The customer is always angry – here’s why | Letters

Gary McKillion, Christina Freeman and Louise Richmond on how bureaucracy and the erosion of society have dehumanised people and led to a customer service nightmare

Regarding your article (‘Don’t take it out on our staff!’: How did Britain become so angry?, 4 August), in the mid-1990s, when I was 21 and working as a software developer at a well-known burger restaurant chain, I was often sworn at by our customers. The company sent us on courses to help us deal with difficult customers and communicate more effectively. It really helped. Since then, I’ve been involved in the mass rollout of IT systems and seen the effects on society over the past 30 years. Recently, I’ve worked in customer service myself.

I believe that the increasing aggression to staff is driven by two major factors. The first has been a rise in bureaucracy, much of which is enforced by computer systems that can’t handle situations outside the norm, and the corresponding increase in processes and regulations. We are conditioned to expect rigid processes and inexperienced staff who are unable to show initiative. Diminishing margins mean that smaller companies simply don’t have the staff to deal with our problems.

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Are slowing house prices good news for Britain’s generation rent? Don’t hold your breath | Laurie Macfarlane

It’s tempting to think buying a home will become easier, but economic turmoil will make would-be owners worse off

Amid the gloomy economic data released last week, one statistic caught many analysts by surprise. Halifax, the country’s largest mortgage lender, reported that UK house price growth has not only slowed down but turned negative. Just one month ago, the same bank had announced that prices had soared to a record high. Could this dramatic shift mark the beginning of the end for the great British housing boom?

After years of watching homeownership slip further out of reach, it might be tempting for generation rent to greet the news of a house price slowdown with open arms. But it would be premature to reach for the champagne. Even if house prices continue to fall, any potential benefits will almost certainly be offset by other economic forces. There are also good reasons to treat this data with caution. The average price fell by just £365 in July – or 0.1% month on month – and still remains more than £30,000 higher than the same time last year. The figure also only reflects data from one lender, and represents an average of prices across the UK.

Laurie Macfarlane is an economist and writer. He is co-author of Rethinking the Economics of Land and Housing

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Who knows if Truss or Sunak is right on the cost of living crisis – where are all the economists? | Simon Jenkins

The profession seems to have gone AWOL, just when we could do with a bit of modelling on tax cuts v handouts

Cut taxes? No, give handouts. Go for growth? No, fight inflation. Increase debt, curb debt. Raise interest rates, lower them.

Two members until recently of the same cabinet seem at opposite extremes of the economic spectrum. Both studied economics at Oxford. They must have attended similar lectures and read the same books. What’s their problem?

Simon Jenkins is a Guardian columnist

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We’re heading for a world without puffins or toucans. Is that really what we want? | Lucy Jones

This is what the biodiversity crisis means: the most awe-inspiring creatures are those most at risk of extinction

For decades ecologists have been warning about the homogenisation of diversity – species becoming more alike – in the living world. Now, researchers at the University of Sheffield have published research predicting that bird species with striking and extreme traits are likely to go extinct first. “The global extinction crisis doesn’t just mean that we’re losing species,” says the study’s leader, Dr Emma Hughes. “It means that we are losing unique traits and evolutionary history.”

This shows that human activity is not just drastically reducing numbers of species, it is probably disproportionately destroying the most unique, unusual and distinctive creatures on Earth.

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After years of torture, I broke free of the tyranny of calorie counting | Amelia Tait

Focusing on the calories in your diet is antiquated and destructive. I wish I could have told my anorexic teenage self

When science fiction writers imagine great, grandiose methods of social control – matrixes! Microchips! Really big bros! – they ignore one powerful form that already exists: the humble calorie.

Very little is more distracting, maddening, soul-destroying or totalitarian than the seemingly random number (egg: 155! Freddo: 95!) that is assigned to everything we eat. It is a number that will affect your body and – although it shouldn’t be the case – the way others around you value it. If you have ever counted your calories, and if you ever restricted them, then you have lived under a brutal regime. I’m really, truly sorry. I wish no one had ever told you that calories exist.

Amelia Tait is a writer on tech and internet phenomena

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