Friday, 13 January 2012


We British have many qualities, we are in the main accepting of another’s culture, and we are generous in the way of ‘giving’ to charity whenever the call comes. We are reputed to be good at queuing which manifests from the war when we had to queue for rations. We are considered stoic and unruffled when trouble is on the horizon and perhaps that is the problem for me. However we are supposed to be a nation of shopkeepers and once our retail industry was second to none. But I am unhappy with some big companies who seem to have lost sight of the old values. Being the biggest company does not necessarily mean being the best.
I go into an optician in Llandudno to buy a pair of glasses, have an eye test, the lenses are recommended and I’m asked to choose from a wide range of frames and pay my deposit.  Some weeks later a lens falls out so I take it back to the same optician only for them to refit, and all’s well.  Not quite, this happens several times along with the frames falling apart a couple of times. Naturally I return to the optician they even send away for replacement frames on two occasions, almost a year after purchase I have been told to choose some new ones. OK, fair enough you say.  Throughout this final discussion the assistant tells me I would be better off with a plastic frame rather than metal for reading glasses and also I should remove them with two hands not one.  How many people read with one hand whilst putting on or removing their reading glasses with the other? Nearly all I imagine, but oh, silly me I must need three hands or maybe someone to take them off for me. “Excuse me” I ask a passing stranger in the supermarket “Would you mind removing my glasses now that I have finished reading the label on this packet?”
It is not just opticians, a couple of weeks ago I went to book some tickets for the theatre and had some problems sorting out payment with the vouchers. I can cope with that but the dismissive attitude of staff was awful. Not a smile or a sincere apology from the manager or the young guy who served me. I had the distinct impression they saw me as a nuisance. I had taken in a voucher which was left over from last years gift with an expiry date of Feb 2012 so naturally needed to use it up along with some new vouchers. I was told by the youth behind the counter “Oh we just renew it even though it has an expiry date”. Oh really! Then why have an expiry date, how do I know that it will be renewed? Was all I could say? His smug reply was “because I say it will be!” Oh!  I’m sorry, and you are?
Maybe I am paranoid enough to think it is me, or more likely it’s because I am over 65 and any young thing expects me to be senile, therefore I won’t notice what is going on or it’s expected I will have forgotten how I’d been duped by the time I‘m out the door.  Where is the philosophy of service with a smile? or the customer is always right? What has happened to the idea that keeping a customer happy means they will return time and again? Another of my gripes is when you have stood for ten minutes in a queue then the phone rings behind the counter and the shop assistant picks it up. That phone call has jumped the queue, how is that right? “You are not going to answer that are you when I have stood here waiting my turn that call is at the end of the queue?” I remain calm even when she says “we have to answer otherwise we might lose a customer”. You just have!
Perhaps I am a grumpy old woman and I self sooth with this thought perhaps lulled into a false sense of security, but then it happens a gain. Someone pushed a voucher into my hand in Llandudno stating in bold print ‘coffee or tea and cake £3’ so good humouredly hubby and I venture into this café over a book store only to be charged £7 for two coffees and two cakes. ‘Oh it doesn’t apply to all cakes’ says the sales assistant, ‘What’s this leaflet for then?’ I ask gormlessly “Oh that is just an advertising leaflet and it does say certain cakes in the small print.” This reply is from some affronted member of the staff. Ah! Silly old me I am such a divvy. I thought it read £3 for coffee and cake? I hadn’t realised that like all documents these days there is small print that we old ones can’t read without glasses and remember, as well as holding my shopping bags, I had to put my glasses on and off with two hands to read the small print on a leaflet.
Sorry but I haven’t finished yet, there is the telephone enquiry services for example the Nectar card, I phoned the number on the back and after pushing several buttons 1 for this 2 for that and 3 for something else eventually reached a call centre in Indian. I needed to update my point’s card and you would think I wanted to invade America’s Gold Reserve.
 “Can you tell me your mother’s maiden name?” says the voice from a far.
“What is your date of birth? What was your last address?” she persisted.
“Why do you want all this security there is only £1-50 on the thing” I was stifling a scream at the time with my fist in my mouth.
Next comes the day your internet doesn’t work so you phone your Broadband provider and what do they say?     “If you are having trouble with accessing your internet why not try our website?” ….by now I want to hang up and throw the phone through the window “Why do you think I am phoning you? I cannot, repeat cannot, use the internet that is why I have spent thirtyfive minutes trying to get someone live on the phone”.
Somebody please shoot me!

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