Consumerism I.T. Travel

Apple’s Mecca in New York

Covered by a glass cube on 5th Avenue…

Apple's NYC Store Entrance

…descend a winding staircase into the pandemonium…

Inside Apple's NYC Store

Consumerism Travel

How to collect brownie points on a birthday

Keeping to the newly established tradition of doing something for Vicky’s birthday (as opposed to presents), this year’s effort was a top-class weekend in London, doing whatever was on her wish list. There were 2 pre-booked events but more about them later.

We caught the 17:45 King’s Cross train out of Leeds, travelling 1st class. Those empty seats you keep eyeing up through the carriage window are really comfy! And they serve a range of alcohol at your table. So much so that the journey of a couple of hours is over in no time. Almost too quick in fact!

We arrived at the hotel in time to freshen up and wander down to The Comedy Store for the late show. The best comedian of the night by far was Paul Tonkinson and not just because he’s a northerner!

Punch & Judy

We had breakfast in Covent Garden on Saturday morning followed by a browse through the enclosed shops and the near-by market. Heading for the London Eye, the long queue and the rain were enough to quickly put us off that idea. So it was back across the river to the British Museum for a different kind of browsing. It’s not my kind of place but then again, this wasn’t my weekend. (I was collecting brownie points!)

We ate a late lunch in a very nice Mexican restaurant we picked off Trip Advisor before getting ready for the highlight of the weekend. Tickets to Jersey Boys at the Prince Edward Theatre (which we both really enjoyed – the show, not just the tickets!) and dinner at an authentic Italian restaurant just down the street. (As I say, some serious brownie points!)

Previously, we had watched a segment of Saturday Kitchen with Lawrence Keogh from The Wolseley as 1 of the guest chefs so that’s where we had breakfast on Sunday morning. And that’s where the surrealism of the day started. Don’t get me wrong, it was a nice place and the food was REALLY nice but I just don’t belong in such relaxed (in inverted commas) yet regimented social settings. Give me a greasy spoon any day!

For my 10-year long service award, I choose vouchers for Harrods specifically as a… well, more than just a birthday stocking filler really. Having rather awkwardly tried to sidle past security (there’s a dress code dontcha know!), walking around the themed areas of each of the 5 floors was a REAL eye-opener. Oh how the other half live! It freaked us both out a little quite frankly. What was to be the icing on the cake for the weekend was on the cusp of ruining it all! Until we both took a moment just to gain some composure. The place has a certain overwhelming closed-in atmosphere but once we realised that’s all it was, we were both able to browse more comfortably.


To round the weekend off, Vicky wanted to go back to the British Museum again to view an exhibition we didn’t have time for on the Saturday. On the way there, we stopped for tea and cake in Sicilian Avenue.

Finally, it was back “Oopnorf!” again after a very memorable weekend for both of us. Although I suspect for slightly different reasons.

Consumerism Photography

Spring has Sprung!

So December has mostly been full of this…


…and this…

Ready to Wrap

But there is also some of this going on…

Spring has sprung!

I spent a day in the garden over Christmas, cleaning up all the dead stuff, pruning, etc.  Underneath some of last year’s dead foliage, I came across these shoots.  They added a vibrant colour to the area and completely changed the colour temperature.

In other gardening-related news, the composting we started a couple of years back is beginning to give results.  I dug some out from the bottom of the bin through the access panel and riddled it as there was still some that hadn’t broken down fully.  The resulting soil looks top quality and the “too big” stuff went back in the top of the bin.


Beware of Poor Customer Service from Phase Eight

We recently tried to return a nearly new pair of trousers to Phase Eight only to be told that the trousers had been worn incorrectly and that was why they had holed.

Vicky bought the trousers from Phase Eight in Skipton in November. In January, she tried to return them to the shop. She had the receipt with her so there shouldn’t have been a problem. However, it seems their policy is to refer everything to Customer Services. So, leaving her contact details, she expected a call back…

I went in some weeks later when we didn’t hear anything back and got handed the excuse of a mix up over who was going to call who. It’s pure common sense to me that, as a business, you should never delay in making a customer service call.

Having apologised for the mix up, the shop agreed to send the trousers off for appraisal.

