Thursday, 15 February 2018

How To Lose Custom Without Trying

I haven't posted here for a very long time, but I thought I'd start again with the saga of the coffee table, featuring Oak Furniture Land.  For those of you not in the UK, this is a well known chain of furniture suppliers which advertises extensively on television.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I'll begin. We bought a coffee table from Oak Furniture Land. Nice thing, just what we wanted. Came later than they said it would arrive, we had almost written them off, in a whacking great box. The delivery men couldn't wait to get away, unsurprising, as it was getting late.  Unpacked it... whacking great crack in the top, not to mention the two in the sides. So... we had to send photos to prove it (why would they take our word for it?), and they said, oh, that IS a big crack, we'll replace it. It arrived yesterday morning. What they didn't say was, we'll bring another in a whacking great big box, but we won't show you what's inside the big box, you have to unpack it yourself... yes, that's me, on my own, the disabled woman with no energy. I didn't think it was unreasonable to ask them to show me what they'd brought, given that they'd sent us a broken one before, but apparently I was meant to take *their* word for it, and without a photograph, either. I won't accept it if I can't see it, I said, so there's no point in taking it off the lorry. I'll speak to my manager, said the driver, and disappeared off to his lorry...presumably whatever he was saying to his manager was either top secret, or involved a lot of rude words about difficult customers. Ten minutes later, they drove off without warning, leaving me with a broken table and no explanation whatsoever. So my lovely husband rang customer services. No, we don't unpack, they said, you'll just have to take it as it is. No thanks, said Robin. Then we'll send the driver back to collect the broken table, and you'll then have to phone us back and ask for a refund. Which seemed totally unreasonable to us, but that is what happened. I asked the driver why they had driven off without a word; I was told to, he  said... REALLY? Well, err, no, we just did (liar, liar, pants on fire). So I enquire if they treat every customer like this, or just the disabled ones...they inform me that they treat every customer with profound respect. Sure they do...just not me. They give me paperwork to sign. I refuse; they say, we won't take the table away unless you sign it, just as, when they arrived, the driver said, show me the cracks in the table, or I can't take it away (apparently the photographs weren't enough evidence, the driver had to check to see I hadn't been lying).  Turns out, it's the wrong paperwork. Someone else's paperwork. Then they give me my paperwork,which still has me receiving a table. So I write all over it, initial it and sign it. They leave with the table.
Meanwhile, we wait for a promised call from a manager. And wait. And wait. More than 24 hours later, we still haven't spoken to a manager...we have, however spoken to another customer service minion, who says, well, our drivers aren't trained for taking tables out of boxes. Hell, neither am I... but the advantage the drivers have over me is that they're manual handling trained and large, strapping able bodied men. So we go through the whole thing with her. Besides which, she says, it would make them late for their next appointment.  Well, yes, but they managed that the first time with us, and it didn't bother them one little bit.  She can't see that they've done anything wrong, despite saying that it's logical that we would want to inspect the table before we accept it, and says she'll write up her notes and give them to a manager. We say we don't see why we should believe that, as they seem happy to lie at the drop of a hat. Oh, but I will, she says.  We're not holding our breath for a conversation with a manager on that basis, however.

The saga continues.  I wrote this up on Facebook, and shared it with Oak Furniture Land, who have a page on there.  Oh, they said, here's an email address, please send this post and your order number and we'll Look Into It.  Guess what... the email bounced.  These people really don't want to talk to us, or indeed, have anything to do with us. I asked for the name of the Chief Executive and their Head Office; the person I was talking to said, here's a link to our website and our Escalation Policy.  I wrote back and said, I understand that if a consumer asks for this information, you are required by law to give it.  So far, there's been total silence, yet again.  Clearly they only have one manager, and he must be a Very Busy Person.  And he really, really doesn't want to talk to us.

 We've never bought anything from Oak Furniture Land before. We will certainly never buy anything from them again. And it's a shame, because really, they had every opportunity to make things right, yet they insisted on doing them wrong.  So, we've bought another coffee table, from one of their direct competitors.  They say upfront, pay us a bit of money and we'll unwrap it and take the packaging away with us.  We've paid the money; it's worth it to us.  Hopefully, we won't have the same problems this time. 

In closing, a comment for Oak Furniture Land.  Just because it's your policy, it doesn't make it right.  If you screw up the first time, you should be bending over backwards to make things right, not further alienating an already angry customer by refusing to show them the furniture you're bringing to replace the faulty stuff you supplied in the first place.  And in case you're wondering, I haven't recommended you to my eight hundred Facebook friends, and will be leaving feedback similar to this, elsewhere.  Enjoy, like we enjoyed this process.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Things I Have Learned About Chronic Depression.

