and that everyone knows where people can and cannot go.  The pit garages must have sufficient power supplies.  The advertising hoardings must all be erected in exactly the right place so to catch the TV cameras or any given company could stand to lose millions of dollars.  The circuit must also ensure that not only are there enough Marshals to cover the circuit but that they are sufficiently trained and competent, a drivers life could depend on it.  The scale of what needs to happen behind the scenes is mind blowing.

I found myself wandering who on earth was in charge the other day when I opened the paper to spot an announcement that malls in Dubai are to open for 24 hours a day over the Eid holidays between the 18th and 28th October.  The idea of 24 hour shopping is amazing.  There you are in bed at 4am when you suddenly realise that you need a new pair of trainers.  In the old days you would have to suffer the inconvenience of having to wait around for the shop to open at some preposterous time such as 9 o’clock or 9:30.  Now you can spring from the sheets whenever you like, saddle up the rental car and get down to Go Sport.

What a time saver it will be.  Get home late at night and realise that you forgot to get bin liners?  No matter, you can simply go back out and get some.  Fancy a cup of tea but have no milk?  Not a problem, you know where to go…

Of course with the announcement of this glorious, if only temporary, news comes a curious twist.  It would appear that the shopkeepers weren’t told about it in advance and are unable to opt out.  To have a shop open for 24 hours a day is a huge logistical challenge.  There have been numerous shop managers saying that they do not have enough staff to cope with round the clock service.  An average shop will have 5-6 employees, imagine having just 3 people on for 12 hours and then off for 12 and so on, 7 days a week.  Each would be required to have a 1 hour break by law so that means only 9 hours a day when all 3 are together.  But there is a further flaw, according to the UAE labour law no worker is permitted to work for more than 9 hours (including a 1 hour break) in any given day.

You were only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!

For those readers who don’t live in the UAE I would like to tell you that part time work isn’t really allowed over here.  If you are going to work here then you need to go through the whole bureaucratic hell of getting a work visa.  The shops cannot simply take on a few part timers just help out.  Nor can they pull resources from other stores because they will be open too.  Ok, you could pull staff from your shop in Abu Dhabi where there won’t be 24 hour shopping, but then you would need to provide accommodation for them and that will cost more money.  Plus, the Abu Dhabi shop would have to close.  You’re just robbing Peter to pay Paul.

Do you think Michael Caine in The Italian Job just hoped for the best and that the little details would work themselves out?  No, he had it all planned.  Who did the market research?  Where is the evidence that this will be of commercial benefit?  Who planned it and why?  We need data if we are to come to a reliable conclusion.  The cavalier attitude of “it’ll be alright on the night” doesn’t hold water when businesses survival depends on it.

As for the customer, if you have an important meeting at 9am on Tuesday then I doubt you are still going to be walking around Carrefour at 3am.  The odds are that if you’re in a mall during the wee hours then you very likely don’t have a job and subsequently don’t have any money to spend.  So with that in mind is 24 hour shopping worth all the hassle?

I don’t think it is, apart from Jewellers.  Jewellers should always be open.

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