Tag Archives: Thought for the Day

Collecting for 2013 – Oval Station’s Thought for the Day

Passengers using Oval station on the Northern line have come to appreciate the ‘Thought for the Day’ quotations put up by station staff in the main concourse.

The innovative project began in 2004 and has been taken up by several other stations on the Underground network.

It’s a team effort, started by station supervisor Anthony Gentles and looked after on a daily basis by station assistant Glen Sutherland.

Anthony Gentles said: “We are here to provide a service to our customers, not just to sell tickets. We like to provide a happy and relaxed environment, which is why we have classical music playing at all times.”

The idea behind ‘Thought for the Day’ was to give passenger’s something inspirational to think about during their journey.

Written on a whiteboard near the ticket office, a typical quotation on display has been: “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory,” penned by American writer Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Glen Sutherland, who has taught himself calligraphy so as provide clear handwriting on the whiteboard, finds many of the quotations from a specialist app on his mobile phone.

He also uses a book of quotations given to him by a passenger, who inscribed it with the message, ‘From a satisfied customer’.

“The quotations we pick are pretty general so that they appeal to all station users, who come from a variety of backgrounds and ethnic groups,” said Anthony.

Glen often chooses something topical, such as on Mother’s Day. When rioting affected the area in August 2011, he put up a quotation from Che Guevara: ‘We must not let these harsh times destroy the warmth in our hearts.’

“Often customers come up to say how much they appreciate the day’s quotation,” said Anthony. “They ask staff who put them up, with the most common comment being that it has made their day. Some passengers even go out of their way to use the station so that they can to see the day’s message. Others have suggested quotations for us to use.”

One regular passenger who works in a local office has set up a discussion group to discuss the day’s quotations during coffee breaks, while a local teacher uses them in her lessons.

“Being close to the Oval cricket ground, when there is a county cricket game on I often pick a classical quotation as many spectators are a highly educated bunch,” said Glen.  He added that Surrey and England player Mark Ramprakash always stops to chat about the day’s ‘thought’ when he comes through the station.

Often passengers take photographs of the quotations, while one regular who works in a restaurant notes them down and prints them on the menu.

“I once saw a man studying a quotation intently before disappearing down the escalator,” said Glen. “He came back up 25 minutes later and told me he had been thinking about it all that time and now understood it.”

The staff’s efforts have been featured in several national newspapers and on the BBC. Glen has taken advantage of social networking to set up a Facebook page and the ‘thoughts’ have a growing following on Twitter.

“Customers have said that the quotations really cheer them up. If I miss a day and the board is blank, people ask why?”

Anthony said: “It has been a real team effort on behalf of the staff. We are very proud of what we have done, and knowing that it has encouraged other stations to follow our lead.  It has helped us to connect with our customers, who now see station staff more as individuals. It is definitely worthwhile if we can send passengers on their way with a smile on their face.”

Text and images by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend

Collecting for 2013 – Clapham North’s Thought for the Day

Tube staff that put up ‘Thought for the Day’ messages at Clapham North station say the project has been an overwhelming success.

“Our customers really love them,” said station supervisor Gary Dorrithy, who was prompted to follow a similar scheme introduced at the nearby Oval station, also on the Northern line.

“Lots of peoples take photographs of what we write and many of them tell us they post the ‘thoughts’ on their Facebook or other social networking web sites so that others can enjoy them.”

He said that staff had received numerous letters and notes of thanks from regular customers since the scheme began, usually saying how much they appreciated the daily messages of inspiration. Many of the letters are along the lines of, ‘I was having a really bad day but the ‘thought’ you put up made me feel so much better.’

“The quotations or sayings can often be very therapeutic and it makes the station staff feel good to know that we have put a smile on a passenger’s face.”

The high level of appreciation shown by station users has led to Clapham North receiving a London Underground Customer Commendation for its high level of service.

Customer services assistant Dave Walcott said: “We try to put up a new message in the booking hall every day, using the Internet to find something suitable.”

“Regular customers look out for the day’s message and we soon get reminded if we don’t put up a new message every day. Some customers even choose to travel from here rather than from another station on the line because they look forward to reading them so much.”

He added that passengers often stop and suggest to a member of staff something suitable they can use in the future. “There’s a centre near here which is visited by lots of theatrical people and they give us useful quotes from Shakespeare and other famous writers.”

It’s not only passengers who are cheered up by the thoughts. “Occasionally a member of staff will say that a specific message has really hit home and helped them during a particularly stressful time,” said Gary Dorrithy.

“One of the first things we do after opening up early in the morning is to write out the day’s message,” he added. “It has become part of our regular routine and something that all the staff is keen to help out with.”

Text and images by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend

Collecting for 2013 – Angel station’s Thought for the Day

Staff at a busy London tube station who display humorous ‘Thought for the Day’ quotes have followed it up with a popular web site – and can boast of being featured on Japanese television!

It all began in 2011 when Customer Station Assistant (CSA) Ken Walters, who works at Angel Station on the Northern Line, heard about a suburban station where passengers dropping off their partners in the morning were banned from kissing them goodbye.

Apparently it was causing traffic holdups in the station car park,” said Ken. “I thought this was quite funny and wrote on our ticket hall whiteboard that ‘Kissing is allowed at this station’. As it seemed to make our customer smile, after talking to colleagues we decided to continue to put up regular light-hearted quotes. The aim is to get customers to stop and smile when they pass through the station, as they are often in a rush and feeling stressed.”

Helping Ken with his daily dose of ticket hall wisdom are fellow CSA’s Devika Webb and Rathees Kadadcham.

One of the first jobs for whoever’s on duty to open up the station to passengers each day at 5.40am is to put up that day’s thought.

“We sometimes get them off the internet or we make them up,” said Devika. “Regular station users are so used to seeing them now that they tell us off if we don’t change them every day.”

The jokey quotes also appeal to schoolchildren as well as adults and many travellers, including tourists, take photographs of the day’s offering.

The Angel trio has put up a comment box in the ticket hall where people can leave their own quote suggestions, which usually go on display within a couple of days.

“Lots of people who don’t even use the station come in off the street just to see what’s on the board that day,” said Ken.

Rathees is the trio’s computer wizard who knows his way around the internet.

He has set up the ‘Thoughts of Angel’ web site (www.thoughtsofangel.com), billed as ‘your daily dose of fun, laughter and thought’.  It features images of each day’s message and is seen by around 300 people daily.

Every image is archived and visitors to the site can vote for the message they like best. The site is linked to Twitter and Facebook, increasing its exposure, and several hundred people subscribe to its email newsletter.

The site has been picked up by blogger Annie Mole and is featured on her ‘Going Underground’ blog, which takes an irreverent look at aspects of the London Underground network. It also features on the Time Out and the islingtonpeople blogs.

“Annie, who lives locally, takes a picture of the ‘thought’ every day and downloads it onto her site, which has a link back to our site,” said Rathees.

Internet exposure led to the station being featured on Japanese television.

“NHK, their national broadcaster, found out about our web site and sent a crew to interview us and also some customers,” said Rathees. “The item featured in a documentary they made about the world’s underground systems, where we are described as the ‘human face of the underground’.”

“Feedback from passengers about the whiteboard ‘thoughts’ has been very good,” said Ken.  “Many of them stop to thank us for brightening up their day, and we now get presents at Christmas. What I think it has done is to make us more human, not just uniformed, faceless staff they rush past every day. I’m really glad I started with the quotes. It’s so nice to be able to put a smile on people’s faces.”

Text and photographs by Stephen Barry, Museum Friend