1.        Understanding the theory doesn’t make it feel any better.  It ought to, but it doesn’t.  It just makes conversing with therapists a bit more interesting (I suspect most of that is on their side, rather than mine).  It’s also a great means of avoiding the subject (which is probably as annoying to therapists as it is to me…but showing off my hard won knowledge is irresistible).

2.       It’s okay to believe that the whole thing is a chemical imbalance in the brain, and accordingly, take medication.  But it’s also a damn good thing to work out whether there’s a root cause, and deal with it.  The chemical imbalance might or might not go away, but the root cause won’t unless you address it.

3.       The root cause may well look as if it’s more than one thing…but in the end, they are all related.  It’s a bit like working on a net; move one bit, and the rest of it shifts accordingly.

4.       It’s a long road, without a map.  As a result, you may find yourself endlessly looping round the same cul de sac, but with subtle differences in syntax and vocabulary.

5.       None of the ‘experts’ seem to want to write about chronic depression.  I suspect this is because short episodes are much easier to treat, they have happy endings, usually, and they don’t make ‘experts’ feel challenged (or helpless).

6.       Your GP’s surgery will not have a clinic to monitor your progress annually, though they have them for other chronic illnesses (like diabetes or asthma).  

7.       It takes time to process stuff.  It has taken me thirty years and four ‘breakdowns’ at least to get to where I am now, and even although I’m on an even keel, it doesn’t take much for me to disappear down a black hole.

8.       You don’t tend to notice you’re depressed until you’re coming out the other side (though those around you will probably have spotted it the day before it starts).

9.       If you’re not at risk of harming self and/or others, the NHS isn’t interested in chronic mental health issues, and provides no assistance other than scraping the suicidal off the floor and putting them together again well enough to function.  Better, if you can, to find a really good private therapist and stick with him/her.  Of course, that is probably not an option for most people, if only for cost reasons.  

       A few people just don’t understand, at all.  Most people don’t want to understand.  So cherish the people who do; they will be your greatest allies. The same, incidentally, can be said of doctors, up to and including psychiatrists.  Just because they’re trained for it, doesn’t mean they either like or enjoy the job, which inevitably impacts on the service they provide. 

      Try not to get overly paranoid.  Everything that comes out of your mouth may well be considered as just another symptom, but that doesn't make talking less important; if anything, it makes it more so.

      Doctors and psychiatrists don't always get it right.  Sometimes a second opinion is essential, albeit difficult to achieve.  

      Above all, keep believing.  It will get better.  It does get better.  Honest.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

I Hate HousePainting...

it's official.  Well, for a start, it's boring.  And fiddly.  All those straight edges.  And then, I'm not very good at it.  And then, Robin tells me I'm not very good at it, going round after me, criticising this bit here and that bit there.  It's really a no win situation.  Except that I get it done.  In this case, I'm undercoating so that he can do the top coat.  Mwahaha.  Because there will be The Conversation.  You said you were never going to do house painting again.  True.  And you're bad at it.  True.  So why did you do it?  Well... I wanted it done.  I've started, so I hope he'll finish.  Now... where else needs doing...?

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Weeding Out...

A local resident..who doesn't like the cats...
the 'naughty plants' (les mauvaises herbes)... a much nicer term than 'weeds' for a plant growing in the wrong place.  I'm so not a gardener.  But having had someone come and do some gardening, including clearing one of the (very few) borders, I thought that it was a good idea not to let things get out of hand again.  I'm going to have to clear the rest of it myself, though... no money for frivolities like help with the gardening.

Oddly enough, when I actually get out there and start doing it, I feel fine about it.  I think it's the same process as happens when I'm working.  There is a real need for concentration (I know a weed from a plant, but it's sometimes touch and go...), and so the task becomes a contemplation, and the contemplation becomes a meditation, albeit in a very uncomfortable position (must ask for a kneeler mat for my birthday...). 

And then there's the cats.  They think it's Very Strange that I'm in the garden for any length of time; I'm usually just passing through on the way to the studio, or out to the car... so they study what I'm doing with a certain measure of incredulity.  After a while, the oldest comes and pats me on the arm, and that's the sign that enough gardening has been done for the day, at least in his view... and its time to Play.  That involves him chasing a stick around the garden, or a bit of dead plant... and the other three looking on, waiting for the opportunity to jump in. 

And then there's the frogs.  There are about five of them, and they have all been getting busy in the pond.  The evidence for that is in the piles of frogspawn and the splish splashing every time I go out the back door.  They're keen, but shy.  And, of course, they don't like the cats. 