Last week, we got a parcel back containing the trousers and a letter. The “dress” had been professionally assessed by their “Garment Technology Department” and they couldn’t find a problem. If they were looking at a dress, it’s no wonder they couldn’t find anything wrong.  There was no mention of the hole but it did suggest, rather unhelpfully, that the bobbling could be resolved using a clothes shaver and even going so far as to suggest where one could be bought.

It was a very unsatisfactory response so I called the number at the bottom of the letter. Having explained why I wasn’t very happy, I was informed that they had never had any reports of problems with the trousers and so it must be something Vicky was doing wrong. I’m not sure how it’s possible to wear a pair of trousers the wrong way (backwards perhaps?) but Phase Eight seem to think so. A couple of other points here:

  1. Just because no one has reported a problem to date doesn’t mean that one doesn’t exist – just ask Toyota; &
  2. Because of the experience we had above, it’s no surprise to me that of course no one has reported a problem previously – it’s seems impossible to do so.

Personally, I would recommend against buying anything from Phase Eight for fear of not being able to return it should there be a problem.

My Shutterstock Portfolio


Customer Service Should Be King Surely?

In today’s challenging economic conditions, I would have thought that keeping your new customers happy would be a top priority for many businesses. Even more so when you’re a relatively small independent predominately online retailer. That’s not the approach Abode seem to have.

  • It took them two weeks to respond to the original e-mail about the damaged mirror; if you’ve had a busier time selling stuff in the run up to Christmas, you can also expect a busier time after Christmas with returns, etc.
  • They were happy to let me phone them over & over again & again and do all the chasing; very few of the phone calls were initiated by them.
  • They insisted I pay for a second mirror before organising a replacement for the first; anyone know of anywhere else that has the same policy because it’s a new one on me?
  • Having agreed a time slot for a swap, they didn’t bother to tell me that their courier couldn’t make the slot; they missed a 2nd slot a couple of days later.  I had stayed home for both.
  • At this stage, they offered to let me chase their courier for them!  Erm, I don’t work for Abode; you sort it out.
  • When the courier did eventually turn up, he delivered the replacement mirror to the wrong house; 2 doors up!  Yet another phone call.
  • Having finally got a replacement mirror, I then had to chase them to refund the money for it.  You’ve had my money long enough; now give it back!

All-in-all, a very needlessly frustrating experience.  If you do have any dealings with them, Amanda seems to have some nounce about her but Michelle…  And so, if I can discourage just one potential customer from buying from Abode, I will have achieved what I set out to do by writing this post.


Check Your Till Receipts!

I’m guilty of it! I’m pretty certain most of us are! Putting the till receipt straight into my wallet without looking at it and when that gets too full, putting it through the shredder. I’ve realised recently that that simple act of neglect has probably cost me tens if not hundreds of pounds over the years.

I believe one of the reasons supermarkets are able to declare such huge profits time and again is because they regularly over charge their customers. From personal experience, both Tesco and Sainsbury’s are guilty of this.  Some might be honest mistakes but I’ve found that they’re not always in a hurry to correct those mistakes.

Tesco scanned a twin pack as 2 individual items, adding an extra £6+ to the bill. I hope this was a genuine mistake by the till operator. Still, it happens. Can you, hand on heart, say that it’s never happened to you?

Meanwhile, for a time in November 2010, Sainsbury’s programmed their tills to charge customers the price per kilo of their Hot Smoked Mackerel Fillets rather than the pack price. This mistake was probably made by head office but it added an extra £5+ to everyone’s food shop. Anyone care to take a guess at how many people that affected?  How much pure profit do you reckon Sainsbury’s have made from that “error”.  When I phoned the local store about it, the guy just wasn’t that interested; I had to tell him which product it was. He never asked!

Most of us use loyalty cards these days so they know where we live; They send us enough junk mail. It was a few weeks before I was next in the shop but in the meantime, Sainsbury’s didn’t write to me to say they’d over charged me.  Has anyone else been contacted?

In the run up to the holiday season, with everyone buying silly amounts of everything, I reckon that most till receipts will easily run into three figures.  I’d highly recommend checking that what’s on your till receipt accurately reflects what’s in your trolley going out the shop door.

