Chip off the old block

Despite the fact that Hancock continues to be a finger-pointing knob, worthy of continuing criticism, I promised my old friend and beloved Italy neighbour John, that my next posting would be a bit less ranty and a touch lighter (you’ll see what I did there shortly). And the best subject to have a smile at is my mum’s eldest son.  I wouldn’t exactly say he’s a knob too but if he senses that a product refund might be possible, he’s like a terrier with two dicks. 

Now he learned his complaint procedure from his mum and I’ve written about her shameless approach before. Regular readers may remember this section from a posting I did about underpants (yes nothing is out of scope). Oh and by the way in case you haven’t guessed it yet, that eldest son is yours truly…

…you need to be aware of my upbringing. My mum once took back a pair of my dad’s underpants to M&S because they’d started to fray badly. She explained to the lady on the counter that whilst her husband was  a hard-working breadman who changed his pants every day and, yes, they had been washed a few times, she was massively disappointed to see that the waist-band had started to fray badly and she, of course, demanded her money back. She admitted she couldn’t find the till receipt. No worries, the lady on the counter said she understood my mum’s position but just wanted to check something with her supervisor first. Absolutely my mum said but still gave off her best indignant air. Within 5 minutes the assistant arrived back and happily admitted that the pants were indeed M&S’s own product and that they did of course have a policy of exchange for faulty products. However she’d been informed that the store couldn’t honour that pledge in this case since M&S had stopped selling that particular brand of underpants at least 12 years earlier, and they felt that a dozen years of daily service by a hard-working breadman was probably as much service as a pair of their pants could reasonably expect to deliver. Well I have to tell you that my mum was not impressed with M&S’s reluctance to accept that their product  had become worn out prematurely but she graciously accepted their position and turned on her heels and left the premises, disappointed and only slightly indignantly. The pants were turned into dusters the very next day and as far as I’m aware are still delivering honest service 15 years later ie 27 years after their appearance on the M&S shelves.

No shame like I said. My mum was a woman of tremendous principle. In her eyes a product was either fit for purpose or not; age and warranty conditions were not a consideration. I like to think I’ve inherited some of her front.

Now our last little house in Brackley was a converted barn and it suited having a collection of stripped pine tables, chairs and  chests and some shabby painted units. However our current place is more contemporary with lots of grey and white surfaces and we followed our daughter Em’s advice and started following an industrial look, which I have to say I like enormously. We’ve sold off a lot of our wooden stuff and replaced it with lots of genuine vintage stuff from the 30’s etc. Lighting is something we are particularly fond of and have sourced a number of art deco lamps. And this has meant that the 3 Kroby lamps we sourced from Ikea (2 table lamps and and a floor-standing reading light) could now be re-sold. They’ve been great and still look stylish…

Now before I put them all up on a local online sales site I had a slight problem. You see the table lights had a heavy base consisting of a composite stone material covered in plastic. One of them, which used to be in Becksy’s room, had been shedding bits of dust for ages on the side table. When I got round to checking it out I found that the plastic covering had perished a bit and the concretey stone stuff inside had started to deteriorate. Blimey. My first thought was shoddy product and so unlike Ikea’s normal standards. So I decided to return it, a la Helen, and hopefully get a replacement.

Carol chided me by saying we’ve had them for a while and it’s probably normal wear and tear so just bin the damaged one. My reaction was how can crumbling concrete be normal? It was a piece of electrical equipment and possibly unsafe and I was off to the big blue and yellow place to seek recompense/replacement.

I headed to the returns section (bear in mind this was a few weeks ago) and surprisingly there was no queue and I walked straight up to the first lady advisor who was rather pretty and I figured the old Leonard charm wouldn’t fail. Well I explained that we’d bought the light a little while ago, I was uncertain on the purchase date and didn’t have a receipt, but the deterioration on the base was worrying and not quite what I expected from Ikea. I wasn’t looking for a refund but would welcome a replacement or voucher instead.  She was incredibly friendly and agreed that the base shouldn’t break down like that. She even suggested that it might have been too close in proximity to a heat source like a radiator, as the most likely cause of the problem. Yes that was very probable I said, my daughter who has Down’s syndrome (I’m never shy of using the DS card if it helps an argument) likes to keep her room nice and warm. I can so imagine she said. I thought to myself that this new light is in the bag.

But then she turned to me and said that Ikea’s standard warranty period on any product was 12 months. I said of course I understood that and to be honest I really couldn’t remember when we acquired the light (which was the truth but it might have been more than a year ago). Well, she said on all of our electrical products we add a small date sticker to show when it was in store. Right I said. And yours sir is showing a date sticker beginning with 12xx which means that this product was sold to you in 2012. We’d be entirely happy to replace the item inside the 12 month period after purchase but you have to accept sir that after 8 years we cannot be held responsible for any wear and tear issues.

8 years eh. It seemed like a fair point. I asked, without much confidence that the argument would work, if she thought Ikea would be proud to know that their product was deteriorating badly after a period of usage. I thought this final appeal to her corporate conscience might just work. She just said, sir this isn’t going to end with us recompensing you in any way.

I see.

I now knew exactly how my mum Helen felt all those years ago when M&S declined to replace my dad’s 12 year old worn underpants. Slightly indignant and not a little embarrassed, spinning on my heels I turned, thanked her and left with a remark about Ikea quality not being what it was.

Losing. Not a Leonard trait that sits well with me.

Miss you mum.





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About Paul

Having decided on a change of life by moving home from the UK to Italy, this is the story and thoughts of a man on a personal journey from the Blackpool Tower to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, in search of la dolce vita. After several olive harvests he's now back in London but en route he shares his very personal perspectives on life.

2 thoughts on “Chip off the old block

  1. What an honour to be mentioned in dispatches by the wordsmith in chief. My mum was just the same, must be something to do with the privations which that generation grew up with. Sorry to say I am like you when it comes to returns. I got into trouble with C last week when I was about to return a pack of runner beans to Tesco (cost £1) which had gone a bit nasty. “Don’t be so f”ing stupid when they have their work cut out just getting you into the store. Not withstanding I arrived at Tesco with the appropriate receipt, waited in line adding to the excitement of getting my quid back, arrived at customer services and produced the receipt but the beans were nowhere to be found in the bottom of my shopping bag. Had I forgotten them or had the elusive Mrs S removed them from the bag before I left the house? What an exciting life we lead!!

  2. Ha! Many thanks John – as Matt Hancock might put it, I am delighted to announce that your namedrop was something that we knew was entirely deserved and which we’d been working on for some time and I’m even more pleased to have delivered it to our front line readers, in honour of a great friend who deserves massive credit.

    Love the story mate. There’s nothing to compare with being left slightly red-faced when you know you are morally in the right eh!

    Stay well mate and love to Cx


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