I seem to be somewhat converted to the idea of gardening... might even  plant some flowers this year... if we get enough rain to make a hosepipe ban avoidable... seems pointless, otherwise.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

when you don't have any chocolate in the house?  I asked on Facebook, and got some interesting answers. Drink, they said, sex, pancakes...right down to, go and get some.  Good move.  But I'm trying not to go out in the car unnecessarily, and the need for a chocolate fix isn't really a major problem, particularly when I'm planning to go out tomorrow.  So I'm going to do what everyone does in this case... make a chocolate cake. 

My son earned my disapprobation when he said that Byfords of Holt make better chocolate cake than I do...but he might be right.  Sigh.  But I remembered an old Delia recipe for Chocolate Beer Cake, so whipped out her first big recipe book...and it wasn't there.  It was in one of the earlier books, the Evening Standard one, I think... which I gave away long ago, thinking I didn't use it.  Well, I didn't...except for that cake.  Thanks to the joy of the internet, however, I am reprieved... it is here. 

Phew.  I don't like TV chefs as a rule, and have only ever bought that original Delia cookbook and one by the ubiquitous Nigella Lawson, but I rarely consult them.  I don't like their style, but for different reasons.  They both irritate me hugely, though I accept that they do what they do well, and are worshipped (I use the word advisedly...) by millions.  I guess I just don't like being told what to do.  I've been cooking for over thirty years, and have gone from reading a recipe and following it verbatim, through consulting a recipe, and following it vaguely, to creating my own recipes, vigourously.  And unwritten.  And containing words like 'slug', 'smidgen' and 'bit'.  Maybe I should write a cookery book...but first, I'm going to make That Cake...

 Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to Spring, to see how my clematis will do after being hacked to the ground by the gardener last autumn.  He swears it will run rampant...I hope he's right; it's one of my favourite flowers.  The cats are keen for Spring Proper, too, and have followed me about all day, asking me to switch the rain off.  Of course, we shouldn't want that, as drought is a real problem for Norfolk, but secretly, I think everyone but the farmers would like a nice day once in a while.  It has cleared up here, after three days of persistent rain, so the cats have shot out of the catflap to do catty things.  Let's hope they come back again...

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

When In Doubt... cake.  Chocolate is good, undeniably, but cake is marginally better.  I've taken to making a dozen cupcakes, which last us nicely through the week.  The carrot cake aberration, but a tasty one.  To make my cupcakes, I use a Victoria Sponge recipe, using 3 eggs.  I find that's enough to fill twelve muffin cases.  To the basic recipe, I add the grated rind of an orange, and then make orange flavoured icing using some of the juice.  Yum yum; my neighbour, who isn't really very sweet toothed, called them 'refreshing'.  They certainly smell delightfully of orange. 

The carrot cake is an online recipe I found some time ago; search the BBC cookery website and search for 'Yummy Scrummy Carrot Cake'.  I have to say, the cake tastes better than the title sounds...   The last time I made it, I substituted allspice for the cinnamon and nutmeg, put in a handful of raisins and some sour cherries.  That was delicious.  This time, I've added a handful of raisins and some dried cranberries, so I'm looking forward to seeing how that comes out.  This lot should keep us going until the middle of next week...unless we're deluged by visitors, of course.  That doesn't happen much, but I did promise to take a couple to a friend for coffee...twice... that's four down, eight to go...

Saturday, 25 February 2012


I think the world divides rather nicely into two camps...those who do housework, and those who don't.  Though, more correctly, perhaps, it's a continuum, along which we all slide.  At each extreme, the slob and the house  proud.  It slides along from slob to lazy to disinterested to vaguely interested to meaning well to keeping things clean to keeping things tidy to house proud.  People vary in their ability to see what needs to be done.  I see lots of things that need doing, but I don't always actually do them.  Others just won't see what needs to be done.  Or will brandish their inabilities, proudly, like bright flags, as in 'You know, I've never been able to work out how to use the washing machine (which we've had for five years)'. 

Today is turning into a domestic day.  The washing machine is on, the dishwasher too, and I'm contemplating the ironing (though may not get any further than that...).  I've got the kitchen to clean, the floor to do.  It's a never ending list.  As soon as that floor is done, the cats will parade over it with muddy paws, or someone, usually me, will spill something, and it's away again.  The clothes get worn, the dishes reused.  It never ends.

Victorian ladies who sat on chaise longues and sewed had servants, of course.  No wonder they could do intricate needlework.  They were fed, watered, looked after and generally pampered.  If I want to be pampered, I have to do it myself, and the best I can do right this minute is to head out for the studio.  It's not tidy either, but at least I'll have fun in there...