Consumer complaints

Many moons ago, or so it seems, I mentioned that I might be writing a 3rd article, about my recent dealings with Lloyds Bank. I am pleased to be able to say that the situation has now been resolved to my satisfaction, inasmuch as I am now in the same position as I would have been if the circumstances giving rise to my complaint had not occurred in the 1st place. In addition, I received £75.00 by way of compensation.

However, whilst waiting for the outcome of this situation, I have had cause to make a consumer complaint to a manufacturing firm regarding 1 of their products. I shall not name the firm for the present, as I am still awaiting a reply from them.

Nevertheless, my dealings with Lloyds Bank and my current complaint have led me to write a brief(ish) piece on the various consumer complaints that I have made in the past, and their various outcomes.

Firstly, I would like to say that I am not a habitual complainer, as I hope this record will show. There are, however, 4 complaints, including the present 1 which come to mind over the years.

The 1st 1 relates to a bag of Whitworth’s sugar which I bought a few years ago. I carried it in my bag, along with my other shopping for the short journey from my local convenience store to my home. Upon unloading the bag the paper bag containing the sugar split suddenly causing the entire contents of said bag to cascade on to the floor. Less than 1 third was able to be recovered and used. The reason for the paper bag’s collapse was an almost non-existent amount of glue having been used in its construction. Also, instead of being folded over and stuck together properly, the base of the paper bag had been gathered together, rather like the construction of a Christmas cracker, but not as solidly. The edge of the bag had been cut by what appeared to be pinking shears, adding to its festive associations.

I made these various points known to Messrs. Whitworths in a reasonable manner, by means of a polite letter, pointing out that there appeared to have been a flaw in the manufacture of their bag.

What was their response? Absolutely nothing. I might as well have saved myself the bother of writing. Needless to say, I have never bought, and never intend to buy, Whitworth’s sugar, or any of their other products again.

My 2nd consumer complaint was in 2012. I remember this because it was in connection with an Olympics competition, run by Trebor mints, part of the Cadbury group. I am pleased to say that I won a small prize in this competition, but my pleasure in winning it was marred by the fact that when it arrived, or rather, when the empty envelope which once contained it arrived, my prize was nowhere to be seen. I have reason to believe that the prize was stolen by somebody who was living in the same building at the time, or the postman. I am inclined to lean towards the former.

After all, a postman who wanted to steal something would hardly leave the empty envelope at the delivery address, thereby declaring his guilt for all to see.  In addition, my suspect, or 1 of his friends was not averse to treading chewing-gum into the carpet outside my front door, just for fun.

However, I digress! I wrote to Cadbury’s, expressing my disappointment at what had happened. Whilst I accept that they were in no way liable for what had occurred, I pointed out that this was a matter of principle, and that there was no point in my, or anybody else’s, going in for sponsored competitions if the sponsors were going to be unable to ensure safe delivery of any prizes.

As this was a matter of principle, I would like to point out that it cost me more in postage, etc., in returning the packaging, than the prize was actually worth. I requested that they replace the prize with a voucher of equivalent value, and that they replied to me in a way which would not be instantly identifiable as notification of a competition win.

Again, I received no reply, not even a letter saying that they were sorry, but could do nothing about it. Once again, although I will still continue buying Trebor mints (because I like them), I will never again go in for any competition sponsored by Cadbury’s if this is the way that they treat their entrants/winners.

My 3rd consumer complaint, was not really a complaint. I had purchased a bag of frozen smoked fish (haddock or mackerel, I forget which). I keep all my stuff in my freezer listed in date order so that I do not let anything hang around too long. Due to a printing error the use by date had become smudged, and was unreadable, but the packing code was there clearly.

I telephoned the customer services number for the Co-op (which was where I had bought the fish), and was told that they would not be able to tell me the use by date from the packing code. They suggested that I threw the item away, or returned it to the shop for them to do likewise, and they would send me a £5.00 voucher (which was more than the cost of the food, and the telephone call was free), which arrived within a matter of days.

As an update, I can reveal the name of the company involved in my latest correspondence. They are Kepak Convenience Foods T/A Rustlers. I purchased a Rustlers Deluxe Burger from my local convenience store, and upon opening the packaging, I discovered that the burger, with cheese and bacon, did not contain any of the said bacon.

I wrote to the consumer complaints address on the packaging, which is situated in Dublin (the address, not the packaging!), in August and I received a reply on 5/9/14. This stated that they were concerned to hear of my experience, and as compensation, enclosed 2 vouchers for replacement products, free of charge.

So here we have 4 businesses, 2 large, 2 smaller, and 2 different types of response. It begs the question of, if 2 of these businesses, Rustlers and the Co-op could provide a swift, and more than satisfactory resolution, why couldn’t the other 2?

Given the freedom of consumer choice available, there are no prizes for guessing whose products I shall be continuing to buy in the future, and those who I won’t.

