Masters of the admonitory message

You might think this is going to be another FSA-bashing piece, and yes it is true that our friends at Canary Wharf can’t look at an area of white space in any of our marketing communications without feeling an urgent need to introduce some kind of new threat or warning and obliging us to clutter the space up with it.

But this isn’t about them:  it’s about taxi drivers.  The cab I just took back to the office an hour ago carried no fewer than eight admonitory messages on stickers attached to the glass partition.  Let’s see if I can remember them all:

  • no smoking
  • passengers are required to wear their seat belts
  • if you have a preferred route, please notify the driver beforehand (This in a particularly admonitory message with a bold capitalised heading “PASSENGER”, as if it might be wrongly imagined to address someone else)
  • if you wish to pay by credit card, NOTIFY DRIVER AT START OF JOURNEY.  A 15% surcharge (minimum £2) is payable.
  • longer journeys or bookings BY SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT ONLY
  • PLEASE KEEP YOUR FEET OFF THE SEATS (only message to include the word “please”)
  • Support Help For Heroes (OK, not really admonitory)
  • Cabs may not be permitted to stop in all locations, for example by cash machines.  Tell your driver if you wish to make stops en route.

Apart from making me think a lot of cab drivers could easily meet the key attitudinal recruitment criteria for the FSA, all this also made me think what an incredibly bossy lot we all are – never happier than when we’re hassling someone about how we want them to behave.

Taxi drivers’ glass partitions may reflect this trait in a particularly ugly, crude and typographically inept fashion.  But I suspect we very often do much the same thing, only perhaps a little more gently, when we try to shove people through our own unfriendly and disagreeable processes.


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