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.