I do not intend to fill my blog space up with writing just for the sake of it, so, unless anything of interest to the wider world (if the wider world even considers my other efforts to be of interest!) occurs, this will be the last for a while.

Many thanks to anybody who has taken the trouble to read any of my items.

My website problems

About 1 year ago, in May, I received a telephone call out of the blue, from a company stating that they had obtained my details from the Buy With Confidence website. I am a member of Buy With Confidence. As a result of the caller stating that they had obtained my details from that organisation, I did not bother to check up on them, as I assumed that they must have had some sort of arrangement with the local Trading Standards Service, who operate the Buy With Confidence scheme in various parts of the country.

The caller stated that they would offer me a free website, as I was a member of Buy With Confidence, as they were seeking to help small businesses who did not have a website to obtain 1 and thereby have a web presence. I agreed, whereupon they informed me that there would, of course, be a charge for the hosting, etc., of £100.00 plus V. A. T. As I am not  V. A. T. registered, this means that the site would actually cost me £120.00.

I decided in favour of a site, as I thought that it would be a good idea to see if having a site made any difference to my business; as 99.9% of my business comes from personal recommendation, I thought that was unlikely, but I decided to give it a go.

After a couple of months of discussion and to and fro-ing with regard to the actual design details, the site was up and running by about mid-July. Although I had received only received 1 enquiry from the site, and that did not turn into business, this was about what I had expected. In fact the enquiry originated from the Buy With Confidence website in the 1st place, so effectively there was no business emanating from my site.

As this was what I was expecting, I decided to put it all down to experience, and to say that I had at least given having a website a go, although it was not really suitable for the way that I run my business.

From July onwards, about every 2 months, I received a “hard sell” type of telephone call from the same people, asking me if I wanted to upgrade, buy add-ons, etc., all of which I declined. I had previously informed the company concerned that I was really only trying out the idea of having a website, and that the basic 1 would be good enough for a trial for the 1st year.

In January, I received a telephone call from the company, stating that although I had paid by cheque for my website, this would not be acceptable for the next year’s hosting fee. I explained that as I was only really trying out the idea, there was a distinct possibility that I would not want the website for the following year anyway. I had previously been told that I would have to pay the equivalent of 1 year’s hosting fee for the privilege of leaving the arrangement.

After my having told them this, I was repeatedly asked for my credit card details. When I asked why, I was told that the company had to have them because the method that I had used to pay for my website would not be available as an option in the future.

I still could not see why they needed this information, but they kept on, and eventually, reluctantly, and indeed, untypically, I finally released my card details. I repeated my demand as to why they needed my details there and then, and I was told that they wanted to take the next year’s hosting fee off me. As the renewal date was not until May, 2014, and the website had been up and running for only 6 months, I protested that it was a bit early to be taking a renewal fee, 6 months early, in fact!

The reply was, well we have already taken the fee now (within less than 1 minute!). I objected to this and stated that I was not happy with this situation, and that I would consider taking further action. I was then offered my website, copyright-free for the same amount that I had paid them.

As this was a possible course of action that I had intended when I took up the offer of the website, I decided that this would at least cut my losses. I am pleased to say that my site was delivered within a couple of hours; maybe they could not wait to get rid of me!

Needless to say it was in the form of a zipped file, which I could not open with any programme on my computer, nor, indeed, anything that I could download off the internet. So, I now have a website that is all mine, it has only cost me £264.00 (the 2nd year’s hosting fee had gone up), which I am unable to open, has produced no business, and I cannot even upload to my present site (this blog), without paying yet another fee. At least my business is not dependent on a site!

If there is anybody reading this, be warned, this company is not a web design company, it is a sales company, who use existing templates and substitute your details into the appropriate slots. Not much design there!

Finally, I am still concerned that they have my credit card details, although they have promised to destroy them, and I have been in touch with my local Trading Standards Service, who have written to them twice in at least a month, and have received no reply.

When I looked up this company’s own website, and the associated forums, it appears that they have a complete department solely to deal with correspondence from Trading Standards! Enough said, I think!!

I suppose that I should consider that I have got away lightly, and I do, but I worry what might have happened had I taken up some of their upgrades, such as search engine optimisation, which according to the forums, does not work at all!

If anybody reading this has had a similar experience, I would be interested to hear, but I would warn them that I do not spend all day, every day, on the net, so it may be a while before I see any response, and consequently get back to you, if necessary.

Owing to an unprecedented response (nothing at all), I have decided to go public with the name of the company concerned. This is Webworks Internet. I do not intend to publish the names of any individuals that I have dealt with, as I am sure that they were simply following orders, and, to judge from other websites, there are a large number of disaffected ex-employees of this company about, to provide evidence of what has gone on within their company.

It may well now be, that with the naming of the company concerned, and with the additional tags that I have put on this piece, that there may be people about, reading this who would not have responded before as they would not have known which company I was writing about.

I also have a possible battle looming with Lloyds Bank, but that will have to form the basis of another item!