sounds familiar

There are three possible explanations for the retirement events I am going to write about or a fourth, less interesting, non-explanation along the lines of, it’s just pure coincidence. The events concern a level of service which I find frankly appalling or perhaps it’s just me moving further along the continuum towards being the complete grumpy old git. You judge. All the businesses I’m going to complain about are located within 50 yards of each other in our local shopping centre and they are very different in all aspects except one – they are crap. Let me explain this rather bold sentence. They are in no particular order of crapness – a chemist, an opticians, a mobile phone shop and a building society. Not a large sample size perhaps but certainly varied enough to draw some general conclusions if one cared to. Let me explain a bit more.

Start with the opticians, a very well-known chain. I bought two pairs of glasses at a cost of about £200 each, so not cheap. I sat on one pair and the arm broke off, except it didn’t I could see (with the second pair of glasses) that the arm had popped out of the frame of the glasses. All it needed was a very small pair of pliers to squeeze the arm back into its socket which I didn’t have, Mrs Summerhouse offered to take them back to the shop to get them repaired. But no, she was told, they couldn’t be fixed because the arm was broken off and I needed a new pair. Mrs SH not knowing about such things brought them back. I thought very bad thoughts, borrowed a small pair of pliers and mended them. Shop one on my shit list.

Shop two was the chemist’s, call them Floyds, from where I have had my medication delivered for quite a while. I’ve had one or two problems around delivery. They deliver when we’re not in. I have suggested until I am pink in the face that they call first but no, they call, leave a note and then I have to call them to get them redelivered, which they do still without checking whether we’re in, this can go on for quite a while. The last time, they delivered the wrong medication, I said I think we’ve got our wires crossed. Notice, none judgemental, no blame, just a mix up. The person on the phone said, we delivered what was on your list. I said normally you check before delivering, the person on the end of the phone said no, we don’t, we deliver what’s on your prescription list. No, I explained there’s a few items on there I don’t need every month so you call to check each time. No we don’t she said with such certainty, no question we were at fault. This went on for a long time. I rang off and that was the end of Floyds. I have a new chemist.

Shop three was a well-known mobile phone company, call them O dear, the nearest branch to where we live (that’s important). When later I told their central store that I was unimpressed with the service I received the manager replied, I’m not surprised, they’re a franchise. Oh, that explains it then. I took my admittedly battered, but quite serviceable, mobile (that’s cell phone to my North American readers) because it was doing most things but not receiving emails, to the franchise shop. I noted the large poster that said they were number one for service support among mobile phone companies, God help the rest then. The ‘guru’ looked at my phone, pressed a few buttons and declared I needed a new phone. Why I asked, she looked bored, she explained in several sentences of complete gobbledegook the only one I understood was, it’s Microsoft they keep up-dating things, mind you you’re not using Microsoft, you need a new phone. I told her I was not impressed and made mental note that I would never buy a new phone from them even if hell did freeze over. A couple of days later I took my battered phone into the city centre, non-franchised, shop and the guy fixed in in 10 minutes by removing my email address and password and re-inserting both. Works fine. Make mental note when I need a new phone I will buy it from this shop.

Finally, and the icing on the cake, and I’ve confined myself in this blog to recent experiences omitting Currys PC World who are on my shit list because their sales are fake, B&Q for their unpredictable delivery policy, I even changed my GP because I didn’t care for his bedside manner, but I digress, the final straw leading me to write this blog, was our visit to our building society to discuss our ISAs. I’ll make it brief.

We took out two ISAs 5 years ago, same amount in each, renewed them 3 years ago, same amount. Hey presto when we look at our statements now there is two thousand pounds difference between the two, mine has £2K less. We meet a young woman who I notice has been awarded a certificate of excellence for customer service which is proudly displayed on her filing cabinet. We say, this isn’t right, there should be the same amount in both accounts, she looks at me as if I am a man in my dotage and dribbling down my jumper. She shrugs, actually shrugs, and says, and I quote, ‘well, that’s what it is’. I debate getting out of my chair and hitting her over the head with her excellence certificate, she’s so certain she’s right and we’re wrong. We say no, that’s not what it is and Mrs SH gets out our letters showing the amount we put in. The lady from the ‘Ignorethefax’ building society goes off to see her manager and comes back without a word of apology but says this is wrong and we’ll correct it with the right amount of money and interest and what do you want us to do with it? No apology, but a follow up question, what do you want us to do with your saver’s account? We had already told her we didn’t have a saver’s account, at least twice. We looked at each other across the excellence certificate, shrug and Mrs SH said transfer it to my current account. We were not proud of 0urselves but, hey ho.

I’m sure there’s a moral to all this but what’s the rationale for all this poor service? Coincidence, as I previously suggested? Or the three reasons I mentioned right at the beginning of this blog? Is it because they see us as old fools who can be bull-shitted or is it because these shops are in a predominantly student area and they want new things that their parents will pay for even if the old one isn’t really broken, so it doesn’t matter, or is about generally reduced levels of service in the days we live in? Or maybe it’s just that, in retirement, I have more time to debate the wrongness of the service we receive, the unfairness of life in retirement? Buggered if I know, but I am running out of places to shop.

PS. I haven’t even mentioned the rest of my shit list – Majestic Wine (disinterested response from employee when I told him one of their sample bottles was corked, he said he’d been out on the van all day, as if that’s relevant), Laithwaites (can’t remember the reason) and Leeds Art Gallery because one of the assistants ran across the room, almost hysterical, shouting no photos when there wasn’t a sign to say you couldn’t take photos, I filled in a form and invited them to get back to me about my treatment – they never did. If I did give you the whole list, you might begin to think it was all my problem instead of theirs.

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