Flyers on the train

I’m sitting on the Eurostar; late at Waterloo. It’s a shame we’re late but that’s not what’s annoying me to the extent that I am prepared to whip out my laptop and write this entry.

On the floor next to me is a piece of paper, about a third of an A4 sheet, printed with glossy information about the snacks and drinks available from the buffet-car (or whatever the hell those places are called these days: concessions compartment, indulgence wagon or something). A member of the train crew brought them down the car earlier in the journey and “offered” them to each passenger.

“Would you like some information on the products available from our secondary revenue-stream franchise?”

Every journey they “offer” me this “information” and every journey I decline. Every journey people take them and drop them on the floor of the train. At the end of each and every journey, the cleaning staff come along and pick them up and put them in the big plastic bag full of the packaging of products purchased in the train’s Dining Area. What happens to that stuff? I can’t believe they are separating the dry waste and recycling it? Maybe they are. I hope so.

I understand why this happens. I have seen it work many times: just after they bring these handbills down — junk mail for rail customers — I hear children going:

“I’m going to have a muffin”.

I understand that having an on-board shop makes them extra profits and, at the same time, makes our journey more enjoyable if we fancy a bacon-butty or a tub of goop. I don’t want them to stop providing what is essentially a service, and neither do I want to prevent the opportunity of making money. And equally I don’t Want Eurostar to continue printing double-sided glossy brochures for us to throw into the trash on a mamoth scale. And neither do I Want to be a captive audience to on-train in-seat advertising.

So what’s the problem here? Should they just leave the train cafe in car number 6 for us to go find if we’re interested? Would that put the prices up because of reduced demand? I presume that printing the handbills pays for itself in terms of increased profits in the cafe, but does that artificially increased demand result in lower or higher prices for a paper cup of warm water and a tea-bag?

I think the solution must be that he cost of ripping up trees and processing them to make paper, destructive chemical processes to make ink and galzes to produce a ‘product’ whose cost is hidden in the price of the products it advertises, is not high enough. Would they give us those bloody things and invite us to throw them away again if they were paying the full cost — the cost to the environment — of their production and disposal?

OK were pulling into Waterloo now finally 72 minutes late. I wonder if our unscheduled stop between Ashford International and Waterloo was also a ploy to increase our appetites for products from the passenger exploitation unit?

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