Is the British Museum getting stupid?

Is the British Museum – an organization I normally associate as being the repository of all that is wise and intelligent – getting stupid?

But is it acting stupid?

I am a great fan of what I regard as one of the best places in the world.

With an hour to kill while in London on business last week I strode in with plans to check my bags – a laptop bag and an overnight airline case – in the cloakroom.

My plans were dashed: the cloakroom assistance, a very nice polite chap lifted my case up off the counter and placed it on some scales.

My airline case -which has regularly passed the airline carry-on luggage test – evidently weighed in at 13kg. The cloakroom attendant pointed to what looked like a recently produced poster starkly saying, ‘Only luggage below 8kg allowed’.

He offered me the option of unloading my luggage in public (it literally was my dirty washing) and placing it in a white carrier bag which I could walk with around the museum.

I protested; about the inconvenience, the loss of dignity, and that I would be walking around the museum looking like a refugee.

The young attendant looked like he sided with me, but reluctantly had no option, no flexibility to apply common sense.

They had a rule, apparently inspired by ‘health and safetyitus’. (Whenever confronted with a bureaucracy hiding behind ‘health and safety’ I always respond with: “But is it intelligent health and safety?”

Presumably, the Museum had a problem. I suspect some people were taking advantage of the excellent left luggage facility to leave their heavy suitcases. (Having recently tried the woeful left luggage facility at Paddington Station, I can understand, if this was the case, the need to get a handle on their problem (apologies for the 2 bad puns there). )

I could however, walk around the museum with my bags. So, on a hot day, I traipsed around the museum, succeeding tripping up 2 people, with 1 other person walking into my bag – so much for health and safety.

Just as well the Museum completed the ‘History of the World in 100 Objects’ project before this stupid rule came into place, otherwise it would have to be renamed ‘History of the World in 100 Objects under 8kg!’

They had a member of staff lift up my bag to weigh it, to confirm that it could not be lifted. How ludicrous!

Such a move needs to be repealed straight away – I have also left a formal complaint -because:

  • It reflects badly on the British Museum; rather than intelligently address a problem, they have produced a ‘jobsworth’, inflexible, and ridiculous solution.
  • It is not customer-friendly; it is not convenient, degrading for people to open their luggage, and look like a tribe of second-class visitors with their white carrier bags of excess luggage.
  • It is discriminatory against out-of-town visitors; my taxes pay for the Museum and I am not being provided with proper facilities.
  • It is creating a health and safety hazard as my experience demonstrated
  • It is a safety hazard with the likelihood of more bags around the place, making it easier to plant a bomb.
  • It is an example of 2, 3, and possibly 4 star stupidity:
  • 2 star because it is making a decision that may work in one sense – it reduces the likelihood of staff lifting heavy cases, but then creates problems elsewhere
  • 3 star over time it undermines the British – and UK brand – as an intelligent place.
  • 4 star – compound stupidity – where 1 stupid idea has led to another.

The British Museum, sadly, is the worthy winner of the Flexible Thinking Forum’s  ‘Lemon of the Month’.

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