On the other hand, there is also a chance that, at some point or other, you’ve been under charged.  It is possible!


Aqua Sphereing

What do you buy someone who enjoys life to the max.?  The answer is an experience day.  Be it driving a super car, a helicopter flight or perhaps something more sedate like a day at a spa.  Long after the day is over, they will still be talking about it to their friends.

For her birthday, I bought my girlfriend an Aqua Sphereing experience.  Basically, you climb inside a large inflatable ball with about 60 litres of water, plug the hole and get pushed off down a hill.  The “ride” lasts about 30 seconds and is described as like being inside a washing machine.

It looks fantastic fun.  Kids as young as 7 can enjoy the thrill.  Unfortunately those with neck or back problems can’t but if you’re looking for “something different” to buy someone as a gift, I can thoroughly recommend it.


Home Insurance Claims

Getting divorced and moving house are supposed to be the most stressful things in life but there’s another… Having Carillion Property Services sort out repairs to your home under an insurance claim. They turned what would’ve been a simple, straight forward job into 11 weeks of a complete nightmare. Some quick background… I lived in a block of 8 flats that was insured under 1 policy arranged by Lampier. The escape of water from my bath damaged the floor in my bathroom, the adjoining bedroom and caused some damage to the decoration of the flat underneath.

Logging the claim with Norwich Union was easy. It took about 5 minutes from start to finish. I got the claim number, the name of a contact and their telephone number if I had any problems. I was told Carillion would be in touch to organise doing the repairs. I also had their phone number if I had any queries. I explained I was going abroad the following week but that shouldn’t stop anyone getting in touch. I was assured it wouldn’t and I could expect a phone call from Carillion while I was away. I was fairly relaxed about it at this point. Stuff like this happens in life and there’s really no point in getting all upset about it.

I never did get that phone call from Carillion and when I phoned them 10 days later, they didn’t know a thing about the claim. The fax from Norwich Union had “…gone missing”. I gave them the details I had from Norwich Union and was told they’d look into it.

Being a bit clueless turned out to be 1 of Carillion’s main themes throughout the whole episode. I would tell them something 1 day but the next time I called, they’d quote a completely different version of the information to me. At 1 stage, I spent about 20 minutes with 1 guy going through the case notes, sorting them out. Of course, it was the “…computer system’s fault.” There’s 2 possibilities here :-

  1. it’s not fit for purpose so get rid ; or
  2. if you put garbage in, you’ll get garbage out.

In-action was another main theme. I called them so many times, trying to get progress but nothing had been done since I last called. They promised to call me back but that never happened within any reasonable time. Generally, the excuses were missing paperwork or having to follow procedure. At one point, a fax hadn’t arrived so they couldn’t make an appointment for a surveyor to come out but they hadn’t done anything to chase it up even though I had told them to expect it.

ChemDry and Simpsons The Builders were the do-ers appointed by Carillion. Their website boasted “a substantial field repair force of directly employed operatives”. Rubbish! They’re agents and not very effective ones. ChemDry and Simpsons were brilliant throughout. They were working within someone else’s rules and again the information they’d been give was very poor. On their 1st appointments, they didn’t really know what kind of job they were turning up to but they did make up for it with their professionalism.

On several occasions, when I complained to Carillion, their ambivalence was the thing that stood out most. Caring just doesn’t seem to be in their nature. Norwich Union didn’t seem to be much use in this area either. Their excuse was that they’d given Carillion carte blanche to get the claim sorted and the only thing they really wanted to know about was the final invoice for the work. Norwich Union use 2 marketing tag lines :-

  1. quote me happy ; &
  2. you’ll be happy with Norwich Union.

You might be happy with the quote but there’s no guarantee about any of the other stuff.

UPDATE – Oct. 20th, 2006 :- The work was finally completed over 12 weeks after the claim was logged. I wrote to our insurance broker asking to be reimbursed for expenses caused by the extended period of time taken to resolve the claim and this was reviewed.

UPDATE – Nov. 20th, 2006 :- Over GBP600 was paid out in compensation and the matter is